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How to Troubleshoot and Repair RV Furnace Problems

Knowing how to troubleshoot and repair your RV furnace is essential if you plan to camp during winter. 

Of course, some problems require a professional. But you might be surprised by what you can handle on your own. 

Today, we’re sharing how to identify and repair common RV furnace issues yourself.

Let’s light it up!

A freezing woman bundled up in winter gear. Looks like she needs to repair her RV furnace.
Young woman with scarf beret and glove shivering

How Does an RV Furnace Work?

An RV furnace works similarly to many residential units. It uses the enforced air principle to keep campers comfortable during cooler weather. The appliance activates when the internal temperature drops below a specified level.

A thermostat is the heart of the operation. It sends a signal to the system, which ignites propane and creates a flame. The heat from this flame gets transferred into an exchanger, which absorbs warm air from the environment. 

The blower then forces the air out using ducts and vents. It flows until the environment reaches the desired temperature.

It’s one of the most effective options for keeping a camper warm, especially for larger rigs. Manufacturers spread vents and ducts throughout the structure, evenly distributing heat. 

Deep Dive: Do RV Furnaces Run on Electricity?

DIY RV Furnace Repair

The first thing you need to know about RV furnace repair is the importance of safety. Be comfortable and handy using basic tools before attempting any of these projects. Troubleshooting may require leaving your propane on. However, shut it off before making repairs.

YouTube and other resources can be tremendously helpful for determining issues and fixing problems. On the other hand, the devices you use to watch them can be distractions. Put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” while working, as these tasks deserve your full attention. 

Following instructions and taking safety precautions are equally vital. Failing to do so can quickly turn an RV furnace repair into a dangerous or deadly situation.

While you’re working on your furnace, Should You Use an Electric Heater in Your RV?

Common RV Furnace Problems to Repair

Calling a technician every time you experience an issue can get expensive. Luckily, you can repair many RV furnace problems yourself. Here are some common obstacles and tips to fix them.

#1 Furnace Does Not Turn On

It could be a relatively simple repair if your RV furnace doesn’t turn on when you want it to. Most of these units run off 12-volt DC power, so your troubles could result from a dead battery. Hooking up to a power supply and charging it can provide enough juice to run the necessary components. 

If the battery is fine, check your wiring and connections. Ensure everything is tight and in good condition. 

Your RV will vibrate like crazy as it travels down the highway. This can loosen wiring connections and create issues. Inspect the wires thoroughly and look for any signs of potential damage.

Additionally, your electrical system will use fuses to help protect against overloading circuits. Head to your fuse panel and check to ensure they all work. Sometimes, all you need to do is swap them out, and you’ll be back in business. We suggest having spare fuses on hand for this very reason.

Small fuse kits like this one should be part of your tool kit: 140-Piece Fuse Automotive Kit for Marine, RV, Camper, Boat, Truck.

#2 Furnace Will Not Fire

Another common RV furnace problem that’s easy to repair is when the unit isn’t firing. Before you panic, it’s good to know this typically results from a low gas supply. Refilling your propane tanks will get you back up and running.

If you have multiple tanks, it’s best to open one at a time. This way, you’ll know when it’s empty and can refill it before you run out. Some campgrounds and RV parks offer refill services. If not, a quick trip to a local hardware store or residential gas supplier will do the trick.

Sadly, it may not always be that simple. It could result from a faulty sail switch, gas valve, or ignitor. The sail switch is on the outside of the blower and can get clogged with dust and other debris. Cleaning it may be all you need to do. However, you might need to replace these items if you’re not hearing a clicking sound from the gas valve or ignitor.

#3 Premature Furnace Shutdown

It might be an easy repair if your RV furnace shuts down before reaching the proper temperature. A faulty or damaged high-limit switch, which monitors the heat levels in the combustion chamber, could be the source. It turns off the entire system when it detects unsafe conditions.

Two of the most common causes of this are leaks in the combustion chamber and issues with the exhaust. 

Take a peek into the exhaust and look for anything stuck inside. Mice, wasps, and other pests are notorious for creating nests inside these spaces. You may have solved the mystery if you discover a blockage in your exhaust.

Another possible solution is the flame sensor. It shuts everything down if the fire inside the combustion chamber goes out or won’t stay lit. This is a safety measure to avoid filling components with propane and creating a dangerous situation. 

If it’s staying lit, this sensor could be to blame. You’ll need to use a multimeter to test it thoroughly.

#4 Airflow Problems

Another common RV furnace problem you can repair has to do with airflow. As we mentioned, your outside exhaust is vital to your heating system. It must be free of blockages to function correctly. Inspect them regularly, looking for any signs of rodent and insect nests. You might consider installing mesh screens to your exhaust to keep critters out.

Additionally, a lack of airflow could result from collapsed or blocked air ducts. You can be in for a surprise if you’ve never taken a look behind the walls and crevices of your camper. In these spaces, wires, hoses, and tubes go almost everywhere.

It’s not unusual for these items to come loose or get pinched during production. Since they’re out of sight, they can go unnoticed until you discover there’s no heat flowing through them. Reattaching or repositioning the ducts could be the solution.

#5 Malfunctioning Control Board

We said the thermostat is the heart of the operation, but the control board is the brain. This critical component does what its name implies. It regulates the entire system. It sends and receives signals to help ensure the whole process runs efficiently and smoothly. A malfunction anywhere in it can create significant issues.

The first step to diagnosing a faulty control board is visually inspecting it. Look for any obvious signs of damage, such as burn marks and discolorations. To dive in deeper and test the component will require a multimeter.

Using a multimeter can allow you to ensure power is flowing to the control board. If you’re getting adequate juice, you’ll know it probably isn’t the cause. You can then test contacts for the blower motor, sail switch, and high-limit switch. Testing the various connections ensures electricity is flowing where it needs to.

Unfortunately, replacing the control board is the only option if you discover damage. But these components are readily available online, and you’ll find numerous YouTube videos to walk you through the process.

Repairing Your RV Furnace Shouldn’t Be a Pain

Troubleshooting and repairing RV furnace problems can be frustrating. They never pop up at a good time, and they can cause significant stress during your adventures. However, you can quickly identify and fix them by educating and preparing yourself. 

With the right tools and a little know-how, you can return to enjoying your camper and staying warm!

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