Electricity is one of the main amenities that you have in your RV that makes boondocking different than tent camping. Modern RVs can use batteries to power up lights, stoves, and even fridges. That is why you need to know where the power converter in your RV is as that is where 120-volt power is converted into something your RV can use.
In most RVs, the power can come from four sources:
- Power attachment (shore power)
- Car battery
- Solar panels
- Gas generators
Not all RVs will have all of these options, and some might use external generators that would plug in the same spot as shore power. But, depending on what your RV does have you might have a general idea of where the converter is located.
As is the case with most electrical installments, it is always best to have a few wires running through the system and as short of a distance between various pieces of hardware. Using that logic you can assume that a converter will be somewhere in the middle between your appliances and where the power is brought into the system.
Finding the RV Power Converter
Unless you are reading this printed out somewhere, it would be safe to assume that you have access to the internet. With any type of troubleshooting, such access makes the whole thing much easier.
In most cases, you can just look up the make and model of your RV with the words ‘’converter location’’ and you will get a PDF of where all of the electrical is located inside the vehicle.
But, there are also cases where communication won’t be possible. If you are assisting someone in remote areas with an unfamiliar RV you will need to use your senses to figure out where the converter is.
For your own RV, it is always best to know where electrical, water, sewage, and all other systems are located and accessed before you even make your first mile. The same goes for mechanical work. You don't need to be an expert but should have a general idea of how to manage things.
What you want is to be able to use spit and duct tape so that your RV can survive the trip to the nearest mechanic who will have more tools and more expertise.
Search up Specs Online
To take the Winnebago Vista as an example, for no particular reason except it being a solid choice for an RV, the location of the converter is not entirely logical as it is a relatively small device and not in the back of the vehicle.
But, if you type ‘’ Winnebago Vista converter location’’ into Google you get access to a manual and can find out in minutes that it is under the fridge. There are even 3D model pictures.
That is the same for every model. Boondockers are a very helpful community and there will always be someone online that has spent time to find what you need and go through the manuals and will give you the chewed-up information at no cost.
And, with today's internet bandwidth it is quite possible that there will be a video on the subject with a step by step instructions. This is by far the easiest way to find your converter as well as to fix any issues you might have with it.
Follow the Air
Although modern converter boxes are much smaller and emit a lot less heat than before, they are still not perfect. Some of the electricity during conversion will always leak out as heat and it will need to be dissipated if the manufacturer doesn’t want the RV to burn down.
That is why the most common non-digital method of finding the converter is to find the fan cooling it. That fan will buzz and draw in air, usually from the inside of the RV. Follow your ears and figure out from where the noise is coming.
In many cases the same fan will cool down multiple electric devices, making it easier to find it.
Call the Manufacturer
If all else fails, there is always customer support. This might not be the best and fastest way to find the converter, but in most cases, it will work just as well. Even CS crews that are more focused on sales will have the manuals at hand and can help you if you are stuck.
It is unlikely that you will be able to ask customer support how to fix an issue, but there is nothing wrong with trying. Some people know their products in-depth and other times where an issue will be recurring so they will be familiar with it.
Troubleshooting the Power Issues in Your RV
Some signs show that there might be an issue with your converter. They won't be obvious every time, and in some cases, there would be other reasons, but it is always good to see if your converter is working correctly.
It is not recommended to try and fix your converter yourself, or even install it if you don't have the necessary electrical expertise. Many things can go wrong with the wiring and you want someone with experience on the job.
What you can do is establish that there is a problem. If your lights are dimming, the fridge not keeping the temperature, or any other appliance seems to be malfunctioning there is something wrong with the power supply.
The first thing you should do is check your batteries. In many cases, the reason why you don't have any electricity is that the batteries are drained and you didn't check them. If they are low, bring out your generator and fill them up before proceeding.
Next, you should check if all of the breakers are in place and that there is no bad smell or sparking. If you notice those leave the vehicle immediately, turn everything off, and call for assistance.
If everything else is good, and the batteries are filling without issues even though the appliances are not working, it will probably be the converter. In such cases, it is recommended to clean up your refrigerator, turn everything off, and drive your RV to the RV mechanic that will help you.