RV Electrical Systems Overview: Distribution Center

Duration: 2:37

Once connected to an outside power source the power coming into your unit is routed through RV electrical systems and distribution centers. The distribution center is where the fuses and circuit breakers are located and where the power is rerouted to the appliances and the converter for 12 volt electric sources.
Though most are similar, RV electrical systems can vary among different units. To get a better idea of the type of RV electrical systems used in your unit, take a look inside the distribution center. In there you will see the circuit breakers that operate the air conditioner, microwave and refrigerator. In most units you will also see the automotive style fuses that operate the 12 volt system such as the stove and lights on the inside of the unit.

If there is something not working properly that is hooked up to RV electrical systems it is possible to conduct some quick diagnostics to determine the cause of the problem.

When self-diagnosing an issue with RV electrical systems you will want to start by checking the circuit breakers. Flip the breakers on and off checking to ensure they are crisp and not sloppy. Look for any signs that the breaker is blown. This means it will not reset and stay up. If a breaker will not reset, it could be a worn or defective breaker. However, verify there is not a short in the RV electrical system that connects to this breaker prior to replacing it.
On the 12 volt side of the RV electrical system you can diagnose an electrical problem by using a meter and testing each fuse connection to ensure there is enough power going through each one.

Older RV electrical systems had the distribution center and 12-volt converter together in one location. They were loud and put out a tremendous amount of heat. Newer models have the distribution center with the circuit breakers and 12-volt fuses in an accessible location, but the 12-volt converter is separate, usually tucked away in a cabinet or underneath in basement models. Out of sight, out of mind.

Once you have taken a look at the electrical system, you will be able to further determine where the power issues are coming from.

Discussion
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8 Responses to “RV Electrical Systems Overview: Distribution Center”
  1. Ken

    We just bought a ” new to us” travel trailer…a 2010 Heartland and the 12 volt lights cycle between bright and dim on a regular basis, especially when there’s a big 12 volt load. Even when plugged into a 30 amp shore power. We have a brand new Duracell gel deep cycle battery. I assume that it has to do with the converter…any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Ken. This is usually more of a problem when there is a weak battery or no connection to the battery. The converter puts out 12v even without a battery most of the time but when a load is applied, even a small one, the lights will dim. This is because the converter doesn’t handle the amp draw like a battery does. If it does this when only on the battery, the battery is the issue. The converter only comes into play when plugged into shore power. If you get power from the battery when not plugged in, you at least know the battery is sending power. You then want to check all connections and the chassis ground connection. Most of the time it comes down to a loose or bad connection causing this issue. Especially the chassis ground. The negative from the battery will connect to the chassis frame at some point and if this connection is loose or rusted, it will cause lower voltage and the lights will dim when a load is present. If it only did this when plugged into shore power it could very well be the converter but since the issue happens when only on battery you have to check all connections. Make sure to check the connections on the fuse panel as well. There could also be an issue with the fuse panel but like I said before it usually is caused by the battery connections and up to the panel. I hope this helps!
      Dan-RV Repair Club

      Reply
  2. MICHAEL

    I have a in line voltmeter plugged into an outlet in my 2006 Bighorn fifth wheel. Recently it has been showing move volts that 120 more like 130. It used to hover around 115-120. Does it showing 130 mean there’s a problem?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Michael,

      Typically outlets should read around 120 +/- 5% so it really shouldn’t be reading more than 125v when reading properly. It might be possible to be a little high when there is no load, nothing being used, but when things in the RV are being used it should be more around the 120v range. If it is higher than that there could be a problem with the outlet you are plugged into and you should have an electrician inspect it. It is always a good idea too to check with another volt meter as well, I have seen some read improperly.

      Sincerely,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  3. Edward Bosley

    So in my 1999 fleetwood avion savanna I can’t located a fuse panel anywhere. I found where the breakers. Any suggestions on where to look?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Edward,

      They are typically in the same vicinity. There will be a breaker that is connected to the converter. The converter is what powers the 12v system and charges the battery so you might have to trace where to wires from the breakers go to find where the converter is. The converter will then go to the fuse panel. Most likely it is in the same area, a lot of times behind a flat panel, they usually don’t put the breakers and fuses too far apart from each other. I know Fleetwood is notorious for putting the fuse panels in the hallway closets so I would start around there and if still no luck you might have to trace the wires to the converter to get an idea where it might be located. I hope this helps!

      Sincerely,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
      • Edward Bosley

        Ok so in my living room under where the tv is there is a cabinet door that has breakers in it. In the “basement” storage compartment outside there is a panel that folds down and my fresh water tank is there and also my converter. There are some fuses on the wall near the converter but they are labeled for the slide outs.

        Reply
        • Customer Service

          Hey Edward,

          Here is a response from our expert Dan:

          If that is the only fuse panel that the converter goes to, then that is the only fuse panel. The converter has to go to the fuse panel to power the 12v system so unless it ties off and goes to another panel this should be the only one.
          Sincerely,
          Dan
          RV Repair Club Technical Expert

          If you have any questions or concerns, please chat, email or call us at 1-855-706-3536.

          Best,
          Madeline
          RV Repair Club Video Membership

          Reply