RV electrical systems bring power inside the unit from an outside source. This includes power being supplied by an onboard or portable generator, as well as grounded city and campground sources. Your RV electrical systems will typically have a power cord commonly referred to as a “shoreline” cord on the outside of the unit, where you can easily connect the outside power source to your RV.
This gives you the power you need to fuel all of your appliances and gadgets during your stay at a campground. Larger units with two roof air conditioners and an abundance of appliances require more power and can be outfitted with a 50 amp distribution center. In this quick lesson, RV expert Dave Solberg runs you through a breakdown of the standard RV electrical systems you’ll encounter on your travels of this beautiful country, explaining what you can expect when you hook up your fifth wheel vehicle.
An Overview of Common RV Electrical Systems
With Dave’s helpful overview, you’ll be able to navigate proper hookup and maintenance of any electrical system. He begins with the power cord, which is most commonly hardwired to the vehicle and stored in the service center. However, some models feature a quick connect that simply plugs into a campground source or storage facility and twists to a locking ring on the side of the coach. Dave shows you how to connect your quick connect, if this is the option your vehicle carries.
With a 50 amp service, you should have enough power to run both of the roof air conditioners – front and back – and other appliances in the RV. Understanding the power requirements of your RV is critical to proper energy management. Older roof air conditioners can draw up to 18 amps at maximum capacity. Newer, more efficient models draw approximately 14 amps.
Some campground electrical sources and storage facilities may only have access to 30-amp power. This will offer limited power capabilities to operate the RV electrical systems, thus it’s likely that you’ll only be able to run one roof air conditioner at a time. If you have a 50 amp shoreline cord, you will need to utilize a reducer and limit your appliance usage. This can be good for keeping batteries charged when your RV is in storage.
Once connected, the power will flow into your vehicle’s distribution center, which houses all of the circuit breakers for the microwave, both air conditioning units and any other appliance or gadget in the RV that runs on electricity. This is the hub of all RV electrical systems, and it’s important that you know what you’re looking at when you open this up.
Dave also emphasizes the importance of making sure that you shut off the power to your RV before connecting and disconnecting from an outside power source. If you don’t, you’ll likely experience arcs of electricity, which over time can tarnish the probes and lead to melted plugs and loss of power at inopportune times. If connected correctly, you will have plenty of power to operate all of the electrical components on your RV. Take advantage of Dave’s handy hints for well maintained RV electrical systems, and you won’t run into any surprises while you’re out on the road!
What does it mean if you’re 50 cord only one LED lights up
It means that there is only one hot leg working from the outlet you are plugged into. For a 50 amp service, there are two hot legs. Each come in separately to the distribution center and then each power one side of the panel. If your cord is only reading that one hot leg is coming in, then most likely only half of your RV is actually getting power. If everything in the RV is working fine then most likely the bulb in the end of the cord is bad. I have see these lights go out many times but the outlet and cord are fine.
Sincerely, Dan RV Repair Club Technical Expert
My 1993 rockwood prestuge 5th wheel has a 4 pronged power cord(shorline cord) but my space in a trailer park has a 3 pronged outlet to plug into. How does that work?
I got the experts response:
You will need an adapter for that to work. The 4 pronged outlets and cords are for a 50 amp service. The 3 pronged cord and outlet are for a 30 amp service. You can get an adapter to drop the connection of the shore cord to a 3 pronged end to plug into a 30 amp service. You just have to be careful what you are using in the RV because you are now connected to a lower rated outlet and don’t want to use a lot of things at the same time or else you will trip the breaker. Mainly you just have to be careful if you have multiple air conditioners. You can only run one off a 30 amp service, never try to use more than one when reducing down. You can get these adapters, also know as “Dog bones”, at local service centers, online and typically at the camp ground stores as this is a common issue people run into when having a 50 amp rated RV. You just need to find a 50 to 30 reducer.
RV Repair Club Technical Expert
Ticket#17396 I need to replace the 50 amp Marinco inlet, due to the outlet having a burned connection, which also burned my cord connection. Can I replace the inlet from the outside of my 5th wheel, by removing the 4 screws on the inlet cover?
Thank you for your patience. In regards to your question-
You should be able to remove the 4 screws and pull the outlet out from the side of the rig, IF there is enough slack in the cord inside to allow it to come out! Otherwise you will need to find where the back side of the outlet is inside the rig. When you pull it out, there will be three holes for the L1, L2, and Ground wire with a locking screw which is an easy swap out.
I hope this helps!
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some campgrounds only have a 50 amp hook up…and I have a 30amp shore line will it matter..
Hi, Terry. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your shoreline question. You will need a 50 amp male to 30 amp female adapter. A 50 amp power source provides 2 legs of 120-volt power and the adapter basically cuts off one of the legs and provides 120-volt/30 amp power to your rig. You can get these at any dealership or RV parts location and they are safe to use.