It can be a nuisance if you’re having issues with flickering lights in your RV. It’s important to diagnose the cause of the flickering before attempting to fix it. A few common causes of flickering lights in an RV include a weak battery, faulty switches, loose wires, and burnt-out light bulbs. Common causes are:
- Weak RV Battery
- Loose filament in bulb
- Not enough voltage for LED bulb
- Bad Fuse
- Loose wiring
In this article, we will explore some easy tips for diagnosing and resolving these types of issues so that you can get back to enjoying your RV without worrying about unreliable lighting.
Table of Contents
- Flickering Lights
- Light Switch
- RV Light Bulbs
- Dimmer Switch
- Final Thoughts
First, determine how many lights are flickering. Why is that important? Because if it is one light flickering, then we know that the issue is very close to the bulb. If multiple lights are flickering, our problem could be more widespread, such as a switch or fuse.
We will explore both scenarios of a single light flickering and multiple lights flickering.
Single Light Flickering
If you have just a single light flicking, good news, this means the issue is related very closely to the bulb. Since multiple lights are wired from a single switch, when just one light has a problem, the rest of the wiring and power connections should be ok.
First, check your bulb connection. Most times, any light flickering is a loose connection. It can be a loose wire to the fixture, or it can even be the bulb sitting in the socket. Think of it this way, you have power since the light works. But there is some loose connection that is interrupting that power and causing the lights to flicker. If you see all wires secure and the bulb seated securely in the socket, let’s look at the bulb a little more.
Try to take out the bulb and inspect it. If it is an incandescent bulb, you will see the filament. The curly wire in the glass bulb gives off light when current runs through it. If there is a break or loose connection, even in the bulb, it will cause flickering. The problem is that this may not be visible, and you may need to replace the bulb to see if the issue is resolved.
A diode (a small dot) will be used as the light source with an LED bulb. It will be challenging to determine if the bulb has a visual issue.
In either bulb, I suggest replacing the bulb if all other connections are secure.
All Lights Flickering
If all of your lights are flickering, that is a good sign of a power supply issue, like a weak battery. Especially when it comes to LED bulbs, they are more sensitive to weak voltage and will flicker.
Are your lights flickering when another appliance is running, for example, your water pump? Since your RV lights and water pump use 12 volt power from the battery, you may not have enough battery power to operate them.
Even if you are connected to shore power, you will need a solid battery to power your 12 volt appliances, such as your RV lights. If you are experiencing this scenario, check your RV battery and converter. The converter gives the DC power that the battery needs to charge. If there is an issue with either the converter or battery, you will have a weak power supply to your lights, and they may flicker.
Select Lights Flickering
If you have select lights flickering (some, not all), the issue could be anywhere from the light switch to the fuse.
As you read above, if this is a single light flickering, the focus should be very close to the bulb. With the multiple lights flickering, the issue is usually from the switch back to the fuse or the battery.
I always like to start troubleshooting with the most straightforward spot to check. In this case, it is the fuse box.
Your RV will have a converter and a circuit breaker to flow the power from the battery. Your circuit breaker panel in your RV will have multiple fuses. If you can, find the fuse associated with the flickering lights. Check the fuse connection and make sure it is firmly seated. Give it a push-in to make sure it is firmly in place.
If that is not the issue, take out the fuse and inspect it. Like the incandescent bulb, you will see a metal wire in the fuse. In the fuse, though, you can see this thicker wire quickly. If it looks like the fuse is still intact, it could still have a loose connection causing the flickering. Fuses are cheap, and you should have a few lying around. I suggest replacing the fuse (always with the same number of amps) and resecuring the circuit breaker.
If the fuse replacement did not work, let’s look at the next component in your trailer, which is the light switch.
Unscrew your light switch from the wall and inspect the wires. Your wire connections should be secure and not loose.
Check the switch itself by turning the lights on and of slowly. See if this gets you any different results.
RV Light Bulbs
RV light bulbs come in a couple of options – LED or Incandescent. If your travel trailer is newer, it likely has all LED bulbs. Whereas older trailers are likely to have the old school incandescent lights.
As we investigate the lights flickering, the thought process is the same, and the causes are very similar to the flickering problem.
The power supply in trailers is usually 12 volt system DC instead of the 110-120 volt AC found in most homes. RV light bulbs must be designed from the ground up to run on this lower voltage and amperage. Most RV light bulbs are incandescent, meaning an electric current passes through a thin wire filament until it becomes so hot that it glows brightly. This creates a light source magnified by the glass bulb surrounding it.
These special incandescent lights are built with thicker filaments than standard household bulbs and don’t require as much wattage to create the same brightness.
These are also 12v lights. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs that produce light when electricity is passed through a filament, LEDs have light when electrons move through a semiconductor material. As electricity passes through the tiny diode, it emits particles of visible light. This process produces very little heat compared to other types of lighting, making them highly efficient and far less risky than other forms of lighting.
LEDs also have much longer lifespans than traditional incandescent bulbs – on average up to 50 times longer – and require significantly less power to operate effectively. This can help reduce overall energy consumption considerably over time.
If you have a dimmer switch, this can sometimes cause a voltage issue with LED lighting, which causes the lights to flicker. As you dim your lights, the power, or voltage, is reduced to the light fixture, making the LED lighting less bright. Sometimes, there can be an issue with the bulb where it does not work correctly anymore with the lower voltage, even though it is a dimmable bulb.
If you have checked all of the above and are still flickering with your lights on a dimmer switch, I suggest changing the LED bulbs first before attempting to diagnose and replace the dimmer switch.
Flickering RV lights is a common problem that can be quickly resolved with a few steps and patience. Following the instructions outlined in this article, you should have your RV lights working again in no time! Of course, if the issue persists or seems to be more complicated than expected, it is recommended to have an RV technician take a look. Ensuring that your RV’s lights are working correctly is essential for safety and comfort on the road.
Tony is an avid camper and RV traveler. He fell in love with camping on his first RV trip with his wife over 25 years ago. Tony loves sharing lessons learned and tips about RV maintenance and safe traveling.