RV outlets not working on shore power can have a few different causes. When your outlets are not working, the common cause is a tripped breaker or GFCI outlet. When the issue is more widespread, and other appliances (like your microwave) are not working, the issue is usually with the shore power, inverter, or surge protector.
This post will review the common causes and solutions to your RV outlets not working. We will review:
- Shore Power
- Power Source
- Surge Protector
- GFCI Outlet
Usually, a starting point is to review the power source and ensure adequate voltage is coming to the RV. Let’s first start by checking the shore power, and the power source has no issue.
Table of Contents
- Shore Power
- Power Source
- Surge Protector
- GFCI Outlet
- Final Thoughts
Your RV outlets are 120 volt ac power. That is the same power coming from shore power or even your generator. On the other hand, your RV battery provides 12 volt dc power to other components, such as lights and a water pump.
Shore power coming into your RV is usually from a 30-amp or 50-amp power source. The 30 amp plug is 120 volts, while the 50 amp plug is 240 volts. In a 50 amp RV, that 240 volt is only for large equipment, such as air conditioners.
Either the 30 amp or the 50 amp shore power, your outlets will always be 120 volt electrical systems.
Before diving into your RV, check the power source providing the proper power. Like a house, shore power could have an issue, and the power pedestal could have something wrong where there is no proper power.
If your shore power or generator provides less than 120V, your appliances and your outlets will not work properly. Here is a quick and easy step to see if you are getting the correct power from your shore power.
Since some major appliances in your RV need adequate shore power to operate, step one is to check if they are working. Check the microwave and see if it is working. Now is a good time to make popcorn and see if it functions properly. Since both your outlets and microwave use 120 volt power, it means your power source coming in is good and is not the issue.
If your microwave is working fine, skip to the GFCI section in this post. If your microwave or other appliance (such as an air conditioner) is not working, continue to read on.
Also, another quick test is testing the exterior outlet at the power pedestal. Plug something in directly to see if it works properly. This test is not as accurate as testing in your RV because the exterior outlet is a separate plug and could have its own issue separate from the 30 amp main plug to your travel trailer.
If other appliances, such as your microwave are not working as well as your outlets, you likely have a power source issue at the pedestal. Let’s continue moving into the RV to see what the issue could be.
After your microwave test, and with no power to either, the next possible issue is your surge protector. Most RVgoers know campsite electricity can have power spikes and unreliable electricity from a power pedestal. That is why many RVgoers have either a built-in surge protector or an external plug-in surge protector. These surge protectors are great because they act as a fuse and will disrupt any damaging power stikes before it reaches your RV. They are a great investment to protect your RV’s entire electrical system.
Check your surge protector is functioning properly and has not tripped. Most surge protectors have lights to give a status on their function and let you know if something tripped inside.
A quick test to see if this was the surge protector is to disconnect it from the pedestal and plug in your shore power cord directly. I don’t recommend doing this unless you know that the pedestal power is not bad. If it tripped your surge protector, it could trip your entire electrical system in your RV and cause more damage. See if you can borrow another campers surge protector and see if it trips it again.
Another possible issue is your inverter. An inverter takes 12 volt dc power (from house batteries) and converts it to 120 volt ac power for things such as outlets. Note that this is different from an RV converter, which converts your ac power to dc battery power.
How can the inverter be the issue? If you don’t have ac power or shore power, the RV thinks you are boondocking and want to use the inverter for power. Since this inverter takes power from the battery, it is limited in how much power it can offer, and things like outlets and microwaves won’t work.
Note that not all RVs or travel trailers have an inverter. They all have an RV converter (as you need battery power for your furnace), but an inverter is only on certain models.
If you suspect your inverter, the best way to test is to see if you are getting 120 volts ac from the output line. You will need a multi-meter to test this and see the readings. You could also test the voltage at the outlet and see if you are getting low voltage. If the voltage is below 110 V, the battery is likely draining trying to provide as much power as possible.
If you have determined that all the other 120 volt ac appliances work, such as your microwave, you can now focus on the next two most common issues.
The first thing to check inside your RV is the GFCI outlet. All modern (last 15 years) will have GFCI outlets. These special outlets are used in wet locations, such as your bathroom and kitchen. The purpose of a GFCI outlet is to give the occupant a less likely chance of electrocution if encountered with water. We have all seen movies where they kill someone by throwing a hair dryer into the bathtub. With a GFCI outlet, that would not be possible, and the person would not get hurt.
The GFCI outlet has its own breaker built in and will trip much sooner than the breaker in your distribution panel. For this reason, houses and RVs have these outlets to keep people safe. Plus, this electrical code is now mandatory for people’s safety.
The thing to know about GFCI outlets is that one electrical outlet can be connected to another. And the GFCI outlet will trip all the outlets that it is connected to. This can be tricky to diagnose because you are maybe looking at a regular RV electrical outlet, but not realizing that it is connected to a GFCI outlet and that the RV outlet has tripped.
A GFCI outlet will have a visual breaker that you can test and reset. Walk around your RV and look for the GFCI outlets. At each GFCI outlet, press the TEST, then the RESET button. This will reset the built-in breaker and start to work again if that is the issue.
You may need a small pencil to push the TEST and RESET buttons. They are small and can be challenging to do with just a finger. I suggest a piece of work or pencil instead of any metal. You are near a power outlet so it would be a good idea not accidentally poke metal into the plug. Even though it is a GFCI outlet and will protect from electrical shock, it’s a good idea not to take your chances.
The potential issue could be a tripped circuit breaker at your main distribution panel. The distribution panel is where the RV wiring comes in from shore power and is distributed to power individual things such as your air conditioner, lights, and microwave. This panel is full of breakers and fuses. Like a house, the breakers can trip, and fuses can be blown if there is a short or overload.
If all the above checks out, the final step will be to go to the panel and see if the outlet break has tripped. Here is a quick tip – breakers are for AC power, while fuses are for battery dc power components. Since outlets are 120 volt ac power, this will be a breaker that you will check for to see if it tripped.
Your panel should be labeled, so look for receptacles and see if one has tripped. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it tripped but still needs to reset. You can go ahead and turn the breaker to the off and then then the on position again. This will reset the breaker even if it looks like it hasn’t tripped.
Also, you can look at the main breaker (largest numbered breaker). If no other appliances work in the RV, the main breaker could have tripped and needed to be reset.
RV outlets not working on shore power can be a hassle. However, some simple checks and solutions can help guide you through the fix. If your RV outlets are not working, check your gfi outlet and breaker. If you also have other appliances that don’t have power, like a microwave. Check for issues that relate more to your shore power, including your surge protector or inverter.
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.