Circuit breakers play an essential role in the electrical safety of your RV and electronic appliances by tripping in case of a fault. However, that can also be a result of overload or erroneous operations.
How to Reset RV Circuit Breaker? To restore the electric supply in the RV, you need to reset a tripped circuit breaker. In manual type and arc fault current interrupter (AFCI), you need to pull its operating lever upward after pushing it in the full down position. Ground fault current interrupter (GFCI) has a reset button in the center to restore the power. Auto resetting breakers automatically close the circuit if there is no fault.
Before turning ON the power supply of your RV, ensure to remove the short circuit or any other issue.
How to Reset RV Circuit Breaker?
There are 3circuit breakers (CBs) types used in RV for protection and electrical safety.
- Standard(Manual, Auto)
- Ground fault current interrupter (GFCI)
- Arc fault current interrupter (AFCI)
Each type has its operating mechanism to reset them. However, you need to follow the following general steps before resetting any of them.
Locate the CB: Locate the device in your RV. It will be in the electric box or panel at some hidden location near the entry door. If it has multiple breakers for each appliance, locate the one in the OFF position.
Turn OFF all the appliances: Turn off all the devices to ensure that the one causing it to trip should be isolated.
Check for any Fault: You should check for any fault or short circuit before resetting the electric power. If the reason for the trip persists, it will not turn ON.
Auto resettable breakers
Auto-reset circuit breakers have an operating mechanism like a thermostat. During a fault, a metallic strip bends due to heat and trips the breaker.
When it cools down, it reconnects both contacts causing the breaker to reset. However, if the fault persists, it will trip again and continue doing until regular power restoration.
As its name suggests, it auto resets by its built-in mechanism, and you don’t need to reset. All you need is to clear the fault in case of continuous tripping.
Manual circuit breakers for RVs
Manual breakers have an operating lever or button on the front with an ON position upward and OFF in a downward direction. Some also have the third position before OFF, and it is called Trip position.
You need to push the lever in the full down position and then pull it to ON place to reset them. It will remain ON as long as the current flowing through it is within its current rating.
The main GFCI is usually part of power outlets most susceptible to ground fault inside the bathroom or kitchen areas.
Therefore, it has usage in combination with a standard circuit breaker. You will find a reset button in the center with the same written on it.
Press it to turn ON the power. It is essential to reset the GFCI before the main breaker; otherwise, it will not restore the electricity to GFCI protected outlets.
You can locate AFCI mostly inside the bedrooms of an RV to prevent the risk of fire.
However, they can trip due to frequent plug/unplug of appliances, loose wires, and other devices with high inductance like motors.
Resetting them is similar to standard breakers by pushing the button to the OFF position and then to the ON condition.
Why do RV circuit breakers need resetting?
Usually, circuit breakers remain ON until they meet any abnormality in the RV electric circuits. That abnormality can result from any fault like a short circuit, overloading of power source, faulty circuit breaker, or too long extension cord for external power connections. Moreover, loose wiring connections at breaker ends or in circuits also cause arcing and malfunctioning of circuit breakers.
Here is a brief explanation and underlying reason for each fault.
The purpose of the circuit breaker is to protect wiring and other appliances in the circuit if any short circuit fault occurs in your RV.
It happens due to both wires carrying currents meeting each other or live wires touching the ground due to insulation damage.
Therefore, a circuit breaker trips in such an incident, and you need to reset it. If, after resetting, it keeps on tripping means the fault persists. Therefore, you need to clear it before restoring the power by turning ON the device.
Most of the vehicles have standard electrical circuits consisting of either 30amp or 50 amp systems.
Therefore, a single breaker of a specified rating controls the electric power for whole RV appliances.
If you connect too many devices simultaneously, they will draw more current than the breaker rating.
It results in its tripping, and you need to reset it. Therefore, you should not turn ON the power-intensive appliances like heater, air conditioner, or hairdryer at the same time.
Often people replace the breaker with a higher rating to avoid overload trippings. But it can damage its wiring and risk of fire as it will not operate efficiently in case of faults.
Faulty circuit breaker
Usually, circuit breakers have a longer service life of 20-30 years. However, with time, their operating mechanism becomes worn out due to rusting and frequent operation.
Therefore, continuous tripping of a breaker after some intervals without faults indicates such a problem.
You need to replace it with a new one in that scenario as it is inexpensive to buy. Depending on its type and current rating, it will cost around $10-$15 to buy a new RV circuit breaker.
The problem in the external connection
Modern RVs come equipped with outlets to provide power outside the vehicle to run any appliance.
However, it can cause it to trip due to drawing more power than breaker ratings. The extension cord you plug into the receptacle or the operating appliance can also be a problem.
Worn out, damaged or loose wiring connections cause arcing at wiring ends. In addition, these arcs have high temperatures and can melt its wires, circuit breakers, or appliance terminals.
Therefore they have an additional breaker specifically designed to detect such faults, known as arc fault current interrupter (AFCI). It senses the defect and trips to protect the RV from damage or risk of fire.
Electrical wires have resistance, and extending them too long can cause them to draw heavy currents.
It not only results in power loss but also weakens the wiring insulation due to its heating. It can also be a source of frequent tripping. Therefore, don’t put too much load on a single wire and use a separate circuit for each appliance.
A ground fault occurs when any live part of the circuit or appliance comes in contact with the ground. You will often find it attached with an RV body or frame to keep it at ground potential.
Therefore, there are chances of ground faults in the vehicle at wet locations like bathrooms, kitchen, or external sockets.
They have a special device known as ground-fault current interrupters (GFCI) to trip the power in such kinds of faults not detectable by standard breakers.
Besides circuit breakers and wiring, the third most important part of an RV electrical system is electric appliances.
A faulty appliance like an air conditioner with a broken bearing and shorting the live components with their body can also cause it to trip. Therefore, you need to repair or isolate them before resetting the breaker.
How to identify the possible cause of RV circuit breaker tripping?
There are specific symptoms to identify the possible cause of RV breaker tripping.
● If it remains ON after fixing, the reason can be overload, worn out the device, or erroneous tripping.
● If it repeatedly trips without turning ON and all appliances are OFF, there can be a short circuit in the wiring.
● Turn OFF all devices before resetting the power and turn them ON one by one to identify the one causing the problem.
● Tripped AFCI or GFCI have amber test light ON or blinking.
● Frequent tripping of power after some time can be the result of overload.
Is it safe to reset the RV circuit breaker by yourself?
Yes, It is safe to reset the circuit breaker by yourself in the vehicle. However, it is safe to take precautionary measures to avoid touching the live wires or operating them with wet hands.
If the breaker keeps on tripping, it is an indication of fault. Try to locate and resolve the issue if you have a basic understanding of electricity.
In case of complex problems or replacements you don’t know, hire the services of an expert or professional to prevent yourself from the risk of electric shock.
Is there any difference in resetting AC and DC RV circuit breakers?
Besides 110V AC, 12V and 24V DC voltage levels are also standard in RVs. This is because they have small-sized circuits located near the battery compartment.
Press the button if it trips, and it will close contacts. Therefore, both AC and DC breakers have different resetting techniques.
How often does an RV circuit breaker need resetting?
There is no fixed frequency regarding tripping circuit breakers. I have one in my RV, not tripped for a single time in 3 years.
Moreover, it depends on the wiring, load on the power source, and quality of the parts. In the case of proper wiring with insulated connections and properly sized wires, you will not observe any power failures.
Moreover, adequate management of load according to your power source is also essential to avoid overload faults.
Is there any risk of fire in resetting the RV circuit breaker before troubleshooting the fault?
Yes, there can be a risk of fire if you keep on resetting the circuit breaker despite the presence of a short circuit.
High fault current can cause the wires to melt or damage the contact points in the panel.
In addition, the presence of a gas connection or flammable material nearby can catch fire from electric sparks. Therefore, people use AFCI in their bedrooms to prevent any arcs from causing the fire.