RV Air Conditioner Turns On And Off Repeatedly Troubleshooting

There are so many issues that can haunt the air conditioner in your RV, however, one of the most annoying ones has to be when your RV’s air conditioner turns off and on repeatedly.

It can be quite frustrating to have the air conditioner cycle off and one every 15 minutes, it is imaginably worse when it does this every 5 or even 2 minutes. This problem referred to as short cycling can be quite frustrating leading to high energy consumption and expensive repairs.

Why does this happen?

It can become frustrating and downright intolerable, particularly during the hot summer months, when your RV’s air conditioner seemingly shuts off repeatedly. there are numerous reasons as to why this happens. Below are a couple of common reasons as to why this happens: 

Faulty Thermostat

The majority of RV owners typically set their thermostats to automatic. When the automatic setting does not function as it should, the air conditioner will repeatedly turn off and on.

Incorrect placement of the unit, perhaps near air vents or windows, can also cause this issue to happen to the device. 

This tends to happen when cool air from the vents come into contact with the thermostat. The thermostat erroneously believes that the living space is cool enough thereby turning the AC off.

This is the same process for when the thermostat is placed in the path of sunlight, it could turn it on believing that the living space is warm and requires cooling.

What you should do is change the thermostat setting and most likely place the air conditioner elsewhere.

Fault control board

Every air conditioner comes with a control board and when one begins to fail, it could cause the AC unit to repeatedly turn off and on. If you are electrically sound, you could try replacing your control board, if not you can enlist the help of an HVAC professional to handle it.

Dirty condenser coils and air filter

Just as with any electronic system and device, it is important that your RV’s air conditioning unit receives regular maintenance, repairs, and cleaning to correctly function.

If your air conditioner is turning on and off repeatedly, it could be down to dirt being in the condenser coils and air filter. A clogged or grimy filter can restrict airflow so much so that it shuts the entire system down.

When condenser coils become dirty, they are unable to dissipate heat, which then causes the air conditioning unit to struggle, overheat, then ultimately shut down. 

 If the issue happens to stem from the dirty air filter and condenser coils, you can proceed with the steps below to ensure that it works properly:

  • Clean the filter. Your RV’s air conditioner is most likely made from washable materials. Using warm water, wash the filter and air dry it before replacing it. If on inspection, you discover that the filter is cracked or broken, it should be changed.
  • Your condenser coils should be cleaned using a vacuum with a soft bristle attachment.
  • If you have frozen coils, you will have to defrost them. This can be done by using the fan only mode of the AC or not using the unit until the coils return to their proper condition.

How to correctly maintain your RV air conditioner 

If there was a singular major reason as to why most RV air conditioning units develop issues, it would be down to insufficient maintenance. When these issues occur, it is because RVers don’t lubricate bearings, change filters, or clean coils. The best way to ensure your RV’s AC is in top working order is to simply do these basic maintenance actions.

Cleaning the coils on your RV AC

With adequate maintenance, your RV’s air conditioner can not only last longer but also be efficient. it does not matter what type of RV you have, be it a popup camper, fifth wheel, travel trailer, or motorhome, the repair and maintenance procedures are identical.

One thing to note is that as with all machines, the cooling power and efficiency of the majority of air conditioners tend to diminish after a few years of use. It does not matter if you regularly clean the filters, the evaporator and condenser coils are bound to be coated in dirt and grime which can build up and eventually cause airflow and cooling efficiency to become inhibited.

Before undertaking any maintenance procedure, it is always important to ensure that the unit has no access to electricity. Once you have cut off the electric supply to the air conditioner, you can then begin unscrewing the bolts that hold the air conditioner’s cover in place.

While it is possible to use household cleaners for this cleaning job, they are unlikely to adequately clean your coils as an AC coil cleaner would.

It is always best to use something that was specifically formulated for that purpose to ensure that the build-up of grime is eradicated without damaging the coils.

Maintaining your RV’s air conditioner fan motor

Given that the cover has been taken off, it might also be a good idea to clean the fan and service its motor. It does not matter the manufacturer of your air conditioner, RV AC units come with just a single fan motor.

You can take steps to oil the fan’s motor as well. Your RV’s air conditioner might have bearings with oil ports at the side of the motor. This can be accessed by removing the metal sheet that covers the motor. You might have to remove some screws to get access to the bearing’s oil ports. 

If your fan does not have oil ports, then it means the motor does not utilize bearing but instead utilizes sleeves. If this is the case, you will have to oil the shaft. Doing so causes the oil to seamlessly seep in thereby increasing your fan motor’s lifespan. 

Keep your RV’s air conditioning unit covered when not in use

Doing this is most likely the least technical way to ensure your RV’s air conditioner remains in optimal working order. It is also likely the cheapest way as you don’t have to spend too much money purchasing a cover. 

RV air conditioner covers can be affordably purchased and they help protect your AC from moisture, extreme temperatures, and foreign bodies from insects, birds, and storms.

How to clean an RV’s air conditioner

As stated earlier, excess debris, dirt, and dust can build up in the RV’s AC unit causing it to slow and eventually fail. While there are aspects of the unit that require cleaning by a professional, there are still a few things you can do to ensure your RV’s air conditioner is properly running.

There are 3 major areas of an RV AC that you need to clean:

  • The condenser coils which have been mentioned. You simply need to take the AC cover off by unscrewing the bolts. only a specialized condenser cleaner should be used.
  • The evaporator coils are typically hidden under the air filter. A soft bristle brush can be used to clean them.
  • The air filters have to be cleaned every other month. While some air filters are disposable, some can simply be cleaned using water and soap. Doing this can help save money. Nevertheless, you must clean them carefully so as not to cause any damage to them. This is because damaged filters cannot be used.


Having read through the above article it is clear that most issues such as short cycling that plaque RV air conditioning units tend to step from the fact that regular maintenance is not carried out on the unit.

Things such as cleaning the coils, lubricating bearings, and changing filters can go a long way in ensuring the RV air conditioner functions as it should.

Air conditioners are very essential in RVs; however, they can’t function by themselves forever. The majority of issues that people face concerning their RV’s air conditioning unit can easily be avoided through regular cleaning and maintenance.

Doing something as simple as sticking to a cleaning schedule of 6 months can help ensure that you don’t go through the issue of short cycling. You simply have to develop a healthy maintenance culture when it comes to the air conditioning unit in your RV.

One thing to remember, if you are unsure of what to do when your RV’s AC short cycles, it is always best to call a professional rather than try to figure it out on your own.

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