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Troubleshooting RV Furnace Problems in Motorhomes, Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels

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If you're a new RVer it may help if you have a good idea of who your RV furnace should work.

  • Your RV furnace operates on the 12vdc system, You do not have to be plugged in to 120v power use it.
  • If your thermostat only controls the furnace and has a switch to turn the furnace on/off, switch to ON position. If your thermostat controls the furnace and the air conditioner make sure the switch is set to FURNACE.
  • Set thermostat to warm temperature and furnace blower should come on after 15-30 seconds.
  • Blower runs for 15-30 seconds then burner will fire up. It's normal for burner to cycle on and off.
  • When proper temperature is reached the burner will cut off, blower will continue to run for a short time.

Some common RV furnace or heater problems can be solved with basic troubleshooting and simple repairs. Keep in mind that any rv furnace repair should be done by a qualified technician.

Pilot Light Won't light or stay lit.

Make sure the thermocouple is positioned properly in the pilot flame.

Another common problem is a bad regulator at the propane tank. A simple test will indicate if this is the case. Light all the stove burners and look at the color of the flame. The flames should be blue with little or no yellow color. If the flame does not change color then the regulator is probably working. A bad regulator could also cause problems with your hot water heater.

Note: Most modern RV furnaces have a direct spark ignition system that replaces a pilot light.

Fan doesn't run and no heat.

If the fan will not start you should first check that your battery is good and you have 12 volts at the furnace. You could have a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse.

If the battery is good and you have electricity to the RV's heater next check the thermostat.

Remove cover and look for the "anticipator" adjustment. (Note: Some new thermostats do not have an anticipator.) It will be an adjustable control with a sliding contact over a straight bare wire or a bare wire wound about an insulating material. If the fan will not start set the temperature to maximum and then move the anticipator slider while listening for the fan to start. Be sure to wait long enough... it normally takes our furnace 30 seconds for the fan to start once the thermostat sends a signal.

If the fan starts after you move the slider then you have probably found the problem. In this case you may find a slider position near the original position that will work reliably. If your thermostat anticipator adjustment uses the straight wire design and the wire lies directly on the plastic housing then you should look to see if the wire has sunk into the plastic. This wire produces heat and causes the plastic to melt a little and the wire to sink into the plastic so the slider no longer makes contact. It may be necessary to replace the thermostat.

Fan runs but no heat.

If your furnace fan starts you can assume that the thermostat is working.

Possible problems are insufficient air flow through the furnace a bad propane valve at the furnace or a bad regulator at the propane tank.

A furnace contains an internal sail switch, that senses the air flow. If the air flow is not sufficient then the switch will prevent the furnace from igniting and the fan will run but you will get no heat. A slow motor speed could be caused by a low battery or other low voltage cause such as a bad connection in the wiring.

Low air flow could also be caused by a restriction in the ventilation system. Check to see if any heat registers are closed or blocked. Some furnaces will not tolerate even a partial closure of a heat register. .

If you have an electronic ignition check to see if the two contacts are touching or are too far apart. They should be about 1/8 apart.

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