RV Generator Questions and Answers

An RV generator is an essential piece of equipment for RV-ers. Getting the best RV generator can make a big difference over the long term, and we would strongly recommend you get the best you can afford instead of trying to save on this important piece of equipment.

Run Generator All Night?

Question: Can you please let me know if we could run our generator all night in the blm land. I have to sleep with a machine at night. Please let me know we are planing to come around the 15th of Jan.

Answer: A common issue is using a converter for 120v to run the machine. You don’t need to. Almost all the machines run off 12v via a $20 cigarette lighter plug. Your heater will not work for humidity but you can fill it with water as a pass-over humidity device. I use mine tent camping with a motorcycle battery. Talk to your Homecare provider or check online.

Answer: I have been using an apnea machine for 8 years. I sail and RV. In both cases I have run the device off a small (400 watts or less) cheap inverter on the house batteries. This has worked well for me in my sailboat, 5th wheel and slide in truck camper.

Is a Generator a Must Have?

Question: My wife and I are planning to be on the road fulltime for about ten years by way of motorhome. In your opinion would a generator (either LP or diesel) be a must have? I am just trying to learn about this lifestyle. Thanks!

Answer:

In our opinion, it is well worth it to have a generator as fulltimers. It allows us to boondock in out of the way places such as BLM lands. It also is convenient when overnighting in a Walmart parking lot or stopping for a roadside lunch break to be able to make coffee, run the AC and mmicrowave, etc.

Often RV rallies offer no or few spaces with electric hookups, so the generator provides more flexibility for selecting RV rally spaces.

A generator can also come in handy to run the AC while driving on very hot days when the dash air is not sufficient. And it provides electricity in the event of a power outage at a campground or a roadside breakdown.

Having said all that, a generator is not a necessity. But in our view, it is money well spent.

Generator Overload

Question: I was running the RV generator this morning and the AC,lights and TV were all on. Then my wife turned on the microwave and the entire 120 volt system went down. Only after plugging the RV into the house electric did all appliances work again. I checked all fuses and they were good, and none of the breakers had tripped. Any ideas?

Answer: It seems that you overloaded the generator. You mentioned that all your fuses were good and that none of the circuit breakers had tripped. However, you did not mention if you checked the breakers on the generator itself.

This has happened to me and it is usually the breakers on the generator. This means I have to go outside, open the generator bay and reset the breakers. Another thing you might check is for a tripped GFI outlet.

If it is none of the above I recommend going to a good RV repair shop that is good with generators and electrical work.

Generator Won’t Start

Question: My 2000 Newmar DutchStar on- board diesel generator won’t start. It will turnover but won’t start. Any ideas; where do I begin?

Answer: We are not diesel mechanics but will hazard a guess or two:

  • No fuel to engine (bad fuel filter, air in the fuel lines, fuel pump)
  • Glow plug is defective
  • Low oil pressure preventing engine from starting (some gensets have protective circuity to prevent start where no/low oil pressure)
  • Battery power is too low to initiate the start-up, but has enough power to crank

Have you checked out your genset owners manual, our manual has an extensive trouble shooting section. You might also try the manufacturer of the generator for some help. They may be able to do some technical support over the phone.

Generator while Driving

Question: What is the law about a generator running on the back of a camper as you are going down the road?

Answer: We are not aware of any laws against it, but we have not checked this out in each individual state.

We have a motorhome and sometimes run the generator while traveling to run the roof air conditioners to keep the RV comfortable on very hot days. The dash air just doesn’t do the trick when the temps are way up there and the sun beating down.

From what we have read, many RVers do the same thing. The refrigerator can also be set to AC and run off the generator at the same time. This is a good opportunity to exercise the generator under a load, as recommended for generator maintenance and longevity.

Keep in mind that you are using fuel to power the generator, so keep an eye on your fuel level.

Generator just clicks

by Joe ( Southern CA)

Question: I just replaced my coach batteries with two 750 cold cranking amp. deep cycle batteries. My Onan 550 generator just clicks as if the batteries are low.

I checked the voltage at the generator and it is 13.6 volts DC. The prime side sounds like it is priming, but won’t turn over the generator. When I push the start button at the generator, it just clicks. Fuel gauge is a little more than 1/4 full. Any ideas?

Answer: We suspect that the clicking you hear is the solenoid engaging the flywheel. It sounds like the starter is the source of the problem, or perhaps the leads to the starter. It is difficult to diagnose these things remotely, but that’s our initial reaction.

Running Generator while Sleeping

by Rob (Texas)

Question: Can you safely run your generator while sleeping? I have a 2008 Keystone Raptor.

Answer: That depends on where the windows are in relationship to the generator exhaust, whether you will be keeping the windows open, and your own comfort level with leaving the generator running. We personally would not sleep with the generator running no matter what. But only you can make that decision based on your circumstances.

However, here is a suggestion based on what we do when we boondock during those hot humid warm nights. We cool the bedroom down prior to sleep with the air conditioning. With the bedroom relatively cool, we then open the windows to try to get cross ventilation. Prior to lights out we turn on a small 12 volt oscillation fan that blows air across the bed. We have found that this works well even in 90+ degree weather. In very humid weather we have had less success – but not so bad that we couldn’t sleep.

50 amp RV with 30 amp Generator

by Chri (Little Rock, AZ)

Question: I just picked up my new 50 amp RV but my old generator is still set up for 30 amps. Can I run my 15,000 BTU A/C at the house still?

Answer: First, if your generator can be set up for 50 amps, then do so. If the generator will only support 30 amps, then most likely you are limited to running one air conditioner at a time (in addition to use of other low-draw electrical outlets). Note that 30 amp service (120 volts X 30 amps) gives you approximately 3600 watts of power to use.

Here is a list of approximate wattage draws for common appliances (be careful this is only an illustration and may not be applicable to your specific application):

A/C 1600 – 2500 Watts
Microwave 1200-2000 Watts
PC Desk top 400 Watts
TV 30-300 Watts (depends on size, B&W or Color)
VCR 40-60 Watts
Refrigerator/Freezer 400-1200 Watts
Toaster/Toaster Oven 800-1500 Watts
Hair Dryer 900-1500 Watts

So depending on how many watts your air conditioner(s) require, and what else you want to run simultaneously, you can estimate what you can operate off the generator. It is a matter of managing your power.

We are not sure what you mean by running the AC “at the house”, but hope that this response is of help.

DVD player won’t work on Generator

by Mark (Napa, CA)

Question: I have a 1995 33′ Fleetwood Flair with a 5500 watt Onan Generator. When I’m plugged into power everything works fine. When I’m dry camping and crank up my generator, I have a real hard time getting my DVD player to work.

The last trip out, I tried changing the outlet for the DVD, by running an extension cord to a kitchen outlet. That worked, so I put it back to its original outlet and it worked – until the next day, when I cranked up the generator again. The DVD player was the only thing I couldn’t get to work, even when I changed the outlet.

Would cranking up both AC units help drain off some power? I run, at least, both AC fans when I run the generator.

Answer: We are not experts on electrical problems however, if you suspect that your generator is producing voltages that are higher or lower than normal you should verify that ASAP.

While not connected to shore power, run your generator and take some voltage readings. Start with any outlet powered by the generator and take a reading, then do the same for the outlet that powers the DVD. Compare the voltages – they should be almost identical. If they are not, then you have a circuit or outlet problem.

If the voltage is above 132 Volts or below 102 volts, you might want to stop using the generator until you take the RV to a repair facility.

Hook up LP to Portable Generator

by Mickey (Leicester, NC)

Thinking about buying a LP fueled generator that is set up to run off bottled gas.
I want to hook up to house LP plumbing.

Does the line go on the high pressure side or low pressure side of current regulator? The propane provider asked the question. Low or High pressure to feed generator. The unit I plan to purchase is Sportsman GEN 7000 LP 13HP.

Answer:
Let me suggest that you call the manufacturer to get the definitive answer. Here is a link a users manual for the Sportsman GEN7000LP: http://buffalotools.com/manuals/gen7000lpmanual.pdf.

On page 12 of the manual there is a telephone number you can use to ask questions about how to properly use the generator. I am sure they will be able to confirm how to properly attach the generator to house LP. You can also show the manual to the person that will be installing the LP portion and they might be able to discern the answer to their question.

My guess is that it gets connected to the high pressure side since the generator comes with its own 5 foot LP hose and regulator. Ultimately, the decision and consequences are yours so contact the manufacturer or dealer for the correct information.

Onan 6.5kw RV Generator Won’t Start

by JC (Central CA)

Question: Thanks in advance for any and all help shared. I just got this Onan 6.5 RV Generator unit for free, for helping to remove it from an old RV. The old owner said it just stopped working one day and he left it alone since then.

I have cleaned it up and reconnected a well charged battery. When I push the start switch, I get one loud click from the Solenoid and then nothing except the sound from the electronic fuel pump. The motor moves freely. I was told it could be the Solenoid or even possibly that the generator side of the unit may be frozen. Any recommendations?

Answer: It could be the starter motor itself or a combination of starter and solenoid. I believe that the loud click you hear is the solenoid engaging the flywheel. If the starter motor were working the engine would turn over.

As for the generator part being frozen – I think that is a remote possibility. If it were my project, I would try to buy a stater and solenoid combination from a junk yard to see if I could get the engine started.

Portable Generator

Question: What size generator should I have to power my roof air conditioner on a Flagstaff 620 st popup trailer?

Answer: Since you did not mention the power requirements of the air conditioner, we recommend you research this by starting with our RV generator reviews.

We review a variety of small portable generators. Honda makes an extensive line of small portable generators. The smallest will provide 2000 Watts of power enough to power a small residential style air conditioner. You may also want to search our site for terms like “electricity’, “power” and so forth to determine your needs for power while RVing

120 Volt Not Working

by Ken

Question: My 120-volt power does not work when the generator is working. What could be causing this problem?

Answer: I am going to take your question to mean that your generator is not providing power to your 120 volt appliances.
If so, several things need to be checked.

First, begin with your generator. If you have an older unit you may have to connect your power cord to the generator.

Then, check to make sure that the generator circuit breaker(s) have not tripped. If they are tripped, reset them by turning them off and then back on again. When resetting the breaker(s), feel to make sure that the breaker(s) are good, over time they do tend to fail. If there is little resistance when reseting the breaker(s), then replace them.

Next check for a tripped GFI outlet and reset it also.

Go to your A/C power distribution panel and reset all of the breakers in that box. Remember to feel for weak breakers and replace any that seem too easy to reset or that will not fully reset.

Lastly, since you have a generator then you also have a power transfer switch that may have gone bad and is stuck in the shore power position.

If you have a trailer, then another possibility is a bad converter.

If you want to further diagnose the problem, read on.

Converter:

  • Huge caution: Never work on a converter while it is connected to live power unless you are skilled in electrical trouble shooting. The few dollars you save may cost you an injury or your life.

However, if you feel comfortable working on the converter, you can check to make sure that all of the converter connections good and tight and that there are no burned wires.

Do you have a good battery connected to the converter? I read somewhere that a bad battery can cause similar problems.

Also try resetting all circuit breakers in the converter and make sure that they are good.

Power Transfer Switch:

  • Huge caution: Never work on a power transfer switch while it is connected to live power unless you are skilled in electrical trouble shooting. The few dollars you save may cost you an injury or your life.

However, if you feel comfortable working on the power transfer switch, you can check the contacts to make sure that they are operating properly and that the contacts are not pitted or welded shut.

If you still do not have power at your outlets then you will need to take your RV to a professional to resolve your power issue.

Comment: Almost all generators have a master power switch or(master breaker)located somewhere near the start switch in the generator bay, on the generator. This is the first place I would go to diagnose the issue. It will look like a small black light switch, in most cases and may not be labeled. This is the case on all Onan genies that I have owned. Depending on the model year (as previously posted) there will more than likely be an automatic switch box that changes your power from shore to genie. They can also stick once in a while.

Plug in and unplug from shore power a few times will usually make it break contact and switch it to genie mode.(depending on where the switch is mounted, you should hear a clicking noise as it makes the transfer).

If you have an older rig (70’s or 80’s model) most of them were not equipped with the auto switch and you had to manually plug your power cord into a 30 amp receptacle mounted in the electric cord bay. Hopefully this helps and saves you a few bucks or time not having to take it in.

Comment:

First, disconnect from your generator and hook to a known working source, as your house. If still no power, check your cord for loose blades on the plug. Check where shore power connects inside your box. Make sure ALL connections are tight, and wires aren’t blackened from arcing.

Make further checks with your breakers and fuses. Check GFCI breakers for age and wear, test and reset. If still no 120v, I would turn it over to an electrician, or take it to an RV center for PROPER repairs! Good luck!

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