An RV circuit breaker is an important part of any RV or 5th wheel. And a good step to maximize your RV system’s power capacity is to test your RV circuit breaker.
It may seem overly technical to understand and inspect the breakers in your RV. But it’s quite simple than you think.
This article will walk you through the process of checking and testing your RV breakers. So now, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to ensure your safety when camping or traveling down the open road.
How To Test RV Circuit Breaker?
In this section, we’ll share the steps to test the RV circuit breaker. But before that, we would like you to know the reason behind the circuit breaker’s failure.
There are a few reasons that can cause your circuit breaker to stop working. But with proper maintenance and care, you can keep it working for years to come.
Possible causes include:
- Electrical surge
- Electrical short circuit
- Broken switch
- Broken link in the circuit breaker
- Age of the breaker
How to test voltage using a digital multimeter
Using a digital multimeter is more accurate and easily the most efficient way to test a circuit breaker.
However, it requires an additional tool.
What you’ll need
- Digital multimeter
- Only attempt this process if you have experience with RV electronics; otherwise, contact an expert who can run these tests for you.
- Don’t load test with a circuit breaker. Ensure to unplug all connected electronics.
- To avoid electrocution when testing a home breaker, always wear rubber-soled shoes and never test breakers when the floor is wet.
- Also, check the fuses first to ensure they’re not the problem
Here’s how to test your RV circuit breaker using a digital multimeter:
Step 1: Check your RV’s owner’s manual for a wiring diagram of its electrical system. You should be able to see the location of your circuit breaker in the diagram.
Step 2: Make sure that there is nothing plugged into any of your RV’s outlets. Also, you may have to turn off your RV power converter to get a true reading.
Step 3: Go to the circuit breaker panel and locate the circuit breaker for the outlet you are testing. Flip it to the “ON” position. Turn off any breakers that are not related to the outlet you are testing.
Step 4: Set your multimeter on the ACV setting to read voltage.
Step 5: Attach the positive lead from the multimeter to the terminal screw. It’s the screw that feeds power into your breaker. Next, attach the negative lead to the ground terminal.
Step 6: Check the reading.
If you get a reading of zero, there’s a problem with your circuit breaker.
But if there’s a voltage reading of 120 to 220 volts (depending on the specification of your breaker), your RV circuit breaker is working properly. In this case, the wiring leading from the breaker could be the problem.
How to test a circuit breaker without power (Continuity test)
You can test a circuit breaker for continuity without power. To do this:
Turn the power off to the circuit breaker and remove the two hot wires from the terminals of the circuit breaker.
Set your multimeter on the ohms setting to read continuity. Place one probe on one of the wires that were connected to the terminal. Place the other probe on one of the connections in the circuit breaker.
Your multimeter should read zero or beep if there’s perfect continuity. But if there’s a reading, your circuit breaker is bad and needs replacing.
Fixing ground fault
There are two things to check when a ground fault occurs in a circuit breaker:
- The wiring
- The GFCI power outlet.
To start, unplug the device that is causing the ground fault and then reset the GFCI breaker. If that doesn’t work, check the wiring. If you don’t see any visible damage, move on to testing the wire with a voltmeter or multimeter.
If you still aren’t having any luck, it’s time to call an electrician for help.
How To Set A Multimeter To Check RV Circuit Breaker?
Step 1: Inspect your multimeter for damages. Ensure the case is not damaged. Also, avoid using test leads with nicked insulation.
Step 2: Check the voltage and current settings on your meter to ensure they are off or at the bottom setting.
Step 3: Turn the power switch to the “ON” position and set the AC voltage range selector to 120, which is the typical voltage reading of single-pole RV circuit breakers.
Alternatively, you can check for amperage or resistance. For older RVs, set your multimeter to test for 30 amps. But how do you test 120volt 50 amp breaker with multimeter in newer RVs? It’s simple, dial the range selector to 50 amps.
Step 4: Plug in the test leads into their respective jacks on the meter (usually labeled “+” and “-“). Usually, they’re color-coded, Red for “+” and Black for “-” (Neutral or Common).
Step 5: Take your reading
Note: Some multimeters have two positive terminals: One for resistance & voltage, and the other for amperage.
Can A Breaker Be Bad But Not Tripped?
Yes, it can. A breaker can be bad even if it’s not tripped. The simplest way to check for this is to flip the breaker off and then on again, and see whether or not it trips. If the breaker fails to trip when you turn the power back on after turning it off, then this indicates that the breaker is bad.
A more thorough way to test for a bad breaker is with an ohmmeter or multimeter, which will measure electrical resistance in a circuit. You should find that there is almost no resistance in a working circuit; if you find high resistance in your circuit, this will indicate that your breaker is bad but not tripped.
What Happens When A Breaker Goes Bad?
People often don’t know how much they depend on their breaker panel – until it stops working. So what happens when a breaker goes bad?
Risk factors for breakers going bad include:
- A humming noise coming from the circuit box
- A bad breaker can cause the main breaker to trip
- Frequent tripping of the breaker switch
- Flickering lights and other electrical devices
- Sudden power failures for no apparent reason
- Risk of electric fires and electric shock (if the bad breaker doesn’t trip)
Note: A bad breaker can make your RV hydraulic system leveling jacks sluggish or non-operational, especially on 5th wheelers. Often, the culprit is a 50 amp thermal breaker that tends to wear down over time.
The good news is that it’s really easy to replace a bad breaker with a new one. Just ensure the new one is compatible with your panel!
How Many Times Can You Reset A Circuit Breaker?
Circuit breakers are meant to be reset. So don’t think it was defective after one trip. But is there a limit to how many times you can reset a circuit breaker?
You can reset a circuit breaker as many times as you like. The fact that the breaker was tripped is not what causes damage to your circuit, or the breaker itself. Your circuit will only be damaged if another issue, such as a short, is still present when you reset the breaker.
But the best and safest option is to install an auto-reset circuit breaker. It automatically resets after a power outage, hence no need to physically press a button.
The basic design of an auto-reset breaker is fairly simple. There are two main parts: a metal strip that heats up when electricity flows through it, and a spring-loaded switch that cuts off the electricity when the strip gets too hot.
The spring-loaded switch will automatically return to its original position once the metal strip cools down enough for the spring to be able to pull it back into place. Hence the name “auto reset” circuit breaker.
There you have it, camper!
This article has covered the basics of a recreational vehicle circuit breaker. It is an important part of your RV’s electrical system and it can save you money and headaches.
As you can see, testing an RV circuit breaker is quick and easy. With a voltmeter and these simple steps, you can ensure your RV’s electrical system is running smoothly and save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
But if you can’t figure your way around it, that’s okay. You can always seek the services of an electrician.