Becoming Expert RV Mechanics, Part II

After installing a brand-spanking new air conditioner on the top of Hoss (the name I gave to our 5th wheel), we tripped the breaker. Again.

Back to the drawing board. And by “the drawing board,” what I mean is “Google.”

There were a couple more options to try out.

First, (we’ll call it, “Plan B”) our thermostat was so hot that it simply read “Error.” Someone on the internet helpfully pointed out that if the thermostat couldn’t register the current temperature, it can’t figure out how to get the RV to the set temperature. So it simply doesn’t work.

Our trailer was so hot that the thermostat decided to stop being a thermostat.

So we waited until the wee hours of the morning, when the trailer had cooled down to a reasonable temp (I think at that time it was still blissfully dipping below 80 degrees at night). When the thermostat registered what the temp was, we turned on the AC. It ran for about 10 minutes, and, you guessed it, tripped the breaker.

Another option (“Plan C”) was to replace the breakers. That made sense to us. A circuit breaker is really only good for about 10-20 “trips” before it’s weakened, after which it takes much less effort to trip it. Plus, they get HOT. Apparently that’s a bad sign. Breakers aren’t supposed to get hot… So off we went to replace the circuit breakers.

Pro tip:

You can use any old breakers in an RV. Just pull out the old ones to bring down to The Home Depot with you so you know that you’re getting the correct one. That being said, we ended up going to an RV parts store anyway because we needed a 30/20 breaker, which apparently isn’t a super common one and The Home Depot would have had to order it in.


Have I mentioned that you can learn how to do pretty much anything from YouTube and Google? Well, you can.

Kevin became an electrician for a day.


Here’s how he changed the breakers (According to me, who was not really paying super-close attention)

  1. Cut all power to the RV. That means unplugging it from shore power AND disconnecting it from battery.
  2. Put on surgical gloves. I’m still unclear why. (During proofreading, Kevin informed me that it was for disconnecting it from the battery, which had a bit of corrosion. Apparently he didn’t want battery acid on his hands. Weirdo.)
  3. Check every single breaker connection (and, like, 30 random outlets) with a volt meter to make sure that nothing is live. Then check again. And one more time for good measure because getting electrocuted apparently makes for a rough day.
  4. Unscrew things in the breaker box (again, I had lost interest at this point in the process. Just google it.)
  5. Pull wires out of the old breakers, label them with a bit of tape so you know where to put everything back
  6. Reassemble with the new breakers. Put everything back where you found it. That’s why labeling is important.



And voila! Brand new breakers.

We turned on the AC again. It blew beautiful, wonderful, refreshing cool air. It made me way less cranky.

We ran the AC all night long.

All night long…

Then the next day they tripped again.


Stay tuned for next week’s blog post; “How Jessica Lost Her Mind and Ended Up Institutionalized.”


I’m just kidding. I’ll finish. Read on.

There was anger. And tears. For almost an entire hour I contemplated loading the kiddo and the dog up in the car and driving us back to Oregon to live with my parents.

Then I remembered that I would have to live with my parents and suddenly the desert heat didn’t seem so terrible. (I hope they don’t read this (but if they do, they would probably understand))

Finally, in an act of desperation (Plan D), Kevin started checking the voltage we were getting to the breaker box with the volt meter. We were getting 113 volts. I vaguely remember reading somewhere back in my Google research that for a 120 volt circuit, you should be pulling about 118 volts with the air conditioner running. Or something. I couldn’t even find that website again to reference it. But 113 seemed low. Plus, we were now tripping the main breaker, not the AC breaker. Even without running anything else.


Kevin went to the office and told them he was concerned that we weren’t pulling enough shore power. The RV park said they would get their electrician out to look at it in the next week.

I did not want to wait a week.

We asked if we could move sites (Plan E). I picked out a new site on the opposite end of the park where the electric had recently been replaced. We packed up the house, hitched it up, and moved to the opposite side of the park.

(This was more complicated than it sounds, because the back-in site had a solid concrete wall opposite it, which makes backing a 5th wheel more challenging as there was zero room to swing the front of the truck wide to turn the trailer. So that was amusing.)

Guess what?

Everything has been running beautifully for a solid 1 1/2 weeks now. We were assuming it was us, we should have checked the park first.

I guess we still have issues, but they’re manageable. For example, we can definitely tell when other people in the park are using a lot of power, because we can’t run the TV between 4pm and 8pm without tripping the breakers. Any other time is fine. Or we can’t run the microwave in the hottest part of the day because the AC is sucking so much power. But those are things we can deal with.

Yesterday was 122 degrees. I will happily not run the TV or the microwave to keep it cool inside.

We are only here for another 5 weeks. Hopefully our next location will have more consistent shore power. Also, hopefully it will be under 110 outside. That would be nice.


One thought on “Becoming Expert RV Mechanics, Part II

  1. Oh my goodness! You should write novels. You write the way I think and it’s hilarious. Glad everything is much better! Hey jessica– we got rid of ob call if you wanna come back and do a contract with me!


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