After a long day on the road or an exciting afternoon in nature, you probably want to come back to the cool air conditioning of your RV. But what happens when your power mysteriously goes out?
If your shore power cord is plugged in but you still don’t have power, it may have gotten damaged (or “gone bad”).
Do RV power cords go bad? Yes, RV power cords can go bad. They may sustain damage during use or transit, or the connectors may be bent or loose. However, the life expectancy of RV power cables is between 20 and 25 years using the appropriate cabling guidelines.
Repairing them can be simple, but you have to be very careful. Electricity is dangerous, and you should only attempt to fix your shore power cord if you know how to do it safely.
Let’s take a look at why your RV power cord may go bad, signs to look for when inspecting your RV shore power cord, and how you can fix it yourself!
Table of Contents
What Causes an RV’s Power Cord to Go Bad?
RV power cords can go bad in several different ways. To understand how this happens, it’s important to remember several things about your RV’s power cord.
First, it spends most of the day being jostled around in your RV. No matter how you store it or how carefully you plan for it, the cord is going to be bouncing around while you’re driving.
Physically securing it to the storage compartment can reduce this, but even then, RVs hit bumps and potholes and the occasional terrible road.
The cord is going to be bounced around a bit.
Second, your RV power cord is at the mercy of the elements when it is plugged in. No matter how luxurious your RV park is, your cord is going to be exposed while it’s plugged in.
Depending on the time of year and the climate of your location, this could mean wind, rain, snow, dust, and even animals may have access to the cord.
Any of these things can cause damage to your power cord.
Consider the age of your RV. Sometimes power cords become lose or stop working properly with age. It may be time to replace the cord or a connector if it begins to have consistent problems.
Finally, always check the power rating of your RV cord and the location you choose to plug it into. While standard RVs use a 30 or 60 amp cord, some RVs use lighter cords.
If the amp rating and cords sizing on your cord or your RV extension cord size is lower than the amp rating on the plug, using it may damage your power cord.
Extension Cord Sizing Checklist
- Determine amperage of tool/appliance
- Calculate cord length – use the shortest possible cord.
- Wire gauge determines amperage load
- Watts = Amps X Volts Example: 2,400 watts = 20 amps X 120 volts
Choosing correct extension cord >> Check out the video below:
Here in the chart below you can see the average power consumption for electrical appliances:
|RV and Camping Appliances
|Rates Watts (running)
|RV Roof-Top AC (15,000 BTU)
|RV Roof-Top AC (13,500 BTU)
|RV Roof-Top AC (11,000 BTU)
|Electric Water Heater (6 Gal.)
|850 – 1,250 W
|Dorm Size Refrigerator
|12″ B&W TV
|27″ Color TV
|Satellite Dish & Receiver
|Battery Charger (Cell Phone)
Signs Your RV Power Cord is Bad
You may be able to tell right away if your RV shore power cord is bad. If you know everything else is working properly but your power is still failing, it’s probably due to the RV power cord or the plugs/connectors associated with the cord.
Sometimes, only half of your appliances will stop working when the RV power cord goes bad.
How do you test an RV power cord? >> Check out the video below:
You may still have some power due to a generator or battery, but using the appliances can quickly drain these devices.
You may notice a loose plug, or that the cord is pulled away from the plug, exposing live wires. If this is the case, the plug is likely not getting a stable connection and will stop working.
If the plug becomes hot to the touch after being plugged into the power source, it may be time to replace that plug.
You can also do a physical examination of your power cord. If there is damage or any tears along the power cord itself, it may mean that there are broken or bent wires inside.
These damaged places may become a hazard if the damage is bad enough. Otherwise, the broken wires may cause the power cord to stop working altogether.
Repairing Your RV Power Cord
There are some repairs you can perform without taking your RV into a shop. However, it should be noted that most power cord repairs should be handled by a professional in most situations.
A standard RV cord carries 30 amps of power – that is more than enough to do serious damage. It can even be fatal.
If you know what you’re doing and you are comfortable working with electrical systems, replacing your RV cord or plug yourself can save you some money.
Here are some tips for replacing your RV’s power cord.
Replace, Don’t Repair
This first tip may not help you fix your power cord, but it can help you avoid serious damage to yourself and your RV.
If you notice that your cord has sustained serious damage, has broken wires, or could be dangerous when plugged in, do not attempt to repair the cord.
Since RV power cords use 30 amps of power or more, it is not recommended to use electrical tape or some other quick fix to continue using the cord.
This may be an attractive option when you’re at a campsite and need air conditioning, but it can ultimately lead to more expensive repairs in the long run.
Not to mention that putting a patch on a cord that is carrying that much power is dangerous in its own right!
So if it comes down to it, replacing the cord is better than trying a quick, inexpensive repair. This is especially true if the cord has been cut or otherwise damaged. If there are physical signs that the cord needs repair, try replacing it instead.
It may be more expensive and inconvenient, but it can be extremely helpful in the long run.
If there are no physical signs of wear on your cord, the plug may be the problem. If you’ve narrowed it down to the plug due to overheating or physical signs, you can easily replace just the plug and save some money.
You’ll need wire cutters, wire strippers, and a screwdriver. Make sure that the RV is powered off and that it is safe to begin working.
How To Replace A Plug End >> Checkk out the video below:
Then, cut the power cord as close to the plug as you can, making sure to avoid any damaged sections.
You can purchase a new plug at most RV and auto supply stores, though you may have to look around for the correct model and amp rating.
The plug should come with instructions for installation, including how much of the wire needs to be stripped back to be placed inside.
Follow the instructions, and make sure to double-check that it is hooked up in the same way as the old plug.
You can take the old plug apart to check. Once the wires have been stripped to the proper size, installed into the plug, and seated properly, you can put the plug back together.
If you’ve done everything correctly, the power cord should function properly now!
Power Cord Replacement
Before attempting to replace your RV’s power cord (or even opening your wiring box), consider hiring a professional. It’s going to cost a lot more, but it can also save your life.
If something goes wrong or you make a mistake, the power generated by the cord or the box could be fatal or extremely damaging.
Related reading: How Many Watts Does a Pop-up Camper Use? (Facts & Numbers)
If you know what you’re doing, however, you can purchase a new power cord (making sure, as always, that the amperage rating is the same).
Locate and open your RV’s wiring box and take a picture or a mental note of where the power cord is connected. You can install your new power cord by stripping the wires, attaching them in the same places, and securing them.
If your RV power cord goes bad, you may be able to fix it yourself. However, make sure that you know what you are doing and leave the more dangerous repairs to a professional if you can.
With a new power cord, your RV will work like new!
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