How to Troubleshoot and Fix Travel Trailer Heaters


When your travel trailer heater is not working, you will need to either hire a professional to fix it or fix it yourself.

This means that being able to troubleshoot and fix your travel trailer heater is a valuable skill to have.

Fixing the heater in your travel trailer is a priority that you should take care of before you face the cold of camping at night or the winter months.

How do you troubleshoot and fix travel trailer heaters? Troubleshooting your travel trailer heater means diagnosing the issue. Some of the most common problems for a travel trailer heater that is not working include:

  • A pilot light that won’t light
  • A fan that won’t turn on
  • A fan that turns on but no heat
  • The blower doesn’t put out sufficient heat
  • The burner turns on and off randomly
  • The blower fan vibrates loudly

Though some fixes are easier than others, all problems can be remedied. Remember to identify the problem with the heater first and then follow the directions for that problem.

Read on to find out more about the most common problems for a travel trailer heater that is not working and how to fix them yourself.

How to Troubleshoot your Travel Trailer Heater

It is understandable to be a bit turned off by the idea of trying to fix your travel trailer’s heater on your own.

The idea of fixing the heater in your trailer being difficult is especially true if you have a gas heater with a pilot light as there is always the chance of dangerous gas leaks and asphyxiation or explosion.

However, of all residential fires in the U.S. in 2015, less than 1% were listed with propane gas as the first reason (Propane 101).

There are meager chances that your propane gas heater will cause damage or injury to you while you are repairing it, but just to be sure, close the valve from the propane tank to the travel trailer before beginning to work on it.

RV Heating System Overview and Troubleshooting >> Check out the video below:

There are several reasons why a heater in a travel trailer will stop working. As long as you can identify the problem, you can find the fix that will get it working again.

However, replacing the parts of a travel trailer heater can be daunting and even dangerous.

Some may believe their best option is to replace the entire heater with a new furnace system.

Once you think you are ready to tackle the challenge of fixing your travel trailer heater that is not working, it is time to diagnose the heater’s main problem.

Some of the most common problems for a travel trailer heater that is not working include:

  • A pilot light that won’t light
  • A fan that won’t turn on
  • A fan that turns on but no heat
  • The blower doesn’t put out sufficient heat.
  • The burner turns on and off randomly
  • The blower fan vibrates loudly

Although some of these problems don’t necessarily mean that the heater isn’t producing heat, all of these problems point to something being wrong with your heater, which could lead to it failing.

The following list of problems helps you to identify if this is indeed the issue with your travel trailer heater and gives the steps to take to fix the specific issue.

Related reading: RV Propane Refill Near Me – Stations & Locations [UPDATED]

A Pilot Light That Won’t Light

The pilot light in your RV furnace heater is the little flame in the back of the blower that is constantly fed a small amount of gas to keep it lit.

The job of the pilot light is to ignite the burner of the entire heater and get the warmth of the heater started once you turn it on.

However, if the pilot light is out, the burner won’t ignite on its own.

This is a dangerous problem for a couple of reasons:

  • Leaking pilot light gas: Since a small amount of gas feeds the pilot light, if it goes out, that gas will continue to leak out. Over time, this leak could become substantial if you do not have a safety valve on your pilot.
  • Faulty burner ignition: Without the pilot light to ignite the burner, there will be no heat. But there will also be no indication that the RV furnace heater is not releasing gas. The smell of propane is distinct. However, a faulty burner ignition can be dangerous and should not be left for long.

How To light An RV Furnace Heater Manually >> Check outthe video below:

If your pilot light is not lighting, this is a severe problem that you need to address immediately.

A leaking pilot light can create a dangerous situation in the enclosed space of your trailer. 

The following steps can help you to check and fix the problem of reigniting your pilot light:

Step 1. Make sure you have a heater designed for a pilot light

Most modern travel trailers have an RV furnace heater that has an instant spark ignition. If you are looking for a pilot light and don’t see one, you may just have a newer RV furnace heater model.

Step 2. Check the thermocouple position next to the burner

The thermocouple on a pilot light in a heater is a device made to safely shut the gas valve if the pilot light goes out.

A wire of thermo-sensitive metal is near the pilot flame and connects to the gas valve.

When working correctly, the thermocouple wire will detect the flame and keep gas on and only close the gas vale when no flame is present.

RV furnace heater not running operating right
RV furnace heater not running operating right

To fix this issue, you may have to readjust the thermocouple’s position to make sure it is still near the pilot flame or replacing the thermocouple completely.

Some of the best thermocouple replacement parts are shown in detail below:

Camco 09253 12″ Thermocouple Kit: This thermocouple kit is universal and has a hose that can be bought at twelve inches up to forty-eight inches long, accommodating almost all R.V. heaters.

Honeywell CQ100A1005/U CQ100A1005 Replacement Thermocouple for Gas Furnaces, Boilers, and Water Heaters, 36-Inch: The universal adapter of this thermocouple allows for easy mounting to almost any heater.

You can use this product on various types of burners, including push-in, screw-in, or clamp-in burners.

Step 3. Check the propane tank regulator

The regulator of the propane tanks that you store outside of the travel trailer can sometimes become faulty.

Since the propane tank regulator is the device that addresses how much propane enters the travel trailer system, a faulty regulator can cause a bad pilot light.

To check the propane tank regulator, turn on all of the burners on the gas stove in the travel trailer and light them. You should see a consistent blue flame.

If you see a wavering or inconsistent yellow or orange flame, this could be a good indication of a faulty propane tank regulator, which you can replace quite easily.

Some of the best propane tank regulator parts available are listed below:

2-Stage Propane Tank Regulator with 2 Pigtail Hoses: Most travel trailers have twin propane tanks loaded in the front of the trailer.

A dual regulator is a great addition to your set up for camping and using heat for an extended period without having to refuel.

A bonus of this dual regulator is the pigtail design, which allows for more maneuverability in positioning the tanks as well as the automatic switch valve that will tap the second propane tank when the first one runs dry.

Flame King (KT12ACR6) 2-Stage Auto Changeover L.P. Propane Gas Regulator With Two 12 Inch Pigtails For R.V.s, Vans, Trailers: This dual regulator design is also great for ease of installation with the pigtail hoses.

You will never have to worry about when the first tank runs out because the auto switch over a feature will take care of the switch to the second propane tank.

Fairview R.V. Camper L.P. Propane 2 Stage Automatic Regulator with 2 x 15 QCC Acme Pigtails: This automatic switch over dual regulator has all of the great features of ease of installation and use as the other two listed in this article with a bonus regulator gauge that tells you exactly how much gas you have left in each tank.

A Fan that Won’t Turn On

Even if your pilot is working great and the burner is heating up within the travel trailer heater, you want the heat dispersed throughout the trailer with the fan.

If the fan is not working, the heat will remain in one place in the trailer and use much more gas to heat the square footage of your trailer.

The following steps can help you to check and detail how to fix a travel trailer heater fan that will not turn on:

1.Check electricity

The fan is an electrical component in the heater, so if it is not turning on, it may be because there is no electricity going to the heater.

Your first step should be to check the battery power to the entire trailer. If lights turn on and the battery is charged, read on for more ways to check the heater fan that will not turn on.

2.Check the anticipator positioning

You can find the anticipator by opening the back panel of the heater or opening the metal assembly casing. 

Some heaters may not have an anticipator, but if your heater does, it will either look like a bare wire wrapped around insulating material or a sliding contact over a bare wire.

Try repositioning the slider or bare wire contact. If the fan turns on, you have found the problem.

A Fan that Turns On but No Heat

Many times, the fan in your travel trailer heater will work perfectly fine, but the burner will not ignite and create heat.

The burner may not work while the fan is still functioning because the heater is still receiving the electrical power it needs to make the fan run.

The following steps can help you to check and detail how to fix a travel trailer heater with a working fan but no heat:

Thermostat not working: When the fan works but the heater won’t produce any heat, it is almost surely the thermostat that is faulty or damaged.

You will need to fix or replace this part on your heater to get it working. By checking the following conditions of the heater, you may be able to fix the thermostat and get the heater working again.

Airflow problem: The switch inside of the heater that senses the airflow is called a “sail switch.” This switch determines if there is enough airflow to the burner and the rest of the heater.

If the sail switch reads a low level of airflow, it will shut off the gas valve to the heater, and the burner will not ignite.

By cleaning out the air intake, the sail switch may read a high level of airflow and reopen the gas valve, which ignites the burner.

The gap of electrical ignition is too wide: If you have an electric ignition heater, make sure that the point that produces the spark to ignite the burner is close enough.

The end can be bent into position slightly. It should be about an eighth of an inch away from the burner to ignite it properly.

The Blower Doesn’t Put out Sufficient Heat

When the burner is not producing sufficient heat, it can be a waste of gas and your time.

You will spend the evening waiting for the square footage to heat up.

The most probable problem with your heater is that the burner is not receiving enough gas.

When there is not enough gas getting to your furnace, that means that gas is probably not reaching other appliances in your trailer.

This can be a waste and possibly even dangerous. You need to check this problem immeadiately using the steps below.

The following steps can help you to check and detail how to fix a travel trailer heater with a blower that doesn’t put out sufficient heat:

Check propane gas pressure: You measure gas pressure with the letters W.C. or the amount of pressure needed to raise a column of water one inch.

There are 27.7 inches of water column pressure to every 1 PSI reading. The W.C. reading for your travel trailer will be at 11 W.C. minimum with all gas devices on in the trailer.

If you cannot get this reading, you may need to replace the regulator.

Check the burner diameter: The hole where the flame of the burner comes out needs to meet the specifications of your specific heater.

A hole that is too large will not allow sufficient heating to take place, and you will need to replace the burner.

Check return airflow and ductwork: The ducting and airflow of the heater can be clogged and cause insufficient airflow to the heater through the ductwork.

If the heater sail switch has not picked up on this, the limited airflow can cause the burner to heat at sub-par levels and with limited heat.

Read: How Often Should I Drain My RV Water Heater? [The Trught]

The Burner Turns On and Off Randomly

If the burner is inconsistent, this can signal an air or gas flow problem.

You need to address a faulty burner system that turns on and off as soon as possible because of the risk of dangerous situations it can produce in the confined space of the trailer.

There are a few issues and ways to fix the travel trailer heater with a burner that is inconsistent and turns on and off randomly in a cycle:

Check gas pressure: Again, the pressure of your travel trailer needs to be about 11 W.C. as seen in your propane tank regulator gauge.

This translates to about 305 PSI of gas pressure entering your trailer.

You will need to replace the propane tank regulator if you cannot get a high enough gas pressure reading.

Check airflow and ducting: Make sure that your heater is meeting the minimum airflow requirements and that the air intake is not clogged.

Make sure there is no excess ducting that could clog the system.

The registers that can close on the heater must all be open and not blocked in any way (check for ducting or dirt/dust) and clean if necessary.

Check the burner diameter: The hole where the flame of the burner comes out needs to meet the specifications of your specific heater.

A hole that is too large will not allow efficient heating to take place and will need to be replaced.

The Blower Fan Vibrates Loudly

A loud fan that vibrates while in use can be very annoying, especially while trying to enjoy the great outdoors in your travel trailer.

The mechanics of the blower are relatively simple to understand. However, to fix a travel trailer heater with a blower fan that is vibrating loudly, you will need to disassemble the fan components and heater itself.

The following steps can help you to check and detail how to fix a travel trailer heater with a blower that vibrates loudly:

  • Mounting brackets: The motor of the fan is what causes the fan to spin. This component of the heater is in constant motion and can wear loose after a long time of use. You can test the mounting brackets by feeling for vibration if you hear a noise coming from your heater. If the heater is vibrating, the mounting brackets for the motor are most likely loose.

To tighten up the mounting brackets of the travel trailer heater fan, follow the steps below:

  1. Open the back panel of the heater. The panel can usually be accessed from above or the back of the heater.
  2. Find the motor assembly and feel for loose assembly body.
  3. The mounting brackets are on the corners of the assembly.
  4. Clean away any debris or dust from the gap in the assembly.
  5. Use a quarter-inch socket wrench to tighten down the assembly body.
  6. Blower Wheel Replacement: The fan that pumps air through the heater and out into the square footage of your travel trailer. The fan has only a few critical parts. One component of the fan that may wear out over time, causing vibrations and noise, is the wheel that works with the motor to turn the fan’s blades.

Some of the best air blower wheels available are listed below:

Suburban 350129 Furnace Room Air Blower: Suburban makes quality products from smooth metal.

The company is reliable and has been around since the 1960s, making the internal components for heaters.

Coleman 9″ x 7″ x 1/2″ Bore Furnace Blower Wheel Clockwise Rotation: This galvanized steel blower wheel is a great blower for the space it saves in an R.V. heater.

Carrier OEM Replacement Furnace Inducer Motor Blower Wheel/Squirrel Cage: A squirrel cage is durable and is a fantastic replacement part for a furnace inducer because of its fan blade design and dual wheel on each edge.

Blower Motor Replacement: If you are replacing a blower fan in your travel trailer heater, it may give you more years of heating efficiency and service if you replace both the fan and the motor while you have the motor assembly open.

THese two parts are essential to be in working order for your heater to run efficiently.

Some of the best blower motor kits for your travel trailer heater are listed below:

NuTone 0696B000 Motor Assembly for QT100 and QT110 Series Fans: This series of fans from NutTone include a motor and bolting attachments for a secure fit in your heater.

Supplying Demand 318984-753 Draft Inducer Motor Kit With LA11AA005 Wheel: Supplying Demand draft inducer motors are compatible with all major heater systems and can be installed easily with the direction that comes with the kit.

Carrier Inducer Draft Motor Replacement: This venting motor with a cooling blade is a highly efficient and easy to install inducer motor kit that can make your heater more efficient after the install.

Complete Heater Replacement

If you are not the mechanic type and feel like you may do better by completely replacing the heater in one fell swoop, you might want to consider some of the best travel trailer replacement heaters on the market.

A replacement heater can give you a heater that doesn’t rely on a pilot light, which makes it much more efficient and reliable.

This may be a great idea if you have an older heater with a pilot light as most newer models use automatic electric igniters that are safer and more efficient.

Some of the best replacement heaters for travel trailers are listed below:

Suburban NT-30SP Electronic Ignition Ducted Furnace: Suburban makes quality furnace parts and has put together a powerful 30,000 BTU heater in this design.

The electric spark that ignites the burner is very efficient and can save gas.

Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada Approved Portable Propane Heater: If your travel trailer heater seems to be failing or has failed that you may want to consider a portable heater that can hook up to a propane tank.

The Mr. Heater portable heater is an excellent addition to your travel trailer because you can move it anywhere around the square footage of the trailer and be filled with a new propane tank easily.

Atwood 34388 Excalibur 8500 IV Series Heating System Model 8531-IV Furnace RV Camper Trailer: If you are replacing a furnace system and not just a space heater, you can’t do much better than this Atwood model.

The Excalibur IV Series is a heating system that can replace the furnace system currently in your travel trailer.

Call a Professional To Fix the Heater

Choosing a professional service to fix your heater is sometimes a hard decision to make.

However, since there is a level of danger from electricity, gas exposure, and even fire or explosion, hiring a professional to complete the heater installation or fix may be a good idea.

If you do decide to hire a professional for any of your recreation vehicle or travel trailer problems, make sure you find someone who can give you a free estimate.

The estimate can give you the verification that you need to make the next decision to either make the repair yourself or continue with the professional help.

Use this guide to help you make that decision and decide if the repair is too advanced for your skills.

Read also: Can You Put RV Antifreeze in a Water Heater? (FACTS You Need to Know)

In Conclusion

When you have a travel trailer, there is nothing worse than losing the ability to heat it at night and in the winter months.

A travel trailer is made up of thin sheet metal and tent flaps capable of getting very cold at night.

The only way you can fight back against the cold is to have a furnace system in the trailer or a space heater.

Overall, heat is much needed for the travel trailer trips you want to take.

If you have the time and money, you can find the problem of your travel trailer heater and fix it by using this information in this article. Stay warm and travel free!


Beam Alarm

Propane 101

Wholesale Warranties

R.V. Life

Ward Burner

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!