/ / RV AC Compressor Starts Then Stops: 3 Possible Reasons and Troubleshooting

RV AC Compressor Starts Then Stops: 3 Possible Reasons and Troubleshooting

One of the most annoying things happening to RV owners is issues with the air conditioner. I have experienced the problem of an RV AC compressor starts then stops, and I want you to know that it’s pretty unpleasant.

To aid you in combating this, I will walk you through possible causes of your AC unit malfunctioning and remedies to fix the situation. With that said, let us get straight into it.

 2 Easy Solutions For RV AC Compressor Starts Then Stops

Your Compressor‘s Role in Manufacturing Cold Air

You must first understand how the whole system functions to address the issue. The compressor’s function in your AC unit is to circulate, heat, and compress the refrigerant in your cooling unit.

  • Typically, the air conditioner in your RV contains a gaseous refrigerant that is pressurized and circulated in the system in liquid form.
  • The refrigerant flows through the pipes and is converted back to gas in the evaporator after gathering all the heat from the surrounding environment.
  • It then returns to the starting point, and the cooling cycle kicks in.
Your Compressor's Role in Manufacturing Cold Air
Credit: www.youtube.com @Doing Things Dan’s Way

This component helps cool this refrigerant and disperse it for another lap. In this way, the interior of your RV remains cool.

What Is Short Cycling?

All air conditioners are similar in the sense that they have to keep running until they meet the temperature set on your thermostat. Short cycling happens when your RV air conditioner stops functioning before completing a full cooling lap.

Multiple factors can contribute to this malfunction. Some probable causes for short cycling include:

  • Leaking or low refrigerant levels;
  • Frozen evaporator coils.

Short cycling is an issue that is definitely worth your attention. I can attest to the discomfort of traveling in an RV with a faulty unit, and it is not worth the trouble.

RV AC Compressor Starts Then Stops: 3 Major Reasons

When using your AC, you expect it to cool your RV until it matches the temperature of your thermostat setting. If, however, you observe that your RV air conditioner starts and then stops, there are a few reasons that could stir up this malfunction that I will walk you through.

1. An Issue With the Thermostat

RV air conditioners usually have an automatic mode to keep your interior cool. However, if you set your unit to automatic and it turns off, the thermostat could be causing this. The location of your AC could similarly contribute to this issue.

An Issue With the Thermostat
Credit: www.youtube.com @RV Tech Tips

For instance: Placing your device in a sunlight-exposed spot convinces your thermostat that the interior is warm, leading to it shitting down. Similarly, if it is in an area prone to wind, the unit may relieve itself of its duty.

2. A Control Board Malfunction

Like with all electrical appliances, air conditioning units have a control board. If this section of your unit bears an issue, it will most likely result in your appliance turning on and off. Several constituents could cause its failure, including failed transistors and loose wiring.

A Control Board Malfunction
Credit: www.youtube.com @Doing Things Dan’s Way

Important! If you are well versed in electrical matters, replacing or fixing it would be a great solution. However, if you lack experience in the field like me, contacting a professional to review it is the best step.

3. Clogged or Dirty Condenser Coils and Air Filters

I know not of any other factor that can cause a passel of problems in RVs like clogged air filters.

  • When your unit is brimming with debris, it becomes difficult for air flow freely.
  • Your system will have to overwork and, eventually, shut down.
  • Additionally, your RV air conditioner will work overtime since the passages are blocked, causing heat.
  • Once this happens, it will automatically shut down even before the completion of a cycle.
Clogged or Dirty Condenser Coils and Air Filters
Credit: www.youtube.com @My RV Works, Inc.

This is why regular maintenance of your condenser and evaporator coil is key to the general health of your cooling unit.

RV Air Conditioner Maintainance

Like any other appliance, your RV must be properly maintained to ensure it functions effectively. There are multiple steps you can apply to do this correctly. They include:

  • Inspecting and cleaning the air filters;
  • Reviewing the seal on the exterior of the air conditioner;
  • Checking whether the shroud is in order.

I also recommend lubricating your bearings often. This step helps the air conditioner work better with less friction wearing it out.

Maintaining Your AC Filter

With time, you will notice that your AC doesn’t cool your RV as efficiently as it used to. However, cleaning your filter and evaporator coils goes a long way in ensuring it functions better for a long time

Cleaning your air conditioner filter is quite a simple task. To effectively do it, follow these steps:

  • Power down your air conditioner.
  • Locate the cover and extract the filter.
  • Depending on the dirt your air conditioner houses, you can use a microfiber cloth or a coarse brush. The initial option aids light cleansing, while the brush deals with more stubborn particles. You can also use a vacuum with moderate pressure.
  • After eliminating the residues, place it in lukewarm, soapy water for nearly half an hour, then remove it and rinse.
  • Dry it and place it in the sun.
  • Once done, return the filter.

Note: I also discovered that using vinegar on the filter plays a massive role in preventing microbial growth. I highly recommend it.

Maintaining Your Evaporator Coil

Cleaning your evaporator coils is equally simple using the following steps:

  • Make your way to the roof and access the shroud.
  • Extract it and unhinge the coil sheet metal by loosening the screws.
  • Clean the coil using a vacuum set to moderate pressure if it is dry. If it is wet, allow it to dry before vacuuming it.
  • Reassemble the whole unit.

RV Air Conditioner Fan Motor Maintainance

Your RV air conditioner bears one fan motor that aids your unit to function effectively. Once you pop the cover when cleaning your filter, you can also use the chance to clean the motor.

  • Some RVs have bearings with oil ports on the motor’s side.
  • Extracting the metal sheet shielding the motor is the only way to reach these parts.
  • To access these oil ports, you might have to unhinge some screws.
  • It likely uses sleeves if you fail to identify oil ports in your air conditioner. If so, oil the shaft.
  • Doing so allows the oil to enter the motor area, resulting in a longer lifespan for your air conditioner.

Additional Pointers to Aid You in Maintaining Your Unit

All machines need regular maintenance to ensure they function correctly. Your air conditioner is no exception to this. You can take several steps to ensure your RV unit functions appropriately, and they will probably help you save money you would use on repairs.

  • Ensure the plastic cover shielding your unit is free from cracks. This prevents foreign materials from entering your air conditioner.
  • Make sure there are no areas where water can access your air conditioner.
  • Review the condenser of your air conditioner to ensure there is no blockage resulting from debris.

Real Users Experience and Reviews

Different users have varying opinions and questions about the AC. Here are a few:

A user by the handle Cheftjpeck had the following comment:

I have a 2018 Forest River Cherokee travel trailer. The ac during auto cool cycle often shuts off. Also compressor cycles between low and high when it is working . I have adjusted desired temp and it sometimes will come back on but ultimately I would take it out of auto mode and just put fan either low or high to get to work . Well last night even in low fan mode it shut off after a while . I then shut off fan and unit , then turned back on in high fan cool. It works after doing that.Cheftjpeck, a 2018 Forest River Cherokee travel trailer owner

Another user by the handle Steven2k7 had the following comment:

I have a 2000 model 5th wheel that has a roof unit AC. The fan runs and blow air just fine and appears to be working perfectly, but it will not stay running. When I change the thermostat to cool, the compressor will either kick on or try to kick on and run for about 3 seconds then quit. A few min later it will kick on/try to kick on, run for about 3 seconds and quit. When I first tried it a few weeks ago, it wouldn’t even try to kick on at all, but I replaced the start capacitor and that made it actually kick on and run the way it is now.Steven2k7, a 200 model 5th wheel owner


Why Does My AC Compressor Start Then Shut Off?

Your AC untit starts and then compressor shuts because of an issue with the thermostat, malfunctioning control board, or clogged air filters.

How Do I Reset My Compressor?

To reset it, wait for your air conditioner to cool down, then press the reset button.

Is It Safe to Run My RV AC if the Compressor Is Starting and Stopping?

While you dont stand any chances of physical damage, it would be unwise to run your AC if it is starting and stopping. It may escalate and cause severe damage if left for a long time.

Will a Compressor Start With a Bad Run Capacitor?

Yes, it will start and run with a bad run capacitor. However, it will not keep functioning after starting.


That’s all I gathered regarding why your RV unit starts and then stops. This problem can be caused by several issues ranging from a faulty thermostat to an issue with the control board. To prevent short cycling, there are several remedies you can apply.

Start by cleaning the air filters and evaporator coil. You can also have a professional come and review your control board to ensure it is in peak form.

Other than that, that’s all you need to know regarding this particular RV air conditioner malfunction. If there are any other pointers you need assistance with, let me know in the comment section below.

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