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Friday, October 23, 2009

Converter Conundrum

How do you test an RV converter? We are installing a satellite dome system on our motorhome and we are getting "dirty power" which keeps blowing out some of the sensitive electronic components.
Thomas, (New Stanton, PA)

Thomas, when troubleshooting any typical RV power converter, here are five basic preliminary steps to first take into consideration:

(1) Verify the proper incoming AC voltage. Be sure the incoming voltage falls between 103 volts AC and 130 volts AC. High and low voltage can have a damaging effect, not only on the converter, but other AC components as well.

(2) Verify the correct polarity. Reversed polarity or an open hot or neutral wire somewhere in the 120-volt supply system can indeed be harmful to the converter. Always check the polarity and test the GFCI each time you enter a new campground. If it is not correct, move to a new site or simply do not plug in the shoreline. Likewise, check the polarity of the DC conductors from the battery. Some components may be damaged if the battery is miswired.

(3) Eliminate the battery as the culprit. Because of their close association, many times the converter is blamed for battery or other DC system-caused problems.

(4) Make sure all electrical connections are clean, dry and tight. Many electrical problems are traced to loose wires and connections. It is a common occurrence because of the jostling most motorhomes endure during their lifetimes.

(5) Analyze the symptoms closely and carefully. Take notes as you go through the process of checking. Follow a systematic approach by first considering the DC system in general. Next, look at the problem area in specifics. Thirdly, consider the components in the sequence. And finally, accurately measure and record the following voltages:

* The incoming AC line voltage
* The battery voltage in an open circuit test
* The output voltage of the converter without the battery in the system
* The output voltage with the battery connected

Should you need to call a service facility or seek advice, having the above voltage information handy will provide a starting point to begin troubleshooting. Due to the level of sophistication in today’s power converters, if a problem proves to be interior to the converter, it is recommended that the converter be shipped off for repair. Some well-trained RV service facilities may offer internal converter repairs as a service, but most are probably not fully equipped to handle all possible scenarios. Many components are not field repairable, yet they can be repaired or replaced relatively inexpensively. Some do have module boards that are easily replaced if necessary, albeit, not inexpensively in most cases. All converter manufacturers have a service and repair facility in-house or one that they can recommend to perform internal converter repairs. Contact your converter manufacturer for the details of their service policy. If your converter has out-lived its manufacturer (it does happen), contact Master Tech at 800-848-0558.


In all instances, every effort is made to ensure the correctness of all content on the RV Doctor Website. It is imperative that if you choose to follow any instructions or procedures outlined on any page of this website, you must first satisfy yourself thoroughly that neither personal nor product safety will be compromised or jeopardized.

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If you are in doubt or do not feel comfortable about a procedure, do not continue. Simply call your local RV service facility and make an appointment with them. The advice, recommendations and procedures offered by the RV Doctor are solely those of Gary. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions, procedures and recommendations of our sponsors or advertisers.