Rv surge protector troubleshooting

30 amp surge protector

The safety of your family is important. All of us have heard stories about accidents occurring when using an electrical appliance such as a refrigerator or washing machine. Protecting these appliances from electrical damage can be expensive and difficult, but with the help of an RV surge protector, you will have peace of mind knowing that your family will remain safe during their travels. However, sometimes these devices can go bad.

Below we will go over some of the things you can do to troubleshoot your rv surge protector.

How Exactly Does Rv Surge Protector Work?

Before we get into what causes a surge protector to fail, let's start with how surge protectors work. A surge protector monitors incoming AC power. If the voltage exceeds a certain threshold (usually around 100-150V), then the surge protector opens its circuit and diverts the current away from the sensitive electronic equipment such as TVs, computers, phones, and modems.

RV surge protectors are quite popular among RV owners since they provide protection for their electronics while camping or traveling. These devices use a combination of power strips, fuses, circuit breakers, rectifiers, and capacitors to help prevent electrical surges. In addition, these devices are designed to work with the existing wiring of the RV and plug directly into a standard wall outlet. If not properly installed, these devices can cause fire hazards.

A surge protector works similarly to a fuse by providing temporary relief from a short-circuit condition. However, unlike a traditional fuse, the surge protector does this without interrupting service to any device connected to it. Once the power supply is restored, the surge protector automatically re-establishes the proper amount of current.

Pros & Cons


  • Surge protectors are relatively inexpensive. You can find them in any local store for less than $20.
  • They're versatile. A surge protector can handle both AC and DC power. It can be used in any type of electronic device. And, they're highly reliable.
  • They can save money. A good quality surge protector can last years before needing replacement.


  • They might look scary. Many people don't understand how surge protectors work and assume that they'll blow up if they touch them. Of course, this isn't true. But, some models do have small sparks that may ignite clothing or hair.
  • They can be hard to install. Installing a surge protector can sometimes be tricky. Some require specific tools and skillsets.

What causes a surge protector to go bad?

There are three major reasons why surge protectors may fail: 1) poor design 2) aging 3) environmental conditions.

Poor Design - Surge protectors were originally intended to protect electronics from lightning strikes. Lightning produces enormous amounts of current, often in excess of 10kA. To prevent surges from damaging these delicate components, surge protectors were designed to open their circuit when the current exceeded 50% of their maximum rating. However, there are times when the incoming AC power isn't consistent enough to trigger a surge protector. In those cases, the surge protector may continue to divert the current until the protection circuit fails.

Aging - Surge protectors have two parts: the actual surge protector and the fuse/circuit breaker (which turns off the power). As surge protectors age they lose effectiveness. Over time the internal components can degrade, resulting in reduced performance. Surge protectors should also be tested regularly to ensure proper operation.

Environmental Conditions - Surge protectors are rated based on the amount of current they can handle over a specific period of time. For example, a surge protector rated at 200 amps could withstand 200 amps of continuous current for two hours. If the surge protector was exposed to 400 amps of continuous current for just 15 seconds, it would trip and shut down. However, even though the surge protector shut down, it may still protect the sensitive equipment for a short while longer. If the surge protector remains active after being subjected to 400 amps of continuous voltage for 30 seconds, the surge protector may not trip again for several minutes. Therefore, if the surge protector shuts down immediately after experiencing a spike in current, it doesn't necessarily mean that the surge protector failed.

How Exactly Does Rv Surge Protectors Fail?

There are many things you can check for when it comes to ensuring that your rv surge protector is good. Below we will go over some of these and what might cause a failure.

Check Connections

Make sure both the positive and negative terminals connect to the right outlets. Check your surge protector periodically to make sure it doesn't have loose wires or broken connections. Look at the back of the unit where it connects to the power cord. If you notice any loose wiring, broken connectors, or damaged circuitry, then you'll want to contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Mechanical Failures

Mechanical failures are often due to lack of maintenance. Unattended mechanical devices can wear out and breakdown. Mechanical failure can also be caused by a faulty fuse. Fuses blow because they corrode or degrade over time. To ensure proper operation of your surge protector, inspect fuses regularly and replace them as necessary if they are replaceable.

  1. Overcurrent Protection (OCP) Failure

  2. Surge protectors have OCP circuits that monitor power input to a load. If the load draws higher than what the OCP circuit deems safe, then the OCP opens, interrupts the current to the load and shuts off the power supply to the device. Power supplies often use a series resistor to limit the amount of current that flows from the power supply to the load. When the OCP detects a high load draw, the short circuit protection (SCP) circuit activates, shunts any over-current flowing across the resistor and prevents damage to the power supply.

  3. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Failure

  4. A GFCI circuit monitors the difference between incoming AC voltage and outgoing AC voltage. If the difference exceeds a certain threshold, the circuit trips open, thereby interrupting the flow of electricity from the AC line to ground. A GFCI trip does not imply a fault; rather, it indicates the possibility of a fault. A GFCI is sometimes called a safety switch. GFCIs are required in many U.S. residential wiring systems.

  5. Overheat Protection (OHP) Failure

  6. Overheating occurs when DC voltages exceed design limits or when AC voltages exceed design limits. Most surge suppressor models incorporate thermal overload protection (OOP) circuitry to detect overheating conditions and shut down the supply before permanent damage occurs. In some cases, OHP circuitry is insufficient to prevent damage. In these instances, OHP failure may lead to fire.

  7. Surge Suppression Failure

  8. When voltage surges occur, they cause momentary spikes in the voltage at the outlet. Many surge suppressors incorporate electronic components in their design that filter out the surges and reduce noise in the electrical system. However, if the surge is too severe, these filters may become overloaded, shutting off power to the device. Once the surge passes, the filters can recover and restore normal operation.

  9. Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Failure

  10. Electrostatic discharge produces electric currents that pass through the air and strike exposed metal surfaces. These discharges can easily transfer an electrostatic charge onto nearby objects and people. If a charged object touches electrically sensitive equipment, it could produce an arc flash. This could result in a fire or explosion. ESD failures may occur even after the surge protector has been installed.

  11. High Voltage Failure

High voltage is defined as voltage above a predetermined level specified by the manufacturer. As long as the protector's voltage stays below the specification, it is considered safe. However, if the protector's voltage rises above the specification, damage may occur to both the protector and the device protected by the protector. High voltage faults can be caused by lightning strikes, manufacturing defects, improper installation, vandalism, and aging transformers.

Surge Protectors available on amazon

Troubleshooting Fuses And Breakers

How To Check Fuses And Breaker In A Circuit Board?

First thing we need to do is check your circuit board. There should be two fuses located at each end of the circuit board. These are used to protect the board from overheating. If these fuses blow then replace them immediately with fresh ones.

  1. Remove any labels on the board
  2. Turn off power to the circuit breaker panel
  3. Look at fuses carefully. If they don't have a label, use a flashlight to check them out.
  4. Look at the fuse holder. If it's not labeled, use a flashlight to look inside it.
  5. Check to see if the fuse is intact. If the fuse is blown, remove it and replace it with a good one.

What Is A Re-settable Bead Fuse?

A re-settable bead fuse is used instead of regular fuses. When the fuse blows, you reset the fuse from the back side by pressing down on the button and holding for about 5 seconds.

How To Test A Re-settable Bendix Fuse?

You have to press hard on the button on both ends. You'll hear a click sound if the fuse works properly.

How To Test A Thermal Break Switch?

A thermal break switch (also known as a thermostat) is a type of electrical switch designed to turn off power to appliances when the temperature reaches a certain point. A typical example of this would be turning off the air conditioner when the house gets too cold.

To test a thermal break switch, you have to bring the switch up to operating temperature and see if it activates. If it does not activate, you have a malfunctioning switch.

Troubleshooting Your Generator And Inverter

  • Does the generator have enough fuel oil?

A good rule of thumb is 1 gallon per 1000 watts. A 1000 watt machine requires approximately 1 gallon of oil per day. If the genie is run less than 24 hours a week, then you may need to add some additional oil to keep it running smoothly.

  • Does the inverter have enough electrical current?

Make sure that the output voltage coming out of the inverter matches the input voltage coming into the inverter. If the voltages do not match, then the unit will work sporadically, causing overheating and poor performance.

  • Do all wires reach where they should?

Check that all cables and power cords are connected properly to make sure there are no loose connections. Also check that all grounds are tied properly.

  • Have the air filter changed?

There are two types of filters that you can install: a pre-filter and a post-filter. Pre-filters are installed prior to the generator being started. Post-filters are installed after the machine is already running. Changing the filters often helps to prevent clogging and dirt build-up inside the engine.


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Surge protectors should always be checked before use. If they fail to work properly, then you may need to replace them. An example would be if you have a surge protector plugged into a wall outlet and you plug in something else (e.g., a lamp) and get a surge of current.

If your surge protector is broken, it will not protect any of your devices. This can be a costly mistake and should be dealt with immediately.

About Author:

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Hi, I'm Kevin Pommells, a lover of camping and the great outdoors as everyone says nowadays. I'm also a passionate soccer fan and the proud owner of CamperRules.com, a website dedicated to helping campers and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of their adventures. With years of experience exploring the wilderness and a deep love for the sport of soccer, I'm always looking for new ways to combine my two passions and share my knowledge with others. Follow me for tips, tricks, and insights on all things camping and outdoor recreation.

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