Last Updated on September 2, 2022 by Edward Kipfinger
This is a great question, but it’s also an opportunity to learn about the way your rig works. Understanding the electrical system in an RV can save you a lot of time and money when something goes wrong.
Yes. RV outlets CAN work when you’re driving your RV. But you need to have the generator running.
Back to Basics
There are two types of systems that provide electricity to our beloved electrical devices – from lightbulbs to computers. The two sources are Alternating current (AC) to Direct Current (DC).
The former was invented by Nikola Tesla and the latter by Thomas Edison.
Tesla was first to the plate and he offered the transformer, which enabled AC voltage to be stepped up for transmission and stepped down for consumer use. Think of AC as the power for the long-haul, running your fridge and reefer and you’re A/C unit. DC will power your cigarette lighter, your lights, and recharge your battery.
The Electrical System of Your RV
There are two sources for AC in your RV—from a hook-up or from your generator. Chassis, 12-volt batteries, usually hooked in parallel provide DC power for lights and such. From DC, and if you have a power inverter, you can run things like DVD players, satellite TV boxes and TVs. Fridges and Freezers run on either AC power or propane because they just more power to function properly. Microwaves need the AC power to cook your food, but if you’ve got propane, cook on the stove. Recent scientific studies demonstrate that microwaves destroy the nutrients you need in your food.
Power While on the Road
It’s completely cool to run your generator while driving. This will allow your fridge to cool faster (propane works but it takes a significant longer time to cool your perishables). It will also help charge your chassis batteries to full so you can enjoy a noise free environment when you get to your campsite. Now you can’t have people running around your Class C without seatbelts, however they can enjoy watching a flick or charging their cell phones while you are cruising to your campsite in Yellowstone or the badlands. The outlets will work.
The Bottom Line
Know your rig. Read the owner’s manual and Google about it.
There are other people that have been through the pains of RV maintenance and repair. You are not in this alone. I would highly recommend that an RV owner have several of these tools in his or her toolbelt.
Firstly, the Klein RC-110 receptacle test tool has to be in your toolbox – it can immediately detect (through easy to see indicators) if your rigs wiring is correct or incorrect.
- For North American AC Electrical Outlet Receptacles
- Detects most common wiring problems
- Red and orange LEDs look similar
Secondly, a Digital Multimeter.
This device can help you inspect the most complicated electrical issues from shorts to opens and all sorts of problems with voltage and current. These tools will probably cost you less than $50 dollars (for the low-end tools) and can help you save a ton of money in electrical work. Remember, you can run your generator while driving but it’s on you to know your electrical system and how it works.
Editor note: If you have a pull behind RV, you shouldn’t be back there using the outlets anyway. What are you thinking? lol
Before heading off, make sure to read some of these other great RV-related articles.