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How to Clean RV Air Conditioner Coils

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Last Updated on June 20, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine

Are you trying to figure out how to clean RV air conditioner coils?

Keeping the air conditioner coils on your rooftop AC unit is one of the most important aspects of taking care of your RV. Your air conditioner coils play a vital role in how your AC operates and provides cool air to your RV. If they get too dirty, which happens from time to time, your coils will create problems with your air conditioner and cause it to malfunction. 

While you might think you need to hire a professional to clean your RV air conditioner coils, it’s a job you can do on your own. You’ll need a set of chemical coil cleaners, a spray bottle, a few rags, a soft coil brush, and a can-do attitude. Cleaning AC coils isn’t necessarily hard work, but it is meticulous.  

Cleaning your RV air conditioner coils sounds more difficult than it actually is. It’s easy to get overwhelmed just thinking about this tall task, but there’s no reason to do so. If you follow the steps we’re about to lay out below and stick to a regular cleaning schedule, cleaning your RV air conditioner coils will be easy, and your camping experiences will be more enjoyable. 

What Exactly Are AC Coils? 

Your AC coils are one of the most important components of your air conditioning system. You actually have two sets of AC coils: the condenser coils and the evaporator coils. These coils work together to draw heat out of the air as it circulates through them and replace hot air with cold air. Your coils also perform a light cleaning on the air, which is why they get as dirty as they do. 

Your coils also have small copper tubes running through them containing freon that super-chills the air as it’s passing over them. Essentially, your coils filter, clean, and cool the air that gets sent into your RV. Without your coils, your air conditioner is useless. 

How to Clean RV Air Conditioner Coils

Now that you know how important your RV air conditioner coils are, let’s learn how to clean and maintain them. 

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Make Sure the Power is Turned Off

The first thing you’ll want to do when you’re working on your air conditioner is to turn it off and disconnect the power. You can do this by unplugging the main power line to your camper or flipping the AC breaker at the breaker box. 

While you’re cleaning your coils, you’ll be getting fairly close to the high voltage wiring, and you risk hurting yourself or damaging your air conditioner by leaving the power turned on. You also don’t want the AC to kick on while cleaning it, as this could damage the unit. 

Access Your Rooftop Air Conditioner

On most RVs, the air conditioner is located on the unit’s rooftop. You can access it by climbing the ladder on the back or side of your camper and walking to the unit. Once you get to the AC, remove the protective outer shroud on top of it. You’ll need a screwdriver to do this, and if it’s a windy day, you may want to set the shroud on the ground rather than leave it on your RV’s roof. 

Determine Your Condenser Coil Vs. Your Evaporator Coil

Most rooftop RV air conditioners will have two sets of coils. The condenser coils are the ones that are immediately visible when you remove the shroud of the air conditioner and are usually at the back side of the unit. The evaporator coils are towards the front of the unit and are sometimes protected by another smaller shroud. You’ll have to remove this to gain access to the evaporator coils as they must get cleaned as well. 

Remove the Thermistor

The thermistor is a small copper tube that sticks into your condenser coils. Its job is to determine the temperature of the coils so they don’t freeze over and shut down your AC before this can happen. You’ll have to remove the thermistor to properly clean your coils and keep from damaging the thermistor. 

The thermistor is very easy to remove as you simply pull it out of the coil, similar to unplugging a cord from an outlet. The main thing is that you remember exactly where the thermistor goes because you’ll have to push it back into place when you’re done. Take a picture of the setup if necessary. 

Block the Hole in Your RV

Once you remove the shroud, you’ll notice a large hole in the inside of your RV. Take a rag or blanket of some sort and block this hole so that no dirt, chemicals, or water gets washed into your RV during the cleaning process. 

Gently Brush to Remove Loose Dirt and Debris

Next, take a special coil-cleaning brush and gently brush the AC coils, aka fins, in the same direction that the fins go. If they run from side to side, take your brush from side to side. Going against the grain of the fins will bend them and inhibit airflow through the coils. 

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You can purchase the brush from the same place you got your coil cleaners. Make sure to move slowly and methodically so that you don’t damage the fins on the coil. They bend extremely easily, and they’re very difficult to straighten out. Do this on both the evaporator and condenser coils. 

Vacuum the Coils

Once you’re finished brushing the fins on your coils, take a shop vac and run the vacuum over top of the coils to sweep away any dirt or debris you loosened. This step isn’t always necessary, but it’s something you can do for good measure. 

Choose Chemical Coil Cleaners for Each set of Coils.

Using chemical spray foam cleaners is the main component of cleaning your RV air conditioner coils. The type of spray foam you choose for the condenser coils doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a high-quality one. For your evaporator coils, however, you should choose a chemical cleaner that isn’t harmful when you breathe it in. This is because air will pass over your evaporator coils and enter your RV, which means you’ll be breathing in those chemicals. 

You can use the more eco-friendly anti-fungal cleaner on both coils, but it’s quite a bit more expensive than the basic chemical coil cleaner. For that reason, it’s cheaper to use it only on the evaporator coil since that’s the set of coils that you’ll be exposed to in your RV. 

Here’s how you use chemical coil spray foam cleaners. 

  1. Remove the cap of the cleaner and liberally spray the foam contents on the surface of the coils. 
  2. Make sure to spray both sides of both coils until they’re covered. 
  3. If your coils aren’t overly dirty, you don’t have to be quite as particular or meticulous. 
  4. Once the coils get sprayed with foam, let them sit for the allotted time as specified by your specific product. 

Rinse and Repeat if Necessary

Once the coil cleaner has sat on the coils long enough, you can either rinse and repeat the process or move on with life and call it good. To rinse your coils, use a spray bottle with pure water or a garden hose with a sprayer. Either way, spray the water gently, so you don’t damage the coils. You also want to be careful not to spray water into your RV through the hole in the roof. 

Use your coil brush or a separate coil straightener and straighten out any fins that are crooked. Do your best with this, but realize that you won’t be able to straighten every single fin out. 

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Clean Any Other Parts of the AC That Need It

Lastly, take a microfiber cloth and water and wipe down the components around the AC coils. This includes the condenser, the drip pan, the fan blades, and anything else that’s near the coils. Failing to do this step means that dirt and debris will fly off of those components and right back onto your coil once you turn your air conditioner back on. 

Perform a final visual inspection of the wiring and other AC components. Then it’s time to wrap things up. 

  1. Re-install the thermistor exactly where you removed it from the coil. 
  2. Remove the rag that you had covering the hole between the air conditioner and the RV ceiling. 
  3. Put the protective shroud back on top of the evaporator coils. 
  4. Put the protective shroud back on top of the entire AC unit. 
  5. Since you’re in the cleaning mood, now is a good time to go inside your RV and clean the AC filter. The filter is located inside the ceiling mount of your RV AC unit and is easy to remove. You can clean it either with warm water and a brush or with compressed air. Depending on how dirty or damaged the filters are, you may also have to replace them with new ones. 

Why Is It Important to Clean RV Air Conditioner Coils?

Cleaning your RV air conditioner coils is vital to maintaining the health and performance of your air conditioner. The cleaner your coils are, the better your air conditioner will operate. Clean coils also mean cleaner air inside your RV, which is extremely important if you’re camping in areas with air pollution. 

How Often Should You Clean Your RV AC Coils?

To ensure the proper operation of your air conditioner, you should clean your RV AC coils a minimum of once per year. However, if you live in it full time or use it often, you should clean your coils twice a year. 

Conclusion

As you can see, cleaning your RV AC coils isn’t overly difficult. It just takes a little time and patience. It’s something that you can and should do at least once per year, if not more. If you notice that your AC is struggling to keep up with the thermostat or that it’s iced over, it could be an indicator that your coils are dirty and need to be cleaned. 

Before you head off, make sure you check out these other great RV articles.

What’s the Difference Between an RV GPS and a Regular GPS?

How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV for a Cross Country Trip?

What Is the Best State to Establish Domicile?

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