Recharging Freon In An RV Air Conditioner Isn’t A DIY Project

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Roof-mounted RV air conditioners under normal conditions work well and are relatively maintenance free.  Owners can get into trouble when older units start to lose their cool.

While it may be tempting to attempt to recharge the freon on your RV’s A/C when it’s blowing warm air, you’re far better off having a professional address the issue.

One cause of RV air conditioner failure is damage caused by attempting to run it when plugged into an outlet not rated for a minimum of 30 amps.  That reducer adapter that allows you to plug into your house receptacle can’t handle the load.  The air conditioner will be running in a low voltage condition and burnout is very likely to happen.

Beyond replacing a damaged plastic shroud that covers the A/C, there is very little an RV owner should be doing in the way of repairs to an RV air conditioner.


I’ve been involved in RVing for over 50 years — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs and motorhomes. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller... you’ve got a good idea of who I am. To date, I've shared my RV knowledge in over 300 articles here at The Fun Times Guide! Many of them have over 25K shares.

16 thoughts on “Recharging Freon In An RV Air Conditioner Isn’t A DIY Project

  1. I have a roof air unit that worked just fine. I had remove the metal covers to clean leaves and build up on  the filter heat exchange. I’d done this on other seasons without a problem. But for some reason this time one of the screws just touched one of the u shaped tubes and caused a leak. Please tell me there’s a kit that can be soldered on so as to recharge the system.

      1. I am sure by now you have got a resolve to this problem. In the industry we often have done this ourselves. The option is put tape on the hole to prevent moisture from getting in the system. Call a reffer tech and have him braze the hole. Often taps will have to be installed to service the unit. and a vac will have to be pulled on the repair. total repair should be around 400.00 tops. That is a bunch when new air units are around 800.00..

  2. I would like to know if you could help me. We was leaving for a camping trip but our air-conditions seem to have quit. It was running yesterday. The thermostat is reading:
        zone 1  auto  00
        zone 2  auto  00
    We have tried to look for a fuse but no luck.
    Tried to replug it in and still nothing will come on.
    We have a 40X Fleetwood Discovery, 2008 360 Cummings engine. There is no one to call locally and Fleetwood RV is closed until Monday. If you have ever had this problem, could you help us.
    Thank you,
    Brenda McQueen
    Columbus, MS 

  3. Brenda, Not much you can do but wait for an RV dealership to open Monday.  Remember air conditioners run on 110 AC voltage.  Most likely there is a circuit breaker in your electrical panel for them rather than a fuse in the 12VDC panel.

  4. Hi Curtis, I own a 1978 Airstream 31′ International , the AC still blows air on all settings but does not blow cold . Can it be recharged ?

    1. Sadly RV air conditioners cannot be recharged. They are basically a throwaway item. Being a 1978 model it has exceeded its useful life by decades. Time to buy a new air conditioner

  5. “Recharging Freon In An RV Air Conditioner Isn’t A DIY Project”, why exactly? Your article does not say, so all I can assume is “because reasons”. Be careful Curtis, you may win a pulitzer prize with in depth articles such as these.

    1. Because they are not designed to be recharged. There are no fittings to hook up to. they are a sealed system from the factory. it is called built-in obsolescence. The manufacturer wants you to buy a new one when they quit working.

  6. That’s a scary idea!

    I have an old 1995 Damon Challenger here in the UK, both the cab and habitation a/c units are too low on refrigerant, it’s like a single pane greenhouse (is that what you call a horticultural building over there), hot in summer, cold in winter.

    I love it, best car I’ve ever had, but to be brutally honest with the exception of the Chevrolet and Kohler bits, the whole thing looks like it has designed in obsolescence (at least a decade before now). Everything from the walls, floor and roof to the stapled together cabinets.

    In my limited experience (3 RVs). The furnace (circuit board/fan) , water heater (aluminium tank) and air conditioning (refrigerant system) all seem to be likely to catastrophically fail too soon. The Norcold fridge seems to be the same design, although it seems to have a reasonable lifespan.

    Atwood water heater parts seem to be easy enough to get, for the furnace and a/c it’s aftermarket support I largely rely on.

    If RV owners took manufacturers intentions into consideration when contemplating repairs, we’d scrap them and buy a new one.

    I know there are many options, aftermarket refrigerant service ports, system sealant, leak detector, refrigerants, lubricants, DIY cans of sealant/refrigerant/lubricant mix. It’s certainly not to be taken lightly, you’ll find getting some refrigerants difficult, some you shouldn’t use even if obtainable, alternative refrigerants requiring charging with different weights of refrigerant for equivalent performance, different charging techniques.

    Some combinations will not be possible, but I doubt it’d be considered irresponsible in parts of the world where DIY recharge cans are readily available (in UK R134a was supported last time I checked) to install aftermarket self piercing and sealing recharge ports to a supported (R134a in UK) RV a/c system. If the guage shows zero pressure, maybe consider vacuum charging it first (on the basis any residual refrigerant would leak out of an abandoned a/c anyway). That should be within the scope of a competent DIY vehicle owner.

  7. Curtis,
    I have a 2016 Forest River Sierra 377 FLIK.
    The front AC unit will not cool.
    Would it be prudent to check the the Run Capacitor?
    Would installing a Hard Start Capacitor be helpful?

    1. If the AC has a hard time starting And seems to struggle to get going then the start capacitor may be failing. If the motor just hums and won’t start the capacitor is likely bad. This situation is likely to happen if it has become a practice to run the AC on an undersized power source. For your AC to remain healthy it needs to run off of a 30 amp RV outlet without any type of extension cord involved. Just the standard RV electrical plug in cord. With no adapters involved.

  8. Please explain to me how an A/C unit plugged into a 120vac outlet will be running on low voltage if it is plugged into a 20a receptacle instead of a 30a receptacle? It would simply kick the breaker if the current wasn’t enough to handle the load!

    1. Not necessarily. It may seem like it is running OK, But it is Basically gasping for breath because there isn’t enough power there. Most RVs Have a lengthy Power cord which creates voltage drop. If the current is already limited this is enough to create excessive heat in the air conditioner motor. You might get away with it for a little while but most likely it will dramatically shorten the life of your air conditioner.

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