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How to Start an RV Generator With RV Batteries

by John Cagney Nash

One of the most valuable functions addressed by a recreational vehicle generator is the charging of on-board batteries when the RV is being used to camp without a shore power connection. To ensure this remains possible, always monitor the state of charge in your coach battery, sometimes called the "house" battery. Never allow the level of charge to drop below that which can be relied upon to start the generator. So long as sufficient charge is available, starting an RV generator with RV batteries is a simple and convenient process.

Locate the control buttons used to start your RV generator. They will be rocker switches which make a connection to the generator's starter motor when depressed, and automatically spring open again as soon as the pressure from your finger is released. There will always be one switch on the integral generator control panel itself. There will usually be at least one other inside the RV, either wall-mounted near the driver's seat or in the galley. If the secondary switch is not marked "generator," it may usually be identified by its location adjacent to the counter which records the generator's hours of operation.

Consult your RV owner's manual to discover if there is an inline fuel stop tap fitted, which blocks the flow of gas, diesel or propane from the fuel tank to the generator. If one is fitted, ensure it is in the open position.

Check the level of fuel in your supply tank. Propane generators are fed from the on-board or detachable high-pressure tank, just as are all the other propane-fueled appliances, so if there is propane in the tank, the generator will run. Gas and diesel generators which are fueled from the same source as the chassis engine are fed via an outlet at least one-third of the way up the side of the fuel tank. This is engineered so that the generator cannot cause the vehicle to run out of fuel, but it means the fuel tank must be filled to at least a level above this outlet for fuel to flow to the generator.

Make sure any high-demand 110-volt appliances, such as the air conditioner, are switched off before starting the generator.

Push the bottom of the generator starter rocker switch downward and inward. It will rock over a central pivot, and as contact is made, the generator's starter motor will begin to turn. If you are using the switch on the generator's control panel, you can see and hear the generator and will know when it fires. If you are using a remote switch, you will be able to feel the movement of the generator's starter motor transferred through the bodywork of the RV; it will smooth out when the generator fires. In either case, as soon as the generator fires you must release the rocker switch.

Tip

  • Auto-start devices can be purchased as aftermarket parts that fire up your generator. They first check no shore power is connected, then fire up the generator if the air conditioning system tells it the RV is too hot, or if the battery monitors tell it the batteries are getting too low. They work with gas, diesel and propane generators. They are wireless, and the handset can also be used as remote control to start the generator on command.

About the Author

John Cagney Nash began composing press releases and event reviews for British nightclubs in 1982. His material was first published in the "Eastern Daily Press." Nash's work focuses on American life, travel and the music industry. In 1998 he earned an OxBridge doctorate in philosophy and immediately emigrated to America.

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