How to Test an RV Air Conditioner Capacitor

by Mark Corgan
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condensadores image by Vanesa Boullosa Lopez from

RV air conditioners have two capacitors: a motor run capacitor and a motor start capacitor. A motor run capacitor is used in the blower fan circuit while the motor start capacitor is used in the compressor circuit. While each capacitor serves a different purpose, each is testable in the same manner. The two types of tests are resistance testing and capacitance testing. Resistance testing provides a quick indication of a capacitor fault. Capacitance testing provides a more accurate reading comparable to the capacitor's specifications.

Capacitance Testing

Step 1

Turn off the main AC circuit breaker to the RV. The circuit breaker is located in the RV's electrical load center. Remove the shore power AC connection to the RV if it is connected.

Step 2

Climb on to the RV roof and remove the air conditioner protective housing by unscrewing all Phillips head screws located around the base of the housing.

Step 3

Locate the motor run and start capacitor enclosure. The enclosure is typically located near the top right corner of the air conditioner assembly when facing towards the front of the RV. It may also have a wiring diagram sticker on it. Remove the enclosure cover screws and cover.

Step 4

Inspect the enclosure for two capacitors. The motor run capacitor is typically a silver oval-shaped canister two to three inches in length. The motor run capacitor is either black or silver, cylindrical in shape and is three to four inches in length.

Step 5

Discharge each capacitor by shorting the electrical terminals located on the top of the capacitor using the flat blade screwdriver.

Step 6

Remove the electrical leads from the motor run capacitor, taking note of what terminal each wire is connected to.

Step 7

Measure the capacitance of the motor run capacitor by switching the multimeter to capacitance mode and place the positive lead (red) on positive or "+" terminal of the capacitor and the negative (black) lead on the negative or "-" terminal.

Compare the reading to the value printed on the side of the capacitor. If it is out of range, replace the capacitor. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 to test the motor start capacitor.

Resistance Testing

Step 1

Switch the multimeter to Ohms mode. Place the positive lead (red) on the positive or "+" terminal of the capacitor and the negative (black) lead on the negative or "-" terminal.

Step 2

Check to see if the resistance measurement gradually increases to near infinity. If it does not, the capacitor is leaky and requires replacement. If there is no resistance --- a zero reading --- the capacitor is shorted and requires replacement. If there is no resistance reading, the capacitor has an open circuit and requires replacement.

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 for the motor start capacitor.

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