6 Reasons Why Does RV AC Compressor Start and Then Stop

A functioning air conditioner is a must for a comfortable and pleasurable RV experience. However, on a hot summer day, you turn on your RV air conditioner and it stops after running for a while. This turning on and off rapidly is called short cycling of the AC compressor.

We’ve gathered all of the causes and fixes for the RV AC compressor in this guide for your convenience. Let’s dive into it!

RV AC Compressor Start and Then Stop

What are the Reasons My RV AC Compressor Starts and Then Stops?

Air conditioner is supposed to turn on and then keep running for at least 15 minutes. If your RV AC turns off mere minutes after it is first turned on, it is the sign of short cycling. 

RV AC compressors may start then stop because of low refrigerant levels, bad thermostat and overheating. Additionally, dirty and clogged air filters, condenser coils and frozen evaporator coils also contribute to causing this problem. 

Like these there could be a handful of reasons behind an AC compressor short cycling. So, let’s take a look at all the plausible causes behind this problem.

  • Bad thermostat
  • Thermostat set too low
  • Overheating
  • Low refrigerant levels
  • Oversized AC unit
  • Clogged air filter
  • Frozen evaporator coil
  • Dirty condenser coils
RV AC Compressor Start and Then Stop

Troubleshooting RV AC Compressor Starting and Stopping After a Few Minutes Problem:

Most of the issues behind the RV AC compressor starting and then stopping are pretty low level threats. 

Simple diagnosis and maintenance of the air conditioner can easily solve any of those problems.

So, instead of wasting anymore time, let’s get into the process of fixing this problem right away! 

01: Check the Thermostat

The thermostat in the air conditioner is responsible for the regulation of temperature inside your RV. It observes the temperature of the RV and commands the heat pump to switch on or off accordingly.

A bad thermostat can’t complete this heat cycle properly. Therefore, the air conditioner will fail to maintain the cooling system. 

After the air conditioner starts, the faulty thermostat will misread the temperature level and think the temperature is okay. So, it turns off the air conditioner instantly.

To fix thermostat issues- 

  • In most cases, changing the batteries can help solve this problem. If you notice the brightness of the thermostat decreasing, get new batteries.
  •  Clean the accumulated dirt around the thermostat and AC. 
  • If it still doesn’t fix the thermostat, call an HVAC (Heating Ventilation And Air Conditioning) expert to check the thermostat thoroughly.

Read Also: RV AC Freeze Sensor Location [Complete Guide to a Freeze Sensor]

02: Look for Refrigerant Leaks

Refrigerant is the most important heat carrier gas in the air conditioning system. This component is what absorbs the heat and cools down the temperature inside the RV.

Without the correct levels and amount of refrigerant in the system, the AC can not decrease the temperature. As a result, it will start, fail to complete the cooling process and then stop in a few moments. 

The reason the refrigerant levels get so low is because of unidentified leaks. So, check your entire cooling system in order to look for the refrigerant leaks and take necessary steps to fix these leaks. 

The only way to seal a refrigerant leak is to use a specially sealed patch. This is only available to HVAC experts so you’ll need to seek their help for fixing the leaks.

Read Also: Adding Second AC to 50 Amp RV: A Complete DIY Guide

03: Clean Clogged Air Filters

Air filters of the air conditioners constantly remove dirt and dust particles from the air they intake. As a result, the filters often get clogged up with these particles over time.

If the air filter itself is too clogged, it will fail to deliver clean cooling air to the inner components of the AC. 

The lack of fresh air will cause the cooling system to overheat. Overheating the air conditioner leads to short cycling eventually and turns off the compressor. 

In order to clean the clogged up air filter-

  • Examine the air filter and identify the clogged parts.
  • Remove the screws from the AC cover to take it apart. 
  • Pull the air filter and take it outside.
  • Use a hand brush to thoroughly clean the filter of any remaining dirt and debris.

Read Also: RV AC Unit Humming But Fan Not Running – Why & How To Fix?

04: Thaw the Frozen Evaporator Coils

Another one of the main reasons for the RC compressor randomly shutting down is that the evaporator coils are frozen. These coils are a part of the indoor AC unit. The coil can freeze as a side effect of the dirty air filters. 

The cold airflow is trapped in the coils, unable to pass through filters. And so, ice forms on top of the coils. This ice turns off the AC compressor abruptly even if it’s only been a minute since it started. 

You can fix this frozen evaporator coil issue in three ways-

  • Run the AC system in the “Fan Only” mode so that ice doesn’t form
  • Keep the AC turned off until all the ice is thawed completely
  • Run the AC at a higher than usual temperature

Apart from these temporary solutions, you can clean up the air filter and condenser coils to refrain from further cold air block. 

05: Inspect for an Oversized AC Unit

If you’ve recently installed a new AC in your RV and the short cycling problems have started since then, the AC might be oversized. 

The correct tonnage of an air conditioner is very important while purchasing. It determines how much heat the AC can transfer outside in a set amount of time.

A larger than necessary AC will conduct uneven and rapid cooling. The refrigeration cycle will throw off the balance and create problems like short cycling. The AC will cool very rapidly and in the process, turn off as soon as it is turned on.

Unfortunately, there is no certain fix for an oversized AC unit. You will need to replace the unit with a more suitable size to avoid further damage to the unit. 

Conduct a heat load calculation with the help of HVAC to get the correct AC sizing for your RV.

Read Also: How to Solve RV AC Clicks But Won’t Turn On Problem?

06: Clean the Dirty Condenser Coils

Similar to the air filters, dirty condenser coils are one of the sole reasons for the AC compressor overheating. 

Condenser is a part of the outdoor unit of the AC which exchanges heat with the outside. So, it comes in contact with the dirt from the environment and gets dirty too easily. 

Dirty condenser coils restrict the heat flow of the AC. The heat can’t get out of the system and as a result, AC overheats. 

So, clean both of the dirty coils after removing them from the condenser. Get professional help if you feel like you can’t do it safely by yourself.

Read Also: RV AC Soft Start Vs Easy Start Kit | Which One is Worth it?

Tips for Maintaining RV AC Compressor

A good maintenance routine can resolve a lot of your problems with the RV air conditioner. 

At least once a year, you should do a full routine checkup with the help of a HVAC professional to make sure everything with the AC is alright. 

Throughout the year, follow these few tips to keep the AC in good shape-

  • Keep all of the condenser coils clean by regularly taking care of them.
  • Don’t let the air filters accumulate dirt and debris.
  • Use a brush to keep the air filters clean. 
  • Open the roof vents to pass the moisture and air.
  • Cover the outdoor unit of the AC with a plastic cover to save it from rain and storm.
  • Keep the service fan clean and running. 


Now, let’s take a look at some of the most asked questions on the internet regarding the RV AC compressor starting and stopping problem.

How long does it take for an RV AC compressor to cool the RV?

It takes at least 20 minutes for the RV AC compressor to cool down the RV. It can take longer depending on the size of the RV. So, if the AC compressor shuts down before this time, the RV won’t cool down at all.

What happens when an RV AC compressor overheats?

When an RV AC compressor overheats, the AC detects the change in temperature and shuts down instantly. After a while, the AC will start up again. However, continuous overheating of the compressor will eventually break down the system entirely.

Can a bad capacitor cause the RV AC compressor to start and then stop?

If the capacitor is bad, it won’t produce enough energy to keep the compressor turned on. So, the lack of energy will turn off the AC compressor after being turned on shortly. 


By now, you should have a clear idea of what to do when the RV AC compressor starts then stops after a few minutes. Keeping a well maintained routine of checking up on the AC can reduce a lot of your troubles. 

With the proper tools and guidance, you can do most of the maintenance cleaning by yourself. If you’re not confident in it, hire a HVAC professional to do it on your behalf.

Read Also: Ducted vs. Non-Ducted RV AC: What Should Be Your Choice?

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