RV maintenance isn’t glamorous. For many RV owners, it’s a painful chore to make sure all bases are covered–from black tank maintenance to tires to basic systems like the air conditioner–each season. Some RVers opt to take their rig in to be professionally serviced every few months, but for many RVers, it’s more feasible to complete basic maintenance tasks at home–without racking up steep service charges.

And RV air conditioner maintenance is definitely something you can DIY. Perhaps the most key step to AC maintenance–and the most frequently overlooked–is simply cleaning the filter. We’re here to walk you through the process.

Why Clean Your RV Air Conditioner Filter?

The AC filter works to limit the amount of dust, pollen, and other debris that enters your unit via the air conditioning system. In effect, it provides a physical barrier to catch debris that might otherwise be pulled in by your AC’s fans.

When the filter becomes clogged, a variety of issues can come up:

  • A clogged filter compromises the efficiency of the air conditioner itself, limiting the air flow that makes it into your RV
  • That grimy, clogged filter can force your AC to work harder and draw more power to maintain a set temperature
  • Dirty filters can allow dust and dirt into your RV’s ducts, causing buildup that’s next to impossible to clean yourself
  • Excessively dirty or damaged filters allow dust, pollen, and other debris into your RV’s interior, which lowers the air quality inside and can exacerbate breathing problems for those with respiratory issues

Some RVers have actually been convinced that their air conditioner had died and needed to be replaced–all because of a terrifically clogged filter that severely constricted airflow. This simple fix can make a huge difference.

How Do You Clean Your RV’s Air Conditioner Filter?

The first step is always to check your air conditioner’s manual, if you have it. Some RV air conditioners require you to loosen a couple of screws on the shroud in order to slide the filter out; others have clips you can engage without any tools at all. Once you’ve removed your filter, take it out of your unit and clean it outside so you don’t contribute more dust and grime to your rig’s interior.

Step 1: Vacuum Like You Mean It

A good vacuum is the first step to cleaning a reusable AC filter. Carefully go over every inch of the filter on both sides with a handheld attachment. This will likely pull out a significant amount of dust and dirt, even if you can’t necessarily see it happening. Keep in mind that filters are delicate and can’t handle much pressure or strain; don’t press hard on the filter with your vacuum or anything else.

For a fairly new or regularly-cleaned filter, a good vacuuming every couple of months might be all your filter needs. But if it still looks grimy after vacuuming, you’ll need to give it a deep clean.

Step 2: Soap It Up

Mix a mild detergent (like dish soap, or a gentle all-purpose cleaner) with warm water and allow your filter to soak for one to two hours. When you pull it out, you could use a soft-bristled brush (never anything abrasive) to loosen up buildup on the filter’s surface. Then use a water hose to gently rinse the filter out until the water runs clean. Again, be gentle during this process, and don’t use water under pressure, because this could cause damage to the filter.

Step 3: Dry Thoroughly and Replace

Never put the filter back into the unit when wet or damp. You’ll want to set it outside on a tray, a piece of cardboard, or another clean surface, preferably leaning against the side of your rig so air can circulate on both sides. Allow the filter to dry for several hours before sliding it back into your RV air conditioning unit.

Other RV Air Conditioner Maintenance

A visual inspection of your AC’s exterior shroud, fins, gaskets, and seals is also a great idea; breakdowns in any of these areas can have catastrophic effects on your rig’s AC system. Unfortunately, most of today’s RV air conditioners aren’t made to be repaired or recharged, so your best line of defence against problems is a regular maintenance schedule and a keen eye for potential issues–like cracks in the shroud, or a less-than-perfect seal against your unit’s roof.

Need other information on RV maintenance, or want to make sure you have the best RV insurance before you go on your first trips of the year? Feel free to check out our blog for more RV maintenance tips or get in touch with us with your RV insurance questions.

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