Having an RV is awesome. Sometimes it’s annoying. Like the constant maintenance. There is always something going on. And more often that not, weird RV sounds are always an agitator.

Liz says this picture will “establish credibility.”

Times like that are when I’m most glad I have an RV technician certification.

But if you’re reading this article, chances are you don’t have. And my wife has made me write this article for you.

Here are the most common RV sounds, why they’re important, and how to avoid or control them!

You’re welcome.

 

What's that sound?!! Read this post to get a breakdown of typical RV sounds and what each one could mean may be going wrong in your rig (5th wheels, motorhomes, travel trailers). RV maintenance tips coming' at ya! | www.TheVirtualCampground.com

Refrigerator fans

If an RV has a large refrigerator or is located on a slide, you may have to look out for proper fan operation. Without the fans sucking the air out of the rig, your fridge can overheat and spoil the food inside.

That would suck.

Check for proper operation by looking in the bottom vent of the refrigerator cabinet. You should be able to look up to the ceiling vent and see/hear proper operation.

Liz says I should mention the fans should constantly run. This is obvious to me, but I guess I understand if it’s not to you.

When you hear a very quiet low hum near your refrigerator, don’t panic. This is normal.

Got it? Good.

Grey tank burp

Obviously, no one wants to talk about RV tanks, but sometimes we must. And if this kind of talk makes you recoil, you’re definitely not going to make it as an RVer.

Moving on.

The grey tank holds your dirty dish and bath water. If you’re RVing with a few other people, be sure to check the levels every few days until you get a feel for your usage and tank size.

If you’ve forgotten and the tank gets too full, it will start to back up into your RV shower or tub. You may hear a burp. Or perhaps even grosser, maybe some sloshing if you have things in the bottom of the shower.

This usually happens when you’re doing the dishes and pouring more water into an already overflowing tank.

Check the area and if you see (or smell) dirty water, it’s definitely time to empty your tanks!

Black tank burp

Just like the grey tank, this tank will start burping when too full. And it’s an RV sound you never want to hear.

You should be able to hear the burp and that the water is not running down into the tank.

And of course you will be able to clearly see and smell that this tank needs to be emptied!

Obviously, avoid this at all costs, friends.

Air conditioning

The air conditioner is a vital part of your RVing. You know, unless you like sweaty pits.

If you’re like me and like clean and dry pits, your AC contributes to most of the RV sounds you hear throughout the campground.

The fans blow loudly and the compressor is not modest. If you have more than one AC unit on your roof, it can get even louder. This is normal, and unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done aside from turning it off.

This is a picture of an AC capacitor. Again, you’re welcome.

That said, if the AC is causing a lot of rattling and working overtime, it may be in need of some maintenance. That’s not a regular RV sound, okay?

Recently, our AC fans would turn on but the compressor wouldn’t. Luckily for Liz and my pits, I was able to buy a new part and fix it myself.

If the same thing happens to you while RVing, I suggest checking the capacitor.

If you hear the AC cut off unexpectedly, or before it reaches your desired temperature, the unit may have frozen up. You can easily remove the filter inside your RV, look up, and see if things are frozen. If not, you many not have enough electricity to run it. Try turning everything else off and then run the unit.

LP detector

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten into a fight with our LP detector.

If you’re not familiar with the term, LP is another term for propane. My first experience with this device was in the middle of the night of our first month RVing. It started beeping (like a fire alarm) and I thought we were going to die of gas poisoning, because no matter what, it would not turn off!

It turns out they will start beeping if your have low DC power. This is just a warning that it’s not working properly. A very loud, very scary warning.

But don’t panic. If you hear an alarm going off and it’s not the fire alarm, it is the LP detector. Chances are it’s just a power issue, but it’s important to exit the rig and calm down. Have one person go back into the coach and smell around. Do you smell propane? If so, GET OUT DAMN IT. You have a dangerous leak and need to turn the propane off immediately. Then leave the door open to ventilate the RV and call someone to come test the unit as soon as possible.

I suggest turning the propane off even if you don’t smell anything. Then go to where the sound is coming from. There should be a button. Hold down the button for about 10 seconds and that should reset your detector.

Generator

No matter what kind of generator you have, it’s going to cause quite a bit of noise.

Most parks do not allow them, so be sure to ask.

That said, if you are boondocking they are a great power source for your RV and come in handy! Be respectful of those around you when using it. Always follow quiet hour rules and try to be conservative as possible.

Don’t be that guy.

Tires

Our motorhome is loud on the interstate. I always feel like I can hear every bump on the road!

While there’s not much you can do to prevent road noise while driving down a neglected, federally-funded freeway, it’s important to be safe.

Yikes.

As an RV owner, make sure to check your tire pressure whenever you hit the road. Yes, tire pressure should be checked before and after each camp stop.

This will not only help eliminate noise, it helps ensure you don’t have a blowout. If you do have a blowout, it will be a sound you’ll never forget. Remain calm. These things happen and the damage is already done.

Be cautious and pull off the road. If you must replace a tire due to a blowout, change the tire next to it also. There is a good chance the other tire will blow because of the pressure from the last blowout.

Rattling and Banging RV Sounds

When you’re driving an entire home on wheels down the road, there’s a lot of movement.

On our first trip, we forgot to ensure all our cabinets were closed. Within 20 minutes, we were pulling over so Liz could shut a door. After another 20 minutes, there we were again closing another.

When you’re about to head out on your RV trip, eliminate any noises by:

  • Making sure all loose items are packed away.
  • Completely shut all drawers, cabinets, and doors (including the shower door).
  • Remove items from up high that may fall while the RV is in motion.
  • Lock windows so they don’t open.

Don’t forget to check outside to make sure all storage bays are locked shut as well or you may hear a banging from the outside! That can be scary. We once has an air compressor fly out on the highway.

Embarrassing, I know.

If you hear a strange noise inside or out the RV, it’s important to find the source. Don’t be afraid to use Google or ask your neighbors for help. Getting to the source of the issue quickly can save you time and money!

What was the scariest RV sound you’ve ever heard?

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12 thoughts on “Scary RV Sounds and How to Fix Them

  1. I think I developed PTSD the first time we test drove an RV! Now? Everytime there is a “new” sound that I am not familiar with my palms start to sweat and I think the world is ending! Yeesh! Glad to know I’m not alone in this. 🙂

  2. Great post! I’m queen of “what was that?” I only say it about every hour. Hubby is getting real tired of it. We had the grey tank burp just the other day while I was in the shower. Ugh. Luckily Brent wasn’t on a phone call or outside at the time and it was easily remedied.

  3. Dear Dr. RV: When I start driving my seven-ton house, it makes a sucking sound from the area of the fuel tank. This continues until the tank is empty, then starts again as soon as I fill it up. Should I be using thicker fuel? Or just turn the radio up?

  4. Congratulations on your RVSA certification and thank you for the article! My husband graduated from the RVSA last November and the knowledge he gained has been invaluable in our full time adventures. My scariest RV sound is when we have the awnings out and they suddenly start flapping from winds kicked up suddenly by an approaching storm.

  5. Ha! This was awesome and hilarious at the same time. So many sounds to get used to in an RV!

    Something that took me forever to get used to (and I still don’t know if it’s normal for ALL RVs) is that our RV creaks and groans and pops and makes all sorts of strange noises when the sun comes out and warms up or goes down and it starts to get cooler. With any temperature change, really, the RV lets us know!

    I am used to it now, but I used to think there were gnomes living in the ceiling and walls banging away with hammers. This was a great article!

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