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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Zachary Tomlinson says
Thanks for explaining how a faulty RV component could create a strange noise around your vehicle as you drive. My friend wants to invest in a used RV so his uncle can use it to travel. I think this information could come in handy by convincing them to find a local RV repair expert when this happens.
Congratulations on your certification. We have a 2018 forest river Salem trailer. While we take showers we hear a loud bang noise coming from outside. It sounds like someone taking a hammer to where the pilot lite is at. Shortly after the bang noise the pilot lite turns on. We also noticed our stovetop and oven aren’t receiving any propane. Any ideas on what it could be?
Benton Debra says
Unfortunately, I am not the certified tech. The banging sounds like the water pump, but I am not sure what that can have to do with the pilot light. That sounds like an issue that could be dangerous if regarding propane. I would take to someone who can look at it.
Jayco Precept says
When we turn in bed, something underneath pops. At first it was here and there, we are now in the cold and it’s happening throughout the night. It probably happens in the daytime too but we aren’t in the bedroom then and the sound of the bustling town keeps the noise at bay. Last night it started to become so loud we were concerned. Almost sounds like someone is hitting the RV outside. So it’s getting serious now. Any suggestions? We were thinking maybe our leveling jacks. Scary.
Benton Debra says
Oh, my. If it sounds like it is coming from outside, it could be your jacks or a disgruntled neighbor (LOL). Have you checked the oil in your jacks in the past six months? Are they too extended? You might try putting pads underneath them to see if that helps.
Our 5th just recently starting making a sound that sounds like someone doing one or two coughs. It sounds like it’s coming from the front of the unit only hear it inside. Not extremely loud my husband that I was coughing in the bedroom, but it wasn’t me. Doesn’t do it all the time. I have only heard it twice he has heard it over a dozen times. It’s creepy makes you think someone is out side
Benton Debra says
How strange! Have you figured it out yet?
Haven’t figured out why yet, but coming from the motorized roof vent in kitchen it sounds like a small dog coughing. .. hack… hack. It’s too cold outside to work on and have gotten used to it. Drove us crazy at first. My wife thought a wild animal was on the roof at first
Benton Debra says
That is so strange. Be sure to let us know when you figure it out.
Jude Samson says
2005 crossroads cruiser
On the left wall near the living room/bedroom there’s a burrr vibration noise that even vibrates the wall. Almost like someone turning on one of those massagers. Just lasts a second then stops. But it does it every few minutes. And might go all day. Then stop for weeks then randomly start again.
Also, hot water heater randomly stopped working. I’m in PA right now – I switched out all fuses to just make sure they’re all fresh and new. I filled propane tanks and tried it with propane and no go.
Did you dibs out what it is? I have that same sound. Sometimes it sounds like a big rig down shifting.
Any ideas about this ?!? Just got this noise starting about an hour ago and worrying me sick ! Every 15 mins sounds like a faint whirring/vibration sound for a split second and then gone. We just had big wind and rainstorms the last couple days
Benton Debra says
Have you checked your roof for damage after the storm? Especially your fans?
Old Lady Camping says
Sounds like it might be the water pump. If any of your sink handles are not shut tight, after a while it will kick in for that second to fill the line back up. When mine did that, I would reach under sink and feel the water lines to make sure there was no water on them. Just in case a fitting had loosened up.
Ken Shortt says
That is what I’m dealing with right now
Ken Shortt says
Burrr pause burrr pause …………
One of my cats turned on my vibrating recliner. What a relief. It is a button on the cup holder and there are two recliners so all I have to do is place a glass in each cup holder and that should solve the problem.
Just purchased a used RV. I hooked it up to city water. 48 hours later there was a significant sloshing sound coming from the tank area. Yikes!!
Help!!!! Loud puffing sounds from above frig and fan/ac inside the 2009 Big Horn! This started during the first big storm! On/off during the storm has scared my 5th wheel partner! My cat hid all night! A fixed male feral named “Tommy” for Tom cat! He adopted me and the noise scared him into hiding for 12-14 hours!
Loree Bones says
We have had 2 crazy experiences in the same trip with our travel trailer. First night there was a huge rain storm and all of our lights started flickering like a strobe effect. Sometimes really fast sometimes a little slower. Had to unplug from power and replug in several times. Tried many things not sure what ended up working, but it was miserable. The next night we had a blaring high pitched alarm go off in the middle of the night.. Again turned off power a couple times and it finally stopped. Opened windows and went back to bed. No explanation we could find for that alarm.
Debra Benton says
Oh dear! I hope it didn’t happen again!
We just bought a 2004 Dutchman Four Winds, only one slide out for the living room. It did great on the test drive on the freeway. Now on our maiden voyage we are hearing this high pitched whirring sound. We think it might be coming from the slide out area behind the driver’s seat. Is there any way to verify or fix it? Seems to be more prevalent at speeds over 50 mph. Thanks!!
Stefan Bradley says
I didn’t know that you were supposed to check the tire pressure after every stop in your RV. My wife and I are excited to take our children on a camping trip, but we have been noticing that our RV’s tires have been making loud sounds. I think it would be a good idea to visit an RV repair facility to make sure that everything is properly functioning.
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Judith Grayson says
Ty for the article. Plz think about making it weekly. We ask you. You answer. Or picking a topic and helping other rv’ers.
Hey Judith. This is a great idea. I’ve decided to do it. You can tune in weekly for my talk show right here!
I never know if the sound the slides make when I put them in or out is normal or not. I just had them serviced but they still sound scary when they slide.
Hey Jenny. Ours sound loud and cranky. My husband says it just needs some lube. lol
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. 🙂
oh my word, that’s hilarious. Yes, I haven’t driven the RV yet. Not afraid to admit that I’m scared!!!
Kristi @ Way Beyond The Norm says
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.
lol!!!! Good thing you were in the shower to hear it and it didn’t get too crazy!!!!
Carrie Fay says
It is 18 years old, and it’s humungous. the noises make sense now… But I didn’t understand it at first!
Ahh yes! 18 years old. That makes sense. lol!!!
Julie Gant says
All great tips, Ed! Thanks!
Dick "Famous Author" Carlson says
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?
Susan Willison says
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.
AH! Yes, that can be very scary!!!
Carrie Fay says
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!
That is so funny about the creaks! How old is your rig?!