Can I run a RV generator while driving?


RV’s are the perfect tool for a weekend or summer getaway. While driving, they can be like driving an aluminum can down the road, especially in the heat. Heat can build up in the interior and cause an uncomfortable space, lucky, there is a solution. Run your air conditioner.

To do this, you will need the assistance from your generator, and by doing that, you will need to run your generator while driving your RV. You may ask is this safe, or can I really do this? Keep reading to learn why RV’s were designed to do this and why it is OK to do.

Can I run a RV generator while driving? Yes, you can absolutely run a generator while driving your RV, in fact, most are designed to be able to do this as you can order one without dash a/c and only utilize the generator with the rooftop a/c while driving. Keep in mind, this will utilize more fuel over your driving trip.

Why run a generator while driving?

There are several reasons to run a generator while driving your RV, this could include running your air conditioner, your refrigerator, microwave, tv, dvd player, or to run any other 110 volt devices while you are driving.

The air conditioner in your RV will only run when plugged into a 110 volt shore power or while on a generator. If you are traveling in the summer, your RV will heat up as they do not have as good insulation as a home. Typically, your dash air conditioner will not have enough airflow to properly cool the rest of the RV, therefore if the heat is unbearable, you will need to run your rooftop a/c unit to properly cool your RV.

If you have several rooms in your RV, you would need to run a rooftop unit air conditioner as the dash air conditioner will not blow to each secluded area. When you are driving if you have a curtain from your cab and your living area, you could close it and use the dash air conditioner to keep the front area cool, but if you have passengers or animals riding with you, you may need to run your rooftop air conditioning units.

Prior to arriving at your camping spot for the night, you may also want to run your a/c while driving off of your generator to precool the unit so you don’t step back to make dinner in a heated tin can.

Lots of large RV’s have residential refrigerators installed in them. What this means, is that they will only run when they are plugged into 110 volt power or off of a generator. For short trips, these could be turned off and retain cool, but if you will be doing extensive traveling, you will want your refrigerator to remain on, thus having to run your generator while traveling. Many refrigerators in travel trailers or smaller RV’s will also have a propane setting to use when you are not plugged in or running your generator, but using propane while driving sparks another debate.

If you have any other 110 volt devices you would like to run when you are driving such as a tv for a passenger to watch, or need to charge or run any medical or other devices, you will need to run your generator to provide the proper voltage to run these units.

Downsides to run a generator while driving?

There are really little downsides to run a generator while driving with the exception of two items: first if your generator is ran off of propane, and second, using a generator will consume more gasoline.

If you have a propane generator, you will need to check state or local laws to determine if it is legal to run propane devices while driving. There has been lots of debates about this and some say you can and some say you can’t.

The big reason not to is running a pressurized gas while driving could cause fire or an explosion if the gas line gets damaged. Typically these lines run underneath your RV for the purpose of if there is a leak, it will leak outside and not inside your RV potentially poisoning you with propane gas. If a rock were to rupture the line and catch a spark, this could mean catastrophic damage to your RV or trailer and potentially hurt you or others around you.

Your gas mileage will not be affected, and could even be greater when running your generator and not utilizing your dash a/c, but your generator will consume fuel while driving, but we will get into that next.

Will my gas mileage (MPG) be affected while running a generator in an RV?

No, technically, your miles per gallon will not be affected when running a generator and driving your RV. Potentially you can get better miles per gallon if you are not utilizing your vehicles engine to run your compressor to provide dash a/c.

What will happen is your generator will also sip fuel to the turn of  .5-1 gallon per hour of use depending on the size of generator and the load drawn by devices turned on being powered by the generator.

For example, if your RV gets 10 mpg and you travel 120 miles in two hours, this will consume 12 gallons of fuel. If you were to run your generator and it uses a half gallon of fuel per hour, then you would consume your 12 gallons to drive as well as another gallon to run your generator over the two hour period.

If you wanted to compute that usage into your total mpg, you would use 13 gallons of fuel over 120 miles, therefore your mpg including your generator usage would be 9.23 mpg.

There is a built in failsafe so you don’t use all of your fuel on air conditioning or watching TV, typically when your fuel tank is less than ¼ full, your generator will not run to leave you enough fuel to get back to a fueling station.

Can I run an external generator while driving?

You can run your generator on a bumper mounted carrier while moving in your travel trailer

Yes, you could technically run an external generator while driving if your RV or travel trailer does not have an onboard generator. The generator could be mounted at the rear of the RV or trailer with a hitch mount and could be plugged in with the shore power cord. If you have a travel trailer, you could also run the generator from your pickup bed with a cable plugged into your shore power at the rear of the RV.

These two methods will need extra precaution securing the generator to the hitch mount or in the bed of your RV as well as securing your shore power cable to your trailer and its connection to power so you do not have a cord dangling with live power down the road at highway speeds.

Keep in mind to point the exhaust ports away from the trailer or the cab of the truck and lock your generator so it does not get stolen at a stop.

I would say this method should only be used in emergency situations as it does not come across as unsafe, but there are more items that can go wrong.

Can I run a onboard generator on my travel trailer or Toy Hauler when driving?

Yes, if you have an onboard generator in your travel trailer or toy hauler, you can start it before you drive and leave it running on the drive to keep your 110v devices running. If you have an on board fuel cell, this makes it even easier such as in your toy hauler.

If your generator is ran off of propane, you will have the same dilemma of if it is safe to run propane devices while you are driving. Once again, always make sure you have plenty of ventilation for your generator and make sure the fumes are not entering the body of the trailer.

Is it safe to run a generator in a moving RV?

Yes, it is safe to run a generator while driving your RV. Many RV’s are made specifically for this purpose. There are precautions to take such as making sure you have enough fuel and to make sure you are properly ventilating your generator.

How to avoid running your generator in your RV

Keep your fridge full to keep items cooler for longer.

To avoid running your generator in your RV is to take quick trips where your residential refrigerator or air conditioner will not be needed during your drive. The refrigerator should be able to go about 3 hours depending on the heat without being plugged in before starting to warm up. Be careful to not be opening it while unplugged to lose all of your cooling. Also, try and keep your refrigerator as full as possible which will have more mass to warm up if your refrigerator is off.

Also, your trailer should be able to retain cool if driving in the early morning to early afternoon. If you are in a hot location such as a desert, plan your driving starting at 6 am and try to quit by noon or the hottest part of the day. This will keep your air conditioner use down but also prevent excess wear and tear on your RV from driving in excessive heat.

Related Questions?

Can I run a RV air conditioner while driving?

Yes, you can run a RV air conditioner while driving. This will require the use of your on board generator, but RV’s are designed to have there generators run while they are driving to power 110v devices such as refrigerators, tv’s, and air conditioners.

Can I run a generator in truck bed while driving?

Yes, technically you can, just make sure it is secured very well and your shore power cable is secured very well to the trailer. This option will allow you to pre-cool your travel trailer prior to stopping for the night if you are in a hot climate or run any 110 volt items needed.

Get MORE out of The Savvy Campers Directly to your Inbox!

Be the first to be notified about FREE tips, hints, coupon codes, and email-exclusive information. All for FREE!

Eric

I have been camping most of my adult life and am passionate about having the best camping equipment as well as writing. Combine these two items and you have our site.

Recent Content