One of the more underrated experiences of owning and operating an RV is the number of new things you learn to keep the entire mobile retreat functioning at its fullest capacity. You’re almost forced out of necessity to learn all about plumbing, engineering, and electrical work just to maintain your home away from home.
The good news is that plenty of DIY weekend warriors have come before you and have the experience you can learn from in easy-to-understand videos, tutorials, and online blogs like this one. All the information you need to operate a smooth vacation is readily available in that supercomputer we all call a phone.
Learning how to wire a 50 amp RV plug isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Let’s dive straight in and take it step by step.
Note: Consider getting your hands on a surge protector to prevent potential damage.
Why would you want to wire a 50 amp RV plug?
Most RV travelers tend to use a 30 amp plug which works fine for their needs. They can power a few smaller appliances and a built-in AC when parked at a location with electricity.
However, if your RV is a tad more beefed up with a washer, a 5-panel solar array, and a built-in oven, you’ll need more current to power all those things.
That’s where a 50 amp plug comes in handy. The difference between a 30 amp plug and a 50 amp plug is:
|Type of plug||# of pins||Volts|
You can plug your 30 amp attachment into a 50 amp receptacle with an adapter but not the other way around. If you want a 50 amp plug, you’ll need to wire it yourself.
Note: Most RV parks, campsites, and hookups will have both 30 amp and 50 amp outlets.
How to safely wire a 50 amp RV plug in 4 steps
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of how to wire a 50 amp plug, I want you to keep in mind that I’m not a certified electrician. This guide is only for educational purposes and should not be taken as holy scripture when it comes to answering the technical aspects.
That being said, installing a 50 amp plug is pretty straightforward:
Here’s what you’ll need to wire a 50 amp plug:
- 1x double pole 50 amp 120/240V breaker
- 1x NEMA 14-50R outlet
- 2x black or red wire (hot)
- 1x white or silver wire (neutral)
- 1x green or bare wire (ground)
- 1x multimeter
With the materials laid out in front of you, it’s time to dive into the first step.
1. Shut down your system
One of the first things to do is to make sure you won’t get electrocuted, and what better is there to prevent electrocution than not having any electricity running anywhere at all?
Locate your electrical panel and shut off your main breaker. There should be a main power switch you can flip to shut off all the power. It’s the one below:
It never hurts to be on the safe side so if you have a voltage reader, now’s the time to use it. When the power is completely off, then proceed to step #2.
2. Install the breaker
You’ll need to wire your double pole 50 amp 120/240V breaker from your electrical panel to where you want your receptacle to be. It’s impossible to explain how to install a breaker through a blog post so have a look at this YouTube video:
When you’ve successfully installed the breaker in the electrical panel, then it’s time to move on to step #4 which is securing the wires.
3. Secure the wires
Wire the U-shaped receiver (half round) to the green or bare wire (ground). Go ahead and screw it in with the terminal green screw.
The next thing you want to do is to wire your receiver to the white or silver wire (neutral) and screw it down with the white terminal screw.
And lastly, wire the black or red wires (hot) on either side of the plug at 3 and 9 o’clock. It doesn’t matter too much which is which at this point.
4. Test and activate
Now it’s time to pull out your multimeter to ensure that all connections are wired correctly. A test should give you:
- 240 volts between the hot wires
- 120 volts between hot and neutral
- 120 volts between hot and ground
- 0 volts between neutral and ground
Once you’ve tested them and they’re correct (hopefully), flip the main switch back on.
That’s basically it. Your 50 amp plug should now have plenty of power to deliver juice for all of your appliances in your RV.
If you still don’t know how to wire a 50 amp plug, then take a look at this YouTube video:
It’s not always easy to figure out just how to do the different things by reading a line of text on the screen. However, after watching the video above, you should have a somewhat idea of how to correctly do the job.
A quick note about wire size
The size of the wire determines how much voltage and wattage it can handle. Using a smaller wire can result in overpowering or burning your wire and lead to dangerous situations.
You should go with an aluminum or copper wire that can handle 50 amps. According to the American Wire Standard (AWS), a 50 amp circuit breaker requires a wire of at least 6 gauge. Here’s a table that shows the correlation between the wire size and the amps:
|3/0 gauge||200 amps|
|1/0 gauge||150 amps|
|3 gauge||100 amps|
|6 gauge||55 amps|
|8 gauge||40 amps|
|10 gauge||30 amps|
|12 gauge||20 amps|
|14 gauge||15 amps|
When you decide to finally plug into the 50 amp, start by turning off all of your RV appliances. You don’t want to overload the circuit before you’ve even begun. In fact, switch off your RV breaker first, then plug in your cord, then switch your breaker back on.
Go ahead and try a few appliances and make sure everything is working, and you should be all set. Now you can enjoy all the amenities of your particular RV setup without worry.
If this whole wire a 50 amp RV plug seems a bit intimidating, that is perfectly okay. There are plenty of intelligent or competent people in the world who cannot wrap their heads around wiring. It is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. You may also be someone that learns best by seeing someone do the task instead of reading about it first.
Whatever the reason, it may be worth the time and cost to hire a professional electrician to do the work for you just in case you’re unsure of your own skill. This is messing with electrical power and not something you want to take lightly.
Just be sure to double-check their work at the end. Even if you’ve never done the install, having another pair of eyes is nothing an honest worker should be offended by. It ensures everyone’s safety and gets the job done right the first time.