RV Water Pump: A Guide on 12 Volt RV Water Pumps

Last updated on January 4th, 2022 at 02:43 pm. Originally published on January 8th, 2020
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Water is the essence of life on earth — and also of life on the road. Unless you’re planning on packing case after case of expensive bottled water, this means you’ll need a water pump in your RV when you set off on your next trek. Thankfully, most RVs come with their own built-in pump. But if, for whatever reason, you’re looking to buy a new water pump, the most common type of pump you’ll see for RVs is the 12V water pump, no matter the type or brand.

Although 12 volts might not sound like a lot, your RV water pump is a pretty important piece of equipment! It’s responsible for bringing fresh water from the appropriate holding tank to your faucet taps, toilet, and shower head — and if you’re somebody who regularly enjoys boondocking or wilderness camping, that’s an essential function.

When shopping for a 12 volt water pump for your RV, you’ll need to be aware of the various different types, models, and brands available on the market. In this post, we’ll help you gather the information you need to make your search for the perfect camper water pump that much easier.

What is the best 12V RV water pump?

In our opinion, the best 12 volt water pump is one that’s working — and ideally, quiet. But the first step to finding an appropriate water pump is to understand what you’re actually looking for.

While there are water pumps powered through sources other than electricity, including solar and fossil fuel-powered pumps, electric ones are far more common and generally easier to maintain, specifically while traveling.

12V water pump RV models are the standard operating motors for RV use. These are not to be confused with a 110V water pump or 120V RV water pump, as these models are generally made for other purposes, generally in residential homes. While 12V RV water pumps obviously don’t pump water with the same pressure as larger ones made for installation in residential homes, but so long as they’re in working order, they get the job done and then some.

Because 12V water pumps are so ubiquitous, however, you’ll need a bit more information to take with you on your shopping trip to go find one. This guide aims to make your buying decision somewhat easier.

For one thing, you’ll want to be well informed about the specifications, or specs, of your RV water pump. There are three main metrics to be aware of.

  • Gallons per minute, or GPM, is the rate of water flow as measured in how many gallons of water a pump can process per minute. Pumps on the weaker end may have GPM ratings of 1.2 or so, while pumps with GPM ratings of more than 4 are considered “high volume” water pumps.
  • Pounds per square inch, or PSI, is another measure, this time of pressure rather than flow. RV plumbing systems are built to handle pressures between 40 and 60 PSI, so you’ll want to be sure to avoid any pumps that advertise higher pressure ratings than that range.
  • Amperage, or amps, is a metric you’re probably already familiar with. It measures the amount of electricity a water pump needs to draw in order to work. While most RV water pumps draw very little electricity, high-volume pumps can draw up to 15 amps of power.

Different Types of 12-Volt RV Water Pumps

Along with different manufacturers, brand names, and specs there are also different types of 12V RV water pumps. The main three are:

  • Constant speed
  • Variable speed
  • High volume

The most common of these are constant speed pumps, which, as their name suggests, deliver water at one speed only. Basically, these pumps are either off or on, and that’s it. Variable speed pumps, on the other hand, can create water pressures similar to what you’re used to in your home. Their in-built pressure sensor adjusts the speed of the pump motor to ensure the water is delivered at a constant pressure. They tend to be quieter — but also more expensive — than their constant-speed counterparts.

Finally, high volume water pumps are designed to deliver water at a higher rate of flow than the standard 12V water pumps found on board most RVs. They also require more electricity to operate, and so they’re usually found only on larger, 50-amp rigs. A pump is considered “high volume” if it’s got a flow rate of more than four gallons per minute, or GPM.

How do I prime my 12V RV water pump?

You may need to prime your RV water pump after replacing it, or if your RV’s been out of use in storage for a time. Fortunately, priming an RV water pump is easy!

Step #1 Fill up your fresh water tank.

Step #2 Turn on the cold water in your RV and make sure the faucets are completely open.

Step #3 Switch on the water pump near your RV water tank.

Step #4 This should prime the pump by pushing water up from the tank through your faucet. Let the water flow a while, then turn the faucets off. Each and every faucet needs to be purged of air, so you may want to open and close and run water to the faucets one at a time. (Don’t forget other water outlets like your showerhead and RV toilet!)

Step #5 Your pump will be fully primed when the water pump only turns on when a faucet is actually open. (Not in between.)

If these steps don’t resolve your problem, check out this RVshare post on other common RV water pump troubleshooting issues. And finally, rest assured that many modern RV water pumps are self-priming, meaning you won’t have to worry about any of these steps!

How long do 12V RV water pumps last?

When well cared for, an RV water pump can last up to 10 years — though, of course, there’s always some variation depending on manufacturer, model, and plain old luck of the draw.

How to Replace Your 12V RV Water Pump

A quick note: before buying a new water pump, be sure that your old one is, in fact, beyond fixing. Trying troubleshooting using this helpful guide to water pump repairs.

If you have determined, however, that your RV water pump is well and truly a goner, and it’s time to bring a new one into your life, the replacement isn’t really that big of a deal.

First, you’ll want to shut off your water supply and ensure the RV is disconnected from any electricity. You don’t want to get electrocuted over this DIY upgrade! Be sure also to turn off the breakers at the inverter, so your RV battery doesn’t keep a live current running through the wires.

Locate your RV’s 12V water pump, and use the appropriate tools necessary — most likely a screw driver — to loosen the hose clamps and pull the hoses off the pump. Then, remove the fixtures holding the pump itself, and take that out as well. Cut the old wires connected to your pump, remembering which lines up with which end of the appliance. Then, drop the new pump into place and replace the wires, hoses, and fixtures. Voila! A new water pump.

12v RV Water Pump Install

If the above steps sound a little out of your league, that’s no problem! You can easily find an RV repair service who will be willing to help you replace your RV water pump. The trick is finding one that won’t charge you an arm and a leg for the service!

Fortunately, we’ve whipped up this piece on finding trustworthy and affordable RV repair help that won’t cost you an arm and a leg for basic services.

Although your RV water pump may be a small gadget, it’s a darn important one — and we hope this post has helped you learn more about how to find an appropriate replacement for this critical piece of equipment!

This post may contain affiliate links. 

For more on water pumps, read these articles:

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