RV Water Pump: A Comprehensive Guide

Chelsea GonzalesFebruary 23, 2024

RV Water Pump: A Comprehensive Guide

RVs provide the freedom to travel and explore the great outdoors while still enjoying the comforts of home. Of course, you have to have the right equipment to maintain that level of comfort. And one crucial component that ensures this comfort? The RV water pump. 

Responsible for supplying water to the faucets, showers, and appliances of your rig, understanding and maintaining your RV water pump is essential for a seamless camping or road-tripping experience.

Here’s everything you need to know about these nifty little pumps!

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Types of RV Water Pumps

First, let’s talk about the different kinds of RV water pumps. These include 1) hand pumps, 2) the traditional 12-volt DC water pumps, and 3) the more modern smart pumps that are making their way into RVs these days. 

Hand/Foot Pumps

Typically used in camper van builds, hand pumps and foot pumps are good if you need something simple and inexpensive to pump water into your RV sink. They are nice because they don’t require any electricity, and you can easily control the amount of water you use.

That said, they are not as convenient, as you will need to manually pump your water every time you need it. 

12-Volt DC Pumps

The 12-volt DC water pump is the most common type of water pump for RV use and is found in the vast majority of rigs you see on the road. They operate on battery power, meaning you do not need to be hooked up to anything to run water in your RV.

These pumps are wonderfully reliable and very easy to care for, but they don’t have any features that allow the user to limit water usage or power usage, leading some avid boondockers to upgrade to a smart pump instead. 

Smart Pumps

A smart RV water pump can also run on battery power. These awesome doodads are equipped with helpful features such as variable speed and self-priming options. They can help you save battery power as well as water, making them ideal for those who wish to spend long periods off-grid.

Of course, all of those fancy features do come with a much higher price tag, so you’ll want to be prepared for that when shopping for a smart pump. 

RV kitchen sink

What to Look For in an RV Water Pump

The type of pump isn’t the only thing you’ll be looking for as you shop for a replacement. You’ll also want to have an understanding of the specs of RV water pumps so you can find one that suits your specific needs. 


RV water pump metrics are a good place to start. Some of the most important metrics to look for include:

  • Gallons per minute — How many gallons of water the pump puts out per minute (GPM). Weak pumps might be rated around 1.2 GPM. Meanwhile, high-volume pumps will be 4 or more GPM. Unless you have a big rig, we recommend sticking to something in the middle. 
  • Pounds per square inch — PSI is how water pressure is measured. Since RV water systems are only built to withstand 40–60 PSI, you want to make sure your pump doesn’t exceed this number. 
  • Amperage — This is how much electricity a water pump draws while working. Most models draw very few amps, but a high-volume pump might draw as many as 15. Generally, the less electricity your water pump uses, the better. 

Constant Speed vs Variable Speed

You’ll also want to decide whether you prefer a constant-speed pump or a variable-speed pump. As you might have guessed, a constant-speed pump is one that only runs at one speed.

A variable speed pump, on the other hand, uses a pressure sensor to change the speed of the pump to deliver consistent water pressure. Variable speed pumps are a bit more expensive but are preferred by most. 

RV Water Pump Installation Process

Once you decide which kind of RV water pump is right for you, you will of course need to install it. Hand and foot pumps are usually pretty self-explanatory, and those that aren’t will typically include very simple instructions.

That said, the process for installing other types of pumps is a little more involved:

  1. Turn off city water and the water pump. 
  2. Remove the water pump fuse. 
  3. Turn a faucet on to bleed the system. 
  4. Disconnect the pump from the latching controller (if applicable). This involves removing the ground wire first (usually black) and removing the positive wire (usually red) between the pump and the controller. If the positive is connected to another wire, snip the other wire, as it will need to be connected to the new pump. 
  5. Remove the inlet and outlet lines from the water pump. Place a bucket beneath the pump to catch water and unscrew both lines from the pump. 
  6. Remove the pump mounting screws. 
  7. Remove the inlet filter from the pump. Use a crescent wrench to unscrew the filter, twist the two halves of the filter apart, and clean any debris inside. You can also choose to replace the filter entirely. 
  8. Install the filter on your new water pump. Put the two halves of the filter back together and use a crescent wrench to screw the filter fitting that comes with the new pump into the filter. Pull the clip up, remove the red shipping cap, and slide the side of the fitting sticking out of the filter into the hole. Slide the clip back down to lock the fitting into place. 
  9. Install the other fitting on the other side of the pump using the same process you used for the first one. 
  10. Strip the new pump’s ground wire and crimp on a spade connector. 
  11. Strip the positive lead and crimp on a spade connector, adding in the yellow wire if necessary. 
  12. Mount the new pump using the mounting screws from the old pump.
  13. Reconnect both inlet and outlet water lines, making sure they are snug. 
  14. Plug the ground wire and positive lead into the latching controller. 
  15. Test the pump. 
RV water pump
Photo credit: http://www.rvdoctor.com/

RV Water Pump Maintenance Tips

Whether you’re dealing with a brand-new pump or the same pump your RV has had for years, it’s always a good idea to keep up with maintenance. Fortunately, this is easy enough.

Check for Leaks

Make a point of peeking in on your water pump every few months to check for any leaks that may have developed. If you find one, you may just need to tighten a fitting, or you might have to replace a damaged water line. In most cases, you won’t need to replace the pump entirely. 

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Winterize the Water System

Freezing temperatures can cause major damage to your RV water system, including your RV water pump. For this reason, it is incredibly important that you winterize your RV by running RV antifreeze through your water lines before the first freeze of the year. If you do winterize your RV before the winter is over, be sure to winterize it again when you return from your trip.

If you will be camping in freezing temperatures, consider using campground bathhouses and leaving your RV water system winterized. 

Pay Attention to Pump Operation

Be sure to listen for any strange noises from your water pump. You will also want to pay attention to the water pressure while the pump is running. If anything seems off, it’s best to address the problem sooner rather than later. 

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Unfortunately, RV water pumps are just like any other machine in that they can have problems. This can be especially frustrating if you’re trying to enjoy a camping trip with your family.

The good news? You may be able to figure out what’s wrong with some basic troubleshooting. 

Low Water Pressure

If you have low water pressure when using your RV water pump, it could be because you are low on water in your freshwater tank. That said, it could also mean that you have a clog or a leak that is letting in air. 

Some things to check for include: 

  • Low water in the fresh tank
  • Cracked water line (look between the tank and the pump)
  • Dirty or cracked pump filter screen
  • Loose connection on the pump
  • Clogged in-line whole house water filter
  • Debris in faucet screens

If your tank is low, refill it. If you find a clogged filter or screen, clean it to see if that fixes the issue. If a crack or leak is discovered, you will want to fix the problem right away to avoid water damage. 

Pump Cycling On and Off

Many people have issues with their water pump cycling on and off when it isn’t in use. Not only is this annoying, but it could be a sign of an issue that really should be addressed as soon as possible. 

Potential reasons for an RV water pump cycling on and off include: 

  • Low water level in the fresh tank
  • A clogged filter or screen
  • A leak somewhere in the water system that causes the pump to lose pressure
  • A pressure switch that needs to be adjusted

We recommend starting by checking the fresh tank to ensure it has plenty of water. Next, remove and clean any filters or screens in your water system. 

If that doesn’t fix the issue, you can try adjusting your pressure switch. The process for this is different for different brands, but in all cases you will be adjusting a screw to find the perfect pressure cutoff point for your water pump. Find the make and model of your pump to search for instructions on how to do this. Note that it is easy to increase the pressure too much, so you will want to follow instructions carefully to prevent damage. 

If none of these things work, you are likely looking at a small leak somewhere in your water system. This could be a cracked water line, a loose connection, or a faulty valve. This particular problem is important to fix right away because water damage in an RV is no joke

The Best RV Water Pumps

If you do need to replace your RV water pump, you’ll want to make sure you get one that’ll last. There are tons of options on the market, and the vast majority of them will do the job just fine. That said, we’ve listed some of our favorites below to help you narrow down your options for a new water pump for RV use. 

SHURFLO Revolution 4008

Shurflo RV Water Pump

We love the SHURFLO pumps, and the SHURFLO Revolution 4008 is no exception. This is the perfect pump for an RVer who needs to stick to a budget but would also like to improve water pressure and ensure that their pump lasts for years to come. 

  • Features:
    • Efficient 3-chamber diaphragm design.
    • Quiet operation for a peaceful travel experience.
    • Self-priming functionality ensures a consistent water flow.
    • Thermal protection to prevent overheating.
  • Benefits:
    • Reliable and durable construction.
    • Easy installation and maintenance.
    • Ideal for various-sized RVs.
    • Provides a steady water flow for all your needs.

Flojet Triplex 03526-144A 

Flojet RV water pump

Just a tiny bit more expensive than the Shurflo, we also think the Flojet Triplex 03526-144A is a good budget pick. We love that it primes itself and can run dry without damage and that it is so easy to install. 

  • Features:
    • Triplex diaphragm design for consistent water pressure.
    • Self-priming and can run dry without damage.
    • Built-in pressure switch for automatic operation.
    • Designed for easy installation.
  • Benefits:
    • Ensures a steady and reliable water supply.
    • Energy-efficient operation.
    • Suitable for small to medium-sized RVs.
    • Long-lasting performance.

Seaflo 42 Series Diaphragm Water Pump

Seaflo RV water pump

The Seaflo 42-series pump is a self-priming option that is quieter than other pumps, making it a good pick for those who are sensitive to loud noises. It’s also efficient, something that boondockers will appreciate. Best of all, this is also a budget-friendly option. 

  • Features:
    • Self-priming diaphragm pump.
    • Quiet and efficient operation.
    • Compact and lightweight design.
    • Built-in pressure switch for automatic operation.
  • Benefits:
    • Versatile and suitable for different RV sizes.
    • Budget-friendly option without compromising quality.
    • Easy to install and maintain.
    • Provides a reliable water supply during your travels.

Of course, the easiest option is to find a direct replacement for whatever is already in your RV. This will make installation a breeze, and since you already know the ins and outs of that particular water pump, you won’t have to deal with any learning curve at all. 

There you have it, everything you need to know about your RV water pump! Hopefully this guide helps you use, maintain, and replace your RV’s water pump without a problem so you can enjoy many years of running water while off-grid camping.

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