An RV refrigerator might not be the lifeline of your vehicle, but it’s essential. It will keep your beverages and food safe from going bad, just like it usually does in your home.
If it continues to work in the right conditions, you won’t have to worry about eating food that has gone stale. The food will stay fresh, last longer, and save you money.
That’s precisely when your fridge gets in trouble, and you will feel all the stress building up. You can do nothing about it as your food is going bad.
And it’s not just about the food; your RV begins to smell rotten which won’t be a good thing, especially for long journeys.
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Replacing or Repairing Your Fridge
As soon as your fridge starts malfunctioning, you have to decide whether to go for a new one or repair the current one.
Going for a new one each time your previous unit malfunctions can add a lot to the overall cost.
If you already have some technical DIY experience, the process of repairing and troubleshooting your fridge will become easier.
Some know-how on how these refrigerators work is required. You will be able to repair and service it on your own and save a lot of your hard-earned money.
Personally, I use an old Dometic refrigerator and I haven’t had problems so far.
Issues to Troubleshoot
Pilot Light Goes Out Burning
Camper fridges are not like the units you have at your home. They run on gas or propane; some models even run on both. It means the fridge will have a burner heat called the pilot light.
This light triggers the fridge burners, but sometimes it doesn’t occur. You might light it up in the morning but will find out in the afternoon that it has burned out. You light it again, but all in vain. There are a few reasons, and one of the most common ones is thermocouple failure. If this component is gone for good, you need to replace it.
If this doesn’t solve the problem, your pilot light’s gas line has too much air in it. And it prevents the light from staying on. You will have to access the gas valves to fix this problem.
Power them all down for now and reset them. In a newer model, you can do this by just pushing the power down button. If that’s not the case, you will have to reset your refrigerator manually.
Cooling Unit Is Leaking
There’s A cooling unit inside your fridge, and it keeps all the items cold and fresh. This unit is cooled down by a cooling solution of hydrogen, water, and ammonia.
But at times, leakage can occur. You can find the leakage out by a heavy ammonia odor or a warm boiler and hot absorber.
Apart from that, you will also notice your cooling unit is all covered in yellow. But there isn’t much to worry about here. The yellow color comes because of the over-exposure of steel tubing to the cooling solution.
First of all, you will have to find the 110V wires of the heating element. You need to plug them in a 110 VAC element. If you think the job is too much to handle, you can always call a professional.
As you check the temperature, it should read around 43F within 12 hours. This temperature should drop to about 20F to 30F in the next 12 hours. This test will allow you to find out any other problem apart from the leak. To solve the problem, you will have to go for a new cooling unit.
Ammonia Residue Building Up
If you haven’t used your camper in over a year, you need to look for any potential ammonia buildups. It will occur most frequently with older fridges. It will drip down on your fridge’s cooling unit.
As soon as you start the fridge for the new season, the cooling unit will start stalling. This buildup is halting the flow of the ammonia through the unit. The refrigerator won’t cool, and it will get warmer with time.
This issue is entirely different from the cooling unit leaks. You can avoid the entire issue by not letting the fridges inactive for a long while. But this will happen again, not after what, and you will have to go for a new refrigerator.
But if you can’t do that, there is a temporary fix for this. You have to unplug the fridge and take it outside in an open space. Now flip it upside down to make the sediment move away from the cooling unit. But if that doesn’t work, it’s time to replace the fridge for good.
Cooling Unit Froze Solid
This is one of the rarest of issues to occur, but it can occur. If your camper stays warm to lukewarm, you won’t have to worry about such issues.
However, if you store your RV in winters and the temperature goes down sub-zero, this problem will occur.
You will have to watch the temperatures and don’t leave your rig out in the open in freezing temperatures. Doing only this will prevent such an issue from happening.
But if the freezing has occurred to make your fridge start working again, take a 60W light bulb and gradually heat the temperature to meltdown the frozen blockage. A space heater can also be used for this purpose.
Its Burner Has Faltered
Your RV fridge could run on electricity as well as gas. If you frequently alter the power source, you might end up with a faltered burner. First, you need to know when you should be using propane and use electricity.
Once you go over 5550 feet altitudes, it’s time to run the unit on electricity instead of gas. Gas can come under stress with altitude and damages the burner, and burns it out. However, if you are looking for a solution for a problem that has already occurred, you will have to reset your fridge and urge your gas cylinder. It’s time to clear any excess air that has made your burner burn out.
What If the Above Tips Haven’t Helped?
If you have tried everything and nothing has worked out, something else is happening entirely. In most cases, the positioning of your camper can be the source of the problem.
You need to go outside your camper and check the positioning of your coach. See if it’s entirely even or not. Even if there is a slight angle, this is the cause of your fridge’s problem.
You have already learned how ammonia buildups occur. The age of your fridge and its long period of inactivity is responsible for these mounds. With an angled coach, ammonia starts traveling towards the cooling unit or somewhere else where it shouldn’t, and a malfunction occurs in your fridge.
You need to make the necessary adjustment to the angle of your coach and make it level. And in the future, you will have to be a lot more careful about your coach’s angle or be prepared for another troubleshooting session.
Maintenance of Your RV Refrigerator
You need to know some essential points if you want your RV refrigerator to keep working for a long time.
- Using a correct power source
Make sure you always choose the correct power source to run your RV fridge. For instance, you need to go for electricity when you have surpassed 5550 feet altitude because, at this point, gas runs under a lot of pressure.
At that height, there is less oxygen, and liquid gas is not going to burn as fluently as it does at those lower elevations. It will prevent your fridge’s burners from burning out because it can be a pretty expensive repair.
- Keep your fridge clean
You have to make sure you keep your fridge clean at all times. Dirt accumulation on those burners and that drainage pipe of your fridge can cause problems.
You have to clean your refrigerator thoroughly before you put your camper to storage. It should be considered an obligatory maintenance job.
You need to understand how your RV fridge works. It will allow you to handle the issue in a better manner. Before you check anything else, it would be better to check your coach’s angle.
You might sort things out right away and need a few replacements to get your fridge working again. Most people don’t even consider leaving the recreational vehicle, and appliances start to malfunction in no time, causing a few costly disappointments.
I`m a current Law Enforcement Officer working within the Counterterrorism Bureau in New York State. I have been Camping for over 20 years. My styles of camping include tent, car, truck, van, and RV travel trailer. I have a YouTube channel where I teach all types of camping with an entertaining method: https://youtube.com/@TheSmallsRVAdventures