RV Refrigerator Repair

Last updated on August 16th, 2022 at 04:38 pm. Originally published on June 20th, 2015

RV refrigerator repair is something we never want to have to do. It’s can be intimidating, and seems like a daunting task for the average RV owner. But keep in mind that there are a few things you can repair yourself before calling in the professionals.

First, a few simple tips to keep your RV refrigerator running. These tips can prevent prevent damage or fix a non-working RV refrigerator. They could also save you a repair bill!

  • Make sure the RV is level when you are stationary. Your RV has to be level enough so you feel comfortable walking around inside. This will be enough to satisfy the refrigerator. In only 20 minutes you can damage your RV refrigerator if left running while parked on a steep slope.
  • If you are running your RV refrigerator on propane, be sure your house batteries are charged. In addition to propane, the fridge needs 12volt power to run, and it you don’t have enough of a charge in the batteries it will not run properly.

Common Problems with your RV Fridge

If your fridge is not cool enough, too cold, or it’s fluctuating in temperature, you likely have a problem with a part called the thermistor. Another symptom of this problem is a build up of frost in your fridge or freezer unit. Thermistors are the part that sense the internal temperature of the fridge and control whether the unit actively cools itself off or shuts off at the proper temperature. When the thermistor gets old, it senses the temperature poorly and thus doesn’t tell other parts of the fridge to control it correctly.

A simple fix is to move the thermistor to the part of your fridge that becomes cool last. That way the cooling unit will stay on longer and get the fridge down to the right temp before shutting off. But if your thermistor doesn’t work even after moving it, it might be time for a new one. Thermistors are cheap and easy to buy online. You can even replace them yourself. We recommend watching a few tutorial videos first.

Another common RV refrigeration repair is the door’s seal. If you’re having trouble maintaining the temperature of your fridge, check to make sure the door is sealing properly. Even when opened frequently, a fridge should be able to cool itself back down to the set temperature relatively quickly. If it doesn’t seem the unit is able to do that, you might just have a problem with the door seal. Seals are easy to replace as well, and can sometimes save you the trouble of troubleshooting for a more complex or costly problem. To check for a seal defect, listen for escaping air and feel around the edge for any spots where cool air might be escaping.

A simple RV Refrigeration repair is to upgrade or install your fridge’s fan. Unlike home refrigerators, your RV fridge needs to circulate the cool air with a fan. These are inexpensive parts that will cool the temperature off quickly and make a huge difference.

The following are a few other things that can go wrong and how to troubleshoot and repair them.

1. You Smell Ammonia

If you smell ammonia you have a leak. This is a service tech repair job. Ammonia will make your eyes water and affect your breathing. This usually means the cooling unit is in trouble. Turn off the refrigerator as quickly as you can if you suspect an ammonia leak. This repair needs a service tech to determine if it’s repairable, or you need to purchase a new RV refrigerator.

Be aware that if it has been leaking for awhile you won’t necessarily smell the ammonia. Another sign that indicates a leak is if you hear a “bubbling” sound from the back of the fridge after its been turned on? Or maybe all the controls are working but the RV refrigerator still isn’t cold. Check to see if there is a yellowish or greenish stain on the back of fridge near the burner. If you see the stain, chances are you have a leak.

2. The Refrigerator Works on Propane but Not on 110V Power

Check all the circuit breakers and fuses. Check the outlet on the back of the refrigerator. Use a multi meter to check for power voltage. If the voltage checks out okay and all lights work, then check the electric heating element.

3. The Refrigerator Works on 110V Power but Not on Propane

First of all, make sure you aren’t out of propane. Now check the pilot light flame. Is it strong, or does it go out almost right away?If it goes out this could be an indication that the thermocouple is bad. It may need to be replaced. The thermocouple is a probe with two wires coming out of one end. It isn’t a difficult item to replace.

If the flame stays lit, how does it look? If it’s not great, you could have some rust or debris causing the flame to be weak. Vacuum out the area around the burner. If it doesn’t light at all, you will have to vacuum out the entire burner area. The jet most likely has debris blocking it.

Test the RV refrigerator by plugging into 110V power and check if the heating element is getting hot. Sometimes a poor gas flame still produces heat. Does it get hot? Tap the heating element very lightly. It could burn you otherwise. If it isn’t warm it may be an electical probolem. Give it a good half hour to heat up first before giving it the touch test.

Cleaning & Maintenance

To keep the refrigerator running efficiently, remove the outside lower vent that allows access to the back. Shut off the fridge and make sure all connections are tight. Driving down the road can sometimes wiggle connections loose. Turn it back on. What color is the flame? If you see yellow, it’s not running properly. The baffle inside the flue could be covered in soot. You will need to clean the flue and burner. Shut off fridge again. Locate the burner. Above is the flue. Inside the flue is the baffle. Use an air compressor to blow it out. Then use the compressor to blow clean around the outside compartment. Turn it back on and hopefully you’ll see a nice blue flame.

These basic do it yourself RV refrigerator repairs should help keep that RV refrigerator in top shape.

For more visit out Ultimate RV Refrigerator Guide!

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