When you’re using your RV, you’ll likely rely heavily on your RV’s refrigerator. These appliances are essential for keeping your food and drinks cool and fresh. So, what do you do when you need an RV refrigerator repair? Is your fridge even fixable? Let’s find out!
Table of Contents
- How Does an RV Refrigerator Work?
- Can RV Refrigerators Be Repaired?
- Common RV Refrigerator Problems
- DIY vs. Hiring-out RV Refrigerator Repairs
- What RV Refrigerator Problems Can’t Be Repaired?
- How Much Does It Cost to Replace an RV Refrigerator?
- Tips to Keep Your RV Refrigerator Running Well
How Does an RV Refrigerator Work?
RV absorption refrigerators have a complex tubing system that holds a solution of water, ammonia, and hydrogen gas. Heating these chemicals with a propane flame causes the solution to boil. The ammonia gas then travels through the complex tubing system to the condenser. While in the condenser, the liquid cools back down and keeps the RV refrigerator cool.
Many RV refrigerators run off electricity as well. The electricity heats an element instead of burning a propane flame to heat the chemical solution. Aside from the warming method, the rest of the cooling process is identical.
If you have a 3-way fridge or a 12-volt DC compressor fridge, it can run off your RV’s batteries.
For a more in-depth read on how RV refrigerators work, click here: How Does an RV Refrigerator Work? It’s Pretty Cool!
Can RV Refrigerators Be Repaired?
Luckily, just because your refrigerator isn’t cooling, it doesn’t mean you have to rush to call in the experts. The internet can be a treasure trove of information and a DIYer’s paradise. With a little bit of research, you could potentially troubleshoot the problem and perform the RV refrigerator repair yourself.
You can often start by typing the symptoms you’re noticing into your favorite search engine. You’ll want to look for common themes and others experiencing the same issue to see how they diagnose and fix the problem. However, it’s essential to know when you’re in over your head and should call in an expert.
If you think the repair is out of your league, contact your RV manufacturer. They’ll likely provide you with a list of dealers or service centers that can assist you. You may even get lucky and find a mobile repair technician to come to you, diagnose the issue, and attempt the repair.
Checking with your refrigerator’s manufacturer is a great option too. Dometic even has a convenient search feature to locate a dealer or service center capable of repairing refrigerators.
Sadly, not all expensive electronics, including RV refrigerators, can be repaired. Some issues require a total fridge replacement.
Common RV Refrigerator Problems
There are a handful of common issues that RVers experience with their refrigerators. Let’s look at some, so you’re better prepared should you encounter them.
Many RV refrigerators use the RV’s electrical system for cooling. This cooling source is an excellent method for keeping the fridge and its contents cool, especially while at a campsite with an electrical connection.
Though this is an efficient cooling method, it’s common to experience electrical issues with your RV refrigerator. Some RVers state their refrigerator works great when using other cooling methods, but not while using electricity. Some of the most common problems are tripped breakers, blown fuses, damaged heating elements, or a broken control board.
In addition to making sure the electrical supply is working, circuit board failures are common electrical problem points. Most fridges have one or two main circuit boards that control the fridge. If a component in the board fails it may quit working and need to be replaced.
Another popular method for keeping an RV refrigerator cool is propane. This source allows RVers to use their RV off-grid and still keep their fridge cold. A refrigerator full of delicious food and an epic off-grid camping spot? Sounds great to us!
While propane is an excellent cooling method, you may come across a few common issues. For example, your fridge might not stay cool if the propane levels are low. If you come across this issue, filling the propane tank is a simple solution.
If you haven’t used your propane system in a long time, it may need to be reprimed. Otherwise, your RV fridge will not cool properly. This RV refrigerator repair solution is an easy fix almost any RVer can do themselves.
An insufficient charge in your RV’s 12-volt system can also cause issues. Your refrigerator’s propane cooling unit requires a minimal amount of power from the 12-volt system. If your RV’s battery is low, you’ll have trouble cooling using propane.
RV refrigerators use a solution that contains ammonia, and it’s not uncommon to find ammonia leaks. You’ll most likely notice this issue quickly from the strong smell. (Sometimes, you have to use all your senses when diagnosing problems with your RV!)
RVs that sit unused for extended periods often have ammonia sediment buildup, which will leak down onto the cooling unit, preventing it from operating efficiently. At first, the refrigerator will barely cool, but the issue will worsen. Eventually, the fridge will be warm, and food will spoil quickly.
The cooling unit keeps both the refrigerator and freezer cold. A leaking or damaged cooling unit will not function properly. You’ll notice the temperature slowly increases or cools inconsistently. You can fix many of these issues with some basic DIY skills.
Pro Tip: Read More Fridge Troubleshooting tips in our Fridge Troubleshooting Tricks article
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DIY vs. Hiring-out RV Refrigerator Repairs
The internet can be a tremendous asset when you own an RV; YouTube is full of DIYers sharing their knowledge. However, you must know when an RV fridge repair is beyond your skill set.
Don’t let pride stand in the way of hiring a professional for your RV refrigerator repair. Doing a simple repair can quickly turn an easy and cheap DIY project into an expensive professional repair.
It’s important to do your research before hiring a professional. You don’t want to pay a “professional” to fix your RV, especially if your repair occurs in an unfamiliar part of the country. Do your due diligence to confirm the person you’re hiring is certified and qualified to work on your RV fridge.
What RV Refrigerator Problems Can’t Be Repaired?
Newer RV refrigerators have a life expectancy of 12-15 years. However, not all make it that long. The cost of repairing a broken cooling unit can be almost equal to the price of a new RV refrigerator.
Many damages occur as a result of vent blockages which can suffocate an RV refrigerator’s electrical and cooling system. These clogs can raise the temperature of essential electronics, quickly causing damage or destroying them.
An unused RV refrigerator is more susceptible to damages. Using your RV regularly will extend the life of many components, especially the fridge.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace an RV Refrigerator?
Dometic is one of the leading RV refrigerator brands. A new Dometic RV refrigerator can cost $1,200 to $5,000+. These prices do not include tax, shipping, or installation. An RV refrigerator is not a luxury item; it’s essential. Always budget for large and small repairs that come with owning an RV.
Tips to Keep Your RV Refrigerator Running Well
You want to avoid replacing your RV refrigerator as it’s neither easy nor cheap. There are a couple of ways to keep your RV refrigerator running efficiently.
First, use your RV refrigerator regularly. The longer your refrigerator sits unused, the more susceptible it will be to damage. If you can plug your RV into a power source while in storage, the fridge can stay cool with the components running.
Second, keep it clean. Keeping it clean means inside and out. Inspect vents for blockages and eliminate any foreign objects that have found their way into a vent. Keep the inside of your fridge clean, so you can easily spot any leaks or issues.
No one wants to undergo an RV refrigerator repair. A little DIY experience can solve many issues but some require a professional technician. Know when to call in a pro.
Have you ever repaired your RV refrigerator? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.
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