The Mysterious RV Refrigerator

Caller: Is your refrigerator running?
Homeowner: Yes.
Caller: You better catch it!

That is probably THE lamest prank call ever conceived! :). Had that call come to us over the past couple of days, the joke would have been spoiled…just like our ice cream! Our trusty Norcold slowly got warmer, and it seemed to coincide with the outside temperatures getting much colder. Our readings in Grand Rapids dropped to near zero, and the wind chill was 10 to 20 below.

A quick surf of the web revealed the problem. RV refrigerators remove the warmth within them by actually heating the refrigerant in the lines. The actual process is lost on me, but I did understand when it said the coolant actually turns to gel in extremely cold temperatures. This occurs in the compartment that is vented to the outside of the rig. So Job #1 was to get some heat in there to liquefy the coolant. I followed a few suggestions on the web, as shown below.

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First thing I did was to make sure the vent on the roof wasn’t blocked with snow. While there was ice in the vicinity of it, the actual vent was clear.

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Next was to tape over the top two slots on the outside vent. This will need to be removed in the spring when we get above freezing, but it is OK for now. This allows some of the heat to be held in, yet still allows some ventilation.

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The last addition was a heat source; in this case, a clip on shop light. I used a 60 watt bulb in it, and was careful to not have the aluminum shroud rest against anything combustible. That was left on overnight to warm up the coolant, and will be used throughout the rest of this winter.

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Fortunately for us, we were able to put the items we could salvage into coolers on our deck. The outside temps were such that no ice was required!

The next portion is a heads up to anyone who might encounter this same issue. When the unit initially stopped working, there was an error code presented on the control panel. We had the green light blinking 5 times in rapid succession.

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This was definitely a case of “when all else fails, read the instructions”. Instead of getting the manual out, I turned off the fridge, then turned it back on. Still blinking. That simple act of turning it back on resulted in a LOT of extra work. If this happens to you, turn off the refrigerator and read the owners manual. Do NOT turn it back on. As the coolant had not yet liquefied, the problem still existed. Upon researching the issue, I found out that I not only needed to warm the refrigerant up, I now also needed to reset the circuit board, as two successive trouble codes result in a reset.

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The black box with the warnings plastered all over it holds the board. To access it, wires need to be unplugged…in a certain order. Once the cover is off, the sequence needs to be reversed.

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The instructions online then call for a jumper wire to be used between the “open pin to the right of the violet/white wire on the 16 pin plug and a ground, and hold for 15 seconds until you hear a clicking sound and the burner ignites.” Well, first off, there was a 10 pin plug and a 6 pin plug…not a 16 pin plug. The open pin was to the left of the violet/white wire…and that was not the only open pin. Is this starting to sound like an adventure movie? I took a chance and used the jumper from the open pin next to violet/white to a ground. “Click…whoosh!” Success! I then had to reverse the process of taking the cover off to put the cover back on. It was a lot easier to do, knowing that the fridge was working again!

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Today’s temperatures are right around 30 degrees, which made the project a little easier.

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We received a foot of snow since our last post, and the campground looks really pretty. So far, winter has been a lot easier than last year, even though we are 14″ above the snowfall average for this date.

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Above is a photo of our house last February. Grand Rapids had 111″ of snow for the season last year, and Holland (25 miles southwest of us) had 152″…and since we never had a mid-winter thaw, most of it stuck around for the duration. So far, we are at 50.7″, most of which melted during the December thaw. There is a lot of winter left, though!

So, if your refrigerator is running, better catch it. If it isn’t…run south! 🙂

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10 thoughts on “The Mysterious RV Refrigerator”

  1. Very daring doing a fridge repair yourself! Sure worked out great not having to buy another one! Your snow pictures are pretty. I always loved to beauty and quiet of snow.

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    1. All that was missing was the countdown clock and the BOOM at the end! Very scary to jump that wire.

      The wind in those Norway Spruce trees behind our rig makes a nice sound. It has been cold enough to keep the snow light and powdery also.

      Hope you survived the chilly mornings!

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    1. I felt a little like MacGyver on that one! Glad it worked out!

      One of the great things about West Michigan is the fact that air going over Lake Michigan’s relatively warmer water keeps our air temps higher than the other side of the lake. That does create more clouds and snow, but at least we are not constantly below zero.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Very true on running south. There are plenty of times where Anchorage, Alaska is warmer than we are!

      We dropped to -4 this AM and the fridge is working great! That shop light and the tape over the vents did the trick.

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    1. Definitely research before doing what I did. I certainly wouldn’t want you to fry a circuit board! Also, Norcold could have made things SOOO much easier by making that cover removable without the unplugging and replugging of wires….but that would take the fun out of it, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Norcold has had a series of service issues — with fridges burning up — and it is the one part of the coach that I sometimes feel nervous about. If we ever got to the point that we thought we would no longer camp off the grid I would swap it out for a household fridge — but not sure if that will ever happen.

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