RV Refrigerators Parts and Maintenance

Biggest enemies of RV fridges are shocks and vibrations, off-level operation, overheating and weather elements.......

In today’s world having a fridge is pretty much a necessity of life.

Understandably it is then difficult to imagine you RV-ing without the fridge in your camper.

However used to long-lasting and quasi “maintenance-free” home refrigerators we are either forgetting or not understanding that RV refrigerators are quite different “animals” compared to well-known home units.

On one side, typical RV refrigerators based on gas-absorption have very simple design and no moving parts (exception may be optional battery-operated internal and external fans).Such design “by nature of matter” should contribute to good reliability, durability and “care-free” operation. Unfortunately it is not the case.

The biggest enemies of RV fridges that lead to malfunction or damage are:

a)    Environment of “Shocks and vibrations” in which inherently operates every RV refrigerator. 

b)    “off-level” operation (actually it is a very serious problem that may lead to overheating and subsequent damage of the cooling system)

c)    Weather elements: corrosion due to humidity, overheating due to sun exposure, huge amplitudes of ambient temperatures between summer and winter time, bugs etc….

And equally (or may be even most important)

d)    Lack of proper maintenance (this comes from our misconceptions based on “maintenance-free” home refrigerators).
That is why, despite the best efforts by manufacturers sooner or later the time will come when we will have to replace some part(s) of our RV refrigerator.

Learn what to look for when fixing your RV refrigerator along with simple steps to keep your RV out of the dealership repair bays – here cleaning the burner.

Let’s make it clear from the start: when it comes to the failure of the cooling system (meander of pipes filled with ammonia gas & water solution), the best you can do is to bring your RV fridge to the specialist. It is not a DIY job for most of us. What is your job however is to check the difference between the cost of fixing your old refrigerator and the cost of the new one.  Please be aware that often the service time may encourage you to go for the new unit.

The good news however is that there are several things you can more or less easily do on your own, hence importance of access to the needed parts.

So let’s have a look at the list of the key parts that you may need:

Power Board

The power board may sound complicated but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

All you need to do is to check the unit number on your refrigerator.

However replacing (installing) the power board can be a “different story”  unless you have some knowledge of electricity and electronics. If you do not - just hire somebody to replace the power board, as doing it incorrectly can damage your fridge.

Door light switch

Changing broken switch is not the rocket science. The job is within abilities of an average-skilled RV-er. Most important part of the job is to remove the old one (see fridge manual) and solder wires of the new one. But given the fact that you spare a lot of money and time by not going to the specialized service it is worth to try.

Fridge Fan – usually RV gas-absorption fridges do not have any fans. This is because manufacturers try to avoid any moving parts in their fridges, but contrary to their intentions (higher reliability) the effect is just opposite. An external fan improving the air circulation on the back of the fridge actually greatly helps fridge to operate properly and may prevent overheating. An internal fan circulating air inside of the fridge helps to faster achieve required temperature.  Fortunately installing such fans is very easy even for “inexperienced” RV-er.

Learn how to fix any cooling problems that your RV's refrigerator may experience.

You can find small fan operated by regular cell-batteries and simply put it on the lower shelf in your fridge. Here are the highlights of such fans:

-    even small Duracell battery operated fan can cut initial cool-down time by about 50%
-    it will help to “transfer cold air” from the internal cooling fins maintaining quasi-equal internal temperature (please note that without such fan, the internal “heat exchange” is achieved only by natural convection – quite hard task especially when the fridge is full of stored food.
-    It will run approximately 30 days on the set of good batteries (and that is pretty much more than you need for typical RV-ing vacation).
Fans at the back of the fridge could be operated by available 12V DC (anyhow necessary for the operation of the fridge’s electronics and internal lamp). Only minimum skills are required to make necessary connections so this is certainly one of those DIY jobs.

Fridge Filters – Some fridges will have filters that will occasionally need to be replaced. The filters will depend on your refrigerator and you should try to get all filters from the manufacturer. Replacing the filter is not too difficult; just follow instruction in corresponding owner’s manual.

Door and sides – Every once in a while something may happen that could damage the door or the wall to your fridge. The first reaction is generally to go out and shop for a new fridge however if the fridge is not “terribly old”, replacing the whole unit may not be in your (financial) interest. Most doors and walls are replaceable, before buying a new fridge check with the manufacturer to see if any parts are available to replace the broken piece.

Fridge hardware
Some plastic items sooner or later will eventually get broken (because they can!). These may be for example shelf supports, door handle, shelf and door bins, light cover, door gasket etc… It is suggested to buy them from the manufacturers or dealers carrying parts for your refrigerator model. Even if they cost a bit more, still you are avoiding headache due to possible compatibility issues.

Light Bulb
Buying new and replacing broken light bulb is one of the tasks we are quite familiar with. Good news – modern RV refrigerators more and more make use of energy efficient LED lights and these most likely will “outlast’ your fridge and camper altogether.  So you do not have to have a backup plan for these little marvels.

Every Rv fridge has to run relatively level; this video will tell you everything you need to know on how to do this.

Where to buy RV refrigerator parts –

When you buy parts you can either buy new or used ones. Buying new will ensure that you get a good quality part, buying used will cost less (at least initially, but what counts is the long term cost). The best place to get new parts is always from the manufacturer. So the good starting pont will be:

Norcold RV Fridges Parts

Dometic RV Fridges Parts

Very useful will be also the PPL Motor-Homes site (provides spare parts for both – Dometic and Norcold):

PPL Motor-home parts for RV Refrigerators

and Camping World

Of course you will also find almost everything on E-bay and possibly Craigslist (the latter mostly used parts).

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