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May 13

Norcold Refrigerator Solutions – Ways to Avoid Problems!

We have had three different refrigerators in the RV’s we have owned: two were Norcold refrigerators and one was a residential fridge.  I personally would take the residential fridge over the gas/electric Norcold refrigerator any day.  However, in certain size RV’s, it just makes more sense for the RV manufacturers to put in the absorption type units.

Norcold Refrigerator Safety

Certainly if you have either a Norcold or Dometic refrigerator you should be sure your unit is not on recall.  You can go to Norcold or Dometic’s website to verify that you are not on the recall list.  Armed with your model, fridge serial number, and cooling unit serial number you can verify that your unit is okay.  You may also have to look for the upgrade kit that may have already been installed in your RV fridge if you have an older unit.  This is Norcold’s process:

Norcold refrigerator solutions

This is what you need to do for a Dometic Unit:

norcold refrigerator solutions

Avoiding Trouble

One of the best ways to avoid trouble with your Dometic or Norcold refrigerator is to be sure when you are using the fridge on either gas or electric, the unit is level!  I have heard RVers say I use my fridge all the time, and the unit is not always level, and I have never had a problem.

That may be true, but the damage that can happen occurs over time.  Each occurrence when the boiler overheats due to a non-level condition reduces the fridges efficiency not allowing it to cool the way it was supposed to.  Our previous Norcold refrigerator could barely keep fifty-five degrees when it was in the nineties outside.

That was in our previous 5th wheel RV before we put hydraulic levelers on it.  You see, even being off three degrees from level can create issues for your absorption fridges boiler assembly / cooling unit.  The best way to avoid this situation is to not run the fridge when you are in unlevel conditions: driving up and down unlevel highways and back roads and parking in unlevel areas.  That way you will avoid damaging your fridges cooling unit. 

If you feel your RV is not level, this is a good time to be sure your Dometic or Norcold refrigerator is not turned on.  Your fridge can stay cold for hours without power.  We can travel eight hours and the fridge will only drop a few degrees if we don’t open the doors.

And by the way, you should never travel with your propane system energized.  It clearly states this on the safety placards in your RV, especially motorized RV’s!  Early on in our RVing lives we were not told this fact. “Sure, you can run the fridge while traveling!  Don’t turn that propane off, just leave it on and you’ll be fine!”  

That’s what the RV rental companies told us.  So we did.  Then a few years later we almost lost our RV to a propane fire if not for dumb luck that we decided to stop and look in the RV and we found a fire brewing.  But, this is what can happen!

norcold refrigerator solutions

Avoiding a Fire!

When trouble occurs in the RV refrigerator cycle, the heat that normally drives the refrigeration cycle can become destructive.   If conditions have been allowed to occur, like operating in an unlevel condition over extended periods of time, trouble could be lurking.  When this heat is not controlled, fire will occur!  

Even Dometic and Norcolds recalls have not stopped their refrigerators from burning an RV to the ground.  The temperatures they are trying to control run around 355 to 400 degrees.  Those are the temperatures involved in these absorption fridges!

Norcold Refrigerator Solutions

The best way to avoid a fire is to control what happens in the refrigerator’s Cooling unit.

Mac the Fire Guy is a proponent of installing a fire suppression system in the cooling unit area of the fridge.  It is a unit that releases a foam in the exterior fridge area that puts out a fire when the temperature in that area reaches a preset level.  I believe the best way to prevent an RV fridge fire is to automatically shut down the unit when the temperature reaches unsafe levels.

The addition of a twelve volt fan in the outside fridge compartment can get air to move more freely over the cooling unit and drastically improve the efficiency.  Camco makes a fridge roof vent kit that uses a fan and solar power.  It replaces the existing roof vent.

I will share another method I believe will also work well in a future blog. So, stay tuned, and as always feel free to comment if you wish!

15 comments

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  1. steve

    I have a norcold fridge that just recently decides to shut down you have to turn it off then reset it for ac since I am plugged into 110 any suggestions will be appreciated
    t/y steve

    1. Howard

      Which model do you have Steve? I am assuming the unit works on propane but not AC and you have the needed 120v at the receptacle located inside by the lower vent on the outside wall of the RV. There are three main reasons that I can think of that the unit will not work on AC power: Problems with ac power to the unit, possibly a fuse in the power board is open, or the AC heating unit has failed. These would be items to check first before going any further.

  2. sally

    I dont see any reason to keep using such a monstrocity, there are so many gotcha’s if you will, even a new unit carries no gaurantees. We have been reading about this for 10 months now, we got a new 5th wheel in may 2015, and the first thing we did was disconnect the fridge. We bought a Whynter 95 qrt fridge/freezer as a stop gap until we can pickup a residential. we would rather be out the fridge than out the coach. Even with insurance you never get everything back.

  3. ron

    I have a Norcold fridge, purchased the Jayco Eagle in March 2013 the rig is a 08 anyway these past 18 months the fridge goes on when it feels like it and goes of same thing I don’t travel anymore have it hooked up to 50 amp service have a new battery deep cycle. my question is do I need the battery to operate the fridge controls, thank you e-mail ronsbm@yahoo.ca

    1. Howard

      Hi, Ron!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!!

      The Norcold fridge needs 12-volt power to run the control board for the refrigerator. If there is a problem with the converter or your batteries, that could be the source of your problem.

  4. Ronald Killgo

    I have a Norcold 662 refrigerator. I can’t get the lights on the front of the unit to come on. The ones that indicate Auto, gas, and electric. I was told it was a 112 volt problem. I have changed all the fuses and it still won’t work. There is power to the elect. outlet and everything else on the motor home is working fine. what should I check next?

    1. Howard

      Hi, Ronald!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      What is the voltage going into the fridge 12-volt control circuit board? If that has voltage but nothing coming out of it, then replacement may be necessary. If you don’t have 12+ volts going into the control circuit board then you are going to have to trace the circuit back to the battery and find out why.

  5. Greg Dalton

    I have a Norcold 9821M refrigerator that works well on AC voltage or gas, but the control panel went bad that would not allow either mode to operate. I have since bypassed the control panel with hard wiring through a timer to keep the temperature a constant cold.
    one
    I am looking for a replacement control panel. Do you know where I can find one, or is repair practical?

    1. Howard

      Hi Greg!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Check this link to see if this might help you: http://www.thetford.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/1275/Parts-List.pdf

      There are some part numbers that might help you search online for either the control assembly replacement or its inside parts.

  6. Clark

    Our Norcold refrigerator started beeping during a storm and quit working. It put up an error code “LI OP”. What is wrong with it? We have tried unplugging electric and plugging back in. Every time we turn the refrigerator on it beeps and gives the same error code and cuts back off.

    1. Howard

      Hi Clark!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Please refer to this website and follow the instructions. This could be a potentially serious issue.

      Please visit: http://thenorcoldguy.com/norcold-technical-blog/norcold-fault-codes-li-op-o-or-6-flashes-potential-fire-hazard/

  7. Kim

    I’m hopeful you can help me. I have a Norcold 2117IMM residential refrigerator. I have downloaded the manuals and read everything regarding an A2 error code. There is no fault A2 (even the manufactured sent me an email saying that) but there is a diagnostic code A2 that says “Defrost on, fresh food fin above 80 F” ……. since it is a diagnostic code there are no troubleshooting recommendations. The diagnostic code goes off almost daily now for the past 5 days and I don’t know where to begin to look for the issue. Any ideas? (the diagnostic code can be found on page 65 of the manual in a very small print – you really had to search for this code) the beeping does not stop until you turn the power off and then back on. This is on electric – plugged into 50amp breaker and we are full-timers. Hoping you have some ideas as the manufactured said they couldn’t help me I’d have to drive it in somwehre and have them look at it.

    1. Howard

      Hi Kim!

      Thanks for stopping by our website!

      Does it do the same thing when you run the fridge on propane?

      Sometimes with these issues just starting with the basics is a good thing. It reminds me of a story about flushing the toilet in an RV and the TV going off when not on shore power. What did those two things have in common? The 12-volt power source. A weak battery produced a lower voltage when the water pump came on for the toilet which reduced voltage to the TV, so it turned itself off.

      So, can you tell me what your DC house battery voltages are with the converter on and the converter off. The control board that your fridge has runs on the 12-volt system. It is possible the fridge is seeing something that even the manufacturer does not see very often. If you have a voltmeter and can relay those voltages to me, we can start there. Also, when you have the shore power off, run your water pump with some of the lights on. Tell me if they flicker a bit while the pump is running.

  8. Richard Svendsen

    I have a 2004 510.3 Norcold, have a newly purchased battery in the unit, and it maintains power during the day, however every night while dry camping it will show ‘fully powered’ but when we check it first thing in the am the RV battery is totally drained. I have tested it with the refrigerator unplugged and off and the battery is fine, then when the refrigerator is turned on the next day the battery is dead. NOTHING in the RV is on and I have removed several useless items of their fuses just to make certain they are not needless drawing any power. I also have a 115 watt solar panel on the roof. Does this story indicated a bad Controller or possibly a stuck relay or switch in the fridge?
    rich

    1. Howard

      Hi Richard!

      Have you tried disconnecting the solar system to see what happens in order to isolate the problem? I have not come across a fridge that has created this problem.

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