Is the unit level?
All ammonia absorption refrigerators (RV refrigerators) have to be
level, when stationary and turned on to any heat source, period. Not
doing so will permanently damage the cooling unit. If stationary,
on, and out of level, liquids in the cooling unit pool in places they
shouldn't and cause the boiler to overheat and plug or crack.
All refrigerators, except the Sibir, need to be leveled on the freezer
plate (if present) or the freezer floor, if there is no freezer plate.
Use a round bubble level and level the RV so that at least half the
bubble in the level is inside the circle. The Sibir, which has a slanting
freezer floor, is leveled on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
Traveling with the refrigerator on is acceptable, since the liquids
in the cooling unit are sloshing and not pooling.
Does the refrigerator work on either gas or electric?
Always test the refrigerator on the electric heat source,
unless you are unable to because you have a gas only refrigerator.
The reason for testing on the electric side is if the electric heat
element gets hot, you can be better than 95% sure that you have correct
heat, whereas even a poor gas flame will produce heat. To insure that
the heat element is getting hot, you can touch the insulation pack
(a rectangular or round sheet metal container filled with insulation
located directly above the propane burner) to see if it is warm after
about a half hour of operation. CAUTION: touch the pack lightly at
first; it is possible under certain conditions for the pack to get
super hot and burn you. If the insulation pack does not get warm,
you have an electrical problem that needs to be corrected before continuing.
If an electrical problem is not the electric heat element itself and/or
you want to insure that some other electrical component (such as a
thermostat) is not interrupting the heat element, you can hot wire
the heat element for better testing conditions. The only weak link
in this testing procedure is the less than 5% of the time that a working
heat element is not producing the correct heat.
Do you smell ammonia, either inside the refrigerator
If you smell ammonia either inside the refrigerator or outside of
it, the cooling unit is defective will need to be replaced.
Do you see any yellow staining on the back of
Sodium chromate is a greenish-yellow powder in solution inside the
cooling unit. If you see any signs of a greenish-yellow staining outside
the cooling unit, your unit has a leak and will needed to be replaced.
If you recently installed a new or rebuilt cooling unit,
was it installed properly?
If you recently installed a new or rebuilt cooling unit, there are
a few common mistakes that may prevent the cooling unit from working
properly. First, was thermal mastic applied to all 4 sides of the
foam block and on the evaporator tubes themselves, as per the instructions.
If not, your unit will not cool properly.
Second, the baffle must be placed back in the chimney flue or the
unit may not work properly on gas.
Third, was the heating element installed in the right spot? On Dometic
models, it's the taller of the 2 sockets on the right when facing
the back of the cooling unit. On Norcold it is on the left. Make sure
that the element is in the socket, not just stuck in the insulated
If a new or rebuilt cooling unit was recently installed,
what was the outside temperature when you started the unit up?
When the outside temperature approaches or passes 100 degrees, it
is best to wait to start the unit up until later in the evening. Unlike
a freon unit, a gas refrigerator does take longer to start up. In
high temperatures, it is possible for the unit to vapor lock during
startup. Once started, it should operate properly after that.
Trailer Refrigeration, Inc.
4255 S. Randolph Ave, Suite 101
Tucson, Arizona 85714