Sunday, May 16, 2010

RV Refrigerator Revisited

It's been 2 weeks now since I installed the new cooling unit for our refrigerator. I wanted to give it some time before I reported on how well the job went. So far, so good. It's been running on 120 VAC and holding around 0 degrees in the freezer and in the low 40's in the refer section, which is about where it should be.

Going back a couple of weeks to the ordering of the cooling unit. I had trouble with the shopping cart website of the company I wanted to buy from so I opted to go with another supplier that let me order online. Their website stated that the cooling units normally shipped within 24-72 hours of receiving the order. I received an order confirmation email right away but after a week I still hadn't received a shipping confirmation so I called them. The guy who answered the phone was a bit surly and said he'd go check with the shop. He came back to the phone and said it MIGHT ship in 2 or 3 days. MIGHT??? I went back to the first company, who was highly recommended by rver's on various rv forums I'd visited while researching my refer problem. I called them on the phone and after confirming that they had my cooling unit in stock and could ship it right away I placed the order with them and called back the first company and cancelled that order. I followed up with an email to confirm the cancellation and received an acknowledgement email reply and the message that the original order had been packaged and was sitting on the shop floor, ready to ship. I replied back that if I had gotten a better answer from the guy on the phone I wouldn't have cancelled the order. They did promptly reverse the charges to my credit card so all I had lost was another week without our refer.

The new unit arrived 3 days later with only minimal damage due to UPS's careful handling. Had to straighten out one of the angle iron mounting frames and some of the cooling fins.

Now for the fun part. I had been studying the instructions that the second company had sent me via email and already had the 120 VAC and 12 VDC disconnected and several components that would be reused on the new unit removed. I chose to unbolt the propane supply valve from the refer and leave the propane supply pipe attached rather than just disconnecting the pipe. It's a flare fitting and probably would have resealed but I chose to do it my way instead. I did check for propane leaks just to be safe. Since I was by myself I also removed the two refer doors to make it as light as possible.

In our trailer the refer is mounted in the wall about 24 inches above the floor. My ice chest is a couple inches shorter than that so, with a couple of towels on top for padding, it was just the right height. I had to lift the refer up just a little bit to clear the wood cabinet in front and then work it side to side to work it out of the framework. It is a snug fit.

Once the refer was out I used a milk crate (because I had one) and some more towels and carefully laid the refer on it's face. I removed the rest of the components that would be reused on the new cooling unit and, following the instructions, used a 6ft by 3/4 inch pipe (or a 2X4) to pry the old unit off. It is sealed to the back of the refer with a special compound that helps to transfer the cooling and won't work very well if it's not resealed again correctly. Again following the instructions, I test fit the new cooling unit to make sure it fit properly and then applied the sealing compound and set it back in place. I replaced all the components I had removed from the old unit and stood the refer back up and slid it back into it's place.

It took about 5 - 6 hours and cost $520 compared to a new refer at about $1200 or more than $2000 to have it done at the dealer.

The only thing I would do differently is to take pictures of everything. I had one piece of tin flashing that went around the propane burner that I couldn't remember where it went. I ended up going to the rv dealer and looking at one of their used trailers with the same refer to finally figure it out.

We now have ice cream and cold beer again. Life is good.