Reefer Madness

After a few road trips, it became apparent that the Dometic 3-way refrigerator was not working. To measure its performance, I used a remote thermometer with two temperature sensors – one located in the freezer compartment and the other located in refrigerator compartment. The unit would usually cool down initially and act like it was fine, but after about a day, it would warm up rather quickly. It would get even warmer than the surrounding temperatures. On the trip to Truckee, one night the temperature outside was 34°, inside the trailer it was 44°, and the freezer compartment was 56°!

I spent a couple of weeks troubleshooting the refrigerator, trying various fixes suggested by YouTube University. I removed the refrigerator from the cabinet to give me better access to it. One of these fixes (I dubbed the “Shake and Bake” method) involved turning on the refrigerator, once it warmed up, I shut it off, then layed it on one side and lifted it up and shook it several times. Then I turned it completely upside down and let it cool down. The next day, I did the same method, with the refrigerator laying on its other side for the “shake” action. The theory behind this fix was to loosen some of the internal chemicals in the tubing, assuming it had crystalized and hardened over the years. It was an interesting idea and it was fun the shake and bake the refrigerator, but it didn’t fix it.

I located a new refrigerator at Camping World in Vacaville and drove there one morning in early February to buy it.

The new refrigerator is on the left, the old one is on the right

Before installing the new refrigerator, I wanted to add some insulation to the cabinet space around the refrigerator opening. This should help the refrigerator operate more efficiently, especially in warmer weather. I also replaced a couple of the computer fans inside the rear part of the opening.

Before – no insulation inside the cabinet space
After – 1 1/2″ insulation installed on the side walls and inner ceiling of the compartment

I quickly learned that the refrigerator is larger than the doorway of my trailer. I assume the trailer was built around the refrigerator. I had dismantled the old refrigerator, allowing me to remove it through the doorway. I knew I would not be able to do that to the new one. Fortunately, the folding design of my trailer provided a solution. I left one wall folded down and placed a “gangplank” across the opening. This allowed me (with help from Bruce) to lift the refrigerator onto the gangplank, slide it across the trailer, and lift it down to the floor.

The gangplank was supported on the far side by some wood blocks to keep the weight off the folded wall

Before installing the new refrigerator into the cabinet, I tested it for several days and it performed flawlessly. I tested both the electric and propane settings. The new refrigerator was an exact replacement – it fit snugly in the opening and the propane fitting aligned perfectly. I am hopeful that I can count on it to work the way it’s supposed to work for many road trips.

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