#1 Check Light keeps blinking
The check light is usually the yellow colored one next to the green colored ‘ON’ light. It basically is meant to show that normal refrigerator functioning is being interrupted.
One instance it might come on is when you unplug the 120 V AC outlet. You’ll see the yellow check light blinking momentarily until the fridge automatically restarts on propane.
Here are a couple other reasons why your check light might be coming on:
- Because the RV isn’t level
- AC/DC electricity supply was switched off and you need to manually configure it to propane OR the other way around
- Propane and electricity supply both are switched off
#2 RV refrigerator is leaking a yellow fluid/ making gurgling noises
If this is true for you, then all signs point to an ammonia leak.
Ammonia is used in the evaporator section of a propane refrigerator, and is an essential part of the refrigeration process.( Check out this article on how RV refrigerators work? )
How to know if you have an ammonia leak:
- You get a chemical-ly smell when you open the fridge door that makes your eyes water and chest burn. This probably means there is a leak in the evaporator
- There is a yellowish or lime-green residue around the burner area. This is a sign of a leak in the boiler section of the pipes
- If the leak has been happening for an extended period, the ammonia smell may not be distinguishable. Listen for a bubbling sound from the back of your refrigerator unit when you turn it on.
In case the above tips don’t help, here’s how you can check the ammonia level in a RV fridge:
Get a combustible gas detector, such as this LP gas detector on Amazon It runs on 4 AA batteries and along with detecting ammonia levels, it can also detect other combustible gases such as propane- bound to come in handy when you’re living in a propane fuelled machine.
#3 RV refrigerator is not cooling
There could be a LOT of reasons why your RV fridge’s cooling isn’t up to standard. Let’s look at all of them, one by one.
First, few general tips for ensuring proper cooling:
Don’t overload shelves
One of the most common reasons for insufficient cooling is that the refrigerator is stacked with way more food than it can hold.
Stuffing the shelves all the way to the back of the fridge blocks air flow from the cold air fins(at the top) to the rest of the fridge.
Get a fridge fan
You may find that air circulation still isn’t great inside your RV fridge. In that case, I recommend you get a small fridge fan. They’re quite inexpensive and last about 6 weeks on a single pair of batteries.
Another spot you could stick your fridge fan in is the rear vent of the refrigerator- usually accessible from the outside of the RV.
If you have enough space, you could point the fan to direct the reject hot air out through the vents, and hence, cool the system down a bit further.
Minimize door openings
It’s important to remember that RV fridges aren’t as efficient as home refrigerators. For instance, if you leave the fridge door open for a minute, it’ll take the refrigerator about an hour to regain the temperature it was originally at.
This is why you should try to be economical about opening the fridge door while travelling in your RV.
A great way of doing so is having a fridge magnet that allows you to take notes, like this one on Amazon. Simply write down whatever food you have inside so that you don’t need to keep opening to check.
Also writing the quantity next to the food in the list will be helpful for you to keep track, albeit cumbersome.
Monitor the temperatures
You can only deal with a problem when you know there is one, right?
Your fridge should ideally be in the range of 37-40 degree F, and so, it’s just easier to know whether you are there or not if you have a small fridge thermometer.
It won’t take up much space- you can just hang it from one of the shelves in your fridge Check out this popular fridge thermometer on Amazon.
Know that there is a thermostat/ thermocouple
A lot of RV owners do not know of the thermocouple that they can use to change the temperature.
It’s the tiny white thing stuck inside a plastic clip that you’ll either see stuck on a cooling fin (Norcold) or to the side of the fins (Dometic).
Moving it up will increase the cooling in a Dometic fridge. In Norcold fridges, it’s supposed to be moved horizontally to change the temperature.
All other brands will be somewhat built similarly as well. When in doubt- just read the product manual. You’ll get the exact instructions for changing the temperature over there.
If none of the above tips work
There is a high possibility that the thermocouple itself is shot, and needs to be replaced.
Don’t worry, it’s a simple process to test if it’s working and replace it, if need be. I wrote about it in this post
#4 RV refrigerator not cooling in hot weather
Again, one of those typical RV fridge things that you can’t do much about.
The cooling in a propane RV fridge will be dependent on the outside temperature, to a certain extent. Meaning, that when it’s hot out, it won’t cool as effectively and when it’s cold outside, it’ll cool a bit TOO much.
In fact, if you’re in a region with temperatures above 90 degree F, no propane refrigerator is going to be able to function properly in those conditions.
You’ll need to aid the process of cooling. A hack that I came across online is to place a block of ice into the fridge, when it’s particularly hot out.
However, don’t forget to put a small pan underneath to collect the melted water!
#5 RV refrigerator cooling TOO much/ freezes everything
Big problem that a lot of RV owners face from time to time, even though there is a defrost function in most fridges today- go figure.
This is a pretty big topic though, and I wrote a complete post on why your RV fridge might be freezing everything that you might find helpful.
#6 RV refrigerator ignitor not working OR making continuous clicking noises
The ignitor is a small part of the control board that provides the spark to light up the burner when you switch the fridge to propane.
Usually present inside the rear vent(on the outside of the RV), you’ll hear a couple of clicking sounds from the ignitor until the burner lights up.
Most RV propane fridges have an ignitor these days- the other type of systems are those where you ignite the burner manually with a match.
Anyhow, here are a couple reasons why the ignitor may not be working:
- The burner is dirty, and hence is having trouble lighting up- you just need to vaccum clean it a bit
- Ignitor needs to be replaced
- Issue with the control board- full control board needs replacement
#7 RV refrigerator not working on electric
A common thing to check is whether the fridge is plugged in to the 120 V AC switch?
And no, I don’t mean inside the RV. Usually located inside the rear vent, you’ll see an electrical point where your fridge needs to be plugged in.
Another really common thing that might occur is that your GFCI circuit breakers may be tripped. If so, you just need to go reset them manually to get the fridge running again.
Now, if the above two tips weren’t helpful, then it might mean that the electrical heating element has gone bad.
In any 2 way fridge, there are two circuits- one for the electrical element to provide heating and another where the burner provides heating. So, in fact, if your fridge isn’t working on either mode, it could be because the heating element or burner needs to be checked.
If, even the heating element turns out fine, then you probably need to get the control board changed.
#8 RV refrigerator problems at high altitude
RV fridges don’t work well on propane at altitudes greater than 5500 ft. This isn't because of any defect in the refrigerator, it's because the low pressure doesn't allow the propane burner to light up efficiently.
Basically there isn't enough oxygen in the atmosphere to provide a robust flame.
There are high altitude refrigeration kits that RV fridge manufacturers also sell.
Otherwise, probably best to run your fridge on electric if you’re camping out in high altitiude for long.
#9 RV refrigerator keeps tripping breaker
This can happen when the heating element gets shorted by touching the ‘ground’ metal plate in the flue, which in turn trips the GFCI breaker. You could try connecting to another GFCI circuit to verify this.
If that wasn’t super-clear, check out the first part of the video below:
#10 RV refrigerator keeps shutting off
Probably the most common reason for this is that the refrigerator isn't level. RV refrigerators, (because they are gravity fed instead of being compressor based) are required to be level for proper functioning.
In fact, if you park your RV on an incline for more than 15 minutes, you could do some permanent damage.
This is because the coolant liquid can accumulate in a couple of spots in the pipes- which then makes the circulation of the coolant inefficient, bringing the cooling power down.
If the refrigerator is not level, you'll probably see a yellow check light coming on, which will go away as soon as you bring it level.
Keep in mind that this isn't an issue while driving- of course, you can’t have a completely stable and level ground while on the road. However, when parked for extended periods, RV fridges need to be level.
A few things to check for which could be causing the fridge to keep shutting off:
- Is the electrical 120 V AC point plugged in?
- If running on electricity- Is the heating element working?
- If running on propane-Is the burner working?
#11 RV refrigerator fan keeps running all the time
The refrigerator fan is not supposed to be running all the time but even if it does, it's not a huge issue, functionality wise. It probably just means that there is an inline fuse before the vent fan.
There are lots of quieter varieties of fans that you can replace your standard one with- but you probably need to get a professional for this.
#12 RV refrigerator warm in cold weather
Usually happens in sub zero temperatures. The reason for this is the coolant gets sluggish in the cold weather and doesn’t circulate well, bringing down the overall refrigeration levels.
Couple things you can do:
Get a winter kit for your RV fridge, such as this one by Norcold . It basically will provide more heat to the system in order to keep the coolant circulating well.
If you have an extra electrical outlet inside the rear fridge vent, I also found mention of a pretty creative workaround that also will do the same job.
What you basically do, is place a small electric bulb there. As the bulb lights up, it’ll get hot, and so will the air around it. The idea is that the hot air will travel up the drain pipe and into the refrigerator.
Also, during the day, ensure that your RV is parked such that the side that the fridge is on faces the sun.
Lastly, a lot of RV owners just prefer to forgo the hassle and just use a portable cooler instead, in the winter months. You may want to consider that as well.
#13 RV refrigerator leaking water
According to forum, a common cause for this is that the condensate drain tube may be leaking water outside.
It should be ideally placed between the grills in the rear vent(outside of the RV behind where the fridge is placed) and should be leading the condensate out.
If you have a Norcold fridge, then the system is probably slightly different.
Instead of leaking outside, the condensate leaks into a pan which may have sprung a leak. You’ll need to get that fixed.
For a better idea of the rear/side vent that I’m talking about- check out this article.
#14 Top RV refrigerator vent leaks
Isn’t it the worst when it’s raining out and there’s a leak somewhere in your RV?
If there’s water leaking from the top vent of your fridge, it could cause some electrical damage too. Here’s what you do:
Identify where the leak is- is it around the edges of the vent? If so, you can simply apply some weatherstripping tape and seal it.
If, however, the patch needs to be made on the vent, and seems pretty big-ish- of course you could seal it up with the weatherstripping tape(for the time being).
But I would also recommend that you go ahead and buy a new one. They’re pretty cheap, like this vent on Amazon.
#15 RV fridge is wet inside
The most plausible reason for this would be that there’s a leak in the fridge (usually it’s the gasket) from which warm air is coming inside the fridge.
#16 RV refrigerator drains battery power
If you have a residential fridge, there’s nothing much to be done about this honestly. They are much bigger in size, which is the biggest reason why they’re a huge power suck.
In fact, you’ll require either custom batteries or solar panel installations to run your RV with a standard refrigerator. Otherwise, even if you switch off all other appliances, you can expect to deplete your batteries completely within 6-7 hours.
Alternatively, even if you have a standard 2 way RV fridge (AC/propane), you might want to close the propane connection while on the road(as I believe you should!)
In that case, you’ll run the fridge on battery power with the help of an inverter. While the load is much lesser than a residential fridge, you’ll still end up depleting around half of your battery with about 8 hours of usage.
If none of the above seems to be the reason, you should get a professional’s opinion on this.
#17 Mold formation
Mold forms inside damp surroundings. If you’re not using your RV for an extended period, unless you take precautions, you may just find mold inside your fridge when you come back.
The #1 reason for this is that the fridge door was left closed while the refrigerator was switched off for a long period.
A simple fix is to get a no mold door holder, to keep the fridge door ajar when the RV isn’t in use.
#18 Food keeps flying around on the road
Two cheap but essential products that you’ll need- get a couple of fridge braces to hold the various items in position.
For items placed on the door shelf- get a shelf hog– it’s basically a balloon that provides a bit of padding to hold the food in place.
Did you find the post helpful? Any other troubleshooting tip you’d like to share?
Let us know in the comments and we’ll include it in our post!