You finally get to go on that long-awaited road trip when your RV refrigerator decides to give up on you. To make things worse, it happens on a long and remote stretch of highway.
A malfunctioning RV refrigerator is the last thing you’d want to encounter while on the road. The very thought of all that delicious food going bad in the heat is downright discouraging.
Surprisingly, you notice the RV fridge not working but the freezer is. Weird, right?
If you have some knowledge about the mechanisms of RV refrigerators, you’ll know that it is not that strange nor uncommon to find your RV refrigerator not cooling but the freezer is OK.
The refrigerant, or the cooling liquid, first reaches the freezer and then makes its way to the refrigerator. Hence, if the coolant is taking more time to reach the freezer, it will take a longer time to reach the refrigerator.
Driving on smooth roads without bumps can prevent the coolant from clogging up and will help the coolant reach your refrigerator faster. Avoiding bumpy roads can also save you from costly repairs.
If you’ve made it a point to have a smoother ride on well-paved roads but still can’t get your refrigerator to work, here are other reasons why your freezer works while your refrigerator doesn’t.
A defective evaporator coil could be one of the causes why your RV freezer works but not the refrigerator. Evaporator coils are responsible for cooling the air and keeping food safe, fresh, and germ-free.
Faulty behavior can be caused by frost accumulating along the coils. Frost prevents the air from entering the coils which stops your refrigerator from cooling.
One of the best and simple troubleshooting methods to remove the accumulated frost is to blow hot air onto the coils. Pick up a hairdryer, turn on the full-heat option, and blast the hot air against the coils. Your refrigerator should start working normally again when the frost melts.
A malfunctioning or defective defrost timer could be another reason why your RV refrigerator freezer works but refrigerator does not. If your evaporator coils are frequently frosting up, a faulty defrost timer could be the culprit.
The timer’s function is to monitor the heat levels and prevent frost from accumulating on the evaporator coils. To find out if it’s working, just pull out the timer and check. You can refer to the refrigerator’s user manual to know where to find it. If it’s working fine, put the timer back. If it’s not, then it’s time to find a replacement.
If the former two parts are working fine, then a broken evaporator fan could be the reason.
Your freezer gets cooled first before the refrigerant reaches the fridge. Hence, if the RV freezer is cold but not fridge, it could be due to airflow problems.
Note: here are some tips to keep your fridge cold when driving..
Refrigerators need air to cool down. If the fan stops working, your refrigerator won’t receive enough cold air to maintain the necessary temperature.
You can listen for the sound of the evaporator fan to check if it is working. You’ll need to be patient and wait for it to turn on since the fans switch on and off periodically.
If you notice excessive noise from the fan, it may need to be replaced. You’ll need to look for the right model and part to ensure that your effort at replacing it doesn’t end up causing more problems down the road.
The damper is a small flap that regulates the airflow from your freezer to the refrigerator. It is generally situated at the RV refrigerator’s top or back panel near the top.
Based on the air temperature in the refrigerator, a thermostat controls its opening and closing. A defective damper control assembly could deprive your RV refrigerator of the much-needed cool air and can lead to your Dometic refrigerator not cooling but freezer works.
To test if the device is working, stick your hand in front of the vent. If you can’t feel the airflow and you know that the evaporator fan is working, it most likely means that the damper is closed.
If there’s a removable vent shielding the damper flap, you can try to remove it and manually move the damper. If the damper is faulty or broken you will have to call a professional to replace or repair it.
A thermistor is responsible for measuring the fridge temperature at various locations and relaying the information to the refrigerator’s thermostat.
A defective or damaged thermistor is one of the most common reasons why your Dometic fridge not working but freezer is. This is because the thermistor may be sending the wrong information to the thermostat, resulting a stoppage of airflow to the RV refrigerator.
The thermistor is usually exposed to an electrical current which is one of the main reasons for its degradation. Perform regular checks on your thermistor. Replace it whenever necessary to avoid problems with your thermistor.
Removing or unplugging the faulty thermistor may offer a momentary solution to this issue while you get it replaced. By removing the thermistor, you let the fridge operate without the involvement of a component responsible for temperature moderation.
However, running your RV refrigerator this way for a long time can cause burns and permanent damage to the refrigerator. Resort to this step only during emergencies.
It is relatively inexpensive to replace the thermistor and you can find many repair manuals online too.
When hot air in the RV refrigerator is unable to move out of the exhaust vent, it can make the RV refrigerator warm, and freezer cold. This may be due to the clogging of an exhaust vent. Hot air is a waste product of the cooling procedure.
An RV refrigerator’s ventilator is usually found towards the rear end. The hot air generated should ideally move to the outlet cover or vent at the rooftop of your RV.
Due to pollutants like dust and dirt, this vent sometimes gets blocked and can keep the hot air from moving out. This causes an imbalance between the temperature of the refrigerator and the freezer temperature.
Try to remove the outlet cover and check for anything blocking the exhaust and keeping the hot air inside.
Let’s take a look at a few common Norcold RV fridge issues.
This is the most common issue faced by most Norcold RV fridges. Dometic refrigerator not cooling but freezer works can also happen. Here are some ways to avoid this.
- Avoid overloading the shelves. Overloading the shelves with too much food can block the airflow and can cause insufficient cooling.
- Use a fridge fan. Fridge fans are inexpensive and can improve air circulation inside your RV refrigerator.
- Make sure the refrigerator door is completely closed. RV refrigerators are not as efficient as your refrigerator at home. Frequently opening your fridge can reduce cooling as it takes around an hour to recover the optimum temperature.
- Keep track of the temperature. Use a small fridge thermometer every once in a while. You can also make use of the thermostat to regulate temperature. It’s the tiny white part that is attached to a cooling fin in a Norcold RV fridge. Move it horizontally to adjust the temperature.
Despite the defrost function, this is a common problem faced by most Norcold RV refrigerators. Here’s what you should do if your Norcold RV Refrigerator begins freezing everything inside it.
- Turn off the thermostat.
- Remove food from the refrigerator and place dry towels inside to absorb the water.
- Remove the towels and completely dry the refrigerator’s interior.
- Turn on the thermostat and put the food back inside.
In extremely cold temperatures, the coolant can slow and might not flow properly which hampers the refrigeration process. Here are a few tips to avoid this.
- Buy a winter kit to keep the system warm and help the coolant circulate well.
- During the day, park your RV in such a way that the fridge receives the sun’s heat.
- Use a portable cooler.
Since a propane fridge often mirrors outside temperatures, this problem is very prevalent in Norcold refrigerators. You can put ice blocks in the refrigerator to fight this, but don’t forget to place a pan underneath it.
There are a few things that you should check on.
Your fridge is protected from an oversupply of electricity. If you suspect that there is damage from a reverse polarity connection, check the fuse and the direct current’s power supply polarity.
Another reason that your fridge has stopped working or keeps shutting off is because the fridge isn’t level. RV refrigerators should be on level ground to function properly and to prevent coolant accumulation in undesired places.
When this happens, check the evaporator coils, defrost timer, damper control, and other parts we previously mentioned.
Let’s now take a look at a few of the reasons for your Dometic RV refrigerator issues and how to troubleshoot them.
To troubleshoot this problem, first find out if your fridge runs on electricity, propane, or both.
- If it runs on propane, check if the propane tank is full. If not, replace it with a full tank. Most Dometic fridges automatically switch to propane when there’s no electric power. Hence, if the fridge functions on electrical power, but switches off when using propane, it may be an indication of an empty propane tank.
- Your power source might be too weak to power your RV fridge.
- Check for a blown fuse.
This is one of the worst problems to have while on the road. Here are a few possible solutions:
- Inspect the seals for gaps.
- Ensure that there is a sufficient power supply whether you use gas or electricity.
- Make sure that the airflow is not blocked by too many food items in the fridge.
- Check the thermistor for optimum temperature.
If you find yellow stains on the refrigerator’s back, it could be an indication of ammonia leaking out the back. This can hamper the refrigeration process as it clogs the cooling unit.
To prevent ammonia sediment build-up, don’t let your fridge be inactive for long periods. Turn it on occasionally and let it run. One troubleshooting method is to flip your fridge upside down and let the sediment move from the cooling unit. However, in some cases, the damage may be beyond repair and you may need to replace it.
Check lights are the yellow-colored lights next to the green ‘on’ ones. It’s an indicator that your RV refrigerator’s normal functioning is broken. Here are some possible reasons:
- It can appear when the 120 volts outlet is unplugged and will remain there until the fridge restarts automatically on propane.
- Your RV is not on level ground.
- The electricity supply got switched off and you may need to configure it manually to propane.
- Both electricity and propane are switched off.
- The voltage supply is too low.
If there is debris blocking your fridge’s burner unit, there will be no flame despite the propane connection. You can remove the debris using a shop vac, but be cautious when you get near the gas or electrical components.
The ideal RV freezer temperature is zero degrees while its refrigerator temperature should be around 34°F. The main compartment’s temperature should not be more than 43°F.
You can adjust your RV fridge’s temperature with sliders or dials on the front.
Even though RV refrigerators are designed to bear uneven roads, they still face issues similar to conventional household refrigerators. Hence, it’s a good idea to use a refrigerator thermometer and make necessary temperature adjustments from time to time.
If you find water dripping inside the fridge, it may mean that you need to make your RV fridge’s temperature slightly colder.
Related: RV refrigerator propane usage
We hope this has helped you figure out the reasons for common problems with your RV refrigerator such as the camper fridge is not working but freezer is. It might take some time to figure out exactly why it stopped working. In some cases, it helps to give it a day to make sure that your fridge truly has an issue.
You can troubleshoot the issue yourself, but don’t hesitate to seek a professional’s help if needed, particularly if you suspect the issue to be an electrical one.
We wish you a safe trip and a cold refrigerator!