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Friday, October 23, 2009

Annoying Ammonia

Being a rookie RVer, I accidentally did not have my motorhome fully leveled while camping and therefore, I now have a leak in my RV refrigerator. I am getting that wonderful ammonia smell when the door is opened. How hard is it to remove the refrigerator? I live in a small town so would a local mechanic be able to help me? I am guessing the refrigerator is ruined. Will the refrigerator need to be removed right away?
Naomi, (Seattle, WA)


Naomi, obviously because of the leaking ammonia, the refrigerator is rendered inoperable. The entire cooling unit will have to be replaced. Not an uncommon occurrence; cooling units can become internally blocked by operating off-level and a rupture or crack in the piping will result in the release of the ammonia. If the crack is situated at or near an exposed section of piping at the rear of the refrigerator, a bright yellow residue is usually visible. If the leak is in a section of pipe hidden by insulation (the more common occurrence), you may not see it. But any indication of an ammonia smell confirms a leak indeed. 

The first thing to be concerned about is ridding the ammonia smell from the motorhome. Be sure you open all the windows to air the coach out and refrain from using the rig until the odor has been dissipated. Ammonia is quite hazardous.

Typically, service centers replace the cooling core with a refurbished unit, sending the damaged unit back to the supplier to be repaired, recharged and placed back into inventory. The entire replacement can take anywhere from two to four hours to complete depending on the model. 

Cooling units cannot be repaired in the field - they must be replaced. Not an inexpensive venture, oftentimes RV owners must contemplate a complete refrigerator upgrade versus the cooling unit replacement. It depends on the age of the refrigerator and how fond you are of it. On units around eight years or older, seriously consider a complete refrigerator replacement. You will have a new unit warranty and all new parts. With a cooling unit replacement only, the original components are still aged and non-warrantable.

It’s best to let the service center remove the refrigerator and only allow a competent RV service technician perform the replacement. Oftentimes the refrigerator will not fit though the entry door without removing some components and/or the entry door itself. In some cases, the cooling unit is replaced inside the RV.

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