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Friday, October 23, 2009

Finicky Fridge

I have a Dometic absorption refrigerator that works perfectly if stationary and level. For nine years it work well in motion and even then, when not perfectly level. The local RV repair shop tells me that the coolant level is low which requires a lot of money to replace the parts. They claim it cannot be recharged. The back side of the unit is reachable through an outside access vent. Any truth to this statement that it cannot be recharged?
Bob, (Sacramento, CA)

Bob, the portion of the RV absorption refrigerator that is the usual culprit in such instances is called the cooling core or cooling unit. They can be recharged, but only with special equipment. There are only a handful of companies in the country tooled properly to do it. They cannot be recharged "in the field" by a local RV service shop. The normal practice, (for many years), at the dealer or repair center level, is to remove the faulty cooling unit and replace it with either a factory refurbished unit or an exchanged cooling unit from a supplier. In most cases, the recharged unit is just as good as new if properly charged with the correct amount of hydrogen gas, water and liquid ammonia and at the correct pressures. It is a fairly exact science. Your local dealer is most likely following what is considered to be "normal practice" concerning your faulty cooling unit. They must be exchanged so the shop can get credit when purchasing the new cooling unit. In other words, it would be cost prohibitive to buy a reconditioned cooling unit and not turn in the faulty one. Additionally, the refrigerator must be removed from its mounting location, oftentimes taken totally outside the RV, to have the cooling unit replaced. And unfortunately, it can be costly to replace the cooling unit on some refrigerators.

At nine years old, you may want to consider a new refrigerator altogether. Keep in mind, the cooling unit may be refurbished and charged properly, but all the other components; thermostats, burner, heating element, etc., are still nine years old. In my opinion, that's about the age when negative things begin happen with LP appliances. With a new purchase, don't forget, you’ll receive a new warranty as well as all new components.

But I would question the final troubleshooting deduction of that shop. If the refrigerator operates fine when level and stationary, the cooling unit is functioning properly. There may be other factors, such as accumulated heat, contributing to the malfunction while traveling. This Doc would recommend a second opinion given your provided information. It may simply need a good cleaning and some tweaking of the LP pressure to promote its effectiveness over the highway. Give this one some thought before committing.


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