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Monday, October 26, 2009

What's That Smell?

We have a Dometic refrigerator in our RV with a strong smell of ammonia inside and outside of unit. Plus the refrigerator won't cool at all. The motorhome has been parked level for the past few months. This was our first usage this season. What gives?
Jim, (Auburn, WA)


Jim, unfortunately, you have a leaking cooling unit which renders the refrigerator inoperable. The entire cooling unit will have to be replaced. Cooling cores can develop leaks due to moisture entrapment within the foam insulating block. A rupture or crack in the tubing results in the release of the ammonia. If the leak point is situated at or near an exposed section of tubing at the rear of the refrigerator, a bright yellow residue is usually visible. If the leak is in a section of tube hidden by the foam block you may not visibly see it, but any indication of an ammonia smell confirms a leak indeed.

Typically, service centers replace the cooling core with a new or refurbished unit, sending the damaged core 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 size of the refrigerator.

Unfortunately, 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 just the cooling unit replacement. It depends on the age of the refrigerator and how fond you are of your existing unit. On units around eight years or older, seriously consider a complete refrigerator replacement. A new refrigerator will have a new warranty and all new parts. With a cooling unit replacement only, the remaining original components are still aged and non-warrantable. Your local RV accessory store will be able to accommodate either choice you make.

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