Thursday, February 2, 2023


Traveling with an RV refrigerator—Leave it on or off?

Off or on? That seems to be the question RVers face when it comes to travel days. Do you keep your RV refrigerator on or off while traveling down the road? This was the latest topic for discussion around the campfire.

Residential model

Dave began, “We have a residential refrigerator in our rig. We keep it on while traveling because we always pack food along. We like to enjoy a cold one after we get set up at the campsite.”

Sharon agreed. “Our RV also has a residential fridge,” she said. “On long travel days, we keep it turned on. On short travel days, it doesn’t really matter. The food I pack inside the fridge is cold to begin with and the fridge will keep it cold for a short length of time even when it’s turned off.”

Marty spoke up in dissent: “I’ve learned the hard way to keep food inside a cooler until I set up at a campground. Stuff inside the refrigerator can bounce around on the rough roads, no matter how carefully I pack it. Broken glass and spills make an unnecessary mess to clean up. I see no sense in taking the risk.”

Propane RV refrigerators

“I think RV propane or absorption-type refrigerators need special consideration,” Mary offered. “Our Dometic manual says the fridge must be kept level or nearly level. If you travel uphill or around curves while in transit, couldn’t that damage the refrigerator if it was turned on?”

“I don’t think you’d hurt the unit,” Dan said. “I worry more about safety. If your propane is turned on and someone hits your RV, there could be significant damage! A spark could trigger an explosion or fire. No one wants that!”

Mary questioned, “Isn’t it against the law to travel with your propane turned on?”

“It can’t be against the law,” Dan countered. “There are vehicles on the road today that are fueled by LP!”

“But couldn’t propane lines jiggle loose when in transit? Especially on some of the rough roads we’ve traveled over!” Mary replied. “A propane leak inside the RV is also dangerous. I’m playing it safe and keeping my fridge off when we’re in transit.”

Dan shrugged. “To each his own.”

Traveling with an RV refrigerator conclusion?

Our campfire discussion didn’t reach any definitive conclusion. The next day I found an article I had forgotten about that Dave Solberg wrote. Read what Dave has to say about driving with propane fridges on.

Join in on our campfire discussion and leave a comment with your thoughts below.



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8 days ago

Our latest travel trailer comes with a 12V only fridge and the associated documentation states that one of the reasons is so that it can be used while underway. Of course, the battery(ies) need to be topped up &/or charged by the TV or solar panels. We had lived with an all-electric power cruiser for 16 years, so can probably transition, but our previous trailers always had 2 or 3-way fridges. Sometimes we towed with the fridge on, other times not, as circumstances required, except through the tunnels of course – no issues (except of course for the one time the fridge door opened while underway, with a major milk spill, etc.).

Irene D.
11 days ago

Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry (I-95) tunnels. Alternate route for RVs with propane over the Francis Scott Key Bridge is I-695.
Massachusetts/Boston Harbor:
All tunnels.
New York/East River:
Between Manhattan and Brooklyn: Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
Between Manhattan and Queens: Queens Midtown Tunnel.
New York and New Jersey/Hudson River:
Between Manhattan and Jersey City: Holland Tunnel.
Between Manhattan and Fort Lee: Lower level George Washington Bridge (I-95 South) and George Washington Bridge Expressway. Lower level Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Between Manhattan and Weehawken: Lincoln Tunnel.
Virginia/Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel: RVs equipped with ICC-approved compressed cooking tanks not exceeding two 45-pound capacity tanks (or two permanently mounted containers with maximum total capacity of 200 pounds) may cross the facility provided that, in the opinion of the toll collector or police sergeant

Diane McGovern
11 days ago
Reply to  Irene D.

Wow! Thanks for the great info, Irene! We, and our readers, appreciate it! Have a good night. 😀 –Diane at

Robin Glasco
11 days ago

Dometic had a fix it recall on the gas RV model I have in my MH. I took it to a dealer for another issue, not related to the fridge, and the technician said he needed to fix it and it would be free. I’m not sure what it was but I think it had to do with them catching on fire when left on while traveling. I leave mine on while traveling but I keep an eye on the mirror for signs of smoke and keep several fire extinghusers handy. I have seen them sitting on the highway with flames coming out of the side. Not pretty.

Mark W
11 days ago

My 12 volt compressor refrigerator is on 24/7….no problem.

I loved the comment about the number of propane vehicles on the road, great point.

NO, it’s not illegal to drive your vehicle with the propane on….. UNLESS you are in a specific area like a tunnel where they have specific regulations for turning it off.

Otherwise, go ahead and run the propane system. Oh, one more thing…the dangerous conditions you are “fear mongering about” are wildly exaggerated.
Propane tanks are a lot safer than you think they are.

Bob bitchen
9 days ago
Reply to  Mark W

Propane is actually safer than gasoline I had to laugh at the propane restrictions someone listed for tunnels. The low information tribe that watches too much Hollywood are something special.

11 days ago

I wonder if an insurance company would deny a claim if they knew the RV was traveling with gas on (for the fridge) and a fire developed? Might want to read the fine print because these unexpected fridge fires have happened enough times that insurance carriers may have some disclaimer within.

11 days ago
Reply to  Larry

Does the operating manual state to turn it off while traveling? I think not.

Bob bitchen
9 days ago
Reply to  Larry

You travel with the gas on for the engine ? One leaky fuel line and “poof”.

Left Coast Geek
11 days ago

The Norcold N2175 DC compressor fridge in my trailer is on nearly full time. The only time I switch it off is when I’m going to clean it.

My 360W solar panel normally provides enough power to fully recharge the batteries daily, so I’m not worried about power, and even without sun, the batteries can run the fridge + everything else for at least a week. When I load the fridge before a driving day, I’m careful how I put things like bottles and cans on the door shelfs, it has adjustable retainers to keep things from moving, and the food in the freezer and fridge compartment is generally placed in such a way that no amount of road motion will cause any problems.

Its so nice to have hard frozen ice and ice cold beverages when we arrive in camp after a long day on the road….

Last edited 11 days ago by Left Coast Geek
Dale Gilbert
12 days ago

we turn ours on the day be for and turn it off we take off the next day turn it back on when we stop for the night

12 days ago

I worry about the gas fridges being on when fueling at the gas island. is this not an open flame?

12 days ago

It still surprises me how many people say “I’ve been doing for x years and…” when common sense or the risks involved dictate a safer approach.

As far as fridges with some kind of refrigerant, to me it doesn’t seem good for them to be on when compressor oil and/or refrigerant is sloshing around. After all, they always tell you to let the fridge sit for specific time after moving it. For that reason I shut mine off now before moving.

12 days ago
Reply to  itsallgood

ALL refrigerators have refrigerant. for residential refrigerators, the recommendation I have heard is that if your fridge was on it’s side or upside down, it should sit upright for a period of time before being turned on. This allows the oil in the system to drain down to the bottom, where the compressor is. The purpose of the oil is to lubricate the compressor. If all the oil is at the top or sides, the compressor will run dry. The time it needs to be upright allows the oil to drain back down.

As far as RV fridges are concerned, the entire cooling system is gravity fed. If it’s not level, gravity works against normal operation and can cause the refrigerant to crystalize. There is no lubricant because there is no compressor. When operating while moving, being level is not important because the bouncing around prevents the refrigerant from crystalizing.

Unless instructed otherwise by the manufacturer, I don’t see a reason to limit use beyond that.

Bob bitchen
9 days ago
Reply to  itsallgood

Do you run the air conditioning while driving? It is the same exact system for a fridge.

12 days ago

My Norcold gets turned on 2 days before we leave on a trip and gets turned off when we get home and unload it.

Thomas D
12 days ago

Recycled story!
Reading on I commented 1year ago on this same story!
A subjr that will never be solved.

12 days ago

I always turn off my propane tanks when traveling. The fridge runs on electric when hooked up to my tow vehicle.

Eric Meslin
12 days ago
Reply to  rdrunner

Not unless it has a 12 volt compressor.

Bob bitchen
9 days ago
Reply to  Eric Meslin

A three way fridge works on propane ,120 or 12 volts.

12 days ago

Our fridge is the below counter type so we just put in two ice packs while travelling and that keeps everything cool. The freezer is too small to be much use so we just keep 4 ice packs and frozen berries in it.

Danny Cram
12 days ago

We have for 30 yrs always left the frig running while traveling with no problems….HOWEVER, I’m thinking some of you may have changed my mind.

12 days ago

My secret to the RV fridge is frozen gallon jugs of water. I keep a few in our basement freezer at home. When I leave on an RV trip, I put them in the RV freezer. When we arrive at our site, the fridge isn’t exactly cold but it isn’t hot. This allows the fridge and freezer to cool down to operating temp quickly once we set up the RV. This goes quickly when we put in the frozen and refrigerated food, which stay in coolers during the outbound drive. Once things are cooled down again, we put the gallon jugs back in the freezer. If you stay in the same place for a day or so, the jugs freeze again, ready for the next move.

Always turn your propane off when you move your RV.

Joseph Eafrati
12 days ago

Off, too dangerous to run with it on. I don’t drive more than 3 to 5 hours anyway, so it’s not going to get hot inside the fridge. I also shut off the main valve on the LP tank always. I have a gas model motorhome and I need to shut it off anyway when I get gas.

12 days ago

In 40 years of RVing with a propane fridge we’ve always turned it off while moving .. whether travelling in 90°+ weather or changing campsites. We’ve seen too many ash piles and charred pavement spots on the side of the road to do otherwise.
Always had cocktail ice and cold beer out of the fridge even after 6 hours or so of driving.

Bob bitchen
9 days ago
Reply to  bill

Most of those ash spots are from a malfunction under hood .

Bob Weinfurt
12 days ago

My MH was made in 1977. It has the original Dometic 3-way fridge which still works good. I shut off the propane tank and switch it over to 12 volts when I’m traveling.

12 days ago

I will NOT take the chance to leave propane on while traveling. I watched a TT burn on the side of the road once, on I40 in New Mexico. Not pretty. The owners were hysterical as there was nothing anyone could do.

Last edited 12 days ago by MattD
12 days ago

When we traveled in our prior motor homes with typical RV absorption fridges we gave a second thought to shutting down the fridge while on the move. Why have one if that was the case? Now with our DP and a residential fridge being powered by a 2000-watt inverter that conversation has become moot point for us.

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