Thursday, March 30, 2023


Take good care of that RV fridge!

By Greg Illes

Most RVs have what are known as gas-absorption refrigerators. This is a meaningless term to all but the most technical, and it doesn’t matter anyway. All you want is for your fridge to hold the correct temperatures, right? Well, you can do a lot to help out here.

First, what are those “correct” temperatures? Simple numbers to remember are 40 F for the fridge section and 0 F for the freezer. Plus or minus five degrees around these numbers will still keep your food safe and fresh.

Know your temperatures
The cheapest way to check these temperatures is to have a thermometer inside the unit, but this unfortunately means that you have to open the door to check the temp. A much better method is to use a remote-sensing thermometer. These are available either as wired or wireless, with good reports on both styles. La Crosse and others make dual-sensor units that are perfect for this application. (Here are several from Pick a unit that you can mount on the door or a nearby cabinet (Velcro or double-sided tape), and you will be able to casually check that temperature several times a day without disturbing the nice, cool contents. If the temps start to drift off target, you can take remedial action before you end up with a stinky pile of rotten food.

Keep the burner working
All these gas-absorption critters use a steel-tubing cooling affair, with a small propane burner providing the energy to make it all work. The burner heat causes gradual oxidation (rusting) of the metal flue pipe, and this rust eventually falls down – directly onto the burner. At that point, rust flakes and dust will either clog the burner and/or short out the ignition electrode (failure to light). The fix is easy and simple for even the least handy: Open the outside service panel, unscrew the burner cover plate, blow or vacuum out the dust, and put the cover and panel back on. It’s all of maybe ten minutes’ work. This should be done once or twice a year, depending on usage.

Keep the doors sealed
Leaky door seals will rob cold air and make your fridge work too hard. Check the seals by closing the door on a dollar bill – you should feel some drag on the bill from the seal pressure. If it slips out easily, you might need to adjust the door or replace the seal(s).

These few factors are among the most common fridge problems. With proactive care, you can avoid most or all of them. Happy chilling!

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at



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