Domestic RV Refrigerator Not Cooling: Troubleshooting Guide

Domestic RV Refrigerator Not Cooling: Troubleshooting Guide
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A fridge is an important appliance on the RV so it might be worrisome to witness it malfunction in the middle of nowhere. Should you are unable to come up with a solution in time, your foods and drinks may be spoiled relatively fast.  Thankfully, in most the case, you are able to rerun the fridge to normal operation using a couple of simple tricks. If you want more about the issue, you come to the right place. Right below is a detailed guide about what to do when domestic refrigerator not cooling, check them out when you experience the same problem.

The Troubleshooting Process for Domestic Refrigerator Not Cooling Issue

You can never get too careful around electric appliance so remember to equip yourself properly. Pairs of insulation gloves and shoes are necessary items which you must have. Keep them on at all time while you are inspecting the fridge and the potential causes of its failure. The last thing you want to experience is to sustain a nasty electric shock so stay concentrate. It’s advised to call in professional help in case you run into a difficult problem instead of blindly pushing forward. Read through the manual beforehand to have a firm grasp of the refrigerator characteristics.

Step 1: Check if the fridge is working at all or completely inoperable

Domestic Refrigerator Not Cooling

For a precise reading, a thermometer is the recommended tool though it’s ok to use your hand if you don’t have one. Simply put your hand on the cooling coils located in the food and freezer compartments. If the fridge is in the gas setting, go to the back of the unit to see whether there is flame burning or not. If the fridge is in the electric setting, exam the heating element but do not touch it directly because you might get a serious burn. Position your hand near the element is more than enough to get the information you need to make a conclusion.

The cooling effect of popular fridge models originate from the freezer then spread across the primary compartments. If there no problem with the freezer and the heating element, the fridge evaporator fan could be the culprit. A less than ideal performance from the fan equals reduced airflow that greatly impacts the refrigerator cooling effect.  Put your ear near the door to hear if the fan is running, the fan on and off cycle means you have to listen for a minute or two. Take a good look at diffuser duct while you are at it to check if it happens to be clogged with ice.

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Step 2: Check the fridge to see if it got a strange smell

Many refrigerator models are absorption design which utilizes a mix of water, chemicals and hydrogen gas in the cooling coil to transmit heat. As a result, an odd odor could be the result of the leakage in the cooling system. This particular issue requires people with sufficient skill and knowledge to fix. Contact the refrigerator manufacturer or the RV dealer to see what you should do. Take the time to check the terms and policies of the unit warranty.

In the fortunate case that you don’t detect a strange smell, there is a good chance that the cooling unit is intact. Test out different operating mode of the fridge and see how it turns out. If the unit functions well in one mode but not the other then the problem you are experiencing probably not too serious.

Step 3: Exam the input

In order for an absorption type fridge to work properly, it needs a total of three things to reach full operational capability. They are LP gas, 12 Volts DC and 120 Volts AC, each of them got an important role in the unit function. The LP gas is the default heat source for the refrigerator cooling coil while the 120 Volts AC is the alternative one. In most of the time, the unit primarily utilizes the LP gas, the 120 Volts AC is usually preferable when the RV is connected with shore power. Last but not least, the 12 Volts DC is mostly employed for the circuit control though it’s seldom used to heat the coil as well.

RV fridge

So there are two types of issues: 

1. The fridge only runs in gas setting

In the first case, make sure that the 120 Volts is available for the unit. Check out the fuses and the circuit breakers then proceed to look into the refrigerator back outlet. Having a multimeter nearby for the job is great though you can always test the outlet by plugging another electric appliance into it. Take the opportunity to check out the 12 Volts DC presence as well. Should both of the voltages are there, inspect the trouble codes.  The codes along with their associated meanings should be in the owner manual or manufacturer website.

Test the voltage of the heating element while its power is on. Again, while you inspecting the 120 Volt AC heating element, make sure that you have the rubber gloves and shoes. Unplug the unit when you are about to exam the wires. It often requires the removal of the fridge outer shielding in order to reveal the wires. You should be able to spot damaged wires and replace them in this manner. In the case you are not confident with your electrical skill, consider calling in an electrician.   

2. The fridge only runs in the electric setting.

In the second case that the fridge only runs in electric setting, check the state of LP gas tank. The tank must have enough gas in it. The valve is on and the safety feature hasn’t disconnected the gas supply by mistake. After that, switch to gas burner user. If you see a light but it goes quickly, the thermocouple may be at fault. The replacement of thermocouple is quite easy so you can do it on your own. It’s located on the back of the fridge, attached to the main gas valve.


And that is what you could try when the domestic refrigerator not cooling, pretty straightforward, right? You may feel that everything is a bit tricky at first but the processes are quite simple actually. By learning how to deal with such popular issues, you may find it really helpful during your RV trip.