RV Refrigerator Not Cooling: Troubleshoot Guide for Campers

Is Your RV Refrigerator Not Cooling? Troubleshooting Guide

RV has gotten so luxurious that even RV refrigerator has become complicated and at times difficult to use. However, it would help if you keep your food supply cold while traveling. Taking care of your refrigerator is just as critical as taking care of your air conditioner.

One of the primary causes of this scenario is that the refrigerator has not had time to cool down. Both the freezer and refrigerator should operate normally, as they share the same cooling equipment.

While a malfunctioning refrigerator is not critical for an RV trip, it is a significant loss on any lengthy journey. However, upgrading the RV’s refrigerator will quickly become prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, you can avoid replacing the entire refrigerator if you can pinpoint the specific nature of the problem with your RV refrigerator. Then you’ll have to repair one component rather than the whole refrigerator. Simple, isn’t it? Perhaps not, but that is why you are reading this tutorial, so let us begin. So, let us get started:

Common Problems of RV Refrigerators

Now comes the tricky part. Replacing something that is not working will make no difference, which implies that you must first determine what is wrong and then change it. Thus begins the process of testing various components of your refrigerator to pinpoint the source of the problem.

Check 1: Smell around Your Fridge

We’ll start with the big fish. If you detect the odor of ammonia, you have a problem. Refrigerators with absorption cooling coils transfer heat using a mix of water, hydrogen gas, liquefied ammonia, and sodium chlorate. If you smell ammonia, this indicates that the heat-transmitting rings have spilled, necessitating expert attention.

You’ll want to speak with an RV dealer about whatever choice is best for you, whether it’s repairing the coiling components or purchasing a new refrigerator entirely. It is frequently the worst-case situation. Therefore it is preferable to check it out first and eliminate the worst-case scenario.

Check 2: Does Your Fridge Work on One Type of Power but Not Another

Because your refrigerator is either two or three-way, you may discover that it works while connected to one source but not when linked to another. To verify this, toggle the power mode of your refrigerator amongst the various settings and see whether cooling occurs. If cooling occurs in either of the power modes, your cooling unit is performing correctly, and the issue is with one of the power sources.

1. Electrical Power Does Not Work

If your refrigerator operates on gas but not on 110v AC, there is a problem with your electrical power source. To begin, verify that you are receiving electricity from your refrigerator. Conduct a visual inspection of your circuit breakers and fuses. If everything appears to be in order there, you’ll want to check the outlet into which you plugged your refrigerator. The ideal method is to use a multimeter; you look for a reading between 110-120 volts.

Utilize a multimeter to examine the heating element. If a multimeter is not available, you may test the appliance by plugging a fan, light, or another small item into the plug. If the electricity is there and all indication lights are functioning, you should next test the electric heating element.

You’ll be working with potentially harmful voltages now, so if you’re not comfortable doing so or don’t have the proper tools for the job, consult qualified specialists. The cables that power the heating element exit via a tin box located beneath the cooling unit and are accessible from the rear of the refrigerator. You may need to remove the shielding to get access.

After positioning the multimeter around the heating element, reconnect and power up the refrigerator. If just one wire detects voltage but not the other, the piece may have burned out. It would help if you replaced a blown heating element.

Suppose there is no voltage at the component. The fault may be with the refrigerator’s wiring or circuit board. Carry out this procedure only while the machine is disconnected. It may require the services of a certified RV store.

2. Gas Power Does Not Work

The first step is to ascertain whether or not you have a high-quality flame. Additionally, this flame is a pilot light. If the flame light goes out quickly after you start it, it might be a thermocouple issue.

Thermocouples sense the heat generated by the flame and regulate the gas valve. They are notorious for going bad somewhat regularly, so you may want to keep a replacement on hand if this is a frequent occurrence in your refrigerator. The thermocouple is connected to the refrigerator’s main gas valve through a tube and then to the gas burner.

If you’re searching for a thermocouple to replace the defective one in your refrigerator, there’s no need to look any farther than Amazon. If the indicator does not come on, check to ensure that you have gasoline and that the gas release valve is on.

After verifying this, vacuum the burner region to the burner port. Around the burner, remove the metal shielding and clean the area surrounding the flame with a vacuum cleaner. Often, rust or other kinds of debris will accumulate around the burner, obstructing the burner unit. If necessary, you can unblock the burner orifice with a fine wire. If this resolves the issue, you should see a well-shaped, mainly blue flame.

3. Neither Power Supply Works

If you face a situation where neither power supply works, you can attempt the steps above to determine if a combination of issues has brought both power sources to a halt. However, if none of the above solutions work, you may wish to have a professional inspect the refrigerator.

4. Both Power Supplies Work

If nothing appears to be wrong with your power supply, the issue is most likely elsewhere in the cooling system. If you have it on your refrigerator, it may reset the refrigerator and restore cooling. Consider whether further advice may assist you in resolving the problems you are experiencing; alternatively, some refrigerators include a little black reset button next to the power supply switch.

Check 3: Does the Freezer Compartment Work

Because absorption refrigeration utilizes gravity to distribute their cooling agent, the freezer section of your unit will receive the cold air first, which will then drop to the refrigerator portion of your unit. If you insert your hand into the freezer and discover that it works, but the fridge does not, there is a problem with the freezer and refrigerator units.

The freezer’s fan is an evaporator fan. This method transports cold air from the freezer to the main food compartment via a duct known as a diffuser. The diffuser is at the rear and middle of the freezer. You will have to listen for the evaporator fan and inspect the diffuser duct for ice buildup.

The evaporator fan cycles on and off, so you may need to listen for a few moments, and some fans will shut off automatically if the door is open. If you can establish that the fan is not operating, you can attempt to unblock it from whatever is impeding its movement. Alternatively, you may need to change the fan entirely.

Other Less Common RV Refrigerator Issues

When it comes to RV refrigerators, the most common problems are one or both power supplies, a coil leak, or the freezer compartment freezing over. But if none of those are the case, all hope is not lost; there are a few other options for you to try before calling in professional assistance.

1. Ammonia Sediment Buildup

When RVs are not in use for an extended period, such as during the winter months, there are numerous locations where resting devices or materials might cause future difficulties. It manifests itself in RVs as ammonia sediment buildup. While sediment buildup is more prevalent in older refrigerators, it may nonetheless afflict modern RV refrigerators that sit for an extended period.

Ammonia is a continuously changing state between gas and liquid as a result of heating and cooling. When left alone, ammonia vaporizes and can drop down onto the cooling unit. This accumulation can then obstruct subsequent ammonia flow, causing the cooling unit to halt. This process causes your refrigerator to appear somewhat chilly at first and then gradually warm up. At this stage, the fridge is not chilling but warming your food.


The first advice for resolving this issue is to avoid it altogether by avoiding prolonged inactivity of the refrigerator. You will not need to activate the entire RV for this; you will only need to pop in periodically during the off months to turn on the gas and allow the refrigerator to run for about a half-hour. The issue here is that unless you can prevent it, you will most likely only delay the inevitable, therefore strive to avoid sediment buildup as much as possible.

If a buildup forms, disconnect the refrigerator and flip it over. It is an old-fashioned method used by old-timers to divert silt away from the cooling unit. It is not always effective and is by no means a permanent solution to the problem, but it’s best to give it a go before completely replacing your refrigerator, right?

2. Frozen Cooling Unit

While this is an uncommon occurrence, you may encounter this difficulty if you reside in or frequent icy locations. To be clear, when I say extremely cold, I mean temperatures below -30 degrees Fahrenheit. So bitterly chilly.

In those frigid conditions, you are not the only object that might freeze. Your refrigerator can get a frozen cooling unit as well. The liquid solution will freeze and solidify within the refrigeration cycle, which is the reverse of what an evaporation refrigerator desires. The solid bulk will render the refrigerator’s heat source inoperable. Which, in turn, will cause the entire refrigerator to shut down.


Once again, the best course of action is preventive. If possible, avoid leaving your RV in cold weather. We’re talking about freezing weather here, so ideally, such temps don’t plague you and your RV continuously.

If your refrigerator gets frozen, bring a lamp with a light bulb of at least 60 watts close to your refrigerator. Doing so gradually raises the temperature and melts the solid mass that has accumulated in the fridge. We can also use a space heater for this purpose.

Naturally, if the worst-case scenario occurs, your food will not rot; it will just freeze. Which, depending on the cuisine, is hardly the worst-case scenario. If your cooling unit is not working, you may replace it separately from the refrigerator, but it is frequently cheaper to get a new refrigerator.

3. Fridge Burner Failure

Your RV refrigerator will have two or three different modes of operation. If you are unsure when to use these alternate energy sources, your refrigerator will typically shut off automatically. Generally, this is not an issue unless you go to high elevations. Due to the nature of the air at high peaks, gas begins to behave strangely.

One impact of being so high is increased strain on liquid propane, which is one of the most likely sources of gas for your refrigerator. Suppose you do not convert to electricity while at these high elevations; the burner on your refrigerator may burn out. It occurs as a result of extra air finding its way into your gas supply pipes.


Avoid utilizing the gas setting on your refrigerator at high elevations. It will remove any extra air from the gas supply pipes. If you have already reset your RV refrigerator or purged the propane cylinders, you will want to do it again if your burner fails. It is preferable to prevent this issue since excessive air and the burning out of your refrigerator’s burners might harm them, and replacing them may become a necessity, if not the entire refrigerator.

Still Having Problems

Suppose you’ve exhausted all of the solutions mentioned above for both frequent and rare difficulties. In that case, there are still a few choices to consider before giving up troubleshooting the older RV fridge.

1. Keep Your RV Level

Evaporative refrigeration works well when the refrigerator is level. It may seem strange to some, as there is no need to worry about your refrigerator being level at home; after all, your floors are level. Therefore your fridge is as well. Therefore, double-check that your camper is level. Even a minor tilt might work against you. It is all related to sediment accumulation.

While the primary reason is being kept inactive for an extended period, having your refrigerator at an improper angle can also increase the amount of sediment that accumulates and can obstruct the refrigerator’s cooling capabilities.

To avoid this, you must alter your camper’s location. Assemble the necessary equipment, including a measuring tape, ruler, and level, and proceed outside to check the levelness of your trailer. Check the angle of the RV and make required adjustments. If this becomes a habit, your refrigerator will appreciate it. If you continually keep an eye on the level of your RV, you can avoid sediment buildup and have a happier and healthier refrigerator environment.

While traveling, it is neither possible nor required to maintain the refrigerator’s level. Because the issue is silt buildup, movement of the entire vehicle will avoid sediment buildup. Therefore, there is no need to worry about the status of the refrigerator while it is in motion; only ensure that it is level when parked.

2. Proper Ventilation

Apart from keeping the refrigerator level, you’ll want to ensure that your vent is working appropriately. It is required to ensure that the cooling operations of evaporative refrigeration operate correctly. Ensure that enough room is left between the vent grills and above and behind the refrigerator. These grills move air, which means they are excellent dust and grime collectors, so it will assist if you go in and clean them periodically.

Maintain the cleanliness of your vents. Allow them ample area to operate, and your refrigerator should be able to take care of the rest by moving air around your food and out of the fridge. Overcrowding the refrigerator or squeezing many other things around might strain the fridge and reduce its cooling capacity.

3. Park in the Shade

Finally, wherever possible, park in the Shade. While parking in a chilly climate is not always practical, parking with the fridge in the Shade should help keep your food chilled. The ambient temperature also impacts refrigerators, so keeping them cold can allow them to cool your food more effectively.

Some Final Words

We have provided you with the proper guide on troubleshooting issues that your RV refrigerator might face. We receive tons of requests on how to fix various RV refrigerator issues. We have provided you with the troubleshooting guide and some essential tips that you should keep in mind while using an RV. This article will benefit you if you thoroughly read it and follow all the steps listed in the article.


Today, we have answered some of your popular queries. Presented below are some of the questions that we often receive. So, let us get started:

1. How Cold Should You Let Your Refrigerator Get?

The owner’s handbook that came with your refrigerator brand should provide the precise temperature settings to use while using the refrigerator in your RV. Different brands may have varying allowances. However, as a general guideline, you should set your freezer to 32 degrees F, or slightly below. We should adjust the refrigerator at 34 degrees F or slightly higher to operate at 40-42 degrees F. Manufacturers of modern refrigerator models have adapted them to withstand hilly roads better than previous, more traditional ones.

However, even improved models are not immune to the same issue that plagues ordinary refrigerators. Steep hills that tilt your RV’s refrigerator more than 3 degrees will ultimately harm the equipment and reduce its life. To avoid this problem, turn off your refrigerator before entering the country’s hilly and mountainous regions. To check the level of your refrigerator or RV, check where the bubble is by using an ordinary carpenter’s level.

2. RV Fridge Vs. Residential? (What You Need To Know About RV Refrigerators)

RV Fridge:

RV refrigerator is not the same as those in homes. There are several causes for this, but the primary distinction stems from RV refrigerators that utilize absorption refrigeration. This kind of refrigeration eliminates the need for moving components, which is advantageous in an RV because the shaking caused by travel may frequently interfere with those moving elements. The disadvantage is that absorption refrigeration is gravity-dependent. It implies that your refrigerator operates when it is level. If you use the fridge for an extended period when it is not level, you risk harming it.


A residential-style refrigerator operates on alternating current electricity and relies on a compressor to keep its contents cool. It also applies to an RV residential refrigerator. Unlike other RV refrigerators that run on propane either continuously or intermittently, a residential refrigerator in an RV runs entirely on AC electricity.

As a result, domestic refrigerators in RVs require a continual power source. We can get this power by a power pedestal, a generator, or a battery bank. When boondocking and recharging with solar energy, an RV residential refrigerator requires a sizable battery bank and a sizable solar array to power it.

3. How Does An RV Refrigerator Work?

A power source is required to keep a refrigerator functioning. Compressors are in refrigerators used in homes to keep the air cold. RV refrigerators are absorption refrigerators. An absorption refrigerator warms up the gases and liquids discussed above. These hot gases and liquids flow via tubes and into the refrigerator casing, where they cause evaporation, effectively drawing the heat away from the refrigerator’s interior. The refrigerator employs either a flame element to warm the liquids and gases. The refrigerator continues to chill while the evaporation process proceeds.

4. How to Troubleshoot and Repair a Camper Fridge?

Some of the simplest ways to repair and troubleshoot a camper fridge are to check for the steps given below:

  • Check for Electrical Issues
  • Check for Propane Issues
  • Try Fixing with Ammonia Sediment
  • Check for a Leaking Cooling Unit
  • Check for a Frozen Cooling Unit
  • Check for Leaking Water

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