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That Durned Dometic


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#1 Meadowlark

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 01:29 PM

We just returned from a week long trip to Oregon's high desert.

 

The Dometic refrigerator in our 2011 SD has NEVER worked right. We've thrown parts at it until we're broke and it still won't work. 

 

It works perfectly well on AC.

 

It works on propane ONLY when we're actively driving and pulling the camper. Once we get into camp, set up the camper level, switch it to propane, the refrigerator will work for about half an hour and then the fault light comes on. It will attempt to restart, ticking for fifty or sixty clicks, and then fault out (stop) working again. After three times it will stop trying to restart altogether.

Sometimes it will work for a while until the propane furnace comes on, then it will stop and won't work again. 

 

We've had techs look at it. Dometic swore it was because we let the battery drop below 12 volts, something that has never, ever happened. Ever. An RV shop that shall remain nameless (unless you PM me and I'll tell you the name of so you don't waste your money on them)  replaced some parts (a thermocouple? a switch looking thing, and a circuit board for the furnace, which we later learned was totally NOT the problem). We think it might be the 'spark'. When the fridge reaches desired temperature, it shuts off, and when the temp rises, it will try three times to restart and then just quit. For good. 

 

 

It doesn't matter where we are, it won't work. It won't work at sea level and it won't work in the high country of Yellowstone. It won't work in the rain forest or the desert. The only time it works on propane is when we're moving on the road.

 

We've given up on the durned thing and have gone back to using coolers with ice blocks (as an aside, if you spend the money, the Yeti cooler is the best cooler I've ever seen. It keeps things COLD but it sure is expensive).

 

We now use the refrigerator solely as a storage space for things that don't necessarily need to be kept frozen or ice cold, like bread.

 

We have had nothing but aggravation, frustration and  disappointment with the refrigerator for 4 years. When I have folks look at the Casita I tell them that the fridge doesn't work. I hope you're reading this, Dometic. I"m this close to exploring a class action suit, although I don't have the money for that.

 


So imagine our astonishment when, for four days this month (Sep), it worked perfectly. We were drycamping in French Glen, OR. We turned it on propane, more out of what the heck, what have we got to lose frame of mind rather than actually expecting it to work.

 

It worked. It worked without a hitch, even when we got temperatures in the high 70's, even when we ran the propane furnace at night. No faulting out, nothing. It worked like it was supposed to. When it would restart it would click three times, fire off and then work like a champ.

 

I wrote down the things that we had done.

 

We leveled the camper in accordance with a level set in the freezer.

 

(Attached is a photo I took of our fore and aft bubble indicator. Despite the position, this is what the fore and aft bubble level reads when we use a carpenter's level in the freezer to establish refrigerator level.)

 

We put out the awning, something we seldom do.

 

I had put a frozen jug of water in the bottom of the fridge. ( I freeze jugs of water before a trip because jugs provide ice without leakage, and one can drink that nice cold water.)

 

And before we started our trip, we'd refilled the propane tanks AND my husband had rerouted the hose. We found that Casita had set the bracket to the tanks too low, kinking the hose in the process. (yes, it took us this long to actually get around to rerouting it). My husband raised the tank bracket a bit, allowing the hose to straighten out.

 

I wrote all these items down, wondering if the combination of or only one thing finally made the refrigerator work.

 

We left camp and  moved further north and west. I thought we'd figured out how to satisfy the demands of the horrid little monster refrigerator.

 

We set up camp the same way. Awning out, bubble as pictured, fresh ice block in the fridge, both propane tanks on.

 

NOPE.

 

Darned thing faulted out just like always. It did NOT work. It stopped working within five minutes of turning it on propane and would not work again.

 

Can somebody tell me what the heck is the deal with this blankety blank piece of blank refrigerator.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Fore and aft level.jpg

Edited by Meadowlark, 24 September 2015 - 01:32 PM.

These are the voyages of the small ship, "Grus Egg".

2011 17" Spirit Deluxe, "Grus Egg"


#2 JerryC

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 02:40 PM

Have you replaced the regulator on the propane tanks? Propane pressure is the only connection I can see between the frig and furnace. It should be 11 inches of water column at the frig with other things like stove and furnace on, if I'm not mistaken. I'm sure someone will confirm if I'm correct, or not.;-)
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#3 Mark Watson

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 08:17 PM

It works perfectly well on AC. "

               That's good,  you would have a good 12 vdc level when plugged to shore power.

                Did you try running on propane when you were plugged into shore power? I bet fridge would work on propane.

 

 

It works on propane ONLY when we're actively driving and pulling the camper. "

               The tow vehicle alternator would also keep the 12vdc level up.

 

If you had solar panels deployed  when dry camping (boondocking) it might be informative to know if the fridge worked fine on propane during the day.

 

Did you have a battery monitor plugged into the cigarette lighter plug? I'm wondering what the 12 vdc voltage was reading while boondocking and the fridge is in its failing state as you described.

 

              


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#4 watraveler

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 08:37 PM

Meadowlark,

Is the spark that is produced long enough and strong enough while running on battery?

 

It sure sounds like you have a bad connection somewhere.  I am a retired field tech.  I used to work on mechanical/electrical/electronic printing presses whose schematics were 6 feet long or more (no exaggeration).  They were a nightmare when facing an intermittent problem.  There were approximately 60 relays with 9 contacts in each one.  One machine I eventually repaired had a 60 pin connector with one of the connectors backing out everytime I plugged it into the main chassis.   It was a tiny spade connector and it was barely making a connection, so it would work and then not work.  Your story sounds similar to that problem so many years ago. 

 

My advice would be to look at all your dc (direct current) connectors or have someone do it for you.  Are they tight?  This would be from the battery all the way to the igniter on the fridge.  Sometimes a connector is making just enough contact to pass a minor amount of voltage, but when it comes under increased load, it fails to pass the desired amperage.  Notice i said amperage and not votage. 

 

I actually once found a defective wire from the manufacturer (insulated wire) which looked perfectly normal on the outside, but the copper conductor was frayed and broken at one point inside and out of view.  I found that wire when I moved the wiring harness and accidentally caused the intermittent problem I was troubleshooting (got lucky).  So you might want to try flexing wires as the fridge is trying to light off under battery.  See if something happens.  One such wire I can think of would be the one that carries voltage to the igniter.  Is it getting correct voltage under load.  A digital meter will measure the voltage, but it needs to be measured when the demand is there.  Using an ohm meter to check continuity will not do it, because most meters are powered by only a 9 volt battery and under no load.

 

Try running your fridge on propane while on shore power.  That may help you further isolate.

Hope this helps.


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#5 tractors1

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 08:56 PM

I would just replace the regulator - they're pretty cheap. Once you have gas, you need spark (as you are leveling the fridge itself) so if the thing won't stay lit or relight you need a new thermocouple for the gas control.

 

If the thermocouple does not generate enough voltage to keep the gas valve happy, it will shut off the gas and NOT allow the system to relight. Fridge may make a lot of cricket noises trying to relight, but with no gas it's a no go.

 

If it works on gas while traveling I would be more suspicious of a loose wire at the back of the fridge, so check the screw terminals. I have had that problem. When you're on the road the vibration may be enough to let things work now and then. When you stop it may not.


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#6 Us burros

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Posted 25 September 2015 - 07:56 AM

Perhaps a time saver would be, instead of checking connections and using meters, just temporarily run a wire with no connectors directly from the battery to the fridge connection. If the problem is solved, either then check the connections etc or just connect it to be fused and route the new wire so it can become permanent.

 

Also, as I believe I suggested previously, it might be worth the $85 phone call to Roger Ford (Ford's RV Refrigeration Training Center). I'm certain he has seen and repaired more RV refrigerator problems than anybody here on this forum. You seem to have a very good record of what and when your fridge works and doesn't work, so he may be able to diagnose the problem. 

 

NO, I have not had any personal experience with Roger Ford.


Edited by Us burros, 25 September 2015 - 07:57 AM.

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#7 Meadowlark

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Posted 25 September 2015 - 09:22 AM

Wow, lots of good advice. I will take it all in and try everything. At this point, what have I got to lose. I must say that the few days it worked last week was after we'd pulled into camp after driving over about three miles of wwwwwwaaaaaaassssssshhhhhhbbbbooooaaarrrd (washboard road) that shook everything up like crazy.

 

And while at this specific campsite, we had the 90w solar panel deployed. It kept the battery at 13.4-13.6,

(I LOVE that solar panel). Whenever I plugged in the batter monitor it consistently read high batt levels.

 

I will also replace the regulator.

 

I do remember your advice, Harold, about the Ford center. I think he has a website? But the hard drive in my head is full and I forget some things.

 

Thanks, and I'll give everything a go.


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These are the voyages of the small ship, "Grus Egg".

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#8 Southern Comfort

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 04:50 PM

Just like a car that won't start, fuel or spark. Remove the screw that holds the burners cover in place. Pull it back and put a lighter to it when the igniter is sparking trying to lite. If it does not fire up, then you know it is fuel. If that is what it is, then you have narrowed it down a lot. If it worked with the furnace running, I doubt it is the regulator 



#9 Meadowlark

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 05:54 PM

We've done a lot of the things mentioned above. We've found that the refrigerator will stop running on propane even when we have the AC plugged in.

We found the ground wire spade connector was/is corroded. I'll clean that tonight or tomorrow. It's odd that it would corrode, in the winter I run a dehumidifier AND an oil heater in the camper.

It doesn't appear as if the wires are broken inside the insulation.

Taking Harold's advice, we shut off all the power to everything (and by removing the fuse) isolated the refrigerator circuit. Then my husband ran a wire from the battery to the fridge. At this point it's been running (working) for about um....8 hours. This is about the time it normally faults out, so just before bed, I'll go and check to see if it's working. I should go out and stick the battery monitor into the check spot to see what the batt is saying but I just got done feeding animals and don't really feel like running that gauntlet again. I swear, these critters act as if they've not been eating all day anyway....

Tomorrow I'll pull the 'flue" and see if that's what the deal is.


These are the voyages of the small ship, "Grus Egg".

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#10 Southern Comfort

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 07:05 PM

From the info I have gathered, it lights initially but at some point it fails to re light. You said you heard it clicking meaning the igniter is to trying to light it. That is when you should try and manualy light it to detect the presence of gas. If no gas, then I suspect the solenoid is at fault. could be bad connection, bad solenoid, or circuit board. I have an older fridge that is manual thank goodness. No circuit board to contend with. Pretty simple really. Anyway, without being there, just a best guess. Good Luck



#11 Meadowlark

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 07:16 PM

Thank you, Southern Comfort. You are correct in that it lights initially but then  that it fails to re-light. Today in our trials, we restarted it five times, one right after another. This is the sequence of clicks we heard before it re lit and then failed.

 

attempt     # of clicks

1                   3

2                   5

3                   9

4                  13

5                  19

 

We have a 2011 Dometic. I see no way whatsoever in relighting it manually, i.e. with a lighter. It's not the older model that you could actually see/light the pilot. Mind you, I have never seen any older style, I am familiar only with our 2011. In so many ways, I wish it was...from what I've read, those with the older real pilot light style, you don't have these issues. This fridge seems to be all electronic ignition.

 

We have discussed this whole thing and are now wondering if there is a way to 'blow out' the propane hoses/lines.  Maybe there's some dirt in there. Oh, heck, the silly part of me imagines a mouse nest (a very TINY mouse) in the middle of the lines. ;-)


These are the voyages of the small ship, "Grus Egg".

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#12 Southern Comfort

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 10:14 AM

Remove the cover to gain access to the burner



#13 Carol Christensen

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Posted 02 October 2015 - 02:32 PM

I love a good mystery but the Mystery of the Fickle Fridge just goes on and on and on. :ph34r:  Personally, I think the fridge is a red herring and the guilty party is the propane system. 

 

Your comments:

It works on propane ONLY when we're actively driving and pulling the camper.

The only time it works on propane is when we're moving on the road.

 I must say that the few days it worked last week was after we'd pulled into camp after driving over about three miles of wwwwwaaaaaaassssssshhhhhhbbbbooooaaarrrd (washboard road) that shook everything up like crazy.

 

When traveling the liquids and gases in the propane tanks and hose are constantly moving around and mixing.  So if there is water, excess air, or possibly something else in the tank it's being displaced enough to allow enough propane to reach the fridge. 

 

Jerry C said; "Propane pressure is the only connection I can see between the frig and furnace."   I agree and if it isn't the propane regulator, it's the propane tanks and/or hose.  Could the kinked hose have been damaged (a teeny hole or crack?) causing a drop in pressure?

 

By now you may have replaced the propane regulator and fixed the whole problem.  If not, an LP supplier can do an LP-gas pressure test.  That will tell you if the tank is at the correct pressure or if the hose has a small leak. 

 

I hate to ask this late in the game, but did you have the propane tanks purged when they were new?  It's necessary for the tanks to operate properly.

 

BTW: we passed through your area on the way home from Vancouver Island - got home yesterday.  Good to see some rain and all that snow on Mt Rainier.  We had some rain here at home yesterday but not enough to dampen bone dry Washoe Lake.


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pre-Nova was Ova-the-Rainbow 1999 17' LD (sold)



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#14 Meadowlark

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Posted 02 October 2015 - 06:16 PM

"Fickle" is such a nice word. I'm lucky...I can cuss in four different languages and just about have used my entire repertoire with this thing.

 

Let's see. What we've done so far: replaced the regulator. Blew out the hose from the fridge to the regulator end. Checked the wiring in the fuse panel without finding any issues save for corrosion on the fridge wire, which we've cleaned. (I was mistaken when Dennis, my husband, told me, I just assumed it had a spade connector. Wrong.)

Opening up the panel behind the fridge, he did trouble shooting. There's a 'terminal block' which appears to be a piece of cheapo white plastic with metal inserts. The power wire was just sort of jammed in there, when he finally wriggled it loose, a SPRING popped out and of course, went where all important, tiny pieces go...into the Black Hole that, (despite what you were told, is NOT at the center of the galaxy, rather it is at your feet when you're working on something) and it sucks in everything that Is An Important Piece. I think the block was bad right from Dometic's factory. Now of course there is no place at least in the US where you can find that exact same part. It's proprietary to Dometic, I think. Meaning it's made by ancient, blind lamas in a remote lamasery in Tibet, so must be caravanned across the Himalayas on yak back and then put on a slow boat from Bangladesh, and thence, eventually to the US. Meaning, Dometic finally admitted they actually have that part in stock and will ship it to us UPS but when it arrives here? Me dunno. It's been a week so far.

 

I had no idea propane tanks need purging. When we picked up the Casita in Rice, the tanks were empty and we were told, oh, just go around the corner, there's an LP place right there. And there was, a young man was totally familiar with Casitas and filled up our tanks. We've filled them twice since then oh wait, maybe three times. Do you think we should  have them emptied and purged? What are they purging when they do it, and what do they use? Nitrogen???

At this point I'm ready to do anything.

We haven't fired the fridge up because we're still waiting on the terminal block. We have a trip planned in two weeks, I haven't remade the bed (the mattress is still on it's side in the aisle because Dennis pulled the fuse on the fridge.) If you advise to have the tanks purged ANYWAY, even at this late date, we can do that. I don't know about the hoses, but it's moot now, with the new regulator.

But again, I'm not against having the entire system pressure checked.

 

To answer another question: when we first started throwing parts at the fridge, the solenoid was the first piece to be replaced.

 

The rain didn't last long, I'm sorry to say. What you're seeing on Mt. Rainier is the remaining glaciers, which are melting at a furious rate. If we don't get a long wet winter, with plenty of snow in the mountains, we in the PNW are going to be in a very bad way next summer. We just got back from a trip to Utah and everywhere in WA, especially, you saw miles and miles of blackened hillsides. Driving east in the Columbia River Gorge, for miles on the WA side the hills were black and barren. Further south in OR we saw a lot of burned land. The animals are really paying the price. In over a thousand miles we saw ONE deer and a herd of Pronghorn. That's it. We didn't even see road killed animals.


These are the voyages of the small ship, "Grus Egg".

2011 17" Spirit Deluxe, "Grus Egg"


#15 Carol Christensen

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Posted 02 October 2015 - 10:32 PM

New propane tanks are filled with air before shipping, could be as much as 100 psi.  So before filling with propane, the air must be removed - purged.  There is a procedure that removes air and adds vapor (not liquid propane), the procedure is repeated until lots of the air is replace with vapor.  Then the tank is filled to the correct weight or pressure (?) with liquid propane.  This should be done when the tanks are new, if yours were not purged the excess air may have left water in the tank that could have caused rust.  Also water vapor in the tank can cause regulator freeze ups at the inlet.  After this length of time, it may be necessary to buy a new tank but an LP expert should be able to advise on that.

 

Purging new propane cylinders/tanks

 

The fire damage in the PNW is so sad, especially all the lost habitat and wild animals.

 

While we were on Vancouver Island, we camped at a favorite lake that was very low.  The campground is on a finger of the lake with very steep mountains all around.  The day we arrived I was able to walk across to the other side, there was no mud and just a tiny bit of water with a few stones to step across.  Then it began to rain.  A couple of days later, the entire lake has come up by 3 feet or more - judging from the point where I had walked across 2 days earlier.  It gave me a cautious feeling of hope for the end of the drought.


Carol Christensen
2005 17' LD Nova & 2001 Toyota 4Runner

pre-Nova was Ova-the-Rainbow 1999 17' LD (sold)



Don't believe everything you think.