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Old 12-28-2020, 09:58 PM   #1
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Question Dometic Fridge stopped working in cold weather? Ideas?

We took our 2011 Zinger camper out this weekend. We've never really used it much in cold weather before. We had the camper plugged in at home the night before we left, and had the fridge set to run off of propane to cool it down faster. When we got to the camp site we switched it over to AUTO so it would run on the AC power from the camp site. It worked fine the first night and the next day...but on the second night it got down to around 31 deg at night....and when we woke up in the morning the fridge and freezer were both warm!

It was set to "AUTO", but I switched it over to "GAS" in order to see if that would get it cooling again. A few hours later.....things were starting to cool off again.

Would the cold weather at night cause issues when it was running on AC power? I haven't done any troubleshooting on it yet....but I thought I would at least ask and see if anyone had any ideas as far as wear to start. One strange thing I did notice is that the fan that I can usually hear cycling in and off every few minutes when things were working normally.....was constantly on in the morning when the fridge wasn't cooling.

Any ideas?

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Old 12-28-2020, 10:13 PM   #2
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Iím no expert, but I know absorption refrigerators donít always work well at extreme temps - although 31 degrees is well within limits. It is a very simple design that boils an ammonia solution in a small gas/electric burner. Iím guessing that the gas burner is more efficient but as I mentioned it shouldnít be a factor at ďnormalĒ temps. Iíve used my Norcold down into the 20s on electric without problems. I think Iíd wait and see if it happens again before getting especially alarmed. If it becomes intermittent on AC but alway works fine on gas you might have a loose AC connection or a quirky control board.
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Old 12-28-2020, 10:58 PM   #3
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I never experienced this but looked it up and learnt something new today.
Dometic and Norcold
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Old 12-29-2020, 12:24 AM   #4
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If it works on Propane but not on 120 VAC I'd be looking at the electric heating element.

Our fridge is on all the time on 120 VAC, it got down to 22 degrees the other night, the fridge was at 26 degrees working better than it needed to.
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Old 12-29-2020, 02:42 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by 16ACE27 View Post
If it works on Propane but not on 120 VAC I'd be looking at the electric heating element.
This sounds like a pretty solid diagnosis...
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Old 12-29-2020, 02:03 PM   #6
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Voltage makes a significant difference when on the 120v boiler

On my previous 4 door propane/electric fridge it failed to cool well in any kind of weather if volts fell below 115
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Old 12-29-2020, 07:03 PM   #7
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Well you can check the heater just by touch. On the right hand side (from the outside looking at the back of the fridge) youíll see a vertical metal cylinder stuffed with insulation (heat shield). At the top of it youíll see a small metal pipe going up and with a wire going into it. That is the electric heater and when the fridge is running the pipe should be hot. You also can disconnect the heater wire and check it for 120V AC when the fridge is actually running. Obviously, if there is voltage at the heater but the pipe doesnít get hot the problem will be the heating element. If thereís no voltage you should suspect a lose connection or a flakey control board. You might also check the ordinary outlet that the fridge is plugged into to make sure itís hot.
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Old 01-03-2021, 11:51 PM   #8
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****UPDATE****

Well, I did a little more troubleshooting. After the camper set for a few days, I went ahead and hooked it back up to 120v power and turned the fridge to AUTO (gas was off)..it was around 5pm. Later that night I checked the fridge, and it was cool and the freezer felt really cold...everything was working like it was supposed to.

I checked it in the morning...and it was NOT cold. The AUTO light was still lit, and everything had power. I turned the fridge off, opened the fridge, and let everything air out.

A few days later, I did the same thing. This time, after being on all night long it was still cold in the morning. The temps at night were in the 30's....nothing below that.

So at this point I know it's not a fuse and it's not the GFI outlet.

It's definitely an intermittent issue that happens when it's running on 120v power, but doesn't happen with it's running on propane.

Could this be a control board issue? What kind of troubleshooting can I do not in order to narrow things down and find the issue?



If this was the heater....would it work sometimes, and then quit working...and then start working again?
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Old 01-04-2021, 02:18 AM   #9
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many moons ago, I had this problem and a post in this forum suggested checking the drain hole, under the fins at the back of the fridge, in the tray that diverts water to a drain cup in the back of the fridge.

Mine was closed off by ice and the fridge wouldn't work on 120 or propane.

Let the fridge warm a little, pulled the tray, cleaned it up, went outside and pulled the 'plug' at the end of the drain hose. It was clogged. I left it out.

No problem since and I full time. Try it. It may work for your situation.
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Old 01-09-2021, 11:15 PM   #10
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Do a Youtube search on troubling shooting your make of RV Fridge, they have some simple ways to test the heating element if you feel comfortable with a DYI, the Video will cover most of the typical problems and not a big deal to fix it your self.
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Old 01-10-2021, 05:40 PM   #11
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Some fridges , I think possibility Norcold have an option add on for cold weather camping. Dont really remember any details except some come with it some dont but it can be oderered and installed aftermarket ?!?!?
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Old 02-21-2021, 08:31 PM   #12
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Sorry....I'm just getting back to this issue. Our camper has been sitting for a while, and the temps have been crazy cold here so I've just kind of put my troubleshooting on hold...but we're planning on heading to Florida in a month, so I need to get back to the issue..and figure it out.


Would a low/failing battery cause issues? The deep cycle battery in my camper is around 5yrs old, and doesn't seem to hold a charge very well. But as long as my camper is plugged into 120v shore power...would that cause issues with my fridge failing to work in cold temps on AC and not while running on propane?

I guess I need to run a cord to the camper, fire up the fridge, wait until it stops cooling...and then start troubleshooting it. I don't want/need this thing to crap out on me when we are in Florida here in a month.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:52 PM   #13
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****UPDATE****



Well, I put a new battery in the camper yesterday, plugged it in to 110v power, and turned the fridge on. One thing I did notice was that I had to wiggle/press the on/off button a few times to get the AUTO light to stay on........could something in that control board be faulty? Could that be causing my issue?

Once I got the AUTO light to stay on solid, I closed up the camper for the night. I checked it this morning, and even though it got down to 28 degrees....the freezer still had frost in it this morning.

I've noticed that before that sometimes I've have to wiggle that on/off button around a little in order to get the AUTO light to stay on. Is that a common issue? At this point...I'm kind of at a loss. I haven't changed anything except putting a new battery in the camper, and the fridge stayed on all night even at below freezing temps. Ideas?
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Old 02-25-2021, 01:06 PM   #14
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Replace the control board. If it needs manipulation to work then it is likely the problem. At the very least that needs to be out of the equation.
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Old 02-28-2021, 07:08 PM   #15
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Replace the control board. If it needs manipulation to work then it is likely the problem. At the very least that needs to be out of the equation.


If you do replace it Iíd suggest a Dinosaur (brand) board rather than the cheap Chinese board that is OE.

I was in Texas during the recent cold spell with temps in the mid-teens. My Norcold absorption fridge continued to function more or less normally. The freezer temp went up to about 27 rather than itís more customary 20 or so. Not a big deal.
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