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RV Refrigerator Maintenance Tips: Make Sure Things Stay Cold!

RV Refrigerator Maintenance Tips: Make Sure Things Stay Cold!

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a full-time RVer, proper maintenance of your RV refrigerator will help ensure that it continues to operate efficiently and keeps your food fresh as you travel. In today’s post, we’re providing a guide to the most important RV refrigerator maintenance tips.

RV Refrigerator Maintenance Tips

Keeping in mind that there are several different types of refrigerators used in RVs, the following steps are the most common for basic maintenance on an RV refrigerator of any kind. If you have a residential fridge vs a propane/electric absorption RV fridge, some of these tips won’t apply. But while it should be obvious, for example, that “cleaning the burner assembly” won’t apply to 120V AC or 12V DC fridges, many of these will be useful for every refrigerator.

Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is probably the most obvious maintenance task on an RV (or home) refrigerator. We’re pretty sure that this doesn’t require much explanation. But just as you’d do with your home refrigerator, you want to remove items from both the fridge and freezer compartments and wipe down the interior surfaces with a mild soap solution. And don’t forget to clean those door seals/gaskets.

Maintain Ventilation & Airflow

Refrigeration requires proper ventilation and airflow to work efficiently. It’s important to check the exterior vents and make sure they’re clear of debris, insect nests, or any other obstructions. (See our post on RV bug screens for a great way to keep insects from building nests in your refrigerator vent!)

Camco Flying Insect Screen for Dometic Refrigerator Vents - Protects from Flying Insect Nests, 20” x 1-1/2” Stainless Steel Mesh, RS 600 - (3 Pack) (42149)
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  • NOTE: These vents fit Dometic brand refrigerator vents which have 20” long louver openings

Good airflow around the cooling unit is important for optimal performance, so cleaning any debris from behind the refrigerator and anything that might obstruct airflow is great preventive maintenance. If your rig is parked long-term, be sure to do a visual inspection of the area where the refrigerator vent is located. Make sure that any tall vegetation doesn’t block the vent.

Keep Your RV Level

If your rig has an absorption refrigerator, it relies on the proper movement of ammonia through the system to keep the fridge cool. This requires the fridge to be level (or very close to level). When in propane mode, the flame/burner also requires the fridge to be very close to level.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your RV is parked on as level a surface as possible. Parking on an uneven surface can affect the refrigerator’s ability to cool efficiently and could even lead to damage over time.

Use a bubble level to check both the side-to-side and front-to-back levels of your RV. Better yet, use a LevelMatePRO or LevelMatePRO+, like we do. They’re available from TechnoRV, with a special RVgeeks discount:

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Maintain the Door Seals

A tight door seal is needed to maintain the internal temperature of the refrigerator. Inspect the door seals/gaskets regularly for any signs of wear or damage. See our post on how to test refrigerator door seals by closing the door on a common item you likely have right in your pocket.

Inspect the seal, and if you notice any gaps or tears replace the gaskets promptly to prevent cold air from escaping and warm air from entering. Clean the seals with a solution of warm water and mild soap, and check for proper alignment.

Clear the Fridge Roof Vent of Debris

This is important to ensure that there are no obstructions (such as wasp nests or other debris) in the roof vent so that air flow can move across the coils behind the refrigerator. Remove the cover of the fridge’s roof vent and inspect the area thoroughly. Clean out any debris that’s accumulated around the interior of the vent.

Clean all around the vent with soapy water and check the sealant. Re-seal if necessary. And remember – one of the best and easiest ways to prevent major RV repairs is to regularly check and maintain your Dicor RV roof sealant.

For a visual guide on how to inspect and clean your RV fridge roof vent, check out this video:

Inspect and Clean the Top of the Condenser Fins

Inspect and clean the top of the condenser fins located at the rear of the refrigerator. Reaching them may be different on various RVs. You may need to access them from the upper vent opening on the roof or high on the RV sidewall.

First, turn off the power to your refrigerator and remove any cover or panel needed to provide access to the cooling coils and fins. Use a small vacuum cleaner attachment to vacuum the fins carefully, cleaning off any dust and dirt buildup. You may need to use a small brush like a toothbrush to clean them well. Finally, wipe down the fins with a damp cloth.

Inspect and Clean Coils

In the same area, you’ll find the refrigerator coils. Like any refrigerator, RV fridges have coils that dissipate heat. Over time, they can accumulate dust and debris, reducing their ability to function efficiently.

Use a vacuum or a soft brush or cloth to clean the coils, taking care not to damage them in the process. This part of your refrigerator maintenance routine can significantly improve its performance.

Inspect and Clean the Condensate Drain Tube

To prevent water damage from occurring under your RV fridge, you’ll want to periodically inspect and clean the condensate drain tube. This tube allows water from condensation buildup to drain to the outside of your RV. If it’s clogged with dust or debris, the water can’t drain and can end up backing up and draining inside your RV.

Remove the outside refrigerator vent cover and locate the condensate drain tube for your RV refrigerator at the outside vent. Use a small, narrow item to gently check the tube for any obstruction. You can carefully use compressed air to assist with clearing the tube if necessary.

For a visual of this process, have a look at this YouTube video:

Inspect and Clean the Flue and Burner Assembly

For an RV refrigerator to operate efficiently in propane mode, the flue and burner assembly need to be in good condition, so it’s important to inspect and clean them as part of periodic refrigerator maintenance.

Turn the refrigerator off and remove the outside lower vent cover to access the flue and burner assembly. You’ll likely need to remove the wind deflector plate that protects the flue pipe from wind. While you’re here with access, check all connections to make sure they’re tight and free of any dust, debris, or rust.

Next, turn the refrigerator on in the LP gas mode and take a good look at the flame. Your flame should be burning bright blue. If you see a yellow flame (or if the refrigerator hasn’t been operating properly in propane mode) the baffle inside the flue could be covered with soot. It’s not uncommon for soot, rust, and other debris to fall down into the flue and obstruct the burner assembly. If you find this to be the case, you’ll need to clean the flue and the burner assembly.

Turn the refrigerator back off and locate the burner directly below the flue. The baffle is located inside the flue.

Use a small metal brush to clean any rust and debris out of the flue and vacuum out the residue. Use your vacuum or a light spray of compressed air to remove any remaining debris from the outside of the refrigerator compartment.

If you need to clean the burner tube, you’ll have to remove another wind deflector plate on the bottom to reveal it. Insert a small tube into the burner tube and blow out any debris that has accumulated in the tube.

Turn the refrigerator back on in propane mode and check your flame again. If you’ve got a nice bright blue flame, you’ve succeeded in improving the operation of your RV fridge in propane mode by cleaning the flue and burner assembly.

If your flue, baffle, and burner assembly haven’t been cleaned in a long time, or if your cleaning does not result in a bright blue flame, you may need an RV dealer to do a thorough cleaning and an LP gas pressure test.

This video provides a visual for everything we’ve included in this section:

Monitor Power Sources

RV refrigerators can run on electricity, propane, or battery power, depending on the model. It’s important to monitor the power sources regularly and address any issues as soon as possible. Check all electrical connections, inspect the propane system for leaks, and ensure that your batteries are in good condition. Well-maintained power sources will contribute to the refrigerator’s reliability.

Use Thermometers

Finally, to ensure that your RV refrigerator and freezer are maintaining the proper temperatures, use an internal thermometer. Place them in the refrigerator and freezer compartments and check the readings regularly. The refrigerator should maintain a temperature between 34-40°F (1-4°C), while the freezer should stay around 0°F (-18°C).

The easiest way to monitor your RV fridge and freezer temps is to use indoor/outdoor digital thermometers with a digital read-out panel that allows you to monitor the internal temps without opening the fridge or freezer.

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By incorporating these tips into your regular RV maintenance routine, you can extend the lifespan of your RV refrigerator, and ensure that your food, beverages, and any refrigerated medications remain fresh and safe throughout your travels.

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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