What To Do If Your RV Fridge Won’t Get Cold
We have struggled with keeping our RV refrigerator cold since the day we bought our travel trailer 2 years ago. It was working fine in the beginning when we had it mostly running on electrical but once we started camping and traveling full time the RV fridge has refused to get down to safe fridge and freezer temperatures when switched to gas.
Taking the fridge to a repairman wasn’t an option for us I spent hours researching what could possibly be wrong with it online. I did everything the forums and blogs told me to do to try and fix the problem but it persisted. Finally, we felt like we had no other option but to change the cooling unit as all the signs pointed towards there being a blockage in the tubing which was stopping the ammonia from heating properly and therefore not cooling the fridge enough.
We took the dive and purchased an Amish built RV fridge cooling unit that was sure to not only keep our RV fridge cold but also be more efficient and effective in hot summer temperatures. We installed the unit and waited for the fridge to cool. Sadly, it still wasn’t quite right.
I went back to the books, and finally found the answer I had been looking for the entire time. It was the burner orifice.
I had looked at the flame many times to make sure it was blue (it was) and even taken apart the burner to see if it was dirty but I’d somehow missed what I was actually supposed to do. Once I took apart the burner and cleaned the orifice the right way the flame became strong and the fridge cooled down right away.
My suggestion to RVers who are experiencing problems with their RV fridge not cooling properly is to always do this first. In my experience, it’s been the problem every single time and since cleaning the RV fridge orifice the first time I’ve had to clean it again recently to keep the flame strong enough to cool the RV fridge. It’s worked like a charm both times and it’s so easy to do you may as well give it a shot before taking it to get fixed or replaced.
How Should The Flame In An RV Fridge Look And Sound?
Everything I’d heard and was reading said the flame should be blue with hardly any yellow on top. After reading that I quickly checked out the flame at the back of the RV fridge and found it to be a healthy blue, just like all the information I was reading said it should look. Now, I know better.
It’s not really about how the flame looks at all. Yes, it should be blue with very little to no yellow around it but even if it is a nice blue color that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. The sound is what really matters.
After finally finding the information I needed to properly clean the RV fridge burner orifice and relighting the fridge I instantly heard the difference. Before I couldn’t hear the flame at all, now I can easily hear the flame when standing by the RV fridge’s outdoor cover and when it’s quiet I can even hear it inside the RV.
This is what you want. A loud happy flame heating the ammonia in the RV fridge coils to keep everything nice and cold.
What Is A Gas Orifice And Where Is It Located On An RV Fridge?
A gas orifice is what’s responsible for releasing the proper amount of gas, in this case, propane. The orifice has a tiny rectangular hole the propane passes through and into the burner tube to create the perfect size and strength of the flame. It’s pretty common for something to get in the way of that perfectly cut hole which restricts the gas flow and reduces the flame’s strength which in turn can cause your RV fridge to cool slightly but not enough to stay within the safe temperature zones. (40°F for the fridge and around 0° for the freezer)
The orifice is located behind the outdoor access panel on your RV. The access panel allows you to see the bottom of the RV fridge’s cooling unit as well as the propane burner set up. The easiest way to find the orifice is to find the flame. The flame is usually on the right-hand side under the flume which is the large cylinder that goes up behind the fridge. The flame is normally covered by a metal wind guard but if you peek through the holes on the side you can usually see it.
The orifice is the part directly behind the tube the flame is coming out. Sometimes it’s even one piece. I’ll explain more about where to find it, what it looks like, and how to remove it in the how to clean the RV fridge gas orifice section below.
How To Clean The RV Fridge Orifice
My RV fridge is a Norcold, the Dometic RV fridges can look a little different on the inside but for the most part the burner and the orifice have the same general set up and look.
Turn Off The Propane & The RV Fridge
You want to turn off the propane by closing the valves on the tanks and turn off the fridge so it doesn’t keep trying to light the flame.
Remove The RV Fridge Access Door
Remove the access panel located outside of the RV behind the fridge. It usually has a door like the one pictured below. Some fridges will have two of these doors, one that is on the lower part of the RV and one near the roof. You want to remove the lower door as this is the one that leads to all the propane parts including the burner and orifice.
To remove the RV fridge access door all you have to do is use a flathead screwdriver, pliers, or even your fingers to turn the little black knobs on the top. Turn them halfway so they are both pointed straight up. Pull out and lift the panel off and away from the RV or travel trailer.
Remove The Drip Tray & Wind Cover
Once the outside RV fridge access door is removed you should be able to see the cooling unit and the propane lines and burner below it. This is the back of my Norcold RV fridge with an Amish built cooling unit, the Dometic version will look slightly different but the location of the fridge orifice burner is basically the same.
To get to the orifice and burner you will need to remove the drip tray and the wind cover. These are normally secured by a single bolt you can remove with pliers or a drill with the proper size of head on it. (I use pliers since they normally aren’t very tight)
When you remove the bolt to the wind cover you will be able to move it back but you may not be able to remove it completely. Just make sure you push it far enough back it’s out of the way.
Undo The Propane Gas Line Connected To The Orifice
Once you get the wind cover out of the way you should be able to see the orifice and burner tube clearly. If the flame was burning recently it may be hot so be careful when working with it.
Loosen the nut connecting the propane line and the orifice. It should be lefty loosey just like normal.
Remove The Burner Assembly
One the propane line is removed you are ready to take out the burner assembly which includes the burner tube and the propane orifice.
You can do this by undoing the single screw securing the burner assembly to the flume.
Once the screw has been removed carefully pull out the burner assembly. It should look like the part in the picture below if you have a Norcold fridge, if you have a Dometic fridge it may look slightly different because sometimes Dometic uses a burner assembly where the orifice and the burner tube are one piece.
If you have a burner assembly like mine you can carefully undo the orifice from the burner tube and remove it. It should be lefty loosey like normal.
If you have a Dometic RV fridge you may be able to remove the small orifice by gently tapping it out. If you cannot remove it safely you may not be able to complete the soaking steps. Try and clean it out as good as you can using a wire brush and compressed air just be careful not to damage the orifice or widen the hole as this could cause the flame to be too strong which may damage the RV fridge cooling unit.
Soak The Orifice In Alcohol & Clean The Burner Tube
If you can remove the orifice now is the time to soak it in rubbing alcohol for around two hours. You don’t want to stick anything into the small orifice hole because you may damage it. The first time I cleaned the RV fridge orifice I was able to use isopropyl alcohol and it worked great. The second time we were camping up in the mountains and unable to get any rubbing alcohol so I improvised and used vodka. It’s not the recommended route but it actually worked pretty well and the orifice was clean after two hours of soaking.
While the orifice is soaking you can clean the burner tube as well using a wire brush and compressed air. If lots of soot comes out the burner tube may have also been part of the problem. Spiders love to spin webs near propane parts like burner tubes and when you fire up the fridge the web can burn and cause lots of soot that can block the burner tube and make the flame small.
If you don’t have an air compressor handy compressed air cans like the ones used to clean computers (click to view on Amazon) work great.
Blow Out The Orifice
After a good soaking, the orifice is ready to be blown out and reinstalled. Using compressed air from either a can or a compressor blow out the orifice from the end with the small hole. You don’t want to blow from the large end because you don’t want more dirt and debris to get stuck in the tiny orifice.
Once you are done, inspect the orifice, it should be clean looking and a nice rectangle shape.
Reinstall The Burner Assembly
Once everything is clean carefully screw the orifice back into the burner tube. Make sure it’s secured tightly so there will be no leaks.
One everything is back in place you can now turn the propane back on. Make sure you test the connection between the propane gas line and the orifice with soap water to make sure it’s tight and free of any leaks.
When the flame kicks on you should be able to hear it clearly even if the access door is closed. The sound is even more important than how the flame looks. If the orifice was the problem it should now be allowing more propane through and you should have a nice strong flame burning which will make the RV fridge get colder.
I hope this how-to post has helped you fix your RV fridge. There are many things that could be wrong of course but I have found that if you have and RV fridge that won’t cool enough the main problem is a dirty orifice. It’s an easy trick you can try that only takes a few hours. If you’re lucky cleaning the orifice will get your fridge cooling properly again in no time.
Have any questions about your RV fridge or need help troubleshooting? Leave a comment below.