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Old 09-08-2019, 03:02 PM   #1
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May have a frig issue

Hello,

I may have a frig issue but not sure. The frig worked just fine on my last camping trip about a week ago. The frig has been off now for about a week. I went in to check out the trailer. After I turn off the frig, I normally leave the door open. I opened the freezer door today and I smelled an ammonia type smell. I took off the panel to the frig compartment outside but do not see the yellow residue that I have seen mentioned in other posts. Is this a sign that the frig is going?
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Old 09-08-2019, 09:49 PM   #2
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Oh boy. the ammonia smell is not a good thing. The gas burner area is a more common place for the cooling coil to fail, but it is not the only one.

Your older fridge may look a little different in the burner area. If you take the burner shield off and can see the burner directly, then look and sniff in that area.

The burner with the shield on
Yellow residue near burner area 1 on Flickr

Yellow residue near burner area 2 on Flickr

If your burner area does not smell or have any kind of yellow residue, keep a good lookout for it. If yours sprung a leak up in the freezer area, it is still a problem just you may not see it as easy. But the smell is a dead give away.

Careful on leaving it run for hours on end if there is a leak. The leak will prevent the unit from cooling correctly and overheat the boiler area creating a fire hazard.

After 1 to 2 hours of running, there should be a slight change cooler in the freezer plate on the back wall of the freezer I would think. I have never tried this yet, but can if you need me too. If you can check the surface temp before you turn it on and then after it has been on with the door closed in between, you should see it dropping by some amount. Ideally use some kind of surface temperature thermometer if possible. Even a cooking thermometer if the graduations go down to room temperature. You can try your touch by hand if that is all you have.

If it has been on for 4 hours and there is no change in temp on that freezer plate, that is not a good sign. Check the burner area metal and the cooling tubes (pipes) before the burner area for heat also. If the pipes are getting warmer, then it is trying to cool something. If the pipes have not changed temp since started and the burner area is getting warmer after 2 to 4 hrs, that can also mean all the coolant or a good portion of the coolant leaked out.

Again, the smell is a true tell tale sign there is a leak somewhere. Trying to run the unit may expand the crack and the smell get worse. You may have just caught yours are it started to leak. Not all leaks go big at once.

Hope this helps and let us know what you find out.

John
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Old 09-11-2019, 11:10 AM   #3
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Thanks JohnB. I probably won't be able to take a look at this until the weekend.
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Old 09-14-2019, 10:29 AM   #4
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Okay so I took to cover off the burner but no yellow residue. However, there is no doubt in my mind now that there is a leak somewhere. I opened the freezer and there is definitely a strong ammonia smell. The cooling unit is toast. Just had a new roof put on the house and may need a new tow vehicle. So it will be a while before I can repair it. Now I am on the hunt for a small mini frig to use on my next two camping trips and probably the next year or two also. I just can't seem to catch a break.
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Old 09-14-2019, 07:10 PM   #5
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Bummer big time.

If you can smell it like that, sadly it's on its way out. When you get to removing the fridge and convert to your dorm style , you will need to plug the gas line.



This is the plug. Assuming your older camper is still on 3/8" copper tubing.


Lowes should have the plug.

The two 12 volts DC wires that you will need to unhook, you can wire nut the ends of the wire and electrical tape the nut to the wire to help insure they do not fall off.

You may be able to find the yellow residue once the fridge is out. Caution to not touch the yellow residue with your bare hands. It's not good stuff. Use nitrile etc. gloves or some other glove. You can clean up the yellow mess if it made its way onto the wood camper cabinet or on the fridge itself with dish soap and water. I used Dawn and it cut right through it. Amazing, as all the petroleum cleaners I tried would not touch it, but standard dish soap will.

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Old 09-14-2019, 10:50 PM   #6
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Any issue with leaving the fridge where it is for now? I wasn't planning to take it out until I was ready to fix it. Just going to get one of those tiny mini fridges to put between the dinette seats on the floor.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:56 PM   #7
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Oh, OK. Yes you can leave the fridge in as long as wanted. The gas and power will be OK just left hooked up. I was mentioning what to do with the gas line/12 volt power when the time comes to no longer use an RV fridge, if that time ever does come.

The only thing that may crop up leaving it in place is the ammonia smell. It will keep smelling until all the liquid has leaked out. Your leak in the freezer area may be a small one and it might take a good long time to stop stinking.

Maybe leave a few vents/windows open to let it air out when the weather cooperates and your not using the camper.

I know when the burner area fails, the leak is very noticable. In an enclosed large barn, it filled the whole barn with the smell overnight. And once the fridge was removed and being worked on, whenever some small amount of liquid would come out from jostling the coil around, you get a whiff of the smell again. By the time I put the old cooling coil in the shipping box to go back for a repair core, it finally stopped leaking/stinking.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:07 PM   #8
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The fridge in the Sunline I bought died a good while before I bought it from the previous owner. I asked him how he knew it was gone and he said when you opened the door to go in the camper the smell would knock you out. His solution was to purchase a small fridge that would fit in the opening and use an inverter at the battery for 120v. He ran an extension cord to the back of the fridge and a 120v outlet there as well. When traveling the inverter powers the fridge and when you get to the campsite you open the back from the outside and plug in into the 120v outlet. Not as versatile as the gas fridge but a whole lot cheaper!
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:08 PM   #9
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:19 PM   #10
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I may go ahead and take it apart so that I can get it out of the trailer and store it in the garage. It may be a while before I can get it fix. I will have to give it some thought. Thanks for the input. Much appreciated.
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