Picking up your RV for the first time, it’s nice knowing the days of carting around an oversized ice cooler are at an end. Out on the road, there are RV refrigerators and freezers, which are designed to take the place of those clunky containers. Icy cold drinks and crisp, fresh food on-the-go, that’s what this range of mobile appliances promises, at least until they lose their cool.

Weighing the Replacement Costs 

Instead of compressors, RV refrigerators use a heating element and ammonia to run what’s known as the absorption refrigeration cycle. Know that ammonia leaks inside an enclosed space do represent a health risk, but it’s not exactly hard to miss the leak; ammonia stinks, after all. If there are yellow stains below the fittings, plus that nasty smell, then this noxious leak must be addressed. No messing around, an RV cooling unit should be replaced if it’s seeping ammonia. Aging units are also replacement candidates, with their buckled and bent tubes representing future system weak spots. Only, remember this, a replacement appliance can cost several thousand dollars. Furthermore, the installation costs tend to be equally exorbitant.

Opting for the Repair Route 

The element can be replaced, so there’s that benefit to consider. If the ammonia isn’t seeping out of a cracked pipe or broken valve, then the system is probably still functional. Have a recreational vehicle repair engineer carry out an integrity check. The 120-Volt main power supply and 12-Volt control signal power will be tested, probably by an electrical multimeter. Testing the condition of the cooling fluid, the ammonia medium mentioned above, the engineer looks for signs of sedimentary deposits, which could be causing a system build-up, one that’s clogging the cooling cycle. What if the refrigerator compartment is cool but the freezer section won’t ice up? Then there’s an airflow problem. A damaged condenser fan or diffuser duct are the likely troublemakers here, so the repair tech knows just where to flash his torch and look for the problem.

So, yes, a repair strategy needs to be utilized before there’s any talk about replacing an RV refrigerator/freezer. It’s a big appliance, a convenience that road warriors love to have on-hand, but their size and importance can sometimes fool us into believing they’ll only fail when a major issue is hit. Granted, an ammonia leak could signal a looming replacement is on the cards, but what if there’s an easy fix to an easy problem? A pilot light that won’t stay on, for example, could just need a quick adjustment to the system thermocouple.