Refrigerator Woes

 Posted by at 12:28 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 302014

We have been wanting to replace our Norcold RV refrigerator with a residential model ever since we bought our Winnebago Ultimate Advantage. RV refrigerators are limited in storage space, tend to frost up a lot, and the Norcolds are notorious for starting fires. We have had all of the recalls done, and the thing still decided to crap out yesterday morning.

There was no power to it, and after checking the breakers to be sure everything was okay there, I got online and did some research. A couple of different RV forum posts said to go outside, take off the access cover to the refrigerator compartment, and check to see if the red light on the Norcold retrofit gizmo was on. If it was on, the quick fix was to get a strong magnet and to hold it on the box, which apparently resets the magnetic switch inside of it.

I went outside and checked, and sure enough, the red light was on, just like they said.

Refer switch

We didn’t have a magnet laying around, so I made a quick trip to the nearby Lowes to get one, and back home I put the magnet against the box and sure enough, it worked! Who says Nick can’t fix anything? Smile

But about an hour later the box tripped again. Sad smile

I reset it again, then called my pal Mac McCoy, the RV fire safety expert. Mac said he was pretty sure this is an indicator that the recall module is about to fail, which could cause a fire. I have heard about people using a jumper wire to bypass the module, but Norcold installed it there for a reason (even if it doesn’t work). That would be like the guys in the old days who used to put a penny behind a screw in fuse when a circuit tripped. You’re just asking for a fire, and as nice as my pal Chris Yust from C&C Insurance is, I’m pretty sure even she couldn’t help me if I did that.

A lot of people we know have had the Amish RV refrigerator conversion units installed, and they all seem to be very happy with them. But we want to go with a residential refrigerator because it will give us a lot more capacity and work better than any RV model. We seldom boondock any more so that’s not an issue. Going down the road it will run off the inverter and we’re plugged in almost every night. And if not, just turning it off overnight will not be a problem. We had a residential unit in our bus for over eight years and know all the pros and cons.

The only issue is finding a refrigerator that will fit in the nook where we need it to go. Everything we have looked at is 36 inches wide and we need to find one that is no more than 34 inches wide. Everybody in the world has them listed online, but trips to three Lowes and a Best Buy yesterday revealed that nobody actually has them in stock. We can order one, but it could take 4 – 6 weeks for delivery. Today we’ll brave the holiday shopping crowds to try again.


The good news is that even an RV refrigerator will keep thing cold for many hours with the power off. So for now, when we go to bed, or when we leave the RV, we turn it off just to be safe.

Today is your last chance to enter this week’s Free Drawing for my buddy George Weir’s audiobook The Devil To Pay. This is the fourth book in George’s excellent Bill Travis mystery series, and every book is better than the last. To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.


Thought For The Day – I wish my wallet was as fat as I am.

Check Out Nick’s E-Books In Our E-Book Store

Click Here For Back Issues Of The Gypsy Journal

Click Here To Subscribe To The Gypsy Journal

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  16 Responses to “Refrigerator Woes”

  1. There are lots of 18 cf top freezers that are 30 inches wide ans a few inches taller than the Norcold. I have been looking and will replace our Norcold 1200 when we get back to Hondo SKP in February.

  2. Nick, We had a Norcold model 1220 (the one that is notorious for fires) in our 2005 American Eagle. One winter we were at Lake Magic in Florida and a coach just two over from ours caught on fire…. my first thought was, a Norcold refrigerator….. and yes, that’s what it was. I was so relieved when we traded coaches and got one with a residential refrigerator. I’d been reading on the American Coach Yahoo Group about the fires and was really worried about ours. Just FYI, most people on that group say there’s a Samsung refrigerator that fits nicely in most coaches. Hope you find one soon! We love ours!

  3. Diane told me that if I was thinking of converting to residential, I better plan it and not wait for the Norcold fridge to fail. So, that is what we did. We ended up waiting 6 weeks for the new Whirlpool fridge. We are glad we made the change, it runs colder and the increase in freezer space is great. Note that about all residential fridges now require pure sinewave inverters, including the Samsung RF18 that replaced the popular Samsung RF197 that so many have used.

  4. I know in Canada there are stores that cater to small condos and apartments. Look and see if there are any around your area might have what you are looking for. Tampa for one probably Sarasoda or St Petersburg.

  5. My Whirlpool replacement came from Sears when Lowes and Home Depot couldn’t get it. Funny, came from the same warehouse. By the way it’s been running fine for 2 years on my MAGNUM modified sine wave inverter. I replaced the NOCOLD, even though it wasn’t on the recall list, to get a real refrigerator to keep food longer. It sure is nice to have ICE cream instead of SOFT serve!!!!!

  6. I know your problem with finding one to fit your existing space. We have a similar problem with our TV. We have a 2007 32″ RCA that is mounted in a slanted corner cabinet that’s been acting up. Because that model is no longer made and since technology has changed so much, the closest we can come that fits the opening in the cabinet is a 39″. Everyone we’ve looked at are all just under or just over the opening size. We can go over 1/2 to 1″ but because of a cabinet door next to the TV, we’re limited on how much over we can go. We found one model we’d been considering on the Internet that was a “Black Friday” special and $70 less than we found it anyplace else. But as the old saying goes — If it seems too good to be true, it probably is but it’s Black Friday and everyone’s got the “Spirit” RIGHT !! Turned out to be a “Black Friday” scam out of Russia. Now trying to get my money back from PayPal. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to all !!!

  7. Funny your timing is perfect (to us). Our refrigerator failed in Jacksonville, FL, so we shopped while there. Finally we stayed with a Norcold without an icemaker. Now the freezer stays cold enough for ice cream plus has more space. Our model never was on the recall in the past. Stay tuned how this one is for us.

  8. That is exactly why I am not waiting for my Dometic fridge to fail. It is 12 yrs old now, and the cooling is uneven inside, the freezer needs frequent defrosting and the ice maker leaks inside the freezer. It is time. We got our fire suppression unit from Mac the Fire Guy years ago, but I was still nervous!I did plan ahead a bit. The Holiday season is when lots of folks are planning to upgrade their appliances, for some reason. I was able to order my fridge of choice from Home Depot … on sale! … and coordinate it with a service appointment in Texas at the Foretravel factory. The Samsung I ordered is counter depth and just about 33″ wide. Good luck shopping and getting a good installer!

  9. We too have a refrigerator which is working, but not cooling adequately, with a Tech visit scheduled this week. If it turns out this is a major problem for us, we might be joining others here looking at replacement refrigerators. But we have a question. Several years ago there seemed to be lots of stories/anecdotes about numerous gas-electric fires, but since the big Norcold recall came out we haven’t continued to hear lots of fire stories. Can anybody here put any ‘real’ numbers on how many refrigerator fires still occur, especially as a percentage of number of refrigerators out there in use? Without some informed data, aren’t most of us just paranoid about these refrigerators because of oft-repeated bad stories, but have little facts to base our choice of refrigerators on? We like the boon docking aspect of gas-electric, but we too don’t want to use something if it is really, really risky.

  10. Nancy,
    Mac McCoy, the RV fire safety expert, just told me that there have been over 100 RV refrigerator fires since the recall.

  11. Ok I keep hearing that some cannot find one that fits. We fulltimers are supposed to be a very inventive group. does no one own a Jig-saw and a few pieces of trim, maybe a hot glue gun or caulking, Etc.
    Nick I may have to revoke your Busnut card, LOL

    Dave MCI5Cs

  12. We converted to a Frigidaire side by side in our fifthwheel 2 years ago along with a 1000W pure sine inverter. Ours was a Norcold Polar Max 17 cu ft which was 36 inches wide. We now enjoy better cooling and electric bills that are $50 less per month!!! That is not an exaggeration. Get the extended warranty as parts on these units can fail and are not cheap. We had a power surge when on shore power and it did fry the fridge along with other components when plugged into our home hookup. Mice had gotten into the pedestal while we were south for the winter and chewed the wires. Will never ever plug in again without surge protection. Just a note of caution. We have heard of many cases with motorhomes where the windshield has to be removed in order to get the old unit out and the new unit in. Good luck, Tim

  13. Nick,
    We had the recall done on our Dometic refrigerator in 2009 and two years later the refrigerant dumped without catching on fire, which was the whole point of the recall. We replaced it with a Kenmore 11 cubic foot residential fridge that was 24” wide. That gave us ¼ inch clearance to get it in the door of our fifth wheel. It fits in a space at a 45 degree angle to the trailer which gives us a small space behind. There was a baffle closing off the space above the fridge. Nuwa said it wasn’t needed for an all electric fridge, so I removed the baffle and the space is open all the way to the roof shroud. The compressor has frozen twice. Once in Fresno during a 99 degree day, so I run a 4 inch fan pointed at the compressor during the summer. It also froze up during a week of single digit temps near Reno one winter, so I keep a 60 watt trouble light pointed at the compressor during the winter. No more problems in either temperature extreme. The installation wasn’t difficult. I added pieces of trim at the top and bottom to fill some open spaces and sealed the tiny gap all the way around with silicone. I drilled holes in the braces on the feet and used wood screws to anchor it to the ½ inch plywood floor.

    I didn’t bother installing an inverter because we never travel more than 6 hours in a day. The temperature inside the fridge never goes above 45 degrees and the freezer stays below 20 degrees. We only paid a little over $500 for it and we have been very satisfied.

  14. I feel your pain. Our 4 door Dometic has been a pain since new. We tried new seals and a new cooling unit, which failed. Dometic replaced the whole frig, even though it was a few weeks out of warranty. The brand new cooling unit quit within 60 days. That was replaced October 2 and it runs better than it ever has, we are talking to it, sending it love and good wishes. I am hoping it keeps running a year or so until I can save up for a residential.

  15. Nick,
    Thanks for the info about the number of fires. We really haven’t heard much about them since all the recalls and fixes of several years ago. We’ve thought about a residential refrigerator but ours was still working. Now, that it’s quit, the decision is very much alive. We have a tech coming on Tuesday and will have a more definitive answer then.
    Sorry to hear that you are in the same situation that we are. It’s not fun. Hope you haven’t had any food go bad. We’ve been using dry ice and eating a lot. I’ve never been so full.

  16. We swapped out our Norcold Refer for an LG. Our installer Precision Paint in Breman, IN recomended either a Samsung or LG as they worked fine. Our Norcold was 12.5 CuFt and our LG is 24.5 CuFt. It was purchased from Lowes and delivered to the installer in 3 days. They have these units in stock usually. It is the refer with double doors, ice maker in door and large two drawer roll out freezer in the bottom. These refers are 33″ wide which is the standard width opening in an RV. We had to give up one drawer under the Refer that my wife used for storing small containers like spice jars because of the height. For installation the shop removed the driver side window to get it inside. They said this was easier and much less expensive.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.