Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Now That’s Cool

This is what the fridge looks like from the opening on the trailer exterior. You gots propane, alcohol, and electricity in one compartment. This is one reason why RVs have escape hatch windows.

This is what the fridge looks like from the opening on the trailer exterior. You gots propane, alcohol, and electricity in one compartment. This is one reason why RVs have escape hatch windows.

After a week of running great with the new Dinosaur Electronics power module (circuit board), the Enterprise’s Dometic refrigerator suddenly pooped out while running on propane and could not fire back up. One of the two 30# propane tanks was empty, according to the indicator on the propane pressure regulator located by the tanks. Oddly, it also indicated the the remaining full tank was empty, too. From what I could find on the Internet, this indicated a failing regulator. It looked pretty oxidized on the outside, and who knew how old it was? Lifespan is supposed to be 15 years max, I think. The Enterprise is 19.

A local RV dealer, General RV, just happened to be running a mini-RV show in the campground over the weekend, and I walked over to ask about their shop’s Saturday hours. They’d stuck a couple of mechanics with babysitting the five travel trailers they’d brought, and when I described my problem, one of them suggested first testing the twin hose connectors for a stuck valve, offering to do it for me. Okay! He jumped out of his chair, obviously preferring to do his thing rather than sit bored in a lawn chair. He walked over to the Enterprise and blew into each pigtail, with good results. That done, he said that a regulator replacement would be a reasonable approach for a next step, since it was now suspect by its own indicator.

I drove to the shop and got a new one ($53 – the low end of the spectrum), and did enough other errands to take up the rest of the day. I replaced the regulator the next morning. The fridge basically failed to fire up, though it did run once for awhile before failing again. Oh, poo. I wandered back over to the mini-show, where there was thankfully one more mechanic among the sales guys. I asked for advice on what I could check next, but he grabbed his check light and a screwdriver and headed over to the trailer. He connected his check light to a couple of circuit board terminals and got a good reading before frying the bulb in his light by accidentally shorting it out. He pulled the handle off, and I could see smoke wafting out of the housing. “Oh good, it’s just the bulb, not the board,” he said, “Easy to replace.” It was just a week and a half old. Ohhh. He seemed completely unconcerned. “The board is fine,” he added. He then popped some sheet metal shields off and had me try to start the unit up on propane. It fired right up. Some devices seem to sense when a mechanic is around. The ignitor glowed orange within the blue flame.

But, he pointed out that the ignitor shouldn’t be glowing orange. That glow was crud built up on the tip of the sparking wire, and could well be the cause of the inability to reliably start up. He recommended that I remove and scrape it clean, then he went back to the trailer display. I let the unit cool back down, got the ignitor out, and the blob on the tip turned out to be carbon, which was super-easy to remove. Once back in place, the refrigerator couldn’t start up again. The ignitor wasn’t sparking. But when I put the circuit board cover back on to button things up for the someday trip to the repair shop, the pressure of pushing on it made what sounded like solenoids repeatedly clicking. Some contact within the spaghetti mess of wires and devices was getting temperamental from corrosion or vibration. Oh, dear.

Once everything was back in place and buttoned up though, the fridge happily fired up and hasn’t quit since. Will there be trouble on the road? Maybe, and maybe not. Intermittent electrical contact issues caused by corrosion should only get worse, in theory. In practice, I’ve found that they sometimes hit a “happy place” and keep going forever. Given all the other expenses that have come up, along with the potential expense of diagnosing this kind of issue, I’m deferring this one to the “wait until it breaks” column. I’ve always been a fan of pre-emptive strikes when it comes to repairs, but I’m slowly learning when to just go with the flow and let things play out. I suspect that the fridge is going to hang in there.

At any rate, I think it’s stellar that General RV’s mechanics were more than willing to listen and go hands-on instead of recommending that I call in for an appointment. I have a suspicion that they had management’s go-ahead, since two different mechanics had the same eagerness to help, and since other “higher ranking” staff was right there to put the squelch on it. In the short term this cuts income and profits. In the long run though, guess who my preferred RV service and parts provider will be?

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