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Old 06-28-2015, 06:29 PM   #1
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Portland , Oregon
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Refrigerator fails to cool, propane only

On a road trip now, and the refrigerator decided it only wants to work on "shore power." On propane, doesn't cool at all. '97 Safari, two way Dometic. Things I tried:

* Doesn't work with either propane tank (but hot water heater does).
* No check light comes on. I can hear the electric ignition when I turn it on.
* When on gas only, condensationh still comes out the drain tube.

Any ideas? Lots of thanks advance!
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Old 06-28-2015, 06:30 PM   #2
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Also, if there is a more appropriate forum, please let me know.
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Old 06-28-2015, 07:58 PM   #3
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1978 25' Tradewind
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Can you see a flame?
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Old 06-28-2015, 08:13 PM   #4
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Open the outside access and check to see if the pilot is lighting. You should be able to hear the actual LP flame if its working.
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Old 06-29-2015, 02:08 PM   #5
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1996 25' Excella
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If the flame is lit and it runs fine on electric then the chimney is probably plugged. Dometic give a procedure for cleaning the chimney but you won't be doing that on the road. Look in your owners manual
Also look at the flame and see if it is a finger tip sized clear blue flame. the flame will be about 3/8 to 1/2 inch high when cooling and just barely visible when the fridge is down to the set point temp. Your model might in fact shut off between cooling cycles...not sure. Often the burner gets covered in rust flakes from the chimney. You can blow or brush the debris off to let the flame recover its proper shape. If you are handy you can remove the burner by removing two or three screws and get it thoroughly clean. You need to remove the metal box (wind shroud) around the flame to get at the burner. Rust and debris on the burner definitely mean there is lots of the same in the chimney and the heat can't rise up and over the evaporator coil. On electric the heater wraps around the coil and does not need venting.

Based on the age of your unit I would bet it is a plugged chimney

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Old 06-30-2015, 09:24 AM   #6
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One more hint. Our Dometic reefer is 48 yrs old. We sweep the chimney twice a year. It is a good idea to cover the gas burner with aluminum foil when doing this. Even still, the unit cooling diminished a couple of years ago. I removed the burner nozzle and soaked it in denatured alcohol over night, blew it out with compressed air (do not put any kind of metal wire thru it or anything that might damage the bore). All returned to normal. There may be better ways to do this but I have not seen any advice or procedure other than replacing the nozzle. I don't know why soaking in alcohol helped but it seemed to.
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Old 06-30-2015, 09:35 AM   #7
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I know that this may sound crazy, but check your trailer batteries. I once had the same problem and found that the batteries were dead and would not hold or take a charge. I replaced the batteries and the fridge again worked fine on propane.
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Old 06-30-2015, 10:57 AM   #8
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Bend , Oregon
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I had the same problem but on a newer Airstream. We cleaned everything and replaced the regulator but had the same thing happen when we were on the road. Someone on the forum mentioned needing a bigger shield for the flame and thought there might be a recall on the frig. Our model was not part of the recall but my husband got some sheet metal and created a bigger and better shield and solved the problem. You may want to look into this.
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Old 07-01-2015, 06:31 AM   #9
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I wouldn't be too worried about cleaning the burner tube with a brush, just don't deform the burner slots. You do need to be careful about reaming out the nozzle which you normally wouldn't need to be worried about. The diameter and clean undamaged bore of the hole is critical to drawing and mixing air into the gas.
Good point about covering the burner with foil. I haven't had to do anything to our '96 but the '89 needed to be blown out annually with compressed air. Spiders occaisonally take up residence.

Re the battery...yes the fridge controls run on 12 V. Our battery was just barely able to supply voltage in storage and the fridge was shutting down despite the presence of a solar panel. Cloudy days would do it in! New battery ...no more trouble with the fridge on standby waiting for us to get on the road.
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Old 07-06-2015, 03:09 PM   #10
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Thanks

Appreciate everyone's thoughts. The flue or burner seems the most likely culprit. I've got an appointment to get it diagnosed next week (the repair seems outside my skill level).

To answer some questions that came up:

* There is a flame, but I'm not sure if it's big enough (did not disassemble to see).
* A service tech thought that, if the chimney was clogged, I would not get cooling on shore power. Thoughts?

I'll follow up when this thing is solved!
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Old 07-07-2015, 01:38 PM   #11
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1996 25' Excella
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Can't be much of a service tech if he thinks an electric heater coil wrapped around a plugged chimney won't work!

The electric heater provides evaporation power to the coils in the chimney walls the same as the flame but the flame needs chimney action to carry the heat up the chimney to the coils.

The flame on older units has two speeds. High and standby. High is a flame about the size if the tip of a finger ...barely 3/16" high. Standby is about 1/16". The thermostat calls for heat and the control board opens the gas valve to give the high flame.
I am not sure about newer units. They may be using electronic ignition to start the flame on demand from the thermostat. I haven't looked at my '96.
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