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Old 08-14-2013, 06:35 AM   #1
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Fridge stopped when we towed up a very steep hill

We have the original 69 Dometic fridge in our Overlander and we were out west traveling for a month. It was working on both propane and electric like a 44 yr. old champ. 2 weeks into the trip we were camping at a campground located at the top of a hill/mountain and had to go up a really steep incline to camp at the top of this hill. When we got up there and started setting up we noticed the freezer was starting to thaw although the propane was still on and working fine. Tried switching it to electric since we had full hook ups (for the first time in 2 weeks) and that didn't do a thing. I seem to remember reading on the Forums about the issue of keeping these level. Although we were careful when camping to keep it level, this drive up the mountain seems to have possibly loosened rust in the lines or something causing it not to work. Can someone let me know what it could be? Do I need to take it out and turn it upside down or something-I seem to remember something about that in another thread.
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Old 08-14-2013, 07:52 AM   #2
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You can try turning it upside down. Did you turn it off and let it thaw and cool off and then try again later? That is what I would do first. The steep hill may have gotten something in the wrong place. Turning it upside down is a Hail Mary and it may or may not work.

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Old 08-14-2013, 09:42 AM   #3
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No expert here on these units, but I believe if a fridge is tipped too far to the side, it takes a while for the coolant to "settle" before it will work normally.

But then the hill may have nothing to do with the failure, it just happened at that time.

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Old 08-14-2013, 11:18 AM   #4
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I would guess that the hill had nothing to do with the problem, unless you left it parked badly out of level for an hour, while running. Normal up and downs, side to sides and jiggling while traveling don't affect the operation of a propane refrigerator. Parked off level, especially on hot days does.

There are a few who have had some success with the "take it out and turn it over" repair, but it is not often that it really solves the problem.

The refrigerator, as you say, is 44 years old. It probably is time for a new one. The old ones did seem to last much better than new ones appear to these days, but everything has a life span.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:43 PM   #5
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Check the access door and carefully feel if the chimney burner area is getting warm/hot.
If its warm/hot then the ammonia may have leaked out. If its cool then check the electrical circuit.
good luck.
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Old 08-15-2013, 05:37 AM   #6
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Thanks Pat-I'll restart it and check. We did let the unit sit for a few days before trying to restart it on propane with no luck, in fact the vent was luke warm instead of hot when running normally but I did check the burner area for heat.
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Old 08-15-2013, 05:42 AM   #7
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Forgot to mention that in the past I've felt the burner area and it has been hot-I remember thinking is it normal for this to get so hot-but then I'd feel the vent inside the cab and it too would be hot-I guess that's what they're for right? I always thought the burner area was suppose to be pretty warm to the touch. I'll plug in the 110 side and see what happens.
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Old 08-15-2013, 06:03 AM   #8
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Hopefully you haven't smelled any ammonia, which would indicate a leak.

We had a newer fridge die and using electric heat was exactly how the tech tested it. Ours did leak ammonia and wasn't worth fixing.

If it does work on electricity and you need to start debugging the gas valve assembly, get to know what a Klixon tongue is -- try starting here. I haven't dealt with them myself, but have read/heard about how delicate they are. A search on Klixon may be helpful.

Good luck!
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:37 AM   #9
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frig

My original 65 frig had a filter by the gas valve. you may have partially blocked it by knocking loose some 44 yr old crud. you may be able to blow it out . If it's dirty, the flame will light, but it will be too weak to work the coolant. the chimney in the back also has to be correctly positioned for the cooling cycle to work. It may have slipped up or down and be blocking the side holes. joe q in MN
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Old 08-15-2013, 07:28 PM   #10
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If the chimney hasn't been cleaned in years its very possible the road trip loosened enough rust, dirt, and general junk to sift down the tube and insulate around the electric element and especially clog the gas burner. I've seen it often, just can't heat the boiler pot enough. Odds are you'll have to slide it out for access to clean it well.
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Old 08-17-2013, 07:20 AM   #11
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We've never cleaned anything related to this fridge-it's just worked and we were very happy for that. Sounds like it could be a few things. I don't believe we've smelled ammonia yet. Not sure how far to go on the fridge since the seals for both the fridge door and the freezer are shot. We've been thinking about replacing it with a larger one anyway-but of course, that involves a cabinet mod and a lot more money.
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:03 AM   #12
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So my wife reminded me that she smelled ammonia one day during our trip when we were trying to get it back on line. Given it's age and condition we will be replacing it at some point. I have to give it serious credit for working hard for the past 44 years-not many appliances can do that and I hope our replacement will last as long-although I've been reading that does not seem to be the case. Our hope is to modify the cabinet and get a larger fridge with a separate freezer compartment since this one is a bit small-we'll see. Thanks to everyone who contributed!
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