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Old 05-17-2021, 04:18 PM   #1
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jmcleod3's Avatar
1968 28' Ambassador
1989 32' Excella
Burt , Michigan
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6
1989 Excella and a Dometic RM 2801

Hello All,
I just acquired a 1989 32' Excella and plugged into power.
Now comes testing of appliances.
#1 Fridge

I went through the procedures to start the fridge on electric and left it on all night.
In the morning, the fridge was not cold or even cool. It was very warm actually.
Today, I opened the outside access door and vacuumed the area. Inside the access area I could hear bubbling of some sort. Listening inside the trailer, I could hear the same bubbling/churning sound coming from the back of fridge.

Does anyone have a clue what's going on?

If the fridge is junk, what is the compatible replacement?

Thank you very much for any help.

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Old 05-17-2021, 04:38 PM   #2
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1994 34' Excella
Warren , Manitoba
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 894
Are your batteries in good condition? You require 12 volts to operate the fridge, as well as the 120 volts shore power. Check to see if the heating element is working. A "you tube video"will show you how to check the element. Dometic has a good troubleshooting guide on it's website. Don't be surprised if you have to replace the unit. I replaced mine in my 1994 last fall. If you see some yellow powder substance in the rear of the fridge, in the outside compartment, that is a good indication the it is replacement time. There are repair modules available to replace the worn parts but I chose a complete new fridge.
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Old 05-17-2021, 06:24 PM   #3
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1986 31' Sovereign
Miami , Florida
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As your face the back of the reefer, reach up about 15 inches on the round structure on your right and gingerly touch it to determine if it is very warm. The electric heating element is mounted about a foot up on the adjacent tube to the chimney it should be hot.

If it is hot and you are hearing fluid movement with no cooling, it is very likely that the cooling system tubing is blocked by internal corrosion. If it is not heating, there is likely a control board problem or the 120VAC going to the reefer is missing.
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Old 05-17-2021, 06:53 PM   #4
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jmcleod3's Avatar
1968 28' Ambassador
1989 32' Excella
Burt , Michigan
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6
Fresh Battery

Thanks for the replies.
Yes, I have a fresh battery although not connected at the moment. Doah!
I will hook it up and try again.

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Old 05-17-2021, 08:45 PM   #5
2 Rivet Member
1988 29' Excella
North East , Maryland
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 57
We have a 1988 Excella and our refrigerator died (fatal yellow powder). We looked at the new Dometics and none would fit into our existing refrigerator opening! Rebuild was our best option. We are on the East Coast and our closest re-build shop is in Charlotte, NC. We made an appointment, provided all the info (model & serial number) and then drove south for the repair. The shop removed the refrigerator, rebuilt it and re-installed it in 1 day. The price was 1/3 the cost of a new fridge and it has a 5 year warranty. The Dometic warranty for a new fridge is 2 years. Beware some of the online sellers of rebuilt refrigerator parts; not all are legit. Send me a message if you want more information.
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Old 05-18-2021, 09:50 AM   #6
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1986 25' Sovereign
Huntsville , Alabama
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 216
I've heard from the old timers that the tubes crystallize inside and stop up. Their remedy was to pull the unit out and turn it upside down and rap on the coils to try to break it up. I don't know if it works but might be worth a try. I do know that my dad always carried a piece of 1x4x6" that each time he used his ref. He'd reach up and tap the block on the coils to help keep any crystals broken up. He never replaced a ref thru the years and 3 trailers. I followed his advice and do the same on my 86
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Old 05-18-2021, 10:12 AM   #7
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2017 26' Flying Cloud
Alamo Heights , Texas
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I *THINK* that the 2801 only uses 12v for the auto-ignitor for gas, you have physical valves to turn the gas on and off and a manual selector for gas or electric operation, it's not one with a 12v control board.

It's normal to hear FAINT bubbling noises from time to time but it shouldn't be noticeable unless you're really listening for it. If the bottom of the interior of the freezer isn't cool after a few hours, SOMETHING is wrong. If the heating element it working (sounds like it is, from the sounds you describe) then something it clogged in the ammonia tubing.

As described above, there are reports of people having uninstalled fridges and rotated them (on the side, upside down, on the other side, right-side up) and claim success. I haven't had this kind of fun with a gas fridge so that's pure hearsay, but if you have the time and strength it's cheaper than just buying a new fridge.

The other recommendation, for buying a new cooling unit, is also an option if the interior and front of the fridge are in really good shape.

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Old 05-18-2021, 03:39 PM   #8
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1988 32' Excella
Robbinsville , New Jersey
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 1,456
Is the fridge/trailer level?
These fridges need to be close to level to work.
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Old 05-18-2021, 10:51 PM   #9
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2006 34' Classic S/O
Fort Worth , Texas
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,523
Wick, owner of RV Cool (, 1-800-515-6823), does outstanding Dometic Refrigerator rebuilds. He is located about 20 miles North of Little Rock, AR. I had him do mine about 6 years ago and it is still like new. He installs all new plumbing with special swirl cooling tubes that are much better than the Dometic OEM. At the time, I ask him about comebacks and he said none in 19 years. I paid him about $625 for the R&R.
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