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Old 06-13-2006, 11:30 AM   #1
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1973 27' Overlander
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Fridge not getting cold enough

Hi to all - this looks to be a neat/informative and useful forum.

My folks have what I believe is a 1973 27' airstream parked near our home in the mountains that they visit regularly during the summer. This year the fridge is causing problems for the first time ever.

It has its origional fridge and I dont know the last time its been cleaned or serviced. I have a bit of experience with Servels and I wonder if it simply doesn't need the burner/flu cleaned out. As it is - it gets cold (the freezer makes ice) but not cold enough (The fridge part is running around 50 deg).

I wonder what the best approach is to troubleshooting/reparing this is. Watching the flame it appears to be nice and blue, but very short/small. Is cleaning the burner/flue our best first move? Any tricks we should know about before we try? I wonder if also the thermostat could be the problem and if so - where should we look to find one?

Thanks so much! - DBartmann
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Old 06-13-2006, 11:50 AM   #2
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You might have a case of the Flue!

Yes, the flue must be clear and air needs to flow upward easily without blockage or turbulance. If you use a dental mirror (Target or Walmt) you should be able to insert the mirror into the burner housing access flap (pivots to one side) and see up the flue to the cap and some light on a bright day. Over the years birds nest and bees - whatever they do - hive??, and can block this flow.

Many owners install a small fan (nowadays a quiet computer PC fan works well) low and off-set to blow over the rear coils - opposite side of the burner assembly. If place so as to increase the up-draft the fan can lower inside reefer temps up to 5 degrees. Note that removing the outside access panel can reduce flue effectiveness, not improve it. I also gfound out I had to seal the side walls where the partition panels meet the skin to keep the heat from seeping around the panels, and promote a better updraft.

Use the Search box on the main AIrstream forums page and look for "refrigerator problems" as the search term. There are MANY potential problems with the unit, but start simple. Best of luck!
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Old 06-13-2006, 11:53 AM   #3
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I would start with cleaning the flue and vents of any debris that may have collect in/around them, also any excessive carbon debris around the pilot light. Both these can cause your fridge to be less effective.

One other it level? Within a 1/4 bubble each way?

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Old 06-13-2006, 12:24 PM   #4
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A warm welcome to the forum! You might like to click on this link to see my description of the servicing procedure:
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Old 06-13-2006, 12:34 PM   #5
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I'll be anxious to see if cleaning the flu/adjusting the flame fixes improves your cooling capicity. Since there is no compressor, these absorbtion types take a while to cool down. Usually mine takes over-night before the freezer gets usuable.
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Old 06-13-2006, 01:42 PM   #6
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What is the outside temp when the fridge is 50? you usually can get only a 60 degree drop out of these fridges. You might also check the gas pressure. It should be about 1/2 psi. Check at the range with a tube and a column of water. Should be about 11 inches of water. The regulator may be out of adjustment. A small fan inside the fridge by the cooling coils also helps. Very small computer fan will run off 12 volts. A digital indoor outdoor thermometer with sensor in the fridge is a good way to keep an eye on things without opening the door all the time. If you use the camper only once in awhlile, you might consider giving it a head start by buying a bag of ice to get the initial cooling. These fridges do not have much capacity to cool off things alot and the ice gets it down to temp faster than the fridge cooler can. Also check the seals and make sure the door shuts completely. A small air leak may mean it will never cool off sufficiently.
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Old 06-13-2006, 02:48 PM   #7
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I'm having similar issues with mine as well. Nice to know about the 60 degree difference. I live in the desert and where the trailer is parked, the exterior fridge wall faces the west. Over the Memorial Day weekend while out camping in the high country, the fridge would switch over automatically to 12 volt from propane causing it to run off the battery. Really hard on the battery and in some cases I didn't notice this happened in a timely manner and when I would switch it back to propane, the fridge would shut completely down. It took several hours for it to come back on. Hopefully, all it needs is a good cleaning. Any advise or alternative approaches greatly appreciated.

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Old 06-13-2006, 04:36 PM   #8
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Thought that I might chime in on this one.

It is imperative that the fridge LP burner, flue tube and spiral baffle be cleaned ANNUALLY. If you read any of the new directions for these units, you will see that both Norcold and Dometic have sections to be completed every year for the cleaning and service and they will not honor any warranty claims without those pages complete.

That said, the cooling fans may work a little to keep the air flow on the condenser section but they really don't do much. Check out www.snydersrvrefrigeration for a patent-pending, relatively cheap solution to the hot weather operational problems. The unit, when operating properly, should be able to maintain 45 degF when the ambient temp is 110 deg.

Other places to look are door seal leaks, interior light stuck on (this has a huge negative effect) and an often overlooked problem, a leaking drain hose or one that has had the bottom plug removed. This will cause a large amount of cold air leakage that will impede the operation also. Also remember that it takes at least 8 hours for an EMPTY fridge to get cool.

The air flow in the back of the unit and the cleaning are the 2 most important. If you are not getting enough heat to the refrigerant, the unit will not work properly. Also, if there is insufficient air flow on the high and low temperature evaporators in the rear of the unit, they will not be able to properly transfer the heat out of the interior of the refrigerator.
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