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Old 06-11-2019, 08:49 PM   #1
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Norcold 305r won’t cool...ruining Disney trip

Norcold 305r will not cool much below 50 degrees. This unit was just meticulously installed last summer after our original 1964 Dometic died. I did the install to their spec sheet.

Cooled to freezing at home in the driveway. Lynn packed and all seemed well. We boondocked in a Walmart for the first time excited to finally live Wally’s dream free from hookups.

Fridge was right around 40 degrees in the morning. We felt we were doing great! Last night at our electric site when running on electric, it was barely 50 degrees. We can’t get it colder.

We already 1) bought an internal circulator fan from Camping World enroute today 2) shuffled all food to give more air circulation 3) ran a fan at access door outside to force hot air up the chimney 4) placed expensive Disney ice in the fridge to try to lower temperature.

The only thing we can think of is we overpacked it. The heating element in the back is hot. I burned three fingertips touching it. Interior fins do not seem cold.

On a two week trip at Fort Wilderness. Does anyone have any suggestions?

We may buy a cooler and tough it out...but we wonder, why spend all this money and TIME redoing a vintage Airstream if we can’t use it the way we should be able to? Can a one-year-old Norcold be dead already??
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:55 PM   #2
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Sorry for your troubles. As a pragmatist, I’d go the cooler route as a relatively inexpensive way to redeem the reason you’re on vacation and save the fridge problem solving for later. And you can reuse the cooler in lots of other situations after this trip.

Hopefully someone with more knowledge about your fridge will chime in with helpful answers for you.
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Old 06-11-2019, 09:01 PM   #3
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I agree. Buy the cooler and move the critical stuff to it. Then see if the fridge can “catch up”. Maybe just a matter of overloading it and not enough down time with door closed.
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Old 06-11-2019, 09:04 PM   #4
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Any unit of any type can fail at any time. At a guess I'd suggest ventilation of the hot coils in back may be insufficient, so I'd keep working that angle. Might be worth reaching out to Norcold customer service if you haven't already done so.

Meanwhile, given the objective is to make the trip a success right here right now, I'd add a good cooler to the mix. You can either go with a quality cooler (doesn't have to be a Yeti, but should promise to keep ice for ~6 days), or a powered cooler that operates via a Danfoss compressor. The latter would be more expensive, but you wouldn't need ice.

Best wishes for a happy and successful visit!
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Old 06-12-2019, 01:19 AM   #5
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Sorry for your troubles. Probably a combination of factors IMO, including some "bad news" items.

What were the ambient outside air, and trailer interior temps, during all this? If you loaded in PA and ended up in FL, the outside and inside temps have been increasing, right? How hot has the trailer interior been? A/C working OK?

Which side of the AS is the fridge on, and was this side in the sun? Under an awning maybe for the midday sun?

Over-packing probably made things worse. So does adding ANY room-temp item into the fridge. We always have a couple of coolers in our van tow vehicle . . . one to store ice . . . and one to pre-chill liquids etc. before adding them to the AS fridge.

RV fridges have trouble in summer. Period.

They can only be counted on to lower the ambient air temp roughly 40 degrees or so. If the outside air is 80, no prob. If the outside air is 90, well the math is easy. Did this factor affect you? What is the air temp at Disney right now? Looks like the daily highs have been close to 90, is this correct? Is the fridge side of your AS in direct sun? In effect, your new fridge may be in an oven.

Setting off with a new untested fridge is another factor which did not run in your favor IMO. Sorry, but this had to be said. Especially for a different model and/or cooling system. Install-test-adjust-test-etc..

Traveling without a back-up cooler . . . another factor.

Good luck,

Peter

PS -- At this point your solution should be KISS . . . one or two coolers, and plenty of ice. Life delivers the lessons we need to learn. New fridge and hot location . . . new lessons.
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Old 06-12-2019, 03:47 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
Sorry for your troubles. Probably a combination of factors IMO, including some "bad news" items.

What were the ambient outside air, and trailer interior temps, during all this? If you loaded in PA and ended up in FL, the outside and inside temps have been increasing, right? How hot has the trailer interior been? A/C working OK?

Which side of the AS is the fridge on, and was this side in the sun? Under an awning maybe for the midday sun?

Over-packing probably made things worse. So does adding ANY room-temp item into the fridge. We always have a couple of coolers in our van tow vehicle . . . one to store ice . . . and one to pre-chill liquids etc. before adding them to the AS fridge.

RV fridges have trouble in summer. Period.

They can only be counted on to lower the ambient air temp roughly 40 degrees or so. If the outside air is 80, no prob. If the outside air is 90, well the math is easy. Did this factor affect you? What is the air temp at Disney right now? Looks like the daily highs have been close to 90, is this correct? Is the fridge side of your AS in direct sun? In effect, your new fridge may be in an oven.

Setting off with a new untested fridge is another factor which did not run in your favor IMO. Sorry, but this had to be said. Especially for a different model and/or cooling system. Install-test-adjust-test-etc..

Traveling without a back-up cooler . . . another factor.

Good luck,

Peter

PS -- At this point your solution should be KISS . . . one or two coolers, and plenty of ice. Life delivers the lessons we need to learn. New fridge and hot location . . . new lessons.
Peter, good insights. The ice we placed in there overnight has lowered the temp considerably. Maybe it will be able to catch up.

This Norcold is not untested. We have had it out twice this summer...once to the Jersey Shore where it is, not totally unlike Florida, hot and muggy. The fridge did fine. We used it a few times last season after the original failed.

Then last time we did Florida two summers ago, I had just gotten the original 1964 Dometic operating. I brought a cooler on that trip just in case the 50+year old unit didn’t survive the trip,. Didn’t think I would need it this time.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:21 AM   #7
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Thanks for the update, and for your graceful reception of my middle-of-the-night wanderings.

Have fun at Disney!

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Old 06-12-2019, 09:26 AM   #8
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PA BAMBI II,
While at the Fort last summer, my neighbor called Norbert to fix his A/C. Very competent, friendly and fair priced, we thought after the repair.

Give him a call, if only to see what’s what with your fridge. His repair truck’s contents are a thing of beauty!

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Phone Number: (407) 348-0862
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:47 AM   #9
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I don't know about your fridge, but on my Dometic there is a little clip with a wire on it (temperature sensor) clipped to the fins on the inside. Check to see if you have it and if so the higher up on the fins it is, the cooler the fridge runs. Maybe loading or travel dislodged it.


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Old 06-12-2019, 10:50 AM   #10
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Have you tried running the fridge on propane instead of electricity?
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Old 06-12-2019, 10:57 AM   #11
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Just a thought fellow Bambi II owner. If your trailer has the original frig fresh air intake in the floor make sure there are no obstructions. We closed off that intake because of all the refuse it collected and made a new intake in the outside wall behind the frig.

I’d post a photo but used up my allotted photo space years ago.
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:04 AM   #12
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+1 on the temp sensor check

I've never heard of over-loading causing a fridge to not work, usually the opposite, more thermal mass makes them better (once that mass is cold)

Does this have a separate freezer?
If so, what's the freezer temp doing?

Is there any baffling in the chimney? i.e. is all air forced through the cooling element, or can some air go around it?

Try different power sources, my parents norcold is fine on 110 and propane, but barely works on 12V
I've also seen a fridge stop working on propane... Because the regulator was just replaced, and the new regulator was a dud

Also check for model recalls


As an aside, if this "ruins" a trip, you really need to reevaluate some life philosophies and gain perspective
I'm sure you weren't being serious, just saying

Edit, also, whoever said an RV fridge can only lower temps 40 degrees makes no sense. We full-time, and our dometic fridge/freezer in our 40 year old airstream has no trouble on 100 degree days in direct sunlight.
Ironically the only time it has struggled was when it was -20 out, because the ammonia froze in the pipes
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Old 06-12-2019, 02:31 PM   #13
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Get a cooler and/or go to McDonalds.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:19 PM   #14
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Go to nearest Publix and buy a few pounds of dry ice. Handle like it is nuclear fuel. Put it on a piece of styrofoam in your freezer.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:29 PM   #15
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Yellow powder or traces on fridge coils?

Suggest u check back of fridge area for traces of yellow powder which would indicate an ammonia leak at coils. If u have a hot heating element you should have some cold coils on the back side. The cooling units if bad can be replaced with a new set a much lower cost. I bought one from a Canadian company and installed it with a lifetime warranty. Obvious much better quality than original mfgr unit!!! Good luck...
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:33 PM   #16
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Just a thought, when you were boondocking and on the road it was running on propane, did you try manually switching it over to gas from electric? I find that running gas will get it colder faster, maybe the electric just can't keep up for conditions or has some other electrical issue?

Yellow dust is always a dead give-away for a leak. I had one that wouldn't cool on propane but would on electric and found that the vent pipe that propane heats actually got plugged with insulation (non-airstream trailer) so it couldn't vent properly causing it to shut down. May want to check to make sure your top vent is clear and something didn't decide to take up residency in it (mudd wasps, or maybe something got blown in on the road blocking it?)...
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:41 PM   #17
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Ok, we got ice from the ice machine and added it to many containers and placed them in the fridge cabinet to help the fridge regain its mojo. Came back today from 7 hours at the Magic Kingdom to find the unit at 26 degrees. I immediately drank a very cold, refreshing beer!

So we learned some lessons and will be more experienced campers next time. Thanks for all the input.

These RV refrigerators are cantankerous, but manageable with some know-how and experience from the road...and of course the forum!
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Old 06-24-2019, 02:55 PM   #18
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Trip not ruined...operation on gas is sketchy

OK, we made it home...the Disney trip was not ruined. The fridge kept up the entire time we were set up at Disney.


Upon returning home to PA today at around 3 PM, the fridge, having been running on gas for two days, was at around 50 degrees. The freezer seemed to be doing its job.


Can I not expect better performance on LP while on the road? Seems the electric is doing OK when set up at a campsite.


I had read in some of Dad's older service manuals/RV maintenance books that the refrigerators actually run/cool better on LP as the flame is hotter than the electric heating element. I wonder if this is not true of the newer refrigerators?


What do we do when we are boondocking and do not have access to ice to "help" the refrigerator along? We did that down in Florida as mentioned in a previous post, and got it cold.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:44 PM   #19
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Glad you were resourceful enough to make "lemonade" out of the situation.

There's a number of things you can check and do to hopefully gain the performance you expect. I believe you said this is a new refrigerator in an older trailer?

1) LP Pressure regulator - How old is the pressure regulator in the trailer? Older units have known to worn resulting in ultimately less propane pressure. The fridge in particular is sensitive to sufficient pressure to perform optimally.
2) LP Pressure calibration - When's the last time the pressure was set? Ideally, it should be set to 11.5" of water. Some fridges can be boosted in performance by a bit more pressure.
3) Circulation fans - I know you said you installed one on the inside and outside of the unit. In particular, the outside one needs to be configured properly. It's not good enough to just have a fan blowing on the rear. Ideally this fan is situated at the top of the chimney to work with convection and pull hot air up and out of the rear cavity.

Good luck!
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:53 PM   #20
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One problem is the fridges get installed in spaces without enough ventilation. I'll bet your fridge does not vent the heat out the roof.
There may also not be enough space for airflow.
One solution is to install some fans in the space to help the air move out. There are some really elegant creations from individuals. They can be 120v. or 12 v.
I also discovered on my last trip not to stack food near the thermocouple. (That wire on the fins) I was worried mine wasn't working (46) and moved the food away and the next morning it was 35 inside the fridge! I don't know why this worked, but it seemed too.
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