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Old 11-22-2022, 10:39 AM   #1
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Using Fridge when not level

Hi-

I have a 2017 Airstream FC23D with the original dometic fridge. It is parked on my driveway which is at a slope (front of RV is leaning down a bit after raising jack as far as I am comfortable).

Before trips I do turn on the fridge for a day or two and it has been working fine. I have noticed that if the RV is not level from left to right, the fridge will not get cold at all but a little leaning front to back did not have the same effect.

Is using the fridge when not level front to back going to damage my fridge? Reason I ask is that after several years now of doing this, we recently observed the fridge not working during our last trip. Trying to see if the use when not level is the issue or something else (I.e. age of the unit).

Thanks for any input.
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Old 11-22-2022, 11:06 AM   #2
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3 way fridges must be level

unlevel can be dangerous.
sometimes they can catch on fire
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Old 11-22-2022, 11:32 AM   #3
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Much better performance when level. We have found that we must level ours when in the driveway prepping for a trip. It is level left to right and front to back. One side sits on two two-bys. Tongue is nearly as low as it can go.

We’ve also noticed performance improving lately. Maybe it’s because we level it better than we used to. Maybe it’s the maintenance I performed on it.
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Old 11-22-2022, 01:39 PM   #4
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Level ALWAYS. It relies on gravity for the ammonia solution to flow through the system. If unlevel, the solution can overheat and form crystals. Over time the crystals can cause sporadic blockages and inhibit or prevent cooling. They can often be dislodged, and it will cool again — until it won’t. This can be a progressive process. The fix is eventually a new cooling unit.
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Old 11-22-2022, 01:53 PM   #5
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Definitely needs to be level, but doesn't need to be OCD level. Level enough for comfortable use of the trailer - if you're comfortable then it's level enough. Here's the instructions from my manual, and I don't believe it's changed all that much to the latest propane fridges.
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Old 11-22-2022, 04:05 PM   #6
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This is good information to know.

SPP
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Old 11-22-2022, 04:28 PM   #7
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I would assume this information about being level applies to any absorption fridge regardless of the source of the heat, propane, A/C or D/C from the battery.

But a compressor type fridge is not sensitive to being level. Correct?
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Old 11-22-2022, 04:45 PM   #8
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Using Fridge when not level

That is correct. DC powered “danfoss” compressor style refrigeration was originally developed for marine applications.
So not at all sensitive to pitch, roll or yaw.
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Old 11-22-2022, 05:05 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by pcskier View Post
Level ALWAYS. It relies on gravity for the ammonia solution to flow through the system. If unlevel, the solution can overheat and form crystals. Over time the crystals can cause sporadic blockages and inhibit or prevent cooling. They can often be dislodged, and it will cool again — until it won’t. This can be a progressive process. The fix is eventually a new cooling unit.
The other option, besides buying a new compressor fridge is to replace the coil assembly as outlined here in this article on this site.

The advantage to this approach is that if your trailer is old enough, it's very likely the new fridge won't fit into the same space, because they change dimensions every decade or so for reasons that have never been satisfactorialy explained to me. This means you can keep your existing fridge box, assuming it's still in good shape, and you won't have to cut or fill in any millwork around the perimeter or redo the base.

The purchase cost will also be much cheaper, but when you factor in your labor and time, it's a wash.

Another option is to replace the unit with a compressor unit which is way cheaper, but precludes boon docking unless you run a genny constantly or have a super expensive battery setup, which would negate any cost savings on the fridge by an order of magnitude or so.
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Old 11-23-2022, 01:53 AM   #10
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Using Fridge when not level

Quote:
Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
The other option, besides buying a new compressor fridge is to replace the coil assembly as outlined here in this article on this site.

The advantage to this approach is that if your trailer is old enough, it's very likely the new fridge won't fit into the same space, because they change dimensions every decade or so for reasons that have never been satisfactorialy explained to me. This means you can keep your existing fridge box, assuming it's still in good shape, and you won't have to cut or fill in any millwork around the perimeter or redo the base.

The purchase cost will also be much cheaper, but when you factor in your labor and time, it's a wash.

Another option is to replace the unit with a compressor unit which is way cheaper, but precludes boon docking unless you run a genny constantly or have a super expensive battery setup, which would negate any cost savings on the fridge by an order of magnitude or so.

That is what I was referring to when I mentioned a new cooling unit. I thought my fridge was toast and got a new Amish cooling unit last winter. Then my fridge came back to life so i have never installed the new unit yet. I know I have crystallized solution and it clogs the cooling lines now and then. I keep thermometers in the fridge and freezer sections and when I see things getting warm, I shut it off. When the lines cool, the blockage settles out and after a few hours restart the fridge and am back in business. I am full time, and dread removing the fridge to replace the cooling unit, so I keep putting it off and so far, so good.
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Old 11-23-2022, 10:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pcskier View Post
That is what I was referring to when I mentioned a new cooling unit. I thought my fridge was toast and got a new Amish cooling unit last winter. Then my fridge came back to life so i have never installed the new unit yet. I know I have crystallized solution and it clogs the cooling lines now and then. I keep thermometers in the fridge and freezer sections and when I see things getting warm, I shut it off. When the lines cool, the blockage settles out and after a few hours restart the fridge and am back in business. I am full time, and dread removing the fridge to replace the cooling unit, so I keep putting it off and so far, so good.


Thanks to all for the several very helpful responses. Much appreciated.

Was wondering if the crystals that develop when not level are permanent and just keep building up. Or do they transition back over time?

I have kept it off now while on my unlevel driveway. Will try turning it on when level again but am wondering if it will work or not.

Thanks!
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Old 11-23-2022, 10:42 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeysmith View Post
Thanks to all for the several very helpful responses. Much appreciated.

Was wondering if the crystals that develop when not level are permanent and just keep building up. Or do they transition back over time?

I have kept it off now while on my unlevel driveway. Will try turning it on when level again but am wondering if it will work or not.

Thanks!
Yes, the crystals are permanent and cumulative. A lot of information on gas absorption refrigerators here:

https://www.arprv.com/products.php

I do not know why the ARP unit does not get more attention on this forum. I consider it an essential piece of equipment.
(I am in no way affiliated with this company, just a user for about 7 or 8 years)
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Old 11-23-2022, 11:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeysmith View Post
Hi-

I have a 2017 Airstream FC23D with the original dometic fridge. It is parked on my driveway which is at a slope (front of RV is leaning down a bit after raising jack as far as I am comfortable).

Before trips I do turn on the fridge for a day or two and it has been working fine. I have noticed that if the RV is not level from left to right, the fridge will not get cold at all but a little leaning front to back did not have the same effect.

Is using the fridge when not level front to back going to damage my fridge? Reason I ask is that after several years now of doing this, we recently observed the fridge not working during our last trip. Trying to see if the use when not level is the issue or something else (I.e. age of the unit).

Thanks for any input.
I just try to use common sense. If you’re parked all crazy pointing up or down or leaning don’t run on propane. If your unit is comfy to walk in you're probably good.

No need to level your trailer using playing cards like some here insist.
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Old 11-23-2022, 11:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeysmith View Post
Thanks to all for the several very helpful responses. Much appreciated.

Was wondering if the crystals that develop when not level are permanent and just keep building up. Or do they transition back over time?

I have kept it off now while on my unlevel driveway. Will try turning it on when level again but am wondering if it will work or not.

Thanks!

They are forever.
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Old 11-23-2022, 12:58 PM   #15
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Peter thank you great explanation.
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Old 11-23-2022, 01:30 PM   #16
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As others have posted an absorption type fridge needs to be level.to properly work, yes it Will work off level but you do risk of the dreaded crystal formation from blocking passages in the cooling unit and.will.result.in a non functional cooling unit. Maybe get a tech to check and make sure there aren't other reasons for non operation. Do you get the same result whether you are on propane or electric. If it is the same then might.be time to.upgrade to a 12volt compressor fridge. We love our Norcold N8DC.
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Old 11-23-2022, 01:56 PM   #17
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I replaced the cooling unit in my 1994 Dometic propane fridge last year. The cooling unit was about $650 and the control board another $150. The control board was replaced as a precautionary measure while I was in the neighborhood working.

Took me about 4 hours total to change the cooling unit, only having help for a couple of steps along the way to move the fridge and lay it down as well as the final placement of the cooling unit onto the fridge.

All in all, if your fridge is otherwise in good condition and you determine that the cooling unit is bad you can get back to cold beer again in about 1/3-1/2 the cost of a new fridge (propane or 12v compressor.)
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Old 11-24-2022, 07:06 AM   #18
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I always make sure my trailer is level .. especially when the refrigerator is running. I have never had one go bad in 50 years
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Old 11-24-2022, 09:44 AM   #19
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. . .
Is using the fridge when not level front to back going to damage my fridge?
. . .
What does your owner's manual say about how level the fridge should be? [see attachment in Post #5]

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Old 11-27-2022, 02:30 PM   #20
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Our original 2017 FC 27’ Dometic refrigerator was getting temperamental and then stopped working altogether.
We replaced the control panel and it’s back in operation. It was surprising as our previous AS 1994 refrigerator worked for 20 years without any issues.
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