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Old 03-25-2021, 10:59 AM   #1
2 Rivet Member
vashon , Washington
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 33
1968 Original Fridge - Can it be recharged?


Any advice would be appreciated on our fridge. It works, but would love to get it recharged to have it work better and want to get it inspected to make sure it's safe to run with propane. We are in the Seattle area, if anybody knows of a technician in the area or if you have any thoughts - would love to hear!

Thank you!
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Old 03-25-2021, 12:20 PM   #2
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Virginia Beach , Virginia
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Havent done it myself, but the whole cooling unit can be replaced inside the box for a fraction of a new refrigerator which will not last 30+ years. Also check out how to test and replace the door gasket. Spend a bit of time learning how ammonia refrigerator/freezers work. It is old tech, which in this day was a huge leap forward for food safety and preservation.
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Old 03-26-2021, 07:40 AM   #3
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1975 27' Overlander
Conifer , Colorado
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Your original fridge is a gas absorption type. It is a real neat invention of years ago and still used to this day. There is a little propane flame, or electrical heating element, in the cooling system that heats the liquid to a gas. Then the gas is converted back to a liquid in the freezer area and that creates a cooling effect. It is a little like using a compressed CO2 spray can to clean off your keyboard. When the compressed gas is sprayed out, the can feels cold. If the cooling system develops a leak, you will see a staining on the copper pipes in the back of the fridge, and you may smell ammonia like odor back there.

As Foiled Again mentions, the whole cooling piping can be replaced with a rebuilt one all ready to go. The fridge comes out of the trailer, and the techs replace it and test it. A internet search on repairing a gas absorption RV fridge may yield what you are looking for.

I might add that old fridges may not be the best for cooling as insulations and gaskets have improved over the years. Your new cooling system may not deliver the results you are looking for.

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Old 03-26-2021, 07:59 PM   #4
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1969 18' Caravel
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A few tips:

Make sure your trailer is level. Ammonia Absorption refrigerators are remarkably robust, the technology is ingeniously simple, but they do require a very level trailer to work best; even a few degrees off level will noticeably impact their performance.

Check to see if there is a difference in performance between electric and propane, if so, the problem is very likely with the power supply of the more poorly performing setting, rather than in the unit itself. Check the delivery system for problems in this case.

The internet is full of fascinating articles outlining how these ammonia absorption fridges work, most in easy-to-understand lay-terms. Take a few minutes to read up on how they work and you will better understand your amazing appliance and be better equipped to troubleshoot and even repair the system yourself.

Ammonia Absorption refrigerators, unlike compressor-types have no conventional refrigerant that needs periodic recharging. If there is a leak in the cooling lines, you will notice a distinct ammonia smell. If there was a leak in the past, you will notice residue at the base of the coolant coils, all the ammonia will have evaporated away and the appliance will not work at all.

One other point, Ammonia Absorption refrigerators require only a heat source to work; no pumps or compressors required. As such, they are ideal for use in RVs, powered only by propane (and some electricity to power the control boards if you have a newer unit; older units, when on propane, need nor use any electricity whatsoever) However, they take much longer to cool down from room temp than does a compressor fridge. Experienced campers often plug in or fire up their fridges a full day before heading out to get the temps to operating level and/or pack it with already frozen food to slowly thaw and cool the fridge interior enroute.
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