Fridge on propane mode not working

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Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Jonny » Thu Aug 23, 2012 5:23 pm

When I got my 190 last month, the fridge worked wonderfully on either 110v shore power or propane. Either would freeze water overnight. One morning when it had been running on propane for a few days, I noticed the floor in front of the fridge was soaked. Inside the fridge was warm, and considerable condensation was on everything. Looked like water was coming from the caulking seam where the hardwood meets the bottom of the fridge. I pried and peeked a little, and it looks like tinfoil or something running across the bottom of the front of the fridge. Haven't got a good look, but the caulking seam wouldn't be a water stop by design, as it's on wood. Gotta be just the exterior of the fridge sweating for some reason?

Door seal is fine, it's level both ways, and it works perfectly (and stays dry) on shore power. A few times I've switched over to propane, it lights quickly and stays lit, but over a period of hours I get condensation, a wet floor, and almost no cooling inside the unit. It'll keep it maybe 10 degrees cooler than ambient temp on gas.

The diagnostic manual says if it works in any mode at all, then the cooling unit is not the issue. What could I check next? If the cooling unit is fine and the burner lights, I'm stumped.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Wakeslayer » Thu Aug 23, 2012 5:34 pm

Are you sure you are level? Silly issue, but the fridges are pretty sensitive to that.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby skater » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:34 am

As you've already noticed, if the burner works and has a good flame, then the fridge should be working just fine in propane mode, since we already know it works in electric mode (the fridge has no moving parts; it just uses a heat source - either an electric element, or a flame - to heat the liquid in the tubes, which then cool and draw in heat from the fridge compartment).

My guess is the flame is going out for some reason. Perhaps your propane regulator is bad - are you having issues with any other propane appliances? (I'm assuming you're not out of propane.) The water you're seeing, I'm guessing, is from the fridge warming up after the propane stops cooling it. Is the flame nice and blue with yellow tips, or is it all yellow? Something like that would indicate a problem with the propane flow.

Another possibility is the water is from something else (a leak) and it's somehow extinguishing the flame.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Wakeslayer » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:43 am

I hesitated on the propane question. However, I did the exact thing at our cabin in Idaho last year. Water heater stopped working late the night before we left. I got home, ordered parts, got a manual, had a couple backup plans etc... And our fridge was still running, but it is about 25 feet from the source and uses very little gas. Anyhoooo... after getting there the next time, and swapping out a couple parts to no avail, it occurred to me to check the tank. Voila, out of gas... Flipped the tank selector, turned on the water. Worked fine.

Sometimes the obvious gets forgotten in the effort to solve the problem logically from a mechanical point of view.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Jonny » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:09 pm

I've checked for level at the fridge, not just trusted the bubbles in the cabin. I'm within a degree or so both ways, checked with a 4' johnson level that's dead on. There's half a tank of propane, showing same at gauge and the monitor panel. Stove works great with perfect flames, so I'd guess it isn't a propane issue.

The flame stays lit the whole time. I see a tiny little blue flame, about the size of what a lighter puts out, when I peek through the little sight hole from the outside.

It works on electric and won't on propane, even without moving the vehicle, so it shouldn't be a level issue. That also rules out the cooling unit, according to the manual. It has gas and stays lit, so propane isn't it. That leaves the quality and size of the flame I'd guess? The water is for sure condensation that is only present on propane mode - it's like the cooling unit is trying to cool but can't keep up for some reason. Like I said earlier, it does cool, but only slightly. With ambient temps from 60 at night to about 80 daytime, electric keeps it at 34 degrees and gas keeps it a few degrees below outside temp.

I'm going to re-read the diagnostic manual and see if I can wrap my head around the more advanced troubleshooting. Will keep all posted - thanks a ton for the suggestions so far :)
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby skater » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:35 pm

Then it should be working. The only thing left I can think of is that the flame is too small - I'd try cleaning the orifice and all just to be sure.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Jonny » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:38 pm

Well I found that the water issue and the fridge issue are separate.

I just gutted the plumbing under my sink, converted all to PVC, added a good filter, etc. Before I started, I emptied my holding tanks, used a tank wand, flushed a few times, then put a half gallon of bleach in each one and filled to sit for a few hours. Cleaning bug got me I guess. Anyway, I poured some of the bleach down each drain. Used the sink several times for various things while working. Fridge was on electric and running - floor got soaked everywhere. It was running out of that caulking seam that is at the bottom of the fridge right in the front. And it smelled like bleach.

Went outside and peeked in. Finally saw that the ABS drain that runs from the sink down low behind the fridge was cracked along the bottom, right where it goes from the fridge cavity to the hot water tank/pump area in the back. It runs about level in the back, then was yanked up pretty hard during installation. As it passes behind the fridge it climbs several inches - too much pressure from forcing it up to meet the next joint as it goes forward.

So, anytime the sing was used, the water was getting out at the crack behind the fridge and running right into the cabin. Twice when I was testing propane mode I must have used the sink more. Don't usually use it much.

Gonna suck to fix too - all kinds of wires, caulking, and such in that hole and no room to work.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby URStruly » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:09 pm

Your propane problems on your refrigerator may be due to or obstructions. The orifice very seldom gets dirty or clogged. But he burner will need to be blown out with a strong air stream. Blow out the fingers of the burner and blow back into the burner to be sure to get all rust and dirt out of the burner. Do this while the burner is on. If you still have problems take the grill above the refrigerator access panel off. The stack the heat goes up from the burner is here. It should have a cover above the tube. Remove it and see if there is any insulation obstructing it. Check to see if there are any dirt dobber nests built in it. They love these sheltered places. Do not damage the spiral deflector that runs down inside this tube. But clean it out if there is any obstruction present. If there are no obstructions and the burner is clean then the control board may be damaged. The electrical and propane control boards are separate.URS.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Jonny » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:19 pm

Thanks all for the suggestions. I cleaned the slots on the round pipe where the flame is with a small wire brush and compressed air. The flame was noticeably larger and more solid blue afterwords and its cooling on propane mode once again.

Full-timing for about 5 weeks now and loving it.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Wakeslayer » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:15 pm

My fridge is now working like crap on propane mode. I need to go through the cleaning steps. Hopefully I can get to it this weekend. Will report back.
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Wakeslayer » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:56 am

I am more than ecstatic to report that after messing around with the fridge last night and finding the shut off valve was a little more than half closed, that my fridge cooled to 29* from 65* overnight. I will post a couple pics later of the piece that was suspect. There was a good amount of rust and dirt down in there, but i really think the valve was the culprit. I have a nice strong all-blue flame.
The one drag is that I did remove the upper access grill. This was a pain in the ass due to the mega-adhesive weather seal strip all the way around. Now I have to figure out how to get a new one, and get the 18 year old gunk off the van and the grate.

Whew!
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Re: Fridge on propane mode not working

Postby Wakeslayer » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:01 am

Here is the compartment prior to cleaning

filthy 001.jpg
filthy 001.jpg (66.27 KiB) Viewed 8434 times


Here is the valve. The screw was turned about 75* clockwise and there is a metal tab behind it that was clearly visibile

shutoff valve001.jpg
shutoff valve001.jpg (64.49 KiB) Viewed 8433 times


Here is my flame now

burner flame 001.jpg
burner flame 001.jpg (28.71 KiB) Viewed 8433 times
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