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Fridge not cooling on propane
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Rhinoculips
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:02 am    Post subject: Fridge not cooling on propane Reply with quote

So after all the effort to pull the Dometic for an overhaul, it won't cool on propane. It lights up fine now, but virtually no chill effect going on. Everything I've done so far-

1) Cleaned combustion chamber, jet, burner, intake, exhaust, drain tube and sealed combustion chamber with hitemp rtv.
2) turned fridge upside down for 24 hrs.
3) turned it upright and let it sit for another 24 hrs.
4) installed gowesty muffin fan, and a FLAPS vacuum check valve and enlargened the output of airpump and intake of new check valve.
5) ran it on 110v for 24 hrs. Inside temp drops to 24 degrees (ambient outside temp 65 degrees)
6) turned on propane and it lights up beautifully.

All internal temps measured with wireless sensor. Thus the door wasn't being opened at all during testing.

In no time at all inside temp begins to rise. After 12 hours running on propane(don't forget was already cold from 24 hrs on 110v) temp rises to 48 degrees with ambient at 62 degrees. With my infrared temp gun, the top of the combustion chamber reads 250 degrees and exhaust tube just below the insulation reads well over 300 degrees. This seems pretty hot to me. The tubing just below the fin where the fan's thermocouple sensor reads a temp of 90 degrees.

Anyone have an idea why it works so well on 110v and totally crappy when running on propane? I know these fridges arent the greatest, especially on propane, but a 14 degree differential on a day that's kinda cool already ain't gonna cut the mustard.

Did I right the fridge to fast? Does it need burped after being upside down? But if that's the case, wouldnt I have the same troubles on 110v?

Any ideas are greatly appreciated!
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pioneer1
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a lot of info in the files and other research (written by actual refrigerator technicians) that suggested turning the fridge upsidedown is not effective. The propane IS keeping the temperature 20* below ambient-maybe that's all they do?
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:40 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge not cooling on propane Reply with quote

The same cooling system is in use for 110volt as for propane and 12 volt. If it cools well in one mode then the cooling unit is not the problem, the other heating mode is. Your propane heating system is not working right, namely not making enough heat. Since it lights and stays lit you need to focus on the size of the flame. The 2 most like causes of inadequate flame size are low propane pressure and a partially blocked propane gas jet. Have you measured the propane system pressure while a stove burner is lit? What did you use to clean the jet? The other possibility is that the gas valve is staying in pilot mode instead of switching to full burner mode. This you can check by listening closely at the flue vent while someone else moves the temp setting knob back and forth from min cold to max cold, waiting for a little while at each end of the range. If you are in a quiet area you should be able to hear the flame noise increase and decrease.

Mark
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Rhinoculips
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all, i am at 9,500 feet in elevation. If that makes a difference. The fridge is out of the vehicle and hooked up to a BBQ grill tank. Thus, i cant check the flame on the stove top burner.

The jet was cleaned with carb and brake cleaner. You can see light thru it and appears very clean. Nothing was poked into the jet. While turning the min/max dial the flame sounds the same until you go to very minimum (pilot???) setting. Return the dial back towards max and I can hear the flame kick back on. Again, no change in sound thru the range except when on pilot. Viewing the flame through the inspection window on the combustion chamber, you can see the difference in the flame size when the dial is moved to pilot. The rest of the range on the dial the flame looks the same.

So I'm stumped. The van has been in the family since new. I know the fridge worked at altitude, but now I get virtually nada cooling on propane. Not sure what else to check. Ideas?
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crazyvwvanman
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are only 2 flame sizes, pilot size and burner size. The temp setting only helps tell it when to switch back and forth between the sizes.

The propane pressure needs to be right. Testing it on a BBQ tank and BBQ regulator won't tell you for sure how it will work when connected to the Westy tank and pressure regulator. My reference to the stove being lit during pressure testing was you need to be sure there is enough gas pressure to the fridge even when the stove is lit. I'm sure someone has posted the procedure for measuring the Westy tank output propane pressure.

Mark


Rhinoculips wrote:
First of all, i am at 9,500 feet in elevation. If that makes a difference. The fridge is out of the vehicle and hooked up to a BBQ grill tank. ...... While turning the min/max dial the flame sounds the same until you go to very minimum (pilot???) setting. Return the dial back towards max and I can hear the flame kick back on. Again, no change in sound thru the range except when on pilot. Viewing the flame through the inspection window on the combustion chamber, you can see the difference in the flame size when the dial is moved to pilot. The rest of the range on the dial the flame looks the same. .............
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Rhinoculips
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So if I understand correctly, my next step is to hook it back up to the Westy tank/regulator and see if that makes a difference over the BBQ regulator.

Thanks

I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.
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travelteam
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Rhinoculips - did you ever figure this out?

I seem to have the same problem. I have a 1990 (new to me) westy. The fridge works great on 110V. And it fires up easily on propane. The LED light is on and the flue cover gets warm.

But, the fridge does not cool at all when on propane.

One odd thing is that I cannot see the pilot light at all through the lens in the bottom left corner inside the fridge. I assume it's on as the LED indicates this as well as the heat on the flue cover.

Anyway - hope you got it sorted. And if so, I'd love to hear what you figured out. Cheers.
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Rhinoculips
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No luck figuring this one out. I have given up. Thus, I am going to use this as a good excuse to update to a new fridge and solar/house battery system. Until I can afford it, I'm stuck with a really nice cooler.

If you figure it out, be sure to post it.
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b00t
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not sure if it helps but may be related. We just took a trip out west (NM/CO - 4300 miles) and found that our fridge on propane did not cool the fridge at high altitude.

We are from Western NC and live at 2200 and camp between that and 6000 and never had a problem. As soon as we got to Santa Fe (7000?) the reefer went to crap and wouldn't cool. We ended up switching over to Coleman Steel belted cooler, never used the fridge again.

Again, not sure if there really is in connection there, just our experience. For intents and purpose, it works for most of our camping, just not on this expedition.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

9500 feet??? That makes a HUGE difference. It will de-rate the burner almost 40% at that elevation. The fuel gas ratio is completely off. Most gas appliances have a high altitude conversion kit. I suspect this is the cause of your poor performance. You loose about 4% performance for every 1000 feet above see level.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think its the elevation too. I just made ice in my fridge while on propane, at the coast (sea level) when the air temp was from 65-85. But when I am in Sun Valley at 6,000 feet I can only keep my beer cold - no ice, no cocktails!
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Rhinoculips
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thing is, I know it used to work at altitude. The Westy has been in the family and based at altitude since new. So, I'm not sure why it would not work now. I'm stumped. Maybe one of these days, I will pull it again. I am tired of the POS and ready for a new solar/fridge setup, but can't afford the upgrade.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rhinoculips wrote:
Thing is, I know it used to work at altitude. The Westy has been in the family and based at altitude since new. So, I'm not sure why it would not work now. I'm stumped. Maybe one of these days, I will pull it again. I am tired of the POS and ready for a new solar/fridge setup, but can't afford the upgrade.


The performance may have just reduced enough over time that it now isn't working as well as it used too. With the new system, the altitude may have affected it too, but it wasn't as noticible. Now that it is older, it just can't keep up. If you think the fridge is in top shape, it won't hurt to take a look at the propane system to make sure the regulator is working properly and enough gas is getting there.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

travelteam wrote:
Hey Rhinoculips - did you ever figure this out?

I seem to have the same problem. I have a 1990 (new to me) westy. The fridge works great on 110V. And it fires up easily on propane. The LED light is on and the flue cover gets warm.

But, the fridge does not cool at all when on propane.

One odd thing is that I cannot see the pilot light at all through the lens in the bottom left corner inside the fridge. I assume it's on as the LED indicates this as well as the heat on the flue cover.

Anyway - hope you got it sorted. And if so, I'd love to hear what you figured out. Cheers.


We're having exactly the same problem. Works great on 110v, hardly at all on LPG.

Finally used a remote thermometer to get the numbers:

On propane, cools 7 degrees (Fahrenheit) below ambient.
On 110v, cools 30 below ambient.
And if I run it on propane and 110v simultaneously, it cools... 37 below ambient. Laughing (I figured it would be additive, but not so perfectly.)


It'll start no problem on propane: LED light goes green. And the grille behind/beside fridge will heat up a bit. But just isn't cooling much. I also have extreme trouble seeing any flame through the little peep hole: at the perfect angle I can see just a tiny speck of blue. Is it possible the pilot light alone is running, and that's providing the 7 degrees of cooling?
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am so freaking happy.

Using the awesomely detailed set of instructions by Frank Condelli ( http://www.frankcondelli.com/fridge.htm ), helpfully suggested by some of you (many thanks), I yanked my fridge for the first time ever.

And cleaned it. Gave it the full treatment: 36 hours sitting upside down. Vacuumed the coils etc. on back. Dissassembled and cleaned burner box. Bathed propane jet in alcohol for 24 hours, then blew through it. Used bike pump (don't have air compressor) to shoot air through oxygen intake, exhaust outake, propane, and drain lines. Verified sparker and fan worked. (Noticed the sparker wire was losing insulation in several places where it rubbed against cabinet, so wound with electrical tape.) And managed to get the thing back in. Razz

Result: it works like a fiend! Getting 40 degrees below ambient: measured 74 in front of the fridge, 34 inside fridge. (And something like 95 just above the back grille where it's hottest, on left-hand side.)

What puzzles me is that I saw no obvious problems while cleaning. All tubes/pipes seemed clean. The propane jet emerged from my tender loving care with a little hole exactly the same size as before its alcohol bath, judging from the exact same pinhole of light visible through its wee opening. And even the burner box had only a few rust flakes inside. So I have no idea why the propane was doing so poorly before. Maybe those few flakes had lodged themselves inside the burner pipe? Dunno. But whatever it was, I'm a happy camper. Razz
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you tried to operate the fridge on propane at a lower altitude to see what happens? A road trip to a more oxygenated environment with micro-brews may provide some answers.

You can make your own U-tube manometer with some clear plastic tubing and a couple of bucks in hardware parts to check you gas pressure.

Mike
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Farf wrote:
Have you tried to operate the fridge on propane at a lower altitude to see what happens? A road trip to a more oxygenated environment with micro-brews may provide some answers.

You can make your own U-tube manometer with some clear plastic tubing and a couple of bucks in hardware parts to check you gas pressure.

Mike


I second that- come down the hill to Aurora and come to Dry Dock Brewing Company, (I work there) located at a measly old 5500'. We can work on your refrig whilst we quaff some beer from the brewery and talk VWs. I'll send you back up the hill with cold beer in the frig, too! Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am having this exact problem but intermittently. Camped last week at Brainard lake (10,000 ft) and the fridge worked perfectly. Went back this week and it would not cool on propane. I can hear and smell it burning but no cooling at all. Works fine on 110.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 6:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Fridge not cooling on propane Reply with quote

Just incase anyone is still on this thread, FWIW here's a long winded fridge monolog:
I have a 1990 synchro Westy I've owned for most of it's life. The fridge has reliably worked for years but for the last 2 has gone down hill. I did all the the recommended maintenance: Burner clean, sealing, inverting etc... This fridge HAS started and worked in all sorts of altitudes and environments, for years. On the backside there is little corrosion and is very clean. Hell, after sitting in Utah's desert backcountry in 100 degree sun (dark blue van = 150deg. internal) I returned from 3 days backpacking with ice in those measly trays! Can you say tiny margarita!
When I first pulled the fridge, one of the screws that holds the exhaust to the burner box was missing and I thought ah-ha! air leak, easy fix! Not so, now without all that extra venting it's harder to start, It does start, just requiring all that extra pumping of the air pump.

This is an Absorption type fridge, using heat applied to a sealed ammonia based coolant to create cool, A LOT of big RV fridges use the same system today, (with improvements) reliable and quiet it can run for weeks on a tank of propane without batteries and sun or engine power. I have a 3 amp compressor based fridge in an art bus I have and it keeps me thinking how's the batteries / solar charge going? etc... (it has a swing compressor that's loud) If the coolest system fails on an absorption unit you may as well throw it out, not worth fixing. The signs are Ammonia smell, usually in fridge, and corrosion on the black tubes behind the fridge. I.E leaks. Mine works perfectly on AC. That means the cooling system is OK.

My own Boo-Boo gave me a clue as to whats going on. I hooked up a propane tank from my portable garage heater to it to bench test it and I noticed the flame was really erratic until I turned the thermostat down to min. (only two flame heights, the thermostat switches it to full or pilot) My Dometic has the auto lighter that continued to click after the flame started which it shouldn't, the erratic flame was getting everything hot back there but what was important, I figured it was the thermostat valve cause it worked at min. but blew like hell at all other settings. Not so, it was the propane pressure, I swapped the regulator to one from my barbie and everything worked great. In two hours the ambient in the fridge dropped from 78 to 43 degrees and the back of the fridge is cooler. Now, back in the van it's up to it's old tricks, hot and loud in back, and slower on the cool down inside. Also, for the last 5 years my LP regulator outside has been popping off like a gun whenever it gets hot, venting and letting off excess pressure, it never did that over the 20 years I've owned it. The tank is getting pretty rusty and given fridge sensitivity on pressure (11in) I'm swapping out the tank and regulator for a new one. For me the fridge is a key component for my style of camping. I find myself in very remote locations off logging or mining roads. Having cold food for 2 weeks without ice or sun (I live in the NW) or running the engine for hours is important.
Cheers!
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