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Fridge running on propane
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Drew N
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 6:21 am    Post subject: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Hey folks! Does anyone have a picture of where I can see the pilot for my fridge to see if it's on? I took my first stab at lighting the fridge on propane and it didn't seem to light. I did watch the youtube 80's video of the technician guy starting it, but I can't see if mine's actually working.

Propane is full and stove works fine.. so that's one less thing to be a culprit.
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dobryan Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 6:26 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

What year fridge do you have?
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 7:03 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

There should be a small sight glass in the rear left bottom corner. A paper towel cardboard center tube or similar helps to see it in daylight.

Once I figured out the secret handshake for our Dometic on our 82, I can use the LED reliably to know when it actually lights.
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bobbyblack Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 7:28 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Even after I took my fridge out and rebuilt the seal for the combustion chamber, and cleaned everything out really well, I still had a difficult time getting mine to start.

Turned out that advice to plug the Westy into a 110V drop cord, and turn the fridge on for a couple hours on AC, or to put it on DC and drive for a while, both of which will get the refrigerator cooling mechanism working was the answer. After getting it primed using electric power, then the LP start process works in just one or two clicks, every time now, for me.

Oh, and nearly every year, I forget which position of the LP switch inside the fridge is on and which is off... That one, too, had me pulling my hair!

Hope you find the Zen, and get it going.

Oh, one last bit, I didn't find the moth cocoon in my exhaust, until the second time I took mine apart. I found the one in my combustion chamber, inside the flame tube the first time though..

Edit: If you do take your fridge out (again?) I'd check this thread out for an idea:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?p=9445702

Good luck!!
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Drew N
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 7:38 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

It's a 1986.5 westy..

I guess I didn't realize the sight glass was in the fridge itself! Ha! I was looking underneath.

Also, maybe I need to pump it more times. Like 20 or so... might be tough as it's likely not been lit in quite a while. Patience... Very Happy

Does the condensate drain plug just unscrew? Mine's stuck. I sort of assumed it was like a relief valve and spring loaded (just pull the ring) but no go. I'll try some penetrating oil later
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bobbyblack Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 7:44 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Drew N wrote:
It's a 1986.5 westy..

I guess I didn't realize the sight glass was in the fridge itself! Ha! I was looking underneath.

Also, maybe I need to pump it more times. Like 20 or so... might be tough as it's likely not been lit in quite a while. Patience... Very Happy

Does the condensate drain plug just unscrew? Mine's stuck. I sort of assumed it was like a relief valve and spring loaded (just pull the ring) but no go. I'll try some penetrating oil later


Yes, it does unscrew, mine, too, was corroded in, but I eventually decided that a locking grip pliers was an option, and I did get it out, buggered it up a bit tho. Oh well.
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 8:00 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Its just a cap. They do seize so some rest penetrant is a good idea. No shreader valve just an opening. I also precool our fridge on 110 over night prior to starting the fridge. If I have to shut it off for a tank fill, I will often use the 12 volt element to help it light. Otherwise it runs 24-7 on propane once lit.
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 8:35 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

i have limited experience with the fridge so bear with me.

i have had no real issues getting mine to light (on the bench) so far. my pump works fine but all i have done is held in the gas valve (no pumping) and rapid fire the igniter and it seems to take off every time.

i think some people fail to hold the gas valve in long enough to let the thermocouple take over. releasing the button too quick won't let it heat up enough to take control.
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jayinduluth
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 9:47 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Another way to know if its lit is if the flue (?) on the outside of the van is warm. Also, the little vent on the side of the cabinet should also feel warm.

Mine lights pretty good if I run it on electricity first, then turn the gas on, then like 20 minutes later, try to light it. I only have to pump like 5-6 times, sometimes I have to hit the igniter a couple times. I have yet to take mine out and clean, but I'm guessing it would help..
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 9:59 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

I hold the safety valve till I see the indicator lamp glowing before releasing it. If the led remains lit, I'm good.
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Drew N
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 9:59 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Thanks for all the helpful tips! I have been running it on the house battery and it did fine on my last weekend trip. Although I didn't keep it on the whole time (it was cold enough out so I didn't need it to be on all day).

The upcoming trip next weekend I'll want to have it on propane as I'll be fully stocked (the whole family will be coming along).

I'll try to light it again today. I'll use the shore power trick if I need to.
Maybe also try with 12v before lighting too, just to simulate a camping condition.

You guys drive with the propane going??
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 10:18 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

When you use 120V or 12V to start the fridge for an hour or two it gets the airflow going up the exhaust tube by heating up the elements at the base. This really helps the airflow in the burn box for the propane to light easier.
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'87 Westy w/ 2002 Subaru EJ25 and Peloquin TBD

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." Robert Louis Stevenson

MD>Canada>AK>WA>OR>CA>AZ>UT>WY>SD
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=620646

Building a bus for travel in Europe (euroBus)
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=695371

The West Coast Westy
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=746794
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 10:36 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Driving with the fridge on or off propane can get a good debate going. As I said earlier, once it's lit, it's on 24/7. I don't recall ever seeing a warning from VW. Also, if its a safety concern, not only should the fridge be off, the valve outside should also be closed.

We are required to shut the fridge off running propane when the propane tank is filled. There is probably a precaution about turning off the fridge filling the tank, but our's is a diesel, so likely not to get ignited by the fridge flame.
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Yellow Rabbit
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 11:12 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Thereís a sticker next to the gas tank fill port on petrol vans stating to extinguish the pilot.

You mentioned running it off 12v. That cools the least and does not run when the vehicle isnít running unless your circuit has been modified somehow.

I can light mine without precooling on 110. I light it and immediately turn the flame all the way down to pilot only. Running it like that for a few minutes gets the flue warmed up before turning up the flame.

Itís a little confusing at first but after you light it once or twice you will get it.
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 12:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

I am a big fan of using a "quick and dirty" approach first, before taking the next, more laborious step(s). Normally, the Full Monty approach to these absorption fridges if past maintenance is unkown is to remove the fridge, disassemble the burner box and remove the insect, leaves, etc often found there. The scent of propane attracts insects. (You will see male insects applying a bit of propane to their mandibles and thoraxes before a night on the town).

The quick and dirty approach I tried, which worked, was to fashion a snout from duct tape for your shop-vac to apply vacuum to the exhaust outlet of the Dometic on the outside of the van while simultaneously applying shop compressed air to the air inlet side. This only requires you to remove the outermost cover of the Dometic vent.
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 1:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

Howesight wrote:

The quick and dirty approach I tried, which worked, was to fashion a snout from duct tape for your shop-vac to apply vacuum to the exhaust outlet of the Dometic on the outside of the van while simultaneously applying shop compressed air to the air inlet side. This only requires you to remove the outermost cover of the Dometic vent.


Totally brilliant!!! I can see that in my head as a total winner!!

I'd also like to comment on the "take out and service" part. Nearly always, the seal on the combustion chamber is cracked, etc. Find some suitable gasket material, or use a squeeze tube type gasket-maker product. Really, you'll want to change out the fan that blows back in there anyway, the one that is meant to circulate air to cool the heat sync fins.. the original unit, even IF it works, never worked well. Get a computer power supply fan, or PC Tower case cooling fan. I'll find a link and edit in after a bit here..

Edit:
Looking like MarkWard on the 'killer' mod, but even just a computer fan would be better than the original.
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?p=8194596
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Drew N
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2021 8:16 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

I got the fridge lit this weekend Very Happy I tried the "precool" trick with 120v and pumped the thing a good 20-30 times and got it to go.

It had heat coming out of the outside vent as expected, but the inside vent seemed to have just as much coming out.. and was a little stinky (like burning, not like gas). Could be the thing hasn't ran in so long it's maybe all the dust caked on? I didn't let it run long as the smell and heat were a bit concerning.

Maybe I should take the time to pull it and clean it? I have trip this weekend with the fam and was hoping to use the propane.
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MarkWard
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2021 8:24 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

It's normal for heat to come out of the interior cabinet vent and the vent behind the sink top next to the glass. As far as the stink, not sure what to tell you there.

If you are pulling the fridge, take the time to peer into the panel where the side wall meets the floor. Look for rust. You may also want to replace the tiny fan back there. Eventually they start to make noise and the only access is with the fridge out. I posted some pictures in the gallery of what I did to hopefully improve how the dometic preformed.

On a whim, I used compressed air and blew through the drain tube and was amazed at the dust etc that blew out the side of the van.
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DanHoug
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2021 10:13 am    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

the exhaust tube gets super hot so if there is dust on it, it will smell. i'm really happy with the 'header wrap' insulation i added. have my fridge going now and the heat reduction to the interior is significant.
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=742402&highlight=

plus, the exhaust temp is hotter, reducing condensation at the flue vent and pretty much eliminating the Acid Rain condensate sliding down the back side of the exterior wall..... the REAL reason Westys kitchen wall rusts out.
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Drew N
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2021 12:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Fridge running on propane Reply with quote

MarkWard wrote:
It's normal for heat to come out of the interior cabinet vent and the vent behind the sink top next to the glass. As far as the stink, not sure what to tell you there.

If you are pulling the fridge, take the time to peer into the panel where the side wall meets the floor. Look for rust. You may also want to replace the tiny fan back there. Eventually they start to make noise and the only access is with the fridge out. I posted some pictures in the gallery of what I did to hopefully improve how the dometic preformed.

On a whim, I used compressed air and blew through the drain tube and was amazed at the dust etc that blew out the side of the van.


I have a decent project ahead of me for the seam rust on the rocker panel. I've already taken care of some other areas, but was waiting a bit on the rocker as the van will be down for some time while I gut the interior. Wanted to get some trips in first and enjoy it a bit!
I will definately try some compressed air through the drain! I did take the vent off the side when I got it and cleaned it out that way. I did get a bunch out blowing that way too (after I fished out the big stuff with some wire).
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