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RV refridgeration issues


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The Toyhauler has a Norcold model N621 propane / electric refridgerator. (There is a recall for certain serial numbers of this model but not mine.) The trailer has an onboard charging system (under the kitchen) and a 3 matched battery bank RV/Marine (I think they are group 24) on the tongue behind the propane tanks. Batteries came with the trailer, previous owner claimed they were "new" but frankly, we bought in the Spring & the trailer was not in use over the winter so most likely a season old at that point. I'm no longer able to set up a primitive camp, so we are setting up a day camp & RVing in the parking lot of rendezvous... totally off the grid. But sound carries so even as quiet as the 1000 Honda is, we only run when we are at the camper during daylight hours... and we spend as much time as possible in the primitive camp. Last year, at this event, the fridge ran happily on propane for a couple of days... then began having trouble restarting. The other loads are water system & hot water, a scant few lights, I manually lit the burner and we ran it on the 1000w Honda generator which seemed to be barely able to carry it. I bought a new sparker but it seemed to work ok in the yard, so I have a spare. I had nephew look at it but did not see a fault.While we were using / working on the trailer, it was plugged in & powered up so charger was working. During the inactive period, I've had a timer on the power so the trailer had power for a few hours each day... all winter. Since there little to no use, I thought the batteries should be fully charged. I started it on propane... (dockside off) fridge seemed to run but now a C code showing which means "low volts" to the refridge. I moved the power to on all the time, yesterday. It's pouring rain right now... frustrating my desire to check the battery voltage.I'm thinking the batteries have likely croaked though it could be corroded cables? How long do you guys expect from RV batteries? I am considering adding a 45W solar charger (Harbor Freight $159)... to charge silently during the daylight. I've been impressed with how little light it takes to charge the dashboard maintainer I use. Any other ideas, guys?

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I have had my set of batteries in my slide in camper for two camping seasons now and they are still going strong. I make sure to check the water level at least two times during the season and use only distilled water to fill. In the winter my camper is stored inside out of the waeather and I have used only a battery maintainer (hooked on a timer so it runs 4 hours per day). I am hoping to get 4-5 years out of my batteries. I use all LED lights inside to minimize the overall pull on the batteries and have camped off the grid for 3 days at a shot with lots a battery left. I carry a generator so when I want to fire up the microwave I can do that without any trouble. I also run a 12v tv a couples of hours each night during those off grid days.My batteries came with a 2 year full replacement warranty and 5 yr pro-rated coverage.My frig is run on propane when off grid and doesn't run on battery power. I lost a pc board that had to be replaced in the frig and that was spendy. Went out on me when I was traveling last year in a heavy thunder and lightning storm in MN.At this point in time I am happy with how everything is working.

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First thing I would do is load test the batteries in the RV. Corroded cable are not a good thing either. :rolleyes:Curious... Did you keep the RV plugged in all winter to keep the batteries charged or are you removing the batteries and putting in a garage to maintain a charge on them? If the batteries where left in the RV and not charged the winter cold might of sucked a chunk of life from them. Hence one of the main reason I added a cutoff switch in the power cabinet. So if I'm no longer able to maintain a charge on the batteries I can cutoff all the little loads like the house stereo, propane alarm, etc. Because even after a week or two my batteries are pulled down to 12.0 Volts without a outside source to maintain a charge.

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Yes, I left the RV on the timer all winter to keep the batteries charged. I can't get the batteries out by myself. I'm concerned about possibly over charging. I'm not sure how good the charger is.There is a single cut off switch under the battery box / trailer tongue but it cuts off the charger too.The trailer has a electronic control panel for water tank levels (very inaccurate) and battery. I'm going to take my multi-meter out there to check the real voltage. I haven't been able to inspect / test the batteries yet.additionI did pick up the 45w solar charger kit today. It reportedly measures 3' X 3' assembled. Damn it is heavy! It includes lights (12V compact florescent that I'll probably never use) but more importantly a controler. I'm figuring this will be a PITA to set up, but if it carries the refridge during daylight hours, it'll be a big help. I'm recalling looking over my V shaped plastic battery box... recalling the huge lips & groove which kept me from putting larger batteries in there. If these come out, my scaber saw is going to do some customizing before anything goes back.

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You might look and find out what you got for a battery charger. I've got a 3 stage battery charger (storage, normal and boost) which happen to totally automatic. So after a period of time the charger turns to storage mode.As for the refer the only thing it needs is enough power just for the controller. Last time I test ran mine with no shore power it ran over 14 days on propane and the batteries where just dipping in the 11.8 volts range. Just two standard RV Deep Cycle batteries.

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I thought of something else we run is sometimes the furnace heat (with blower). Mike what size batteries are you using? Mine are group 24, RV / Marine they call them "deep cycle" but we all know they are hybrid, not sealed AGM batteries which can not be fast charged. (Used in scooters.)

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Here you go... This is what I got on the tongue of the RV. Just standard old deep cycle batteries what ever group they are. post-2-138698187252_thumb.jpgpost-2-138698187242_thumb.jpgRV is moved for the summer to the shade of the trees but there is no power back here so once a week I bring out my 2kw genny and charge up the batteries for one hour.post-2-138698187232_thumb.jpg

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Thanks Mike,

Your batteries look like group 24s. (group 24 measure nominal 11"L, 6 7/8"W, 9 1/2"H) (group 27 measure nominal 12 3/4"L, 6 3/4"W, 9 1/2"H).

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My battery box.

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My re-memboratory was faulty... the green tops are group 24 RV/Marine, the black top is a group 27 RV/Marine. So obiviously they are not a matched set, as I dreamed.

I unplugged the refridge from AC & after a couple of tries it started & ran on propane. I'm going to see if I can get the new sparker installed. I seem to recall our nephew saying that it helped to wire brush the sparker electrode & the grounding pipe. Interesting how much scale came out of a magnet.

addition:

I got back & tested the batteries. I just shut down the charger, pulled the grounds & tested. The black top read 10.5 volts (dated 2008), the center green top (Interstate, no date punched on either) read 6.5 volts, the far green top read 13v. So (at least) 2 junk batteries... ought to replace all as the set. Maybe I'll set asside the good one for other use.

The charger was still running... the refridgerator was in F (Fail) mode when I went back. I really won't know until I have good batteries in there.

addition #2

Retested an hour later. The "best" battery had dropped to 11 volts. All junk, trade them all in when I buy new!

Russ

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Be aware auto-ignition device like the refer and water heater work off of flame rectification to detect flame is burning or not. So if the spark electrode is corroded and the burner tube then the refer might be trying to light and can't see the flame so it shuts down instantly to prevent explosion hazard. Back to a older post Russ... http://forum.mopar1973man.com/threads/4158-Norcold-refridgerator-propane-operation-trouble

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I'm on unfamiliar turf here. The trailer has no motor of course, so wiring needs not be so heavy... or does it? Keeping in mind this trailer is NO VIRGIN. The B+ appears to be good sized... but the black ground wires (2 into crimp on) I'm questioning? It looks field made up, just a crimped on cable end. I'll try to get a good picture before the new batteries go in. There is at least one additional "cable" hole in the battery box floor. NOTE: this trailer has: propane/110 electric refridgerator,propane furnacepropane / 110 electric water heaterAC 110 electric (which we've never used) Russ

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Ok typically in the DC power panel most all loads/fuses are 20 Amp so figure your max load is 60 Amps roughly in DC. That would put you with 10 AWG wire and you should be fine. But if it got that heavy battery cable on there I would use it but just clean up the ends the best as possible. I'm in the same boat to some degree. The 12V system in my RV is good that it power all the light and such fine but the life span of the batteries seem short but I know there bare over 1 year old and where replaced when I bought the trailer. My thing is I'm almost sure there is a voltage loss between the battery and panel which is creating my issues. Because as you drop loads on it the voltage falls quickly like using the slide it will pull the batteries down in the 10 volt range but when the load is gone the voltage rises back up. Kind of like a plumbing restriction (fuel pressure falls hard under load but pop back up when the load is gone).

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Oh, crap, the picture of the cable ends disappeared. I'll try again next trip out.I bought 3 Marine RV "Deep Cycle" $79 ea at WalMart. I got them in the box on the tongue this morning. Used a small work table next to the step ladder to hoist them into place. (barely) Started work on the frame for the 45 watt solar panel kit from Harbor Freight. Nice panels but frame suited for permanent install, not camping. I don't expect the solar to carry the whole load, but on a 10 day trip off the grid, should reduce the charging needs. I figured to route a groove in a 1 1/2 X 1 1/2 boards with threaded rod to hold together. I was using the router table (my bro's trusty old one)... the settings kept changing. The frame on the old router had cracked in 2. I don't suppose Sears will stand behind it since I used an open end wrench on the thumb screw before I realized it was broke. The sun came around I got over heated... had to quit & cool off before trying to mount my 5 years ago Christmas router to the table. I'm going to see if I can salvage the wood.

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Couldn't find any little propane bottles for my hand torch... had to go to the store. I'm going to solder that ring terminal. Will follow up later.addition:Got propane bottle, my torch wouldn't pass gas. (Sounds like a personal problem, doesn't it! LOL!) Buddy came over & we finally fluxed & soldered that terminal.I lined all the batteries up in a row, same orientation. Cleaned all the terminals & cable ends... I started connecting cables... found just one I didn't like the ends on, down to tarnished brass & way oversized hole. I just cut it back 3" at each end, soldered on new terminals. With this layout, one can look at the battery bank & understand what's going on. Cover on the case won't close. It needed a stick to spread the opening in the center until it closes. Would not think such a HD box wuld distort. I'm showing good volts inside. I plugged the camper in & the charger started it's hummmm... But the refridgerator didn't start on propane. I could hear the solinoid click and then a minute later click back off & got a F code (ignite Failure). At least it didn't go to a C code (low DC volts). I have the refridge unplugged from it's AC power outlet because I wanted to run / test the propane.

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To continue what I added to my earlier post. I have good DC volts to the refridge. The 110V AC is unplugged to test the Propane operation but I expect the AC operation to be fine. When I try to start on propane I can hear the solinoid click, then a minute later it clicks back off & I get the F code (Failure to ignite). I took a peek through the outside access. Things to check tomorrow:I notice the sparker thing is on the wrong side of the key hole slot so I want to examine that (maybe 1/4" from where it probably goes). Maybe it's positioned wrong. Maybe repositioning the sparker is all it needs. I have a spare sparker. Last year I could use a BBQ lighter & manually light the propane & it would stay running for a while. I want to check that again, as that would indicate the propane is ok right up to the flame. (Maybe the problem is sensor related.) I think I need to plug in the 110 AC just to get the coolant to circulate and prove the closed system is still good. I am out of my league here but I'm thinking this a controls problem... focusing on the sparker/sensor.

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As a last resort you could visit this site and ask them... http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php As for the flame sensor (flame rectification) is what is suppose to tell the control board to hold the propane going. Here is the manufacture... Maybe something might help... http://www.thetford.com/HOME/PRODUCTS/NorcoldIncRefrigerators/N641/tabid/540/Default.aspx A quick search turns up a bunch... https://www.google.com/search?q=norcold+refrigerator+flame+problems&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=ubuntu&channel=fs

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I found a complete step by step trouble shooting chart at >>> http://www.liveworkdream.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/norcoldmanual.pdf I was able to copy the chart (link above) to a thumb drive & took it & my laptop out to the trailer. I have gas at the stove. I have good power at the fridge. The refridge runs on shore power so the closed system is good. I was just getting started... then it started raining harder... If I go it lucky it would just be the sparker. The other item is the circuit board.

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Thanks to all for the well wishes & ideas, especially Karl (MS Trucker on my MS site) who put me on the right track. I had followed all the steps in the troubleshooting guide... without finding a "fault". I had tested the sparker/thermocouple in place and it tested "good". However, I had previously bought a spare sparker. The placement of this part inside the unit, makes it hard to see the whole part. I decided to take Karl's advise & just install the new part I had. They don't make it easy to get it out... but that's to be expected. When I got the sparker out, I could see the last 1/2" - 3/4" was rusty... where the propane flame is on the electrode. It's easy to imagine the flame burning the plating off... then in the off season, the bare steel rusts naturally. I just installed the new part, and tried starting the fridge on propane. 6 X 6 successful. I put the covers back on. Too soon to do a Victory Dance... that'll be after Rendezvous... but I think it's fixed. I will pick up another spare. I had finished up a few other minor projects while I was in there scratching my head. Sheila spent some time cleaning up some things in the trailer, this morning. I need to get out the tools & separate what travels with us VS what stays home. Russell PS, I have noticed bees & wasps swarming, looking for new homes. I noticed one particular HUGE yellow wasp hovering around a compartment that wasn't closed tightly. I knocked down the beginning of a paper nest inside that compartment. Well, that Queen Bee came back... started over. Sheila used the spray & permanantly solved that problem (for this year). I am allergic.

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So it was a flame sense problem...It's odd they don't use a better material like stainless steel or something that doesn't oxide over time...:whistle:Yellow jackets, bald face hornets, etc... I really don't have much likely for them even though I'm not allergic to then but hate being stung by them too. OUCH! I normally go on the hunt looking for the starting of nest and get them dealt with pronto.:ahhh:

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Not sure if it was flame sense or weak spark delivery. These same parts are used in furnaces, ranges, as well as refridgerators. Yeah, a tiny piece of SS wire would make too much sense. All I know is this seems to fix it.There is lots of room in the wild for bees & hornets but I have no tollerance for them in my barns in rafters & under overhangs, sheds, trailers inside roofs & under goosenecks, decks (under & railings), ground dwellings (stupid yellow jackets that build right into a trail), paper wasps/white faced hornets in bushes about head height over a trail in just a week). Last year there was a huge paper nest under a stabliizer foot on the backhoe, went all the way to the ground. I keep bee spray around... I just have to. We learned quickly to out run bees with the horses. Because of my allergy, I'd ride lead. If we ecountered bees we'd sing out & nove out so those in the back would not be blocked. It happened once with my ex in the lead & she stupidly blocked the trail so others couldn't get clear. A half mile down the trail, I got off & picked a couple of dozen off my horse, even under his saddle blanket. I got to try out my meds that day. (Antihistamine counters a lot of the effects... I used to carry AH with me whenever riding horse or Honda. Taking the AntiHistamine quickly makesall the difference.) I had a life threatening reaction once on the shooting range... before I knew I was allergic.

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