So you want to replace your current RV refrigerator with something new? Maybe you opened your factory-installed Norcold refrigerator and found that the contents were room temperature. Or you want to upgrade to a newer model to give your RV a fancier, more up-to-date look. No matter your reason for wanting or needing to replace your RV refrigerator, we’re here to help you make sure you replace it safely and with a model that is right for the space you have. So let’s take a look at how you replace your RV refrigerator.
Out With the Old
First things first! In order to install a new RV refrigerator inside your unit, you must first remove the old one. No problem, right? You just slide out the old one in the same way you do with your home refrigerator. Not quite! With your residential refrigerator, you just unplug it and hope that you don’t leave scratches and big ruts on the floor where the heavy refrigerator was pulled from its place. But with an RV refrigerator, there’s a lot more to it! Your RV’s refrigerator is not only screwed into the RV, but it’s also hardwired into the electrical system and connected to the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) line. Anytime you’re dealing with propane, you have to know what you’re doing and follow all necessary safety procedures so that your work doesn’t result in an LP leak or a possible fire or explosion. With that being said, follow these 10 steps to safely remove your RV’s refrigerator.
1. On the inside of your RV refrigerator, turn the propane, battery, and electric control buttons to “OFF.”
2. Turn off the propane for your RV and the main LP tank.
3. Unplug the main power to your RV. Also turn off the house battery and your generator.
4. On the outside of your RV, locate the access panel for your refrigerator. Open it up so you can see the back of your refrigerator.
5. Using crescent wrenches, disconnect the LPG line from the refrigerator. Cap off the LPG line.
6. On the back of your refrigerator, disconnect the two 12V wires.
7. Now head inside your RV. Find the plastic caps that cover the screws that hold in your refrigerator. They are usually located around the perimeter of the refrigerator. Depending on the size of your fridge, there are usually 4-6 of them. Remove them and unscrew the screws.
8. Caulking is also holding your refrigerator in place. Remove this so you can pull the refrigerator out.
9. Before removal, place something protective on the floor of your RV so you don’t damage it, possibly a towel, foam mat, cardboard, etc.
10. Slowly pull (and have someone else push from outside if possible) the refrigerator out. Done!
In With the New
When purchasing a new refrigerator for your rig, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to make sure you buy the right refrigerator for your RV and your family.
Norcold and Dometic are the two major RV refrigerator brands. Both are high quality and will deliver a great product. Do not choose a residential brand for your RV. Residential brands are not made to withstand the bumps and wear-and-tear of life on the road. RV-specific refrigerators are made of steel and other durable materials that are tough as nails, while residential refrigerators are made of softer materials that are not good travelers.In your choice of make and model of your refrigerator, consideration of how the door(s) will be secured is very important. Unlike your residential unit at home, the RV application requires a lock to secure the door(s) while traveling. The standard magnetic actions will not work, regardless of their apparent strength. While a jury-rigged bungee cord can be used to secure the handles, it visually isn’t that appealing. Some kind of mechanical latching apparatus must be fitted to the door. Your appliance dealer or the manufacturer may be able to source a solution for this. If not, many RV dealers may have a generic product that can fill the bill.
Size of fridge:
You pretty much have to stick with the size that your RV came with, but you can modify the opening a little by cutting around the perimeter to make the opening larger if needed. Measure the opening carefully so you know what size you need, and only make adjustments if necessary. Anytime you alter your RV you are taking the chance of damaging it, so be careful! If you are removing an older-style Norcold refrigerator, you may have to make adjustments to the surrounding cabinets or woodwork as some of their newer models don’t have the same dimensions as their older ones. Access Norcold’s Conversion Chart to help you determine which new model will fit in your existing space.
Type of power source:
Do you want a refrigerator that runs on gas/LP or on electricity? A refrigerator that runs on gas/LP requires that the unit stay level to 3 degrees off level from side to side and 6 degrees off level from front to back. If you think this could be an issue for you, then you may want to consider an electric fridge. An electric refrigerator that runs on AC or DC power is more flexible with its position as it will still run 30 degrees out of level. This is a good choice for a small space as it requires less ventilation than a gas/LP one. Refrigerators come in four different power types:
Gas Absorption: operates on LP gas
AC/DC: operates on either AC or DC power
2-Way: operates on either AC power or LP gas
3-Way: operates on either AC power, DC power, or LP gas
Style of fridge:
Now it’s time to determine what style of fridge you want. Do you want a double-door model, a freezer-on-top model, a side-by-side model, one with an ice maker, a stainless steel one, or maybe even one that comes with a wood panel that can attach to the front so it matches your cabinetry. There are loads of styles, features, and looks you can get with a modern RV refrigerator, so determine what features are top on your priority list, and which ones you can live without if necessary.
Ranging in size from a modest 3 cubic feet to a gigantic 18 cubic feet, you can spend anywhere from $1000-$4000 on a new RV refrigerator. While this might cause sticker shock, remember that this is the most-used appliance in your RV so you want to invest in a high-quality, name-brand model that will stand the test of time.
To install your new refrigerator, simply follow the ten steps above in reverse. Lay down a layer of protection on the floor, slide it in place, apply caulking around the edges, screw it into place, reattach the wires and lines, and turn everything back on. Use screws and bolts to secure the fridge through the bottom plate and consider some sort of spacer in the outer gaps to help stabilize it. Make sure your gaps are as small as possible and seal them off with some sort or gasket or barrier for insulation. Let it reach an optimal temperature before you add food to it. You should be up and running and enjoying delicious cold drinks in no time!
Or, if you aren't confident in your RV fridge removal and/or install skills, take your RV to a trusted RV dealership, such as Lakeshore RV Center in Muskegon, MI, and have them do it for you. At Lakeshore RV you will receive expert service and repairs performed by knowledgeable, experienced RV technicians who care as much about your RV as you do. Call to set up an appointment today: 231-788-2040.
Have you replaced an RV fridge before? Share your tips and tricks on how to choose and replace an RV refrigerator in our comments section!