RV Fridge Damage while Driving

Can my Dometic or Norcold RV fridge be damaged while driving? We will answer these questions and explain why damage can occur while climbing hills.

Do You Need Good Luck or Knowledge to Stay out of Danger?

Which way is correct RV fridge

On our home page we state that driving up a hill can damage your fridge.

On our RV Fire Cause and Prevention page we quote Chris Bloom[1], a fire investigator, about off-level operation of the fridge and how it damages the fridge. As stated in the Bloom article "This is the responsibility of the owner or operator of the RV."

On our RV Refrigerator Fire Root Causes page we quote major RV refrigerator user manuals as stating "While the refrigerator should be level when the vehicle is stopped, performance during travel is not usually affected."

So which way can one go? Following we will explain why it should be the "responsibility" of the ARP Control to prevent damage to your fridge while driving. We will clarify what "usually affected" truly means in the context and science of your RV fridge.

6% grade kills RV fridge

On our How does ARP Protect my Fridge page we tilt a refrigerator at 3 degrees off-level. 3 degrees off-level is equivalent to a 5.24% grade. Therefore, a 6% grade is greater than the limit given in the major RV refrigeration manufactures' user manuals of 3 degree off-level safe operation limit. Further, an RV will not climb or descend a grade at much more than 55 MPH. At 55 MPH one would spend 14 minutes on a 13 mile 6% grade, from the How does ARP Protect my Fridge page it took 9 minutes to overheat a Norcold refrigerator.

What does this mean? For around 5 minutes on the 6% grade the fridge would be suffering damage due to the boiler overheating. The overheating boiler stops the refrigeration process, so at a minimum the food in the fridge is warming. At a maximum, the overheating boiler results in cumulative damage that results in the ultimate demise of the refrigerator, or even worse, an RV fire.

8% grade kills RV fridge faster

An 8% Grade is Roughly 5 Degrees Off-Level!

We respect healthy skepticism, thus it is natural to ask: If overheating damages my RV fridge, and parking off-level or climbing or descending grades does damage, why is it that my fridge has worked for years? The answer is quite simple, your fridge is not always running when you are on a mountain pass. Thus, to the best of our ability to understand what "usually affected" means, it must be stating that there are situations where the fridge is damaged. In addition, the damage is slow and cumulative. The overheating destroys some of the corrosion inhibitor in the fridge each time, not all. It is not until all of the corrosion inhibitor is destroyed that the fridge fails.

8% grade is RV fridge death

A 14% Grade is Roughly 8 Degrees Off-Level!

Each time your fridge is damaged by overheating of the boiler, the efficiency of the fridge becomes less and less. Have you ever heard someone say "my refrigerator is too warm but my freezer works fine"? This is one of the telltale sighs of of cumulative damage from the boiler overheating. Please note, there are other reasons that the refrigerated space can be warm that are not related to a failing cooling unit.

Enjoy your Vacation - Let the ARP Manage Your Fridge

Enjoy Zion NP

All of the photos on this page were taken during our 2016 trip to the South-West. The 6% grade for 13 miles is on I-8 outside San Diego. The 8% and 14% grade signs were between Brice and Capitol Reef National Parks. Starting in Canyon Lands and Arches National Parks, the ARP turned off our fridge when climbing up to Island In The Sky and the steep grade at the Arches visitor Center. In total, the ARP took control of our fridge 8 times during or visit to the Utah National Parks. This last photo is our rig parked on the long climb in Zions to the Kolob area of the park.

If you like adventure, you will love the ARP Control. The ARP increases efficiency of the fridge by keeping the refrigeration process at its optimum potential. The ARP increases reliability by preventing premature failure, which also increases monetary ($$) efficiency! The ARP increases safety by preventing the fridge boiler from reaching dangerous levels that could result in rupture and fire.

Can You Afford to Adventure without the ARP Control?


Foot Notes

[1] RV Refrigerator Compartment Fires, Chris Bloom, 2006.