RV Refrigerator Maintenance Basics

The introduction of refrigerators into RVs was a game-changer. This allowed RVers to feel less like they were camping and more like they were in a portable home. This meant that people could travel farther and for longer periods of time, while saving money by cooking in their own kitchens. Much like other parts of RV ownership, the refrigerator requires basic maintenance. Follow our handy guide to keep this vital appliance running at peak performance.

RV refrigerator

1. Consult the owner’s manual

It is crucial to read your owner’s manual when you begin RVing, purchase a new fridge, or are feeling a little rusty. One major difference between your fridge at home and the fridge in your RV is that it runs on propane. For beginners, this can prove to be a little confusing at first. If you haven’t already, check out our blog post on propane safety in an RV. After you familiarize yourself with the basics of propane, you can begin getting comfortable with your fridge. There are important refrigerator components inside and outside of your RV, so take your time to ensure you know where, and what, everything is. 

2. Perform routine inspections inside the fridge and freezer.

Performing visual inspections of all the working fridge components is a very important part of RV ownership. As stated above, there are parts accessed from inside and outside the RV. Both need to be inspected regularly. Inside the fridge and freezer, you can inspect the evaporator fins, ice maker, gaskets, and light. It’s also a good idea to place a thermometer towards the back of your fridge to manually monitor the temperature. Freezers can occasionally create an ice build-up as well, so be sure to defrost the freezer if this occurs. On the outside of the fridge, be sure the hinges and latches are still secure and check the display to ensure its functioning. If this seems like overkill, be sure to remember that your refrigerator is bouncing down the road in your RV, and things can come loose.

evaporator fins- refrigerator maintenance

3. Perform routine inspections outside

Outside of the RV, there should be a panel located right behind the fridge on the body of the rig. Behind it, there are condenser coils, propane components, connections, and vents that can become soiled, clogged, or loose. Bring a can of compressed air with you to dust off these pieces. If your freezer has an ice maker, you can also check the water line connections to ensure that it’s not leaking. For some RVs, the fridge exhaust vent is located on the roof, which can become clogged with leaves and debris. Check your owner’s manual to confirm the locations of everything. 

4. Let your fridge run for at least 12 hours before filling it with food

This step is necessary if you are taking your RV out of storage, or even if you just haven’t used it in a while. It is imperative to ensure that your fridge is sitting at the correct holding temperature (between 33-41 degrees F) before loading it with food. If possible, cool your food in your home’s fridge before loading it into your RV’s fridge.

5. Learn the proper way to fill your RV fridge

Overpacking your fridge can actually cost you money if your fridge can’t keep the food cold enough. It’s crucial to allow air to circulate between the food. Try removing excess packaging or transferring food to stackable containers to conserve space. If the fridge is too full, it will not be able to stay cool enough.

A fully stocked RV refrigerator

6. Keep the doors shut as much as possible.

Frequently opening and closing the doors of your fridge and freezer can allow excess moisture and heat to enter. This makes your fridge have to work harder to stay cool. This also allows your freezer to collect moisture, which leads to ice build-up. Keep the doors shut as much as possible to avoid excess condensation and moisture in the fridge.

7. Defrost the fridge anytime you see ice building on the evaporator fins

As we discussed above, your freezer can occasionally have a build-up of ice on it. If this happens, you must defrost it immediately. If your fridge’s evaporator fins have a build-up of ice, defrost them, and turn down the temperature. While you want the food in your fridge to stay cold enough, you don’t want it to be frozen!

Frozen evaporator fins- refrigerator maintenance

8. Try to park with your fridge in the shade

If possible, position your RV so that your fridge’s outdoor components are shaded. This can reduce the amount of work and strain on your refrigerator. Your food will also stay cooler, and your fridge will last longer. 

9. Keep the RV as level as possible, especially when running the fridge on propane

Leveling your RV is not only more comfortable for you, but it’s essential for the longevity of your fridge. If your RV is too unlevel, this can actually cause damage your fridge because of the propane flame position. This is also unsafe for your other propane appliances and even your plumbing, so keeping your RV level is important.

RV leveling blocks

RVing is fun and exciting, but also comes with a handful of responsibilities. Ensuring you are treating your appliances correctly and maintaining them can make or break your vacation. Your refrigerator is one of the most important appliances. If you take care of your fridge, it will take care of you!

A fifth wheel RV at sunset

What do you do to maintain your RV’s fridge? Is there anything we missed? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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