A storm broke our refrigerator!

While in Pismo Beach, a pretty big wind and rain storm moved in.  We had 20-25 mph winds for about 18 hours straight, with gusts up to 50.  Quite windy.  As you may have seen, I posted that we had do a middle of the night excursion to pull in the windward slides to:

  1. prevent the slide toppers from shredding
  2. keep the sideways blowing water from getting inside
  3. and, also to reduce the number of surfaces to catch the wind and gusts

About half way through the storm, I went to grab something from the fridge, and the light wasn’t on, which meant, the fridge wasn’t on.  And we also discovered, the fridge wouldn’t TURN on.  CRAP!  I went out and removed the vent hatch for the fridge, and saw the bright LED on the little black box, which was added as part of a recall service prior to our purchase of the RV. 

Norcold Recall

The black box is a limiter, that reacts to overheating in the cooling system (the boiler) in the event of a leak in the coolant.  This box (Norcold part 634737 RECALL KIT – HTS) was added to turn off the power to the fridge in order to prevent a fire.  It is clamped to one of the cooling pipes on the back of the fridge.

Well, one thing that can happen is, when the box and contents get too moist, it can trip a fault and cause power to never reach the fridge control.  In our case, the wind was blowing sideways (I mean, the side of the RV basically got power washed for 12 hours), blowing into the vent and onto the box.  Bob’s your uncle and we have a faulting unit, as designated by a red LED on the box being on constantly.  If it was blinking, that is a true fault, but a solid LED means it tripped, but not because of overheating.

Diagnosis, research and luck?

Of course, it was getting late on Thursday, we had a travel day planned on Saturday, that didn’t leave much time to get a tech out to review the issue and possibly fix it.  So, we turned to the Interwebs and did some research.  Fortunately, with this recall kit being pretty popular, others had issues with a solid red LED scenario, pointing to a moisture issue.  The fix was pretty simple…

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: I’m not an RV tech or fridge expert.  There are other legitimate reasons for a solid red LED (ammonia leak).  Do not take how I fixed it as gospel.  Only do this if you are 100% you don’t have a leak…if you are unsure or the LED is blinking, call a professional.

…to fix this, the forums said you take a fairly strong magnet, put it near a special location on the black box, and you’ll hear a click and the LED will go out.  You can then go inside and turn on your fridge. 

I first went to the RV park store and found a fridge magnet…it was the strongest magnet they had…so, I spent the $5 and came back to the RV.  I tried placing it in the described special place…no luck.  I pulled the cover off and tried again…no luck.  So, I reasoned it wasn’t a strong enough magnet.  That meant an trip out to the local Ace Hardware to get a stronger magnet.

I return to the RV with a 25 lb pull magnet, the biggest they sold and tried it again.  Fridge 1, Brian 0.  Nothing!  I heard a click, but the LED stayed on!  

I had no choice but to go buy some ice to put in the fridge to keep our food fresh and hope that the next morning, once the storm had passed, that I’d be able to get it to reset.  I mean, a 4 door Norcold fridge costs $3500, and if it had failed, I was going to be eating fast food for a couple of months.

Night passed and I got up in the morning, drank my coffee, had my first conference call of the day, and then turned my attention to the reset procedure.  I went out, removed the vent cover, took my magnet and placed it over the special place and…BINGO! There was a clicking sound and the LED went dark.  I went inside and turned on the fridge and boom!  Problem solved.

How is it done?

Again, only attempt this if you know for sure you don’t have a leak or low ammonia.  You need a strong magnet and luck.  

Remove the hatch and find the box as seen above.  Then, take your magnet and put it in the area shown to the right.

If you are successful, the light goes out and you are back in business.  If not, then contact a professional.