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Old 08-14-2017, 08:36 PM   #1
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Fridge propane troubleshooting - looking for input

I picked up my trailer earlier today from the service place where they were looking at the fridge not cooling properly on propane. The freezer would get somewhat cold but the main compartment, even after running for several hours on propane would still be about room temp. I fired it up when I got it back home and it does seem like they improved the situation some, but I think it's still not working quite the way it should be. It works great on electric so I know that the cooling unit on the fridge is working properly. I do have a vent fan installed to improve the flow of air over the back of the fridge.

So I'm gearing up to do some additional troubleshooting - I need to learn how to do more of this stuff myself anyway. Prior to dropping it off at the dealer I cleaned the burner and chimney assembly, ensured the spiral baffle was in the correct place as well as cleaned the burner orifice per the service manual procedure. I've got a manometer coming from Amazon in a couple of days so I can test the pressure to the various appliances. I've also got a digital volt meter I keep in the trailer so I can test the thermocouple too.

Regarding the thermocouple - the test instructions that I've looked at indicate that if it doesn't register at least 20 millivolts it should be replaced. My fridge is a manual ignition - there is no pilot light. Is it possible that if the thermocouple is starting to have issues it could be causing a minor restriction in the flow of gas as opposed to completely shutting it off?

Regarding the main regulator on the front of the trailer - if the pressure throughout the system is low - less than 11.5 column inches I believe - would it be recommended to adjust the pressure on the existing regulator or would it be better to just replace the regulator. It's the original regulator that came with the trailer.

I've not smelled any leaks in the propane system but I do keep on hand some leak detection fluid to use after connections are closed up and tightened again. I suppose that if the pressure is slightly low I could have a leak somewhere as well so I should check all the connections I can find before adjusting/replacing the regulator.

Anything else that I could or should be looking at regarding the propane system on the fridge? Appreciate any input provided as I'm sure I've overlooked something.
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Old 08-15-2017, 09:44 PM   #2
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I would assume the service folks would've checked, but I've seen/heard of critters getting in the gas line causing problems. Mud daubers, spiders, etc.
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Old 08-15-2017, 10:14 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by ttavasc View Post
I picked up my trailer earlier today from the service place where they were looking at the fridge not cooling properly on propane. The freezer would get somewhat cold but the main compartment, even after running for several hours on propane would still be about room temp. I fired it up when I got it back home and it does seem like they improved the situation some, but I think it's still not working quite the way it should be. It works great on electric so I know that the cooling unit on the fridge is working properly. I do have a vent fan installed to improve the flow of air over the back of the fridge.

So I'm gearing up to do some additional troubleshooting - I need to learn how to do more of this stuff myself anyway. Prior to dropping it off at the dealer I cleaned the burner and chimney assembly, ensured the spiral baffle was in the correct place as well as cleaned the burner orifice per the service manual procedure. I've got a manometer coming from Amazon in a couple of days so I can test the pressure to the various appliances. I've also got a digital volt meter I keep in the trailer so I can test the thermocouple too.

Regarding the thermocouple - the test instructions that I've looked at indicate that if it doesn't register at least 20 millivolts it should be replaced. My fridge is a manual ignition - there is no pilot light. Is it possible that if the thermocouple is starting to have issues it could be causing a minor restriction in the flow of gas as opposed to completely shutting it off?

Regarding the main regulator on the front of the trailer - if the pressure throughout the system is low - less than 11.5 column inches I believe - would it be recommended to adjust the pressure on the existing regulator or would it be better to just replace the regulator. It's the original regulator that came with the trailer.

I've not smelled any leaks in the propane system but I do keep on hand some leak detection fluid to use after connections are closed up and tightened again. I suppose that if the pressure is slightly low I could have a leak somewhere as well so I should check all the connections I can find before adjusting/replacing the regulator.

Anything else that I could or should be looking at regarding the propane system on the fridge? Appreciate any input provided as I'm sure I've overlooked something.
I think you are on the right track. Since it works well on AC, you have pretty much eliminated everything except the burner components. As others have stated, spiders seem to love propane lines. I had a gas fireplace that had a low flame, one year because spider built a web in it.

You might take a look here Service Documents and Manuals
It has service manual for many types of refridgerators.
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Old 08-16-2017, 04:35 AM   #4
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In my experience a thermocouple is either good or bad. I haven't seen one that fails slowly.
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:14 PM   #5
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I would assume the service folks would've checked, but I've seen/heard of critters getting in the gas line causing problems. Mud daubers, spiders, etc.
I made the same assumption. I do need to add screens to my fridge vents - it's been on my list for a while but have not yet gotten to it. Maybe before I cover it at the end of this season.
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:15 PM   #6
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You know what they say about the word assume....
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:16 PM   #7
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I think you are on the right track. Since it works well on AC, you have pretty much eliminated everything except the burner components. As others have stated, spiders seem to love propane lines. I had a gas fireplace that had a low flame, one year because spider built a web in it.

You might take a look here Service Documents and Manuals
It has service manual for many types of refridgerators.
I checked out the manuals on the link provided. Looks like the Norcold N300 one was newer than the one I had come across elsewhere, so I downloaded the newer one. Thanks!
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:23 PM   #8
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You know what they say about the word assume....
Yes - that's very true. I based my assumption on the service description which included a "propane system diagnostic". Shame on me if that's just a "marketing" gimmick... All the more reason for me to learn how to do more of my own troubleshooting and repairs.....
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Old 08-16-2017, 08:37 PM   #9
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In my experience a thermocouple is either good or bad. I haven't seen one that fails slowly.
I've been getting that impression as I look into them more. I did have problems with the one on my water heater, which does have a pilot light, last season. The "fix" was to pull it and clean it up with some sand paper. Haven't had any issues with it since I did that.

Of course I did run a test on the fridge after getting it set back up at the house. The short of it is that letting it run overnight did confirm that it was cooling on propane again. When I checked the next morning it was in the low 30's where I would expect it to be.

The part that leads me to believe that it's not working as well as it should be is it used to cool faster on propane that electric. Now that's reversed - and noticeably so. If I fire it up on electric with the main compartment temp around 70 - in about 2 hours it will have dropped about 15 degrees. Same starting point on propane and after 2 hours it has dropped less than 5 degrees. After 4 hours on electric it will be in the upper 30's to 40. On propane it will be around 50-55.

We are heading out for a few days at the coast this next week so I'm planning to run it on propane even though we have electric hook ups. I need to get an idea of how well it is going to do because we have another longer trip coming up just after Labor day where a portion of the time we won't have any hook-ups. That's the one I've been worrying about - 8 days/1600 miles and we made reservations last fall so I don't want to be derailed because the fridge isn't working. If it seems to be OK for the trip next week then I'll probably not dig into it further until after the longer trip.
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Old 08-18-2017, 08:44 AM   #10
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Everything you have said would make me suspect a problem with the gas flow or flame position. My Norcold 811 does seem to cool better on propane, but I have never attempted to measure the difference.
However, the cooling rates you are talking about are pretty good. I would not expect an absorption refrigerator to reach fully cold any faster that 4-8 hrs.
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