The Road Gets Bumpier

When we wake up in Sidney, we discover ourselves surrounded by Prevost tour buses.  The front bumper on one of the buses appears to be falling off and is propped up by a toolbox.  The buses resemble the fancy rides driven by the helpful guys we met in Wisconsin two years ago.  Those drivers helped us fix our coach airlines that got burned by hot tar.  No Prevosts were parked in Sidney when we arrived so they must have pulled in during the wee hours before dawn.  Since they were all buttoned up when we depart, their identities and the sagging bumper will remain a mystery.

Mid-trip Meltdown

Bumper Damage
Maybe he hit some of the millions of cones and barricades littering I-80 into Sidney

Before we hit the road, I rummage in the fridge for the makings of a yogurt parfait.  What I find is warm, lumpy yogurt.  What?!  After our last cooling disaster in Utah, we now keep a thermostat in the fridge to report anomalies to us.  Right now that guage reads 60F.  Guess we will be eating out until we get parked in Wisconsin and can toss the bad food.  Thank goodness the beer and wine are OK!

We have researched solutions to our Norcold problem.  Because the failures are intermittent and unpredictable, we hoped that the cooler would work long enough for us to decide what to do about it.  Last year we were sure we wanted to replace it with a residential model.  After talking with other RVers who made that switch, we became less sure of this option.

Highway cones
Confusing during the day, like a nightmarish video obstacle game at night!

What To Do?

Residential units use a lot of amps of power.  As a result, our house batteries will probably not be able to power a residential unit all night much less for several days boondocking.  We received a suggestion that we turn off the fridge at night while parked without electric hookups, add ice to cool down our food overnight, then in the morning restart the fridge while running the engine or generator for power.  I fear that I am not capable of successfully implementing a complicated process like that.

Other friends have replaced their RV fridge with a newer model of the existing unit.  Since that option for us will cost about $5000 and does not add any cooling storage we are hoping to discover a less costly idea.  Leave it to Stormy to so thoroughly search the internet that he finds a new option – Amish Cooling Unit replacements

He learns that JC Refrigeration builds upgrade replacement cooling coil units for both Norcold and Dometic RV refrigerators.  We read all their reviews on various forums and are impressed with this option.  All this reading makes me realize that our current unit can be a ticking time bomb due to the materials used in its construction.  Many websites warn of explosions caused by hydrogen gas leaks from the cooling coil units on a dual system fridge.

Our Options Summarized

OptionCostProsCons
Remove old unit and replace with residential refridgerator$5000 once Storm gets through adding inverter power and batteriesLots more room inside. No more need to defrost. Modern look.Can't boondock - no more free overnight stays in parking lots 🙁
Cabinets must be re-worked to fit larger model, windows removed to get the unit inside the RV.
Install new Norcold unit replacement unit$5000Not sure there are any except it does have the shelves that keep the food in while traveling.Still small inside. Still scary if you read the online reviews of how cheaply these units are constructed
Install new Amish Cooling unit on our existing fridge$1500 (installed) - unit fits through RV Door and Storm can install himself if our old one dies before OctoberAccording to all the reviews that we read, finally we will have a RV freezer that stays cold enough to store ice cream. No more lost grocery $$ to overheated fridge. Better coil construction much less likely to explode!Still the same small size inside, but hey, we need to eat less anyway!

Unless we experience a total failure before October, we plan to stop on the way back east to have this work done.  The folks at JC Refrigeration claim they can get the job done in 3 hours tops.  The good reviews that they have collected back this claim up.  Fingers crossed that we don’t lose another load of food or burst into flames before then.  (Note: Storm assures me that all of the recall work to prevent an explosion has been done on our unit – I hope that is enough to save us!)

On the Road – Oh No!

Windshield Woes
I am hypnotized by this growing windshield crack!

With empty stomachs, we head east toward our next planned stop at the Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, SD.  We can munch on PB&J sandwiches until we park.  We know from past experience that there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance of that store.  Just minutes after we join the light traffic on I-80, our second surprise of this journey startles me. 

Like a cobra uncoiling from its basket to the sounds of exotic music, a lengthening crack slithers its way across my side of the windshield.  Eyes bulging, I watch it grow several inches before my shriek alerts Storm to this development.  As I make a frantic call to our insurance company, Storm keeps us rolling toward Wisconsin. 

When we arrive there, we put the RV and ourselves in maintenance mode.  We hope we can somehow get our planned repairs done before anything else goes wrong!  Spoiler alert – not a chance in the world of that happening!

PS – if you have ideas, comments or suggestions about the best solution to our refrigerator problems please comment on this post.  We would love to hear from you!

About Sunny Weathers

Pilot, motorcyclist and full time RVer. Follow Stormy (my personal full time RV mechanic and repairman) and me as we travel all over the US in our Country Coach RV. I'll share the fun and the tribulations and any great survival tricks we learn!

9 Replies to “The Road Gets Bumpier”

  1. Jim & Sandy Dukeman says: Reply

    We replaced our Norcold a couple months ago. Guy over by Greensboro did it and it took about 8hours to complete I think. I took it over and left it and he called later to say it was ready to pick up. I think the price was around 4K, we did not get the ice maker this time and she likes more room in the freezer because of that. We will let you know how it works when we get to Oshkosh, we have not had it on long enough to find out yet. But shutting it down at night and starting it int he morning sounds good, but this thing takes about 12 hours to cool down once it is shut off. Between the fridge and the roof we have spent a small bundle this year. Welcome to RV ownership. So far we have been lucky on the windshield, good luck with that, nothing that money can’t fix. :>))) GOD BLESS
    JD/SD

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      I will be curious to hear how the new Norcold works. As far as the windshield goes, the cost is 100% covered thanks to Florida insurance requirements. See you and the entire gang soon!

  2. Sandy Dukeman says: Reply

    When we had a couple of holes in windshield we had a guy come and he magically filled in the cracked area for $60. You could check out the website http://www.griffethautoglass.com and see procedure, etc. That was done in 2011 and has been fine since. Love your stories and can just picture them happening!! Been there. We’re leaving July 16 and praying for good travels all the way to Oshkosh and back. Good Luck to you too. Sandy D

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      Wow – they sound like an awesome place to get a repair. I am afraid that this crack has grown too much for a repair 🙁 at least that is what everyone tells me. I will pray for your good travels too! Best of luck on the trip, see you soon. S

  3. I would find a windshield glass replacement shop that specializes in RVs. Be sure to stay away from the chain RV dealerships repair facilities if you can. The previous owners of our RV had the windshield gaskets worked on three times at Mesa RV with no solution, ended up taking it to a shop that specialized in RV windshields and they replaced the gasket around the glass instead of just trying to patch the old gasket.

    I’m real curious how the dual cooling coil solution works out.

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      We are working with an “RV Specialist” with the insurance company and have made them very aware that we have to have this done by someone who knows RV Glass. Storm says our windshield does not fit in a gasket. Instead it is bedded in some kind of polymer. Looks like it may be a two day process to install. Day one – new windshield bedded in polymer, day two – fill in around bed so it comes out flush with windshield skin. I hope we get someone who knows their stuff – we are looking and Storm is taking charge.

  4. I have not done a lot of primitive camping with my Big Horn fifth wheel but the few nights I did, there was no problem with my residential refrigerator staying cold and still having plenty of battery power in the morning. It should be noted, however, that I have a six volt conversion system which I was told greatly increases battery life.
    The main reason for going with a residential fridge was the ammonia based unit in my Fuzion toy hauler quit cooling and after having a technician check it out, it appeared the problem was due to ammonia crystals plugging the lines. The solution is to take the unit out and turn it upside down for at least 24 hours (it’s called “burping”), something I did not want to do.
    Having had both types of refrigeration, I really prefer the residential fridge. I, particularly, like the extra room and not having to defrost the freezer.

    1. Sunny Weathers says: Reply

      Thanks for reminding me about your experience. I knew that you had a failure and it was related to the ammonia. Did you ever try “burping” the unit or did you immediately replace it with a residential? Just curious to know if that did solve the problem even temporarily.
      Unfortunately, cost may play a big role in our decision. I would really love a residential for all the reasons that you mention. But I am not sure we are up for the high cost in terms of dollars and effort needed to get one inside this rig and properly installed in the space that we have. I can just picture – the window breaking when we remove it to bring the units in and out, Storm spraining something trying to wrestle those big boxes around, etc. The way things usually go for us with the RV, a big project like that makes me nervous!

      1. I did not burp the unit as I was already planning on trading the Fuzion in for the Big Horn. In looking at comments from others online, I got the impression this is a problem with ammonia based fridges, particularly, when parked on uneven ground and could occur again in the future. I suspect there is a lot of info on this in the RV forums if you want to research it.

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