Norcold Refrigerator Recall Information

fridge recall

Image courtesy of ARPRV.com

March, 2016 – When my own Norcold refrigerator quit cooling, I started with what I learned from my own problems (Norcold RV Refrigerators), then when I learned of the ridiculous amount of recalls they’ve had for years and the cover-ups or futile attempts by Norcold revealed by just one lawsuit (Norcold Refrigerator Class Action Lawsuit), I was hooked and the research junkie in me would not be satisfied until I detailed and organized what I was learning.

alice-rabbit-holeI started research about the frequent problems with these units and never imagined what a rabbit hole I would fall down into and how much was involved in this matter.

This is very important stuff here, folks, and we literally are talking life and death since these refrigerators are not only causing millions of dollars in repairs and untold inconvenience, but fires are way too common and lives of people and pets have been lost.

I’m organizing this info in as easy to understand format as possible and breaking out into individual pages with the most important topics.  Since so many people with these refrigerators think the numerous recalls Norcold has issued are true fixes to the problem (and they’re not), this page will be all about that issue.

I’ll start with recap of what I could find so far, with supporting info below.

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want it all

I never imagined it would be so hard to get a list of every Norcold recall.  You can go to Norcold Recalls on their website, but it didn’t give the kind of details I was looking for.  I wanted to know how many recalls issued since x date, what the problem was and how it was supposedly going to be fixed by the recall.

I called the recall line and was told there were too many of them to list, but basically, here were the main recalls:  Cooling Unit, High Temperature, Gas Valve, Thermal Switch, Pressure Tap.  I found details on what I could, as listed below:

nhtsa_logoNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):  This is the agency that deals with public safety issues in this matter, not warranty or reimbursement issues.  I couldn’t always find direct URLs to refer back to, and I also found some documents marked with wrong recall numbers.  I detailed what I could find below, but here is NHTSA Search for Norcold (Recalls, Complaints, etc.) if you want to dig around for more specific info.  To get to related documents, notifications and required Quarterly Reports, click on “Associated Documents.”

Besides the Recalls tab, look under Investigations and Complaints for even more ridiculous behavior by Norcold.  Even after fires caused by the exact same issues as recalls, if you’re not on their list, too bad, they won’t pay.  And if you paid thousands last month and then discovered you were on the list but didn’t get recall notice, tough luck says Norcold. And there are quite a few who never got the notice.

Norcold Recall # – Date
Recall Issue
Proposed Fix
NHTSA Info
Models Affected
Recall 99E-036 – 10/6/99
Defect Notice to NHTSA
Pressure Tap – stress corrosion cracking in brass swivel nuts; could cause propane leakage.“At this time the precise chemical substance which acts in combination with the tensile strength to bring about stress corrosion cracking is under investigation. The environment in which an RV operates can supply corrosive agents…such as vehicle exhausts, acid rain, salt spray near oceans.”
Fix – Replace pressure tap and connecting gas line with alternative assembly.Includes testing reports of pressure tap, pictures and diagrams.Notices to Dealers, etc. – includes pictures of service kits, etc.

99E036000 – Report date 10/18/99

NHTSA Acknowledgement – 10/99

Swivel nut, an integral connection component of pressure tap device has “stress corrosion cracking” that can lead to open fracture in brass nut, allowing propane to leak.

Consumer notice says ok to run on AC only.

Affected: 127,035 refrigerators models 200-300 series manufactured between August 1992 and August 26, 1999

Recall 02E-019 – 3/22/02

Defect Notice to NHTSAReferences Recall # 00E-031 and 6/5/00 Defect Report – where is that?

Cooling Unit:  Norcold has now concluded that replacement of heating element as originally proposed is inadequate.

Fix:  Must replace entire cooling unit with one of different design and configuration rather than merely replacing the heating element.

Includes Distributor Notices & instructions

Owner Notice – Do not operate on AC or Auto

02E019000 – Report receipt date 4/1/02

Cooling system leak in AC mode can deteriorate cooling performance.  Extended operation of leaking cooling unit in AC mode can result in fire.  Norcold to replace entire cooling unit free of charge.

NHTSA Acknowledgment – 3/22/02

Affected:  28,144 Models 621-841

Recall 02E-019 – 3/22/02

Defect Notice to NHTSA – References Recall # 00E-031 and 6/5/00 Defect Report – where is that?

Cooling Unit:  Norcold has now concluded that replacement of heating element as originally proposed is inadequate.

Fix:  Must replace entire cooling unit with one of different design and configuration rather than merely replacing the heating element.

Includes Distributor Notices & instructions

Owner Notice – Do not operate on AC or Auto

02E019000 – Report receipt date 4/1/02

Cooling system leak in AC mode can deteriorate performance; extended operation can result in fire.  Norcold to replace cooling unit free of charge.

Recall Acknowledgment – 4/5/02

Affected:  28,144 Models 621-841

Recall 02E-044 – 7/22/02
Defect Notice to NHTSA
Gas Valve – break down in rubber seal – as it ages, can leak, allowing propane to accumulate in burner area and cause fire.Fix:  Replace gas control valve with new one.Distributors Notification (not dated)
Advises to operate on AC power only.(Owner Notification letter on NHTSA site is not correct one.)Affected: 180,455 refrigerators; Models 400-875 made from 1/87 – 5/95

Acknowledgment – 8/2/02:  Refrigerators can experience low cycle fatigue which can lead to liquid leaking; hydrogen gas can be ignited, resulting in fire, causing injury or death.

“Norcold is responsible for the repair of this equipment from this day forward regardless of age or ownership.”

8/9/12:  Correspondence re: Gas Valve – NHTSA in response to Norcold saying they cannot get gas valves (with over 130 requests remaining): “This recall involves 180,455 Norcold refrigerators that may experience a gas valve leak which can lead to a fire.” Statutes say Norcold must offer remedy by repairing or replacing equipment with identical or equivalent equipment within 60 days.  Norcold argues “extraordinary windfall” for owners with fridges before 1992 and those owners should pay for installation. NHTSA agrees.

Recall 02E-045 – 7/22/02

Defect Notice to NHTSA – 7/22/02
Low cycle fatigue failure in section of cooling unit that can fail and lead to liquid leaking that could lead to cooling performance deterioration and replacement of cooling unit. Steel material can soften & rupture; hydrogen could be expelled and ignited, causing fire.

Distributors Safety Defect Notice (not dated)

Cooling Unit –  System leak in electric mode. If leak occurs, cooling performance will deteriorate (yellow powder residue if leak exists)

Fix:  Replace cooling unit

Owner Notification Letter – 11/2/10

02E045000 – Report Receipt – 7/24/02

Recall Acknowledgment – 8/2/02:  Refrigerators can experience low cycle fatigue which can lead to liquid leaking; hydrogen gas can be ignited, resulting in fire, causing injury or death.

“Norcold is responsible for the repair of this equipment from this day forward regardless of age or ownership.” 

Affected:  8,419 refrigerators models 1200LR and 100 RIM manufactured between 12/96 and 2/99.

Recall 09E-027 – Rev 6/23/09

Cooling Unit: Thermal Switch Kit.
A fatigue failure in section of cooling unit which contains the refrigerant could allow the liquid solution to slowly leak and if enough heat, could rupture and cause fire.

Fix:  Retrofit is to provide added protection to cooling unit’s safe operation.

Letter to vehicle owner: In March 2008, extended recall 02E-045 under recall 08E-030, to include other serial numbers.

09E27000 – Report date 5/22/09
Superseded by Recall 10E-049
Defect Notice from Norcold – 5/5/09NHTSA Acknowledgment – 5/15/09: Per 5/5/09 Norcold letter to NHTSA, it is also necessary to modify the remedy associated with Recall 02E-045.
Owners who had cooling unit replaced under that recall needs to have safety thermal switch kit installed.Other documents here: Recall Acknowledgment, Defect Notice, and four Quarterly Performance ReportsModels affected:  1200 LR, LRIM and 1201 LRIM

Recall 10E-049 – 10/15/10

Notice to NHTSA – 10/7/10:  Extending the recall of all 1200, 1201, 1210 and 1211 models to include units produced from Jan. 1, 2003 to Oct. 6, 2010.  The population addressed “…contains either a sensing algorithm or a thermal switch to interrupt power…when it detects high temperatures that could lead to a fire. The defect being addressed is the response time of the sensing algorithm and the thermal switch.

Fix:  Affix a thermocouple with faster response time to refrigerators with a sensing algorithm or thermal switch.

Norcold has now decided the response time of the sensory algorithm and thermal switch devices to stop power are not sufficient. An insufficient response time can result in power not being shot off in sufficient time to prevent a fire.”  (Pictures and diagrams of fix attached.)

Owner Notice 11/2/10

Cooling Unit: (see NHTSA info in next column) – Norcold does not specify the problem to owners)

Fix:  High Temperature Sensor

10E049000 – Report date 10/8/10

Supersedes Recalls 02E-045, 08E-030, 09E-026 and 09E-027. Extends manufacture dates from 1996-2002 to include 2003-2010.

NHTSA response to Notice – 10/15/10 (see below for recap)

Affected:  1200 series under previous recalls

Quarterly Report 4/17/12 – Is this the last report required on this most recent recall?

Correspondence between NHTSA and Norcold about latest recall 10E-049:

10/15/10NHTSA  – “The information in your defect report does not satisfy the requirements…”  The report is missing chronology, summary of warranty claims, field reports, etc.

Chronology – Jan. 2003 – Sept. 2005 (Provided by Norcold):  1200 series were equipped with algorithm logic in control board to monitor internal temperatures. If cooling was being required and internal temperature was not getting colder after some period of time, power to the refrigerator would be shut down.  Oct. 2005 – Oct. 2010 – 1200 series were equipped with thermal switch around boiler to sense high temperatures at the boiler. If detected, power to cooling unit would be interrupted.

11/2/10NHTSA letter to Norcold – Another notice that they have not met reporting requirements.  Refers to Chronology above and says it does not meet the requirement.  “We note that in a telephone call you made several weeks ago…you indicated there had been several fires, yet there is no mention of these in the chronology or elsewhere.”  Interesting summary of their understanding of defects and efforts to remediate them and recall chronology.

11/16/10Norcold letter to NHTSA – About chronology – Summary of warranty claims, service reports, etc., corrects NHTSA recall histories.

Gives Production Chronology from 1996-2010 and Recall Chronology from 1996-2010  (Recalls 02E-045, 08E-030, 09E-026, 09E-027, 10E-049)

(Norcold version of history what happened to implement Recall 10E-049):  “Norcold was confident after implementing Recalls 08E-030, 09E-026 and 09E-027 that if conditions that caused excessive heat build-up were experienced (sensed by the algorithm) or if excessive heat was detected (sensed by the thermal switch), power to the refrigerator would be tripped thus short-circuiting the potential for a refrigerator fire.

“Accordingly, it was Norcold’s view that from 2003 onward all Model 1200 refrigerators were equipped with, or through Safety Recalls…were being equipped with, a safety device that would effectively prevent high heat build-up that could lead to a fire.”

“Norcold tracks the incidence of product failures brought to its attention. In June 2010, Norcold observed that its fire claim experience with respect to units produced since 2003, the population it believed to be least likely to experience fire claims because the safety sensing devices were built into the original production, was experiencing a fire claim rate approaching .1% (.08%) of the total population. ” (Chart provided with Year Made & Year of Loss from 2003 – 2010 with steady increases, biggest in 2008-2010)

“According to additional testing of the thermal switch…the switch then in use was unable to identify some overheats fast enough to prevent all fires. Thus, Norcold sought an additional thermal sensor that would provide a faster response time to interrupt power to the cooling unit should the boiler section…reach temperatures that could result in…a fire.”

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complaint keyRecall Info from Original Petition Class Action Lawsuit filed 12/12/12 (Jeffrey Etter v. Norcold)

section symbol28.  All gas absorption refrigerators share the same technology, which involves a process whereby a solution of ammonia, water, sodium chromate and hydrogen gas is heated until it boils, releasing ammonia gas, which circulates through a series of tubes, (referred to as a ‘cooling unit’).

section symbol5.  Rather than eliminate the design and manufacturing defects … or provide adequate warning of potential safety risks… Defendants instead sought to conceal and minimize the dangers inherent in the…design and operation.

It goes on to detail how Norcold claims it was a single failure modality in a limited portion of their products and that the recall retrofits would fix the defect, making it safe to use.  In fact, the defects were more widespread throughout their product line and the retrofits were ineffective.  To add insult to injury, the retrofit devices ended up making the fridges unrepairable, requiring users to purchase new refrigerators that had the same design defects as the originals and same propensity to cause fires.

section symbol6.  In fact, Defendants’ recent safety recalls caused further harm to consumers by retrofitting the defective refrigerators with a device that masks the defects by disabling the electronic controls…before the refrigerator has a chance to ignite a fire.”  They say what happens is that when the fridge fails, the retrofit device permanently disables the electronic controls. Therefore, it’s up to the consumer to replace the refrigerator.

section symbol11.  Plaintiff Paul Kahler’s experience:  Had recalls of his 1200 series fridge performed in his 2006 Fleetwood motorhome. He subsequently had it examined by Norcold’s Technical Service Trainer. After that, the fridge malfunctioned and started a fire.

section symbol13.  Plaintiff Jeff Etter had a 1200 series fridge in his 2007 Damon motorhome and had all recall work done, one of which resulted in failure of the cooling unit which had to be replaced at his cost.

section symbol31.  One of their bandaid fixes called a safety fuse actually made matters worse in the case of a blowout and either initiated a fire where none existed or made a small fire much worse.

section symbol34.  Lawyer speak:  “Defendants had actual and exclusive knowledge of the exact nature and scope of the defects in their products, the fire claim history of the products, and the fact that their recall and retrofit campaigns did not address or eliminate the defects, and therefore, all times, had a duty to disclose the safety risks inherent in the use of their product, and the inadequacies of their recall/retrofit campaigns to Plaintiffs. However, Defendants at all times actively concealed the true nature and scope of the defects, safety risks, and recall/retrofit inadequacies from Plaintiffs.”

My real world interpretation:  The jerks knew their products were destroying people’s property, and in some cases the lives of pets and people, yet they did nothing meaningful to fix the real problems. I imagine because the total redesign of this major part would be harmful to their bottom line, so they just lied and put bandaids on gaping wounds.

section symbol37.  The Thermal Safety Switch is a metal sleeve installed toward the base of the refrigerator chimney/flue, designed to cut all power in the event of excessive heat detected in the refrigerator cabinet. Excess heat was a sign that the cooling unit was defective, overheating and likely to start a fire. They started installing these on new 1200 series refrigerators in 2005, but didn’t start offering the TSS to consumers through recall retrofit programs until 2008.  Since then, they’ve tried other temperature sensors, none of which eliminate the defects and inherent safety risks.  And once these “fail-safe” devices trip, the electric power to the fridge is shut down and there is no alternative but to replace the cooling unit or get a new refrigerator, since once the module is tripped the refrigerator can no longer operate.

section symbol43. Rather than design and manufacture a product that is safe to use, Defendants are in fact turning their design and manufacturing defects into a profit generating mechanism. If the defects cause a fire that destroys the product, Defendants make money selling the consumer a new refrigerator. If refrigerator is destroyed because of the recall devices, the effect is the same.

Cool and profitable scam for Norcold, eh?

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irv2_logoForum Posts:
What’s the Problem and Does the Recall Repair Fix It?

Norcold Class Action Suit Settled: Posts from named Plaintiff Jeffrey Etter (JLE Seminole in forum) to set the record straight 

Recap of Problem.

The common defect at issue in this case is that the cooling unit’s boiler tubes have the propensity to corrode prematurely and leak. A result of the defect is that flammable gas escapes from the breach, near a heat source, creating a dangerous fire risk. But if a leak occurs, regardless of whether it results in a fire, the cooling unit is still completely destroyed and in need of complete replacement. While Defendants’ “experts” nonchalantly offer that a “leak is just a leak,” they ignore the critical fact that once a leak occurs, like a balloon with a pinhole or a Coke bottle with a crack, the pressurized unit is completely destroyed and a replacement is needed – at a substantial cost to the consumer. This defect has never been “repaired” as part of any recall. Thus, leaks and fires continue to occur, even in units retrofitted with the latest High Temperature Sensor (“HTS”), because as Defendants admit, the HTS was never designed to stop leaks.

Norcold knew about the problems for a long time and did nothing.

“In fact, consistent with their long history of concealment, Defendants simply chose not to address Plaintiffs’ class claims that: (1) the true defect is that Defendants’ cooling unit’s boiler tubes have a premature corrosion problem that causes them to develop holes and leak flammable gas; (2) any retrofit device installed does not fix that defect or do anything to stop the leaks; (3) the risk of leaks and dangerous fires remains even after the installation of any retrofit; and, (4) these facts have been uniformly concealed from the class, having been classified by Defendants as “confidential” materials that “Norcold does not disclose to the public.”

Norcold admits the recall fixes did not work.

Expert witness testimony, as well as the testimony of numerous Norcold employees, have shown that the High Temperature Sensor Recall Kits DO NOT fix the dangerous defects present in the Norcold Cooling units. These Recall Kits are band aids that do not work as has been documented by the FACT that Norcold refrigerator units continue to rupture, leak, explode and catch on fire AFTER THE RECALL KITS HAVE BEEN INSTALLED.

This is from a deposition from a Norcold employee that ADMITS that their High Temperature Sensor kit DOES NOT fix the problem:

Q. Is it correct that Norcold has continued to experience 1200 series fires in units equipped with the latest high temperature sensor?

A. That is correct.

Plaintiff Ray Rolle is a good example. While Mr. Rolle had had the HTS (High Temperature  Sensor) installed on his Norcold refrigerator, it still leaked, caught fire and destroyed his RV in late 2012. Norcold’s own fire investigator examined the RV and concluded that a leak existed and the HTS had been installed.

Page 3:  It is my understanding from reading the depositions and evidence that I have seen that the fires occur regardless of whether you are on gas or 110. The issue is a weakened weld inside the tube as a result of corrosion and when it lets loose it lets loose – regardless of whether you are on 110 or gas. I’ve had two Norcold units rupture and fail – both right at the 4 to 5 year mark. Not all cooling units will fail, but many have in the past (e.g. – thousands). According to Norcold’s employee testimony in depositions they indicate (and their incident logs evidence) that the fires have continued EVEN AFTER the installation of the High Temperature Sensor Recall Kits.

There are also posts in this thread from people whose RVs burned after the recall had been done.

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Any Norcold Fires Since Last Recall?  (4/6/13) – JLE:  From information that I have seen I believe there is an average of more than one Norcold refrigerator fire per day somewhere in the US. Norcold has been doing their recalls for about eight or nine years – versions A, B, C, D, and E – and still the cooling units are failing. I would have to assume that the vast majority of the cooling units that fail have had the recalls done on them and the same is true for the resulting fires. I spoke to someone recently at a FMCA show who had just returned from a Rally in the Southwest where during the course of the Rally in one week there were three Norcold refrigerator fires.

doubtersOf course there are always doubters if it doesn’t happen personally to them…

“One or more fires a day would make the news, especially now that the class action suit has been filed. That many fires borders on pandemic.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If such fires were as common as you claim we all would have seen multiples of multiples of them. 1 a day? Laughably ridiculous. (But even it true it would be statistically insignificant given the number of refers in use.)”  (My response: Wow, dude, 1 fire a day “statistically insignificant?!  I bet you’d sing a different tune if that 1 were you!)

JLE Response:  There are probably many things in life that you have not personally observed, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen. I have personally spoken to, or corresponded with, two Fire Marshals/Chiefs in two different states. One told me that his department had investigated approximately 30 Norcold refrigerator related fires in the last few years within his district service area. Another told me that he was more than aware of the Norcold related refrigerator fires and the associated dangers to their firefighters. I have spoken with numerous RV industry related knowledgeable professionals and each of them have been well aware of the extent of the fires and dangers related to this subject.  In court depositions this lawyer has interviewed Norcold engineers & management and was given copies of quality records of reported customer rv fires. Since 1999, over 2000 customer complaints of fires. And he said Norcold continues to use the same design in the burner where the tubing wall thickness is too thin and develops cracks over time which leaks out the highly combustible ammonia and hydrogen gas.  Additionally he said, Norcold continues to install recall ineffective kits which detect high temps, that is too little too late.

no-newsBut I agree – why isn’t there more on the news about this??!!

JLE subsequent response:

The reality is that in your “extensive” research effort you might just have missed a few of the facts of the matter – like more than a year’s worth of discovery documents, depositions, expert witness and engineering reports and reviewing fire incident logs of the thousands of Norcold owners who have had their refrigerator cooling/boiler units rupture and become defective, explode and/or catch on fire. It isn’t too surprising that you haven’t spent time perusing these incident logs of these Norcold refrigerator failures – Norcold obviously doesn’t make such information widely available to the general public. But just because you didn’t, doesn’t mean that the information doesn’t exist – it does and it is just one piece of the massive amounts of evidence in a lawsuit against Norcold regarding this product!  The FACTS are that Norcold has produced in excess of 1,000,000 N6, N8 and N1200 gas absorption refrigerators since 1999. They have known for more than 12 years that the boiler/cooling units in these refrigerators had a serious, potentially DEADLY design defect associated with the tubing in their boiler which causes those units to rupture, leak, become defective, potentially EXPLODE and/or catch on FIRE.  You probably didn’t see (or understand) that rather than FIX and REPLACE the defective units when Norcold first discovered and documented the design defect more than a decade ago, instead Norcold CHOSE to continue to produce and sell hundreds of thousands of additional defective units to unsuspecting RV owners when they KNEW with certainty that this inherent design defect was still present and could occur on any one of their units at any time in the future. (Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)/Norcold Recall – October 18, 2001)

You probably weren’t aware that instead of fixing the problem with the design problem with the cooling unit which would preclude the boiler/cooling unit tubing from failing in the first place, Norcold instead chose a nickel and dime solution attempted through their high temperature sensor recall kits only AFTER FAILURE OF THE BOILER UNIT OCCURRED to attempt to shut down the boiler unit so that it didn’t explode and/or catch on fire. Based upon the fact that there have been six different recall kits that all have failed and required additional recalls, their recall kits obviously were not successful at doing so. IT IS A DOCUMENTED FACT THAT MANY COACHES STILL HAD THEIR BOILER UNITS RUPTURE AND FAIL, AS WELL AS CATCH ON FIRE AND BURN AFTER THE RECALL KITS WERE INSTALLED. And you probably haven’t spoken to owners who have had four and five of the recall kits fail within minutes of having them installed on their coach and then having their cooling units rupture and leak out all of the fluids and gasses.

fridge-fire

Gypsy Journal post

This is the simple fact of what the Norcold Class Action lawsuit is all about. There are hundreds of thousands of people who own these Norcold units. The problem isn’t a matter of someone not maintaining their unit properly, or doing something that causes it to rupture, explode and/or catch on fire. IT IS AN INHERENT DEFECT THAT IS PRESENT IN EVERY UNIT REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT HAS HAD THE RECALL KIT INSTALLED OR NOT. As long as those refrigerators have that defective cooling / boiler unit installed, there is a chance that the boiler will leak, rupture, explode and catch on fire.

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Norcold, A Different Slant (following information from a Norcold Engineer):

If the Thermal Sensor Module receives a high temperature from the boiler tube, then that indicates that the cooling unit is potentially defective and should not be operated again. Thus, the Thermal Sensor Module kills all the control power to the Refrigerator Control Board and shuts down the Refrigerator. This Module is NOT resettable…it is a ONE-SHOT MODULE. Once tripped, it is DEAD.  The refrigerator will have power, but it will NOT run or cool and you will see the code.  Older models will just shut down. There is an indicator lamp on the Thermal Sensor Module that will be ON if the boiler tube has reached the critical temperature.  At this point, there is NO alternative but to REPLACE the Cooling Unit or get a NEW Refrigerator. If the unit is currently under Norcold Warranty, then they will handle it. If not, then it is the customer’s responsibility.

annoyed tweetyDo you get this?  If their bandaid works, hopefully it will stop a fire, but your refrigerator is then useless until you replace the expensive cooling unit or get a new refrigerator – on your dime!  This post was from 2010 and maybe they’ve tried other bandaids since then, but obviously still none effective to really protect the consumer.

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Norcold Refrigerator Fires (RVForum.net) – Norcold continues to install recall ineffective kits which detect high temps, that is too little too late.  The rv fires keep on happening (even with the latest recall). The largest models (the 12 cubic footer) seems to be most prone to fire.  (Of course, this is what I have.)

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Norcold & Dometic Recalls  (Oct. 2007):  Six pages of discussion about the different recalls and their effects. I could particularly relate to this poster’s frustration:  “You know, this whole situation is just plain nuts. Why is it a company chooses the cheap & less work for them route by just band-aiding what’s more than obviously a major issue? Says a lot about their so called “concern” for the customers who get stuck with their product.”

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Norcold Has Increased Their Recall (Oct. 2010) – The Norcold web site lists all serial numbers for the 1200-series models … for the latest recall. They say these were produced from 1997 to 2010. I think these units needed to have the whole cooling unit replaced. The expanded recall includes the older models and adds newer models from 2004 up to the present. Now ALL models need a new high temperature limiter plus modifications to the insulation surrounding the heater.  Even though you had the recall done back in May, this new recall involves installing a faster Thermal Sensor Switch.

Interesting comment:  Good luck finding someone to do the recall. I called Norcold and they gave me names and phone numbers to call. I have contacted 6 of the local repair facilities they gave me and they all said the same thing, “We don’t work on Norcold recalls anymore”. Wow, even repair centers are tired of Norcold BS!

The latest recall dated October, this year, is where they will cut the wires to this fairly new Thermal Switch and leaving it there, then they install a faster acting Thermocouple Sensing Wire Thermal higher up on the burner stack with a new insulation patch to cover it. Then they will install a High Temperature Monitoring Controller on the lowest cooling coil on the back of the frig. This package is placed in line with the 12 volt control board power supply such that if it were to activate, it will shut all power down to the control board, rendering the refrigerator “Out Of Service”. This condition cannot be reset by anyone, even a service tech.

Page 6:  Has pictures of recall installs, including the black box with red light.  “Once the thermocouple hits ~700 degrees, the fridge shuts down, no reset, no second chance, you’re in for a new cooling assy.  Also, everyone should check the water drain cup next to the burner. This one has melted in a couple of spots because he says on occasion the flame will blow around and out the side of the burner at the plastic.”

Page 7:  I had my recall done today and was assured it didn’t fix anything it is simply a band aid and if/when the band aid gets soiled its a new cooling unit.

I talked with one of the engineers today and here is what I was told. The cooling units are not a problem. They are made to last for a certain number of years and then be replaced, just like the a/c compressor in a residential refer or the transmission in your RV. Most of the time they last for more than 7 years, some fail sooner and some later just like any mechanical component. The new high temp monitor reads the temperature on the cooling unit boiler and when it gets too hot it will shut down the unit before it can start a fire. It is not resettable because Norcold is sure if this thing trips you have a problem. The old temp switch was mounted down by the burner box and was a few inches from the boiler and had some insulation in there also. Although it worked it was found to not be sensitive enough.

Bottom line, it makes no difference what you call the wire with a widget on one end and a black box on the other- its a band aid at best and if your rv burns to the ground and you haven’t had the recall done then you probably wouldn’t have any recourse.

I asked….what’s the cost of a new cooling unit? Oh…about $1500 installed. He also said that they think the cause is due to the extra cooling needed for the double door units. He sees 20-25 year old single doors and indicated that the double doors have larger heating elements, which affect the metal of the cooling unit. Sure sounds like poor engineering to me too!

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Recall info on Norcold and Dometic (RVCoolingUnits.com)

confusedEven after reading way too much of this kind of material, there’s so much I just still don’t understand – mainly why didn’t Norcold start from scratch and redesign the cooling unit to better specs like the Amish built ones with thicker tubing wall and other improvements.  It seems to me Norcold by now could have recouped increased production costs due to changing the design rather than paying for the countless recall fixes (that didn’t really fix anything), as well as attorney fees and lawsuit settlements through all these years. One theory I heard that was particularly disturbing is that the recalls and retrofits are actually profit centers for Norcold (info on that above)!

Per my RVIA certified tech, Marcus:  Don’t forget, the recalls, both Dometic and Norcold, are only an attempt to avoid a fire. They fix nothing! If your unit is going to fail, it will fail, just hopefully with no fire. Newer units are NOT on the recall list because Norcold and Dometic are now installing the recall equipment at the factory. Cooling unit failures may still happen.

4/22/16 Update: RV Owners Sue Dometic Over Fire-Prone Refrigerators  (RV Daily Report on a newly filed nationwide class action lawsuit against Dometic).

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help me please

I seldom ask for help, but this is so important, not just to me, but to all RVers who have these ticking time bomb refrigerators in their rolling homes. I fulltimed for 15 years before I truly became aware of the nature and scope of these problems, even though I had another Norcold in an older motorhome that had at least three recall fixes done. It’s ridiculous, but it seems that the problems are getting worse and more serious, not better.  We need to stick together regarding this issue, so please comment on any (or all) of the related pages linked below.  Tell me your story, suggestions, etc.  I’ve gotten lots of emails and private messages, but since I intend to share these pages of research with the NHTSA, manufacturers and dealers to ask why more is not being done to protect consumers from these dangers, the more support shown on these pages, the better.  Please comment below and/or on other pages and spread the word!

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All Malia’s Miles Norcold pages:

Norcold RV RefrigeratorsRecalls not Working

NHTSA & Norcold Class Action Lawsuit  ♦ Amish Made Cooling Units

 

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  • J.C. Webber III

    So what are you going to do about your fridge, Malia? We just ordered (coincidently) our replacement residential fridge yesterday. We’re replacing our Norcold 1210 with a Samsung RF18. It’s about 7 inches taller, but about the same depth and width. Somehow that ends up giving us an additional 6 cubic feet of refrigerator storage space.

    • J.C., I’m having the Amish cooling unit installed next week. I’m just not ready to go residential and have to do everything I’d have to do solar and battery wise to still be able to boondock when I want to. How old was your Norcold 1210 when you put in the Amish cooling unit? And then did you replace it because the Amish one failed as well or just because of the door seals? Unfortunately, from everything I’m learning, it doesn’t surprise me that Norcold didn’t do anything as customer friendly as to offer something as simple as a seal kit. They are outrageous and I’m going to keep trying to do everything I can to reveal how shady they’ve been about this whole matter. And again, I think the manufacturers of the RVs need to hold them more accountable!

      • J.C. Webber III

        We are replacing the Norcold strictly due to the door seals. The Amish cooling unit is still working great. Our coach is an ’06 and we replaced the cooling unit at least 3 years ago, maybe 4. So that would make the Norcold 6 or 7 years old when we replaced the cooling unit. We had to because it leaked all the ammonia (yellow powdery stuff) out, but did not catch fire.

        I think you are making the right move going with the Amish cooling unit. As long as your door seals are ok. I think you will be happy with the improvement. We went from a setting of 8 or 9 to a setting of 4 or 5 to keep the fridge at the safe temp. Except when it was hot and humid outside, then the door seals let us down. The freezer was always ok, though. It was just the fridge compartment that wouldn’t stay cool enough.

        I’ve never heard of anyone having any issues with fire once they upgraded to the Amish unit. Wait until you see how beefy the pipes are in this new unit! You will be impressed.

        • Wow, J.C., I sure hope you’re right that I won’t have any more problems after the Amish cooling unit is installed! I’m so tired of dealing with this already and from all the research I’ve been doing on Norcold and how they’ve handled the recalls and other complaints, I think my blood pressure is through the roof. 😉 I saw lots of complaints about doors completely falling off, but haven’t seen anything about the seals yet, though. Just gets curiouser and curiouser…

          • Miss OJ

            Hi My Dometic fridge developed an ammonia leak. I went to sleep around 8pm woke up around 2am choking, dizzy and nauseated. I have a severe burn on my chest and when I went to the ER they diagnosed me with low heart rate, fainting and blood pressure that dropped 30 points from laying down to standing up. Said I need to see a cardiologist tomorrow to see why the blood is not reaching my brain. I have a very raw throat. Scared of what damages I have inside. the ammonia I assume was venting outside but with my ac on it was pulling the fumes into the camper. I cannot believe something that could kill you while you sleep was allowed in campers and cannot believe Keystone put them in their campers.

          • Wow, I’ve never heard of this, but sounds awful! If you have more details to share, that would be helpful. Do you know if Keystone installed something wrong or if the problem was with the fridge itself? If you have feedback from Keystone or Dometic, I’d love to hear it!

  • Thanks for this info. I have just had to replace the propane regulators on the tanks and the stove in my 2015 winnebago travel trailer. Both warranty items. But didn’t think they should fail so soon. Smelled strong ammonia the other day, for no apparent reason. Wonder if it was the Dometic fridge. I always have to have it really low, or it freezes everything. Will keep this in mind.

    • Thanks to you for sharing your own experience, Robyn! There are a lot of people affected by these kind of shoddy corporations but I’m also amazed at how complacent we can become when we’re not personally involved. I hope that more people will share their experiences here to show support. I’m beginning to think I made a major mistake by assuming that when I traded in my 2000 model motorhome for a 2012 that I was wise because newer parts, appliances, etc. would be better. I’ve also had more trouble with them (washer, water pump, fridge, etc.) in 3 years than I had in 12 years with the other. Newer is most definitely not always better, but the fact that these companies are making their products even worse now than in the past is truly scary!

      • So true, Malia. I was renovating a 14′ 1975 MeToo when I upgraded. The 26′ is nice and I thought all the warranty protection would be an advantage, but not so much. I have to have a $300+ inspection every year to maintain the forever warranty, and I ended up having to replace the stove regulator myself. Am sending in the old part and hoping for reimbursement from Atwood. At least I have some skills, for most repairs.

        • I wish I had more confidence in myself when it comes to doing even minor repairs, but if it has anything to do with electricity or gas, I am not going near it. 🙂 And people think I’m so brave – LOL

  • Email received: Thank-you so much for all your hard work researching all this! Very appreciated and I will forward this to my other snowbird/rving friends!! Wendy

    (While I’d prefer comments posted directly here, I understand some people prefer email, so I’ll just include them here.) Whether you comment, email or what, I do hope this information will be shared to educate other RVers of these continued dangers.

  • Hank

    This topic is surely sucking the air right out of our Happy Camper room! It’s really pissing me off that we could be sleeping one minute and in the next fighting to stay alive and not die in an agonizing fiery ball of flames! This is just another shining example of the crap quality, zero caring about RVing safety the RV industry has been practicing since Day 1! Show me how to participate in a Class Action Law Suit and I’m there!

    • Hank, you are so right! It’s outrageous not only how dangerous these things are, but also how much time and hassle we consumers have to spend trying to get them fixed as they fail so often. These irresponsible companies continue to profit at our expense in more ways than one.

      The class action lawsuit I wrote about on my page here: http://maliasmiles.com/norcold-class-action-lawsuit/ is still pending but in the settlement or objection to settlement stage. I’ve corresponded with one of the named plaintiffs in that suit, Jeffrey Etter, and the head attorney in that suit is Terrence Beard in Pittsburg, CA. His number is 925-778-1060. No matter what the status of this case, I’m sure he can point you in a productive direction.

      Friends have been sending links about this more recently filed class action suit related to Dometic fridge fires: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/class-action-targets-rv-refrigerator-fires-042216.html and there is a link from there about the complaint filed by the Hagens Berman law firm.

      I also encourage you to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and I wrote about how to do this on this page: http://maliasmiles.com/nhtsa-norcold-recalls/

      Thanks for your comment here, Hank. We need more people to stand up and speak out about this!

      • Hank

        Malia: Thanx for your reply, I appreciate it. As per your suggestion I have filled out the Class Action Law Suit “form” and emailed it to the Hagens Berman law firm. I have also filled out the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Complaint Form and submitted it. Not sure what else I can do except hope for the best with our Dometic refrigerator, and prepare for the worst. To that end, today, I have ordered two more fire extinguishers. One will sit right beside our bed and one will be placed in our truck. The factory installed fire extinguisher is unfortunately located right beside the Dometic refrigerator. Not a handy spot should my unit explode into flames. My wife and I are also very carefully reviewing our bedroom emergency escape plan since our Dometic sits next to our RV exit door. Our only emergency exit will be the bedroom fire exit window. The history of failures with Dometic units has caused us enormous anxiety. It’s literally taken the “Happy” out of “Happy Campers!” And it’s really making me angry that Dometic is not stepping up its process of recalling and replacing these faulty units. I can only say that I feel fortunate to have discovered this potential hazard now, hopefully, before it’s too late. Best to you and thanx for your help. Hank

        • Good for you taking action, Hank! I commend you for that because I’ve heard from some people whose units actually did catch fire and when I asked for details on the type of units they had, the details, etc., so I could further prove my complaint to the NHTSA that the newer units with the latest recall fixes are still catching fire, I haven’t heard back from any yet.

          I think you’ve definitely taken some positive steps. I did the same thing – additional fire extinguisher next to my bed and made sure I know how to escape through the exit window.

          Not that I think it’s definitive or in any way that it’s completely safe, but have you checked on the Dometic recall page to see if your unit is listed? http://www.dometic.com/USA/Support/Dometic-Recall-Information/

          As for another alternative, I don’t know if you’ve seen the page I did about the Amish built cooling units – http://maliasmiles.com/amish-cooling-units/ – but that’s what I replaced my failed Norcold cooling unit with. They are much better made with stronger materials and no fires or failures reported from them that I know of. I’ve been very impressed with the contacts I’ve had with the factory that makes them.

          • Hank

            I find it “interesting” that the Amish, you know those folks who don’t believe in modern technology, electricity or convenient tools, can actually build a better cooling unit. I mean, refrigeration technology, although not rocket science, still requires a learned and applied skill level to master. But I’m sure I know nothing in depth about the Amish except that they live in PA and surrounding areas. Thanx again for your advice! Really appreciate it!

          • I admit I don’t know much about the Amish way of life, and I suspect there are is a lot we on the outside don’t understand or misinterpret. One thing I’ve always heard in general though, is the quality of workmanship in their products is impeccable. Although it might not be rocket science to build a better cooling unit, they’ve managed to do it and even at a better price than the supposed experts in the industry have in all the years they’ve been in business. Just further proof to me of the corporate greed and irresponsibility of Norcold and Dometic.

          • Hank

            Malia: Hi.

            Today I snagged my Dometic Model & Serial Number: DM2852RBFX & 42591419 respectively. I documented my concerns about this issue to Dometic Corp asking the following questions:

            Is my Dometic refrigerator on the recall list? (I checked every recall source and could not find it on any list.)

            Further, is my Dometic unit endangering my family’s life with a potentially catastrophic fiery failure of its cooling unit? (Even though my unit is not on any list I really want to hear from Dometic that my family will be safe from a fiery death.)

            Is there anything I need to do to prevent this published failure?

            Hopefully I’ll get a response that will allay my fears.

            Again, thanx for all your help.

          • Good for you being proactive and calling them. I wonder if it’s the same deal with Norcold and newer units after their last recall in 2010. From what I understand, they are building in the last recall retrofit (Thermal Sensor Switch or High Temperature Sensor) at the factory now. Sounds good if the fixes actually worked and stopped fires from happening at all, but that does not seem to be the case from what I’ve seen. And when it does work, when it senses high temperatures is completely shut down the cooling unit, meaning it can’t be fixed and must be replaced. Not sure if that’s the same deal with Dometic recall fixes or not, but maybe you should investigate that a little more? I just have to say that looking to Dometic for assurance that you’re safe is pretty futile in my opinion. What would you expect them to say? Obviously these companies have not been honest with their customers for years, assuring them the products are safe from the beginning, then for sure safe after recall #1, oh wait, recall #2 fixed it for sure…. Now we’re on recall #6 and still fires are happening!

          • Hank

            Malia: Here’s the response to my letter from Dometic. At least my particular unit is not on any recall list and they did say that the upgraded cooling unit has been installed on newer models. I guess that’s at least some relief. What’s your take?

            Letter Follows:

            Good morning,

            Your email to our Customer Support Center has been forwarded to the Recall Department for review.

            Dometic only has one refrigerator recall and it involves certain refrigerator model numbers/serial numbers manufactured between 1997 through 2006, The DM model refrigerators are not and have never been under any type of recall; therefore, your DM2852RBFX / 42591419 refrigerator is not affected by our refrigerator recall. Only the model numbers that are listed in the drop down box on the Dometic recall website are affected by the recall (you can get to the Dometic recall website by entering this web address in your internet browser: http://67.238.126.140/recall.php). Please note that our serial numbers go across product lines, so it is possible to have a refrigerator with a serial number that is on the recall, but the model number is not, or a model number that is on the recall and the serial number is not. Both the refrigerator model number and the serial number must be on the list to be affected by the recall.

            Dometic has made and continues to make various improvements to our refrigerators. Even though your refrigerator isn’t affected by our recall, the recall kit is installed on your refrigerator. Because Dometic cares about the end user, the recall kit is and has been for many years now, factory-installed on all of our refrigerator models for the safety of the consumer. The recall kit is a safety kit; it is designed so that in the rare instance that there is a fire, it senses and contains the fire and shuts the refrigerator down. The recall kit has been tested extensively and has been proven effective.

            If you have further questions or require additional information, please let us know.

            Thank you,

            Barb

            Recall Department

            Dometic Corporation

          • Honestly, I haven’t researched Dometic like I did Norcold, so I don’t feel as comfortable commenting on what they’ve done or not done. But that article link above about the new class action suit against them alleges that “the defective refrigerators have caused or contributed to at least 3,000 fires since 1997..all of which Dometic tracked through multiple, non-public, internal databases.”

            So I’d still be a bit suspect of their statements. You said you contacted the law firm who is handling this newest class action suit. I’d be curious to know what they say because obviously they’ve already conducted at least some due diligence and it concerns me that they say despite these recalls and fixes, “The company continues to receive new fire claims “at an alarming rate.”

            So honestly, I may be a bit paranoid from everything I’ve been reading about Norcold, but I certainly wouldn’t be willing to just take Dometic’s word for it. Please do let me know if you find out anything else. Thanks, Hank!

        • ray allen

          The computer room where I work has a ceiling mounted FE 36 (halon replacement) fire extinguisher instead of a sprinkler head to avoid the sprinkler system damaging the computers in case of a fire.

          I don’t know if a ceiling mounted FE 36 extinguisher mounted near the refrigerator in an RV would work to slow or stop a fire caused by a refrigerator failure, but it might be worth investigating.

          • Thanks, Ray. I don’t know the difference between the one you mention and the kind of extinguisher I’ve seen another guy recommend (Fire Fight 1, SS-30
            Halon)
            but I definitely wouldn’t be without something, especially with a Norcold!

  • Craig

    What about units after 2010? I just bought a 2016 jayco with the 1210 unit in it. Have they corrected it by now?

    • Craig, I suggest you check out the recall page at http://www.thetford.com/customer-support/recall-information/ for your particular model, but I suspect it’s not on the recall list since it’s after 2010. However, as I said on the Recalls Not Working page – http://maliasmiles.com/norcold-refrigerator-recalls/ – since fires are still happening and cooling units still failing, it doesn’t seem like the latest recall really fixes the problems. Of course, that’s not what Norcold would say, and I know I’ve presented a LOT of information, but check it out for yourself and see what you think.

  • Carolyn G. Sanchez

    We bought our camper with a Dometic fridge side by side in 2007. We been noticing a lot of trouble with it not holding its coldness and it never really worked correctly for what we wanted to put it on auto or gas. We should have been able to use it for both, but never could use it as we wanted too. It did leak and my carpet there at my fridge use to be all wet. Now we don’t know where the water is going. Please help!

    • Carolyn, I’m sorry to hear of your Dometic troubles. I hear differing reports from folks about which one is worse between them and Norcold, but neither gets a prize for reliability or safety in my opinion. I would first check to see if your particular fridge has any recalls at http://www.dometic.com/USA/Support/Dometic-Recall-Information/. But you’re going to have to call a licensed repair person to fix the problem with the water leak because I have no clue what to tell you about that. I sure hope you can get everything fixed, though, because I learned the hard way also how important having a good working fridge is!

      • Carolyn G. Sanchez

        We opened the back and hose is broken. We will replace that immediately. We couldn’t see the model or serial number on it. Thanks for your response.

        • I’m glad you could see the problem with the broken hose easily enough. Maybe try calling Dometic and hopefully they can tell you how to find your model number. I’d certainly want to know if it was included in recalls at least.

  • Sue

    You mean NeverCold — oops Norcold. Just bought a brand new Grand Design Reflection 303RLS. Had them install duo pane windows and it has an Arctic package. Well we are camping in Colorado. Found out after the fact that the N811 they installed doesn’t work under 39 degrees. Are you kidding me! Lost all the food in our freezer and refrigerator. Temperature inside refrigerator is 60 degrees. Outside temperature right now is 42 degrees. NorCold (Thedford) said that without the Cold Package enhancement — a $90 part — it won’t work. Not only does NorCold have fire issues, they also don’t cool properly either. And install something like this in a fifth wheel meant to be used in cold weather! Go figure.

    • Well, that’s certainly a new one for me! A refrigerator needs an “enhancement” to work in cold weather? WTH?! Plus, they obviously didn’t make that clear to you and I would have never thought of something like that. That’s got to be up there with some of the most outrageous things I’ve heard from this ridiculous company!

      • Sue

        Yes I did. Although the user’s manual we were given said this unit was getting an Atwood refrigerator, a NorCold was installed. So the user’s manual said nothing about NorCold or that this refrigerator would not run properly under 39 degrees. They did agree to pay for the part and a “reasonable” cost to install it at the RV dealer where we just bought the rig after I expressed much frustration. Information that this refrigerator does not work in cold weather is not in any of the NorCold documentation provided in my owner’s packet for this rig or on NorCold’s website although I’ve done a great deal of research the last couple of days finding it is a consistent issue with this refrigerator. Grand Design said it was on their parts installation sheet that the N811 was to be installed. Of course, as the purchaser, I don’t see this until the unit is purchased and paid for. I suggested that since in Colorado even in June when camping the temperature can dip below 39 degrees that they consider a different product that worked in lower temperatures. I can’t get over the fact that a manufacturer would construct a rig designed to be used in cold weather but put a refrigerator in that doesn’t work in cold weather!

        • What a screwed up deal – not only was your user manual wrong about what fridge was installed, the fact that you specifically ordered the Arctic package should have alerted someone that at the very least you needed that cold weather package on whatever you got.

          I Googled around a little bit yesterday and never found anything on the Norcold (Thetford) site, either, by using the term “Cold Enhancement Package” that you used. But I posted about this to my friends on Facebook and someone told me to search for “Norcold Cold Weather Kit” and I found several RV forum posts about it from as far back as 2012, including pictures and installation info.

          So Norcold obviously has known about this for a while and certainly doesn’t do much of anything to alert customers about it other than sell the kit once somebody complains, because a search on their site for that term came up with nothing, either.

          I found the Norcold part number on another forum (634913) but while there is info on a number of sites on where to buy and how to install, nothing came up about it on the Norcold/Thetford site, either, like you said.

          But this 2012 RVPro.com page says “Norcold Adds Cold Weather Kits With Select Refrigerators” and it seems to me they should have done this for them all or at the very least do a lot more to let people know it is needed! https://rv-pro.com/news/norcold-adds-cold-weather-kits-select-refrigerators

          But from what the manufacturer said was supposed to be installed: “Grand Design said it was on their parts installation sheet that the N811 was to be installed…” still says to me that the manufacturer is responsible and should make it totally right with no cost to you. However, I wonder if that model was supposed to have the kit or not since it’s not listed on that link.

  • injunjoe

    Hi, we had a recall done about 3 or 4 years ago, not sure when. My son borrowed the RV and he reports that the propane works but the ac doesn’t. Would this be a symptom of the unit going south?

    • Hmmm, I have no idea, but it seems to me from what I saw when the cooling unit fails, it doesn’t work on either propane or electric. I suggest you get a recommendation for a good RV refrigerator repair service because I’ve certainly found that not all are good. Since I assume you’ve seen the material I’ve posted here about Norcold’s ineffective recall fixes and how basically once it stops working, you have to replace the cooling unit, I’d definitely go with the Amish made kind. Would love to hear back from you on your experience once you figure out what the problem and fix was.

      • injunjoe

        I think my son was reading the status indicator wrong, once we got it back it worked on ac no problem. We are considering a domestic reefer in the future though. Thanks.

        • Thanks for the update and I’m glad it’s working now!

  • That sounds just awful and no matter who or what caused it, it’s obvious somebody didn’t do something right, whether it’s the way the Dometic was built or the manufacturer installation. Of course getting anybody to admit they did anything wrong is next to impossible. I appreciate you keeping me informed here so that others can benefit from what you’ve learned, too.

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