RV Refrigerator Not Cooling But Freezer Is (How To Fix It)

A common problem that you may experience with the fridge in your RV is the refrigerator is not cooling but the freezer is. So, what causes this problem? and most importantly how do you fix it?

If your freezer is working but your refrigerator isn’t then it’s likely due to a lack of air circulation, problems with the thermistor, a blocked refrigerator exhaust, temperature sensors not working or the refrigerator coolant is empty.

Keep reading for a summary of each and how to troubleshoot the problem to get both your RV refrigerator and freezer working again.

RV Refrigerator Not Cooling But Freezer Is

Does An RV Freezer Start Cooling Before The Refrigerator?

Yes, a freezer in an RV does get cold before the fridge does, and the reason for this is due to the way in which the refrigerant works. That refrigerant flows around the freezer and the refrigerator compartments, but it first starts flowing around the freezer, and then works its way down to the refrigerator. 

On that note, the same thing goes for air circulation. Cold air from the freezer is often pumped into the refrigerator compartment to help cool it down. Therefore, chances are pretty big that if your freezer is cold, but the fridge is not, it’s some kind of airflow issue or an issue with the refrigerant.

Reasons Why Your RV Refrigerator Is Not Cooling: Troubleshooting Guide

RV Motorhome Fridge Check

1. Poor Air Circulation

Perhaps the most common cause of a refrigerator not cooling is a lack of air flow. There are special vents located in the rear of the freezer that lead down into the fridge. 

A lot of how a fridge stays cold has to do with those vents. If those vents in the rear of the freezer are blocked, cold air will not be able to make its way down into the refrigerator compartment. Therefore, the first thing you should do is inspect your freezer to see if you have any items that are placed against the vent. 

Make sure that there is at least 1/2 an inch of space between any items in the freezer and those vents or slits at the rear. If there’s nothing in the freezer, but you think it’s still airflow that is the problem, it could be that there is a big buildup of ice in the freezer. Ice in the vents will block air flow.

Therefore, the solution is to defrost the freezer. To defrost the freezer, just unplug the whole unit, take everything out, open the doors, and put some towels on the ground in front of it. You’re just looking to let the ice melt.

2. The Venting System Is Clogged

Warm air in the fridge needs to be able to find its way out. This is why RV refrigerators have vents located at the rear. These vents will then usually lead up to the roof of the RV to expel hot air up top. However, these vents can sometimes get clogged, usually with dust and other debris. 

If the vents are clogged, warm air will not be able to flow from the fridge through the vents and out the exhaust. 

Therefore, you want to remove the vent cover on top of the roof of the RV, and take a look for any blockages. You want to take a look at all of the tubing to see if there is a block anywhere. The solution here is of course to clean out any blocks and to clean out any possible debris, dust, and dirt.

3. Faulty Temperature Sensors

The next common reason is faulty temperature sensors. Your fridge has temperature sensors inside of it to judge how cold it is. When the sensor says that the fridge is too warm, it will begin cooling the fridge compartment.

However, if these sensors are broken, they won’t be able to function properly, and therefore won’t cool your fridge even if it needs it.

The solution here is to inspect the temperature sensor. If the temperature sensor is loose or has been moved, you need to move it back into place. You need to make sure that the temperature sensor is connected correctly inside the fridge. 

It may also be the case that the temperature sensor is just broken, in which case it will need to be replaced. Unfortunately, it’s not like this temperature sensor is going to have a digital display, so you can’t really test to see if it is working for yourself.

If there was some kind of heavy impact, a broken temperature sensor could very well be the cause of this issue.

4. A Broken Thermistor

Without getting too technical, the thermistor in a fridge is kind of like a thermostat, and it’s closely related to the temperature sensors. The cooling cycle of your RV fridge relies on this thermistor to function properly, as it is required to keep the fridge within a certain temperature range. 

Yes, it is kind of like a temperature sensor, but not only does it sense temperature, but also sends a signal to the control board to either stop or start cooling the fridge.

If this thermistor is broken, chances are that your fridge won’t cool down as much as it should. On the flip side, if the thermistor is broken, it may also result in the fridge being way too cold. Both are possibilities. 

Either way, if none of the other possible causes were to blame for your fridge issues, then this could very well be it. Unfortunately, if the thermistor in the RV fridge is broken, the only thing to do is to unplug it, disconnect and remove it, and replace it with a new one.

Now, the fridge can run for a little while without the thermistor, but it may damage the fridge, so doing so is only recommended for a very short period of time. 

5. A Faulty Door Seal

If your RV fridge isn’t getting cold or staying cold, it could be as simple as the door seal not being good anymore. If the door seal is no longer good, then cold air won’t be able to stay in, and warm air will get into the fridge.

Just check the door seal to see if it’s still in good condition, and examine it when it is closed to see if there are any big gaps. If there are big gaps or cracks, you’ll have to replace the seal.

6. Issues With The Refrigerator Coolant 

Another cause of your RV fridge not getting cold could be that there is no refrigerator coolant left. That coolant is usually going to be a mixture of ammonia and other chemicals. However, with plenty of time, this can dry up. 

If the coolant tank is empty, then it’s a pretty good explanation as to why the fridge is no longer getting cold. Now, chances are that there is a bit of coolant left, but not much, or else the freezer wouldn’t get cold. 

If the freezer gets cold but the fridge doesn’t, then you are running low on coolant, as there is just enough to cool the freezer, but not the fridge. Therefore, the simple solution is to fill up the coolant tank.

However, keep in mind that this is something that you usually won’t be able to do on your own and will require professional assistance.

7. The Fridge Is Not Sitting Level

The other issue that might be to blame here is that your fridge is not sitting level. If your fridge is not level by more than about 6 degrees, then the ammonia coolant mixture won’t be able to flow properly down from the freezer into the fridge. Therefore, make sure that your fridge is sitting level.


How Cold Should My RV Refrigerator Be?

To make sure that your food stays good, an RV refrigerator should be less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius. The ideal temperature here is going to be around 35 degrees Fahrenheit or somewhere around 2 degrees Celsius. However, it really shouldn’t drop below this temperature, or else your food may begin to freeze.

How Long Does It Take For An RV Refrigerator To Cool?

How long your RV refrigerator takes to reach its optimal temperature after being activated does depend on the model. If you have a very large RV fridge, especially an older one, it may take up to 24 hours to reach the optimal temperature. 

If you have a large RV fridge, but it is a relatively new one, it could take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours to cool down.

However, if you have a relatively new RV fridge that is also fairly small in size, it may take as little as six hours to cool down.

How Do You Reset A Norcold RV Refrigerator?

If you have that Norcold RV refrigerator that is not working properly, resetting it may do the trick. Now, you can do a soft reset and a hard reset. You want to do a soft reset first, and if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to do the hard reset.

Follow the steps listed below to reset your Norcold RV refrigerator;

  1. You want to start with the soft reset, so locate the display panel. This may be on top of the fridge door or inside of the fridge.
  2. Press and hold the on and off button. Hold it for around 3 seconds and then let go. The display panel and the motor should shut off at this point. If the display is inside the fridge, close the door and then go to the next step.
  3. This should be enough to complete the soft reset, although sometimes it may take up to five minutes for it to work.
  4. Once you have waited for about 5 minutes, hold the on and off button again to turn it back on. If this does not work, move on to the following step, which is the first part of the hard reset process.
  5. You’re going to need to disconnect a variety of wires from the power board in the following order, disconnect the wires, starting with the 12VDC positive and negative wires, the AC power cord, the solenoid gas valves, and then the spark electrode assembly wires. You want to carefully unplug them.
  6. You will now locate the four screws that surround the panel board on the rear of your fridge. Use the screwdriver to remove them.
  7. You’re now going to want to reconnect the 12 VDC positive and negative wires. If your fridge has a serial number 832170 or lower, you will want to reconnect the wires in the following order: the electrode assembly wires, then the solenoid gas valve wires, then the AC power cord, and then the 12 VDC positive and negative wires. 
  8. You now want to hold the on and off button until the fridge turns back on.
  9. Once the fridge is back on, PIN 16 or 15 on the power board. You’re now going to get an insulated jumper wire and short it right into the power board ground blood, by connecting one end of the jumper wire to pin 15 and the other end to the power board ground lug. If it clicks, then the controls have been reset.
  10. You’ll now need to reboot the system by turning the fridge off and on again. 
  11. If everything is running properly, you can reinstall the power board cover and the fridge should be functioning. 

**If you have a fridge with a serial number higher than 832170, then during step #7, you just reconnected the 12 VDC positive and negative terminals. If this is the case, you will still have to reconnect the solenoid gas valve wires the AC power cord, and the electrode assembly wires. To do this, you’ll have to turn the fridge off again, and then reconnect those wires in the reverse order that you disconnected them. Therefore, start with the last one that you disconnected and work your way to the first one. Once this has been done, you can reconnect the control panel and then turn the fridge back on.**

Madeline Cooper