SUCCESS! Propane Fridge Repair

Discussion in 'Refrigerators and Coolers' started by Digger, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. Digger

    Digger Foothills of Central Virginia

    Last September, after a summer of using the fridge on both propane and 120v, the fridge stopped working on propane. I could get it to light, and the stack would heat up, but it wouldn't cool. The most telling clue to what was wrong was that the flame was burning orange instead of normal blue.

    7 months later (without attempting any repair), I tried it again this past weekend.....same result...orange flame, hot stack, no cooling. I called the RV mechanic at my dealer and described the situation...his answer was immediate....spiders (or something) had nested in the burner.He provided a brief description of how to fix it, and some extraordinarily valuable tips.

    Here's the process I used for cleaning out the burner:

    <img src="http://inlinethumb53.webshots.com/39092/2704087330102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    The back of the fridge. The burner assembly is behind the square metal cover on the bottom right.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb10.webshots.com/42697/2378985040102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    Burner assembly with the cover removed. There is a single screw behind the large black tube - to the left of the screw visible in the pic) which is the only screw you need to remove to remove the cover. On the right of the cover are two screws holding a piece of metal that slides into the cover - these don't need to be removed. (You can see this more clearly on the last picture in this thread). After removing the single screw on the left. slide the cover to the left and twist it up so that the screw 'flange' will slide under the propane supply tube. I've also disconnected the igniter wire from the white ceramic igniter.... a simple pull does the trick here.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb11.webshots.com/43466/2346748630102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    Close up of the burner assembly. The debris is from the igniter wire and it's insulating 'boot' being fried. When I lit the burner this weekend, I noted that the orange flame was coming out of the hole in the burner tube (just to the left of the numbers on the bronze-looking piece)...another clue that the burner itself was clogged. The flame coming out of the wrong place burned up the igniter wire. If you look closely in that hole, you can see the brown residue of the insect nest. The burner is the round brass 'cup' with the screw in it to the right of the white ceramic igniter.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb43.webshots.com/14250/2688209310102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    To remove the refrigerator - first <b>MAKE SURE THE GAS IS OFF AND MAKE SURE THE BATTERY AND ELECTRIC SUPPLY TO THE CAMPER ARE DISCONNECTED</b>. The you have to disconnect the propane supply line to the left of the panel where the fridge operation switches are. Also uplug the electric cord, and disconnect the two 12volt supply wires (in this picture, the 12v wires are in the bottom left corner behind the insulation. the wires you see are connected to the same terminal block that the wires to be disconnected are. Remember which wire is which...for me - white on top, black on bottom)

    <img src="http://inlinethumb01.webshots.com/23936/2758280580102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    To finish removal of the fridge, unscrew the two screws at the back of the fridge, and the....

    <img src="http://inlinethumb52.webshots.com/36915/2966773560102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    three screws on either side of the front of the fridge.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb25.webshots.com/6936/2047159690102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    Gently pull and rock the fridge out of it's hole into the camper....there may be some seals around the fridge that need to be broken/cut, and there may be a foam insulation strip glued to the top of the fridge that may need a little 'persuasion' to make it out through the opening. There is a metal plate on the bottom of the fridge that the two rear screws went through. This can be removed with three screws on the bottom of the fridge to make it easier to remove the burner assembly.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb01.webshots.com/45248/2227372640102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    The burner assembly is removed using the screw to the right of the ceramic igniter. Be careful not to lose the star washer on the screw. After removing the screw, use a wrench to disconnect the propane supply line (silver pipe going in the left side of the assembly). I grabbed the bronze-looking square burner tube with a pair of channel locks while breaking the tightness of the supply line nut. There is a tiny 'aperture cup' that fits inside the burner tube (pictured below)...

    <img src="http://inlinethumb43.webshots.com/44394/2369822310102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    make sure you tip out this little aperture cup...don't lose it....<b>and don't attempt to clean out the hole in it with anything!</b> This is a precision sized hole, and any attempt to 'ream' it out will damage it. You may clean the aperture cup with alcohol, if it appears to need it.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb14.webshots.com/44237/2061348840102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    Here is the burner assembly removed (and hanging from the copper propane line). My mechanic describe is as looking like a 'crack pipe'...too funny. I did not attempt to remove the copper line because I assumed that it was a relatively precise placement inside the burner cup. It also uses a star bit, which I have, but often is used for a reason.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb34.webshots.com/43681/2887731230102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    Close up of the 'crack pipe'. At this point, I used a piece of a hanger to scrape out the nest debris inside the bronze burner tube. I actually got a lot out, and also ran the hanger into the hole in the bottom of the burner cup.

    <img src="http://inlinethumb29.webshots.com/34588/2784564990102683349S600x600Q85.jpg" border=0>
    When reassembling - be sure that you put the aperture cup back in the burner tube before you screw the supply nut on. the closed end of the cup goes into the tube first, and will come to rest against a stop about 1/2 an inch inside the tube. In one of the previous pictures in this thread you can just see the tip of the aperture cup inside the burner tube through the hole to the left of the numbers. I just cut out the bad section of the igniter wire and reconnected to the ceramic igniter.

    After running on propane for 5 hours, I had dropped the temp in the fridge 40 degress <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_big.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Big Smile">...now I'm ready to do some boondocking when necessary! Thanks for reading through this overly long post!

    ~Cheers~ <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_scooter.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Scooter"> Ðigger
    '04 Fleetwood Westlake (StonyBlue)/'02 Ford E-150
    Nites camped: 2007-8, 2008-39, 2009-5(resvd-12)

    Edited by - Digger on April 11 2009 00:17:27
     
  2. kmh1596

    kmh1596 Wilbraham, MA

    5,395
    4
    Aug 20, 2007
    Western MA
    Wow Carl, this is quite the write-up! I'm glad to see it, it could become useful (hopefully not!) for me, as I have the same fridge.
    Was I doing something wrong, if I couldn't see the flame during the day today? I saw and heard that it lit, but that's all..

    *Kevin*
    <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_pu.gif border=0 align=middle alt="PopUp"> 2001 Starcraft Constellation Gemini <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_suv.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Tow Vehicle"> 96 Cherokee 2dr 5spd, Booked '09: 58 <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_tongue.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Tongue">
     
  3. Digger

    Digger Foothills of Central Virginia

    No, it's really hard to see the flame during the day...I did two things that told me the flame was working....took my long lighter placed it inside the "observation window" and turned on the butane without striking it....flame on! And then I blew gently into the observation window and heard the flame react....

    ~Cheers~ <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_scooter.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Scooter"> Ðigger
    '04 Fleetwood Westlake (StonyBlue)/'02 Ford E-150
    Nites camped: 2007-8, 2008-39, 2009-7(resvd-12)

    Edited by - Digger on April 11 2009 11:04:38
     
  4. grcooperjr

    grcooperjr Lunatic

    1,557
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    May 21, 2007
    Tigard, OR
  5. bud121156

    bud121156 Western North Carolina

    4,661
    20
    Apr 15, 2007
    North Carolina
    Thanks Carl...... If we ever feel we have this nested in the burner problem, you have made it easier for us to understand how to fix it.<img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_wrench.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Modification">

    Donnie & Cheryl
    North Carolina
    07 Fleetwood Westlake
     
  6. RhinoDave

    RhinoDave Active Member

    2,324
    7
    Oct 29, 2008
    Lake Orion, Mi.
    Very nice and detailed writeup. It is definately a great reference article. Someday I hope to be able to take such great pictures. Thanks Carl.

    Built for comfort...not speed.
    97 Coleman Niagara 87 Coleman Sun Valley (project) 08 Chevy Trailblazer
     
  7. bigdad

    bigdad Active Member

    3,605
    8
    Mar 5, 2007
    Springfield Kentucky
    Nice job on the write up and good pic of the repair.
     
  8. Cowboy Camper

    Cowboy Camper New Member

    1,475
    1
    Jun 17, 2007
    I'll agree as well. Great write up and Pics. Looks like that Spider nest in the wrong spot did quite a bit of damage to the fridge. Thankfully the looks appear worse that what it really was.

    Question for ya. Since you have had this apart, does this look like something that could be prevented in the first place by starting the season off with an air hose blowing out the lines to clear out any such nests? Or would that blown out debris get caught up in another wrong spot? (and possibly make matters worse.)

    <hr><center><img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_cowboy.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Cowboy Camper">~ Scott. ~ <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_happycamper.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Happy Camper">
    <sub><img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_tree.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Tree"> Check Profile for Family and Rig Info.</sub> <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_squirrel.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Wildlife"></center>
     
  9. Digger

    Digger Foothills of Central Virginia

    In order to clean it out properly, the burner needs to be removed. Blowing it out without removing it may clog up the hole in the bottom of the burner 'cup'. At the very least, you'd have to remove the silver propane supply line and the aperture cup.

    I did discover that the burner assembly can be removed without pulling out the fridge. If you remove the two screws anchoring the rear of the fridge, and remove the board underneath it, you can push down on the metal plate enough to remove the burner assembly from the stack. I would guess that doing it this way, the whole operation would take 30-45 minutes.

    ~Cheers~ <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_scooter.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Scooter"> Ðigger
    '04 Fleetwood Westlake (StonyBlue)/'02 Ford E-150
    Nites camped: 2007-8, 2008-39, 2009-7(resvd-12)
     
  10. Cowboy Camper

    Cowboy Camper New Member

    1,475
    1
    Jun 17, 2007
    Oh.... Poop! I had in the back of my mind the Water Heater's Burner tube that could maybe be blown clear while assembled. Sorry!

    The burner for the fridge is that "Crack Pipe", right? Looking again at your pics makes it obvious. That needs to be removed in order to blow it out with an air hose.

    Originally, I was thinking that the air hose could blow out the line from the Intake side of the gas burner. Again, I had the WH in mind. That clearly would not work for the fridge's burner. <hr> Thanks though, for this informational topic. It'll help me to learn more on what I need to do as I open up the new camper each year for Camping.

    This is the first year of owning a New Camper. (with all the extra amenities) With that new camper, I can offer more help than I have ever been able to offer before. But it also looks like I can also Learn new things to go with it. So, Thanks again for clarifying that for us/me. <img src=../Images/icons/icon_smile_blush.gif border=0 align=middle alt="Blush">
     
  11. rideon

    rideon New Member

    116
    0
    Jun 22, 2008
    I removed my burner and cleaned it today, per your instructions. I did not remove my refridgerator. I just removed the board on the bottom. I loosened the screw that holds the ceramic ignighter and thermocouple thingy and the whole burner camer off, and I blew it out with an air compressor. The ignighter and thermocouple fit in grooves, so you can get them set back in the same position. Now, my fridge works on propane. Before, it wouldn't stay lit for more than 2 minutes. I left it lit for 2 hours today, after cleaning it.

    Thanks

    2001 Coleman Bayside
    2002 Toyota Tacoma 4x4
    2002 Toyota 4-Runner
     
  12. Big_kid

    Big_kid Virginia Beach, VA

    2,227
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    Jan 13, 2008
    This needs to be a sticky! Great writeup!
     
  13. Tahoein Bunch

    Tahoein Bunch New Member

    122
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    Feb 4, 2009
    Good job Both of you guys, Man the crap you learn just reading. Knock on wood mine is O.K. right now but will keep this post on my list.
     
  14. vict

    vict New Member

    52
    0
    Sep 24, 2008
    I found this write up when looking for solutions to my fridge problem. It would light, but not stay lit, and the flame was orange. It also appeared to be burning in the wrong spot, not in the burner. After reading through this, I took it apart. Once I had the burner cover off, I noticed that the flame was coming out of the little hole in the stem of the "crack pipe" (by the apperature cup). Also my ignition wire was burned exactly like shown in the pictures. I proceeded to remove the burner (I did not have to remove the fridge, just the board underneath, as mentioned). Initially, I tried to blow it out, but when I hooked it back up, it had the same problem. So I took it apart again, and tried to blow through it like gas would go, and it was very difficult. I then took a fine wire and ran it down the stem of the burner, and voila. Out comes a spider nest, complete with a little spider corpse. I blew through it again, and it had great flow. I reassembled the burner, lit it, and it burned like it was brand new. Thanks for this write-up Digger!!

    Victor
     
  15. wecamp

    wecamp Member

    Anybody know where to get a replacement aperature cup. I had this problem beofre reading the post and danages the cup.
     
  16. Digger

    Digger Foothills of Central Virginia

    I'd expect your local Fleetwood/Coleman dealer....or any RV dealer that sells campers with a similar brand of fridge....it'd probably be a special order item....
     
  17. BoatCamp

    BoatCamp Enjoy!

    83
    0
    Jul 9, 2008
    Easton, PA
    Thanks so much for this info!
    I've never even gotten my fridge to light off propane (work fine off 110 & 12V). Last year I stared digging in to it thinking that the burner needed cleaning. I got to the point where I was trying to remove the burner & it looked like I would either need to remove the fridge or maybe the board under it. I didn't want to pull the fridge at that time and I thought that if I pulled out the board at the back, I might not be able to replace it without help (which I didn't have). Besides, I wasn't sure that pulling the board would let me get the burner out. Now that I know this info, I'm willing to get back into it and pull that board out.
    Thanks again. [*]
     
  18. AJP

    AJP I've gone to the dark side

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    Apr 28, 2009
    Kansas
    I can't get the burner to unscrew from the propane feed line. I don't want to round off the nut but for the life of me I can't get it to budge. Any thoughts?
     
  19. Digger

    Digger Foothills of Central Virginia

    Have you tried putting a drop or two of 3-in-1 oil in it and letting it sit overnight?
     
  20. AJP

    AJP I've gone to the dark side

    67
    0
    Apr 28, 2009
    Kansas
    I wasnt sure if that was safe or not. Also this is normal thread not reverse correct?
     

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