Our Holiday Rambler 40 PLQ lost its refrigerator and we have been living out of a cooler. At two bags of ice and 20 miles to retrieve it, we are motivated to find a solution. (Note: the cooler will cool about three time longer with the quilt we are using draped over the top.
The discovery of demise:
We got home from our trip to Salem to see family and buy a replacement laptop that died earlier in the week and found the Norcold 1200 refrigerator had message “No Co” (Not communicating with the cooling unit). Since it was late, I just reset the fridge and went to bed. When Athena woke me up the next afternoon, she told me the fridge had no power going to it. So I went outside and opened the cover and found the recall switch was in the cut out position. I also smelled a smell like mom mopping the floor in the early 70’s, and my nostrils started burning and my eyes felt like they get when one spends the day chopping onions. This – my friend – is most unpleasant. Turns out the cooling unit is shot! We called ARC( a mobile service) to look at it and see if they were interested in processing an extended warranty. They said they would but the needed $85.00 travel and $185.00 an hour to look at it and do the paper work. They were not thrilled with “Performance Care” as they had never heard of it. The next three dealers were all the same with the warranty. Knowing the cooling unit was gone, and realizing that during the high season for RV work; we would be on our own if we wanted refrigeration any time soon. We decided to research our options and do a spread sheet.
State of the Refrigerator hinges on love and money – The wires to the control box have seen better days. Then we discovered the seals were out on the doors, and Norcold believes there is no reason to sell the gaskets separate from the doors. Our cost on replacing the doors would be $1800 and the cost of the control board would be $200 and lastly a new cooling unit would cost us an installed price of $2000.00 for a total of $4000 to repair an old fridge that we love. We were left with one last question “Is it worth it? Does love have a price?
We called around to find out what it would take to get things back to normal and realized we had a myriad of possibilities, all requiring time and lots of cash!
- My favorite – Helium Cooling Unit Norcold 1200 series four door $1295 .
- Standard 1200LR Norcold Brand-New Cooling Unit, built by the Amish. $1045
- New Cooling Unit Installed at the factory Shipswanna, Indianna $1495
- An entirely new fridge best price we have seen $2995 plus about $200 for door panels
- At nearly $3500.00 plus shipping and a 30 day lead time we ruled out camping world right away. (That was Easy)
- Big Country RV in Bend would sell us a non disclosed brand cooling unit for $1495 plus $1000 to install and test. They only needed 30 days lead time.
- Awesome RV in Chehalis Wa. Offered us a new unnamed unit for $1895.00 and about a $1000 to install, with approximate 6 weeks from first look to completion.
- Norcold would supply a factory original for about $1500, but why would I want a recalled unit that though new, is the same unit that just tried to claim the rig? (These are a mix of Hydrogen and sodium chromide which if it comes in contact with a spark as it leaks out could be rigs last day in the form of an RV. Can you say char-broiled?)
- If your like me and an RV fire spooks you $295 will buy you some rest
All but the dealer options would require shipment to a terminal some where near you and require some undisclosed about of time to get there. We can’t work in a maybe maybe not world, we are full timers always looking for that next IT contract (Wife’s company Smallbizpc) and are not wealthy enough to be in any one location more than three weeks at a time due to our camping club rules. There has to be another way, and we will find it or burn!.
Residential refrigerators move to the center of our investigation.
We had many questions / requirements for these though:
1. What will fit in out cabinet? We figured we could go 25″ deep, 33″ Wide and a maximum of 71″ high with some serious floor-to-ceiling renovation due to a furnace that we did not wish to remove under the existing fridge.
2. Power consumption must be as little as possible, we boon dock from time to time and like cold food out there too.
3. It must work on a modified sine wave inverter, we have not yet got the money to buy a luxury such as pure sine inverters. Luckily for us, it is a luxury, as we have no cpap or other medical devices.
4. It must weigh close to or less than the Norcold 1200 Lrim.
5. We really wanted black, so it would not be front and center in our house.
6. We did not want to remove a window or other wise disassemble the rig to get it in.
With this set of requirements, the search was on! Two weeks into the search and we were ready to buy a Frigidaire side by side from Lowes for $798. It fit one our criteria, it was black and as a bonus it was cheap. We would however need to concede and take out the drivers window, and modify the cabinet depth. Adding about $400 in tools and pieces to complete the project. Placing the project cost at $1200.
We found out about the Samsung 197 on the Irv2 forums but it was officially discontinued but we located one in stock at Standard TV and Appliance in Portland Oregon. It was sold out though before we could get it.
So we researched all the like models.
Bingo! We found it! At Standard TV and Appliance in Portland. Wish they would have told us about this one when they told us the other one was gone. 🙂
This Samsung refer pictured above accomplished 5 of the 6 goals, we thought it was a 6 of 6, until they walked it up the front steps! Oh, geometry never was my thing!
Let’s get to work! The week is passing us by!
We have to drive in to Portland, Oregon from Chehalis, Washington to Standard TV and Appliance who has the refrigerator in stock. No one else actually stocked the unit and wanted a month for it to come here to the RV park that we would no longer be in. 220 miles round trip, but we did it.
Tuesday afternoon Athena and Sarah unboxed the the fridge and took one last set of measurements. The fridge weighs in at 253 pounds with its packaging, which is the same as the Norcold.
Well we have to yank her out and send her to the happy hunting grounds in the Centralia Transfer station. No time for weeping now however, there is work to be done.
Get a 5/16th socket and a Phillips screw driver. Then Rip it doors off!
Remove the hinges top to bottom and the doors will drop into your arms instead of on your head if you go the other direction. Once they are out of the way it is time to remove the black molding on the sides, the bottom and the top of the refrigerator. The Bottom and top molding is held on by screws for on each end. These front screws are what hold the Norcold in place.
A drill gun like this can be a days salvation. I love my drill. Sure wish they still made this model, I’d by another for a rainy day.
It is now time to go outside and remove the outdoor section of the fridge cover. Here is what you will find:
We see the the black box that turned off the refer when its vapors escaped. Had the box tripped prematurely, the fridge could have been restarted by placing a magnet on the box just above the red light for five seconds. This cooling unit has already been declared dead by me, so no magnets are required.
The water line needs to come off the blue box, (turn the water off first! My valve was by the furnace near the front of the fridge.) Then unscrew the clear hose retaining the nut that is near the blue box you will need it for your new fridge if it has a water feature.
The gas line requires some one with a good grip and good dexterity to remove. In our case, that would be my wife. She turned off the propane at the tank and returned with a channel lock pliers that she placed over the gas valve assembly and a crescent wrench over the brass nut. (See the copper line in the picture in the lower right) Once the nut is off, it is time to cap the line with a brass plug Watts A-159 for a 3/8″ flare. We found ours in the copper fittings section at The Home Depot. Don’t forget to use thread tape when you cap the line, use dish soap to test for leaks.
Now it is time to remove the last two screws holding this refrigerator in place.
There are two screw holding this machine in place. Sure glad we have never been in an accident, I fear Mr. Norcold could send us to heaven with this kind of workmanship. Screw one was under the gas valve and screw two was under the burner.
We remove the last screw, and wonder how to pull this bad boy out of here! Can we do it?
We pulled the Norcold 1200 straight out of the box it was in, and it was extremely easy. We used a plastic stool from the kitchen that not only allowed the fridge to slide out, but it also prevented us from having to lift it. The flooring was so slick, we were able to slide the fridge anywhere where we might need it.
Its out, the entry door being tied back to the mirror leaves us 26 inch space to pass this thing through. The fridge is 24.5″ with the cooling unit in place. After trying to find all the bolts holding the cooling unit on, and watching the clock tick we decided we had better things to do. Like wreck out the fridge cabinet so the new one will fit.
The new fridge, is counter depth (24″) which is close to the existing closet depth. The width is just under 33″ should fit like a glove. The height is 71 inches, but the cabinet is only 63″ so this is where Athena works her magic.
Because of the furnace, water lines, and gas lines we were unable to use my handy dandy reciprocating saw to remove the floor. The tool of choice was a long shanked standard screw driver used a pry-bar. The Norcold’s ice maker let us down several times over the last few years and left some endearing water features along the way. This made for some pretty yellow fungus plants and a very rotten shelf. The wood was so soft, that we no longer felt the power tools were even a benefit.
An intermission for cleanup. Cleaning up helps us know the condition of the newly exposed floor. Once that is known she will measure down from the ceiling telling us what our maximum distance to furnace is, keeping in mind that the Atwood furnace needs one inch of space for air flow. With out that space carbon monoxide build up can be a problem. She is lucky and we have plenty of room, probably even an inch to spare.
We took our measurements down to home depot, we bought the wood, and they cut it to size at no charge. We screwed down the new floor which is just over half inch thick, glued the legs in place, and not shown here secured the floor with “L” brackets to the back wall.
Sarah and I prep the rig for the removal of the old fridge. We are still wondering how the three of us will get this thing out. Athena killed her back last month and the devil is still in it. My balance and coordination are unreliable at best, leaving Sarah as the only one left with any gumption. We decide to press on in-spite of reason.
Athena messages Kimberly Travaglino founder of the “Full Time Families RV group” that we belong to and a wonderful friend. To tell her of my lunacy. She puts an APB on all Full Time Family Members in the Chehalis area. Next thing we know there are several Full Time Families members at our door step Wednesday morning who have to be crazier than we are. It’s not their fridge and its really not their problem and they dropped everything and came anyway.
Joseph Marsee and Justin carry the fridge out to the car for us and it is all bound up tight for its journey to the appliance grave yard in Centrailia. I think it is less than a grave yard and more like perfunctory as this is not the final resting place of spent appliances. I wonder, just where do they go when they die. Oh well, that is not a topic for today.
We learned a few things about taking a fridge out the front door.
Take the cooling unit off your Norcold fridge, it is worth the time. Since I failed to do this, you can expect another article in the near future on how to repair a vinyl dash board. Also removing the drivers seat may have given us more room to make the corner to the stairwell.
I bungee corded the door as tight as I could to prevent flopping of the door when the guys were working. That was a bad idea! I should have used a longer cord and a cloth between the camera and the mirror. This would have prevented chipping of the fiber glass door. I feel a little like Mater when he forgot to attach Lightening McQueen to Bessie before unstrapping his boot. Should have known, but in the excitement of it all. I am sure you all know. Lesson here, is keep the tempo low and slow.
This is the moment we have all been looking forward to. It’s time to bring the new fridge in the rig. We have the fridge and we have a ready and willing crew. I look to Athena, but I can see something is wrong. She says part of one blue digit is working, but it just blinks. I figured the fridge just was not up to temperature, and it would light up right when the good and ready. After 20 minutes the fridge was cold, but the lights were still not in the control panel. So I unplugged it and everything looked good after I plugged it back in. No big deal, electronics are like that.
Then the guys started looking at the fridge and the clouds rolled in and it began to rain on our parade.
First we notice the controller board on the top of the refer is sheared off. (Explains the lights)
This is only the tip of the refrigerator!
The guys notice the entire bottom is crushed. They are guessing a wayward forklift had its way with our $1400 refrigerator. I figure no matter, the fridge will be in cased in wood. They decide to investigate further.
The unit had been dropped or hit so hard the the bottom bent upward into the unit breaking pretty much everything. The cooling fan, is history. The guys decided, that the patient is dead. What am I going to do with two dead refrigerators? One brand new destroyed somewhere between Standard TV and Appliance and its maker.
Athena said not to worry, she would call Standard TV and Appliance and they would help us. I was skeptical, but it could not hurt for her to ask. Several phone calls were made, and finally she got someone on the line. They said it happens, we can just return it for a full refund, or call a salesperson who could exchange it out for another. We wanted the to exchange it for the same model, but all they had was stainless steel. Not our choice of finish but what do you do? Wait another month? Too much of that for us.
Everyone had gone home by now and we needed the new unit into the car so it could be exchanged. Athena and Sarah moved the Refrigerator to the car, and Carol the neighbor lady from Nebraska helped them get it in.
We roll out, headed for Portland doing the 220 mile round trip again. I had no hope that they would actually exchange the fridge, as it is expensive to take back product, especially if I can’t prove they damaged it. I drove, to allow Athena a rest, she put in a hard few days.
Standard TV and Appliance really impressed me. They lived up to their word. We paid the stainless steel upgrade fee, they took the old fridge out of our car and put the new one in. They also took the box off to show us the new one we were getting was indeed not involved in some kind of accident. What we learned here, was always inspect the goods before taking delivery even if the box shows no sign of stress. I can’t stress this advice enough!
Thursday after we woke up sometime mid day Joe came back to help with the fridge.
Joe and Athena begin to push the new fridge in. Houston we have a problem! The refer will not clear the TV cabinet. Sarah is dauntless, and knows exactly what to do. She begins to remove the cabinet. I am thinking we take out the drivers side window and rent a materials lift. This seems out of reach to me.
Joe had to go. He is a different sort of guy, I tried to give him a little money in appreciation for his efforts. He does some kind of ministry where he serves others, but does not work for an income nor take donations. This business model does not fit any mode I learned in school or otherwise. What I can say about him is he is everything a man should be. He loves his God, his family, and his fellow man with a passion. He was concerned for the issues I have and prayed God would make them go away. Nothing happened for me in that respect, but I suspect that if God wanted me healed he would do it. God needs people in many walks of life. To Joe, I have nothing but the deepest respect and the deepest curiosity. Can a man really live like Joe? Check him out at GodsFunnel.com He invited us to come and learn about a women’s shelter the next weekend. He volunteers there and thought everyone should know about.
We added “L” brackets to the underside of the fridge shelf and screwed them to the Caster holders on the fridge. It still has a little forward rocking movement, but the ceiling should stop a full exit from the cabinet.
The refrigerator on our Modified Sign wave without the laptops and other things runs at 9 amps with our other equipment running which I can’t isolate at this time is running 18 amps DC. Our Norcold ran at 80 amps. This is a huge bennie to us, we may not need to add solar. When over on the AC it draws about an amp, we can’t see the startups, just runs at 1 amp. The noise is louder than the norcold, we can hear the echo of the compressor in the fridge cabinet resonating through the bathroom wall. The noise is not a problem at all.
If we had to do it over again, we would do the same thing, but I would get a lift and go through the drivers side window or find a better way to protect the dash. If the door seals on the Norcold had not be shot, I would have opted for the Helium non flammable cooling unit. As it is however cash is king. Our total project cost including fuel an meals was about $1,600 as opposed to about $4000 if we had elected to keep the Norcold and fix it. Athena now has Ice cream that is so hard that we have to leave it out a while to scoop it and a fridge so big that we can play a solid game of hide and seek in the there.
One last note, removing the driver and passenger seats is real easy. Putting them back on the pedestal is no where near easy. We removed the seats from their base plates then put the place on the pedestal first, we could then see the bolt, but the bolt had no desire to go through the hole in the plate. We don’t know how we got it in the hole, but it was a real struggle pulling and pushing, then giving up and kicking the plate while the other pulled finally caused the bolt to slip into place. Putting the chairs on the plates was a very short exercise compared to getting them on to the pedestals. Avoid removing the chair, or find a better way to put them back.
This project was full of tough decisions, unexpected turns, and an opportunity to learn about become friends with many great people. The new people we met, and Athena not needing a cooler anymore made it all worth while.
Have a Great Evening and don’t forget to go to sleep early enough to see morning!