Refrigerator Cooling Units

It’s a summer day and the thermometer says “Hotter than the gates of hell”.  You just want a nice cool bottle of water, but when you open your refrigerator you find a whole lot of “not quite cold” food and beverages.  The thermometer inside says 50 degrees.

Oh Crap!

But the freezer is still cold.  What’s going on with this thing.  Unfortunately you most likely have a cooling unit problem. Whether it’s a small blockage in the perculator (bubble pump) or a leak causing loss of refrigerant (ammonia) and pressure; you’re going to need a new cooling unit.  Now you have a decision to make, and it’s never an easy one.  Do you buy a new refrigerator all together, buy a new cooling unit, or buy a refurbished unit.  What to do…what to do?

The answer is that any of these options could be the right one depending on your circumstances and plans for the future.  They all vary in cost and time your camper will be “down for service”.  Below is the basic guidelines we tell customers to help them make a decision.  It’s still not clear cut, but a little information can go a long way sometimes.

Get a New Refrigerator. –  We recommend not bothering with refurbishing or buying a new cooling unit if your refrigerator is more than twenty years old unless you absolutely can’t afford a new one.  A new cooling unit will cost you about 2/3 of the cost of a new refrigerator and a refurbished about 1/2 the cost. Even though both save money up front; that twenty year old box and associated electronics will fail soon enough and with the cost of replacing those added in you will definitely be spending more.  Swapping a refrigerator out completely with a newer model is always faster than rebuilding one as well so you can count on having your coach or camper back in a shorter time frame.

Buy a New Cooling Unit – We recommend buying a new cooling unit from the OEM or aftermarket supplier if you have a refrigerator that is between two and twenty years old.  These refrigerators are almost always out of warranty but still quite new in the grand scheme of things.  By purchasing a new cooling unit you can almost guarantee another 12 years of service and the additional manufacturers warranty on the new coil is a nice benefit.  The time your camper your camper will be in the shop is increased due to the extra work needed to breakdown and rebuild the refrigerator, but the savings is usually worth the wait.

Refurbish That Old Coil – We recommend a refurbished coil if your planning on getting a few more years of service out of your camper before selling it or trading it off.  A refurbished unit will typically last about five years.  Depending on the age of the coil it may last up to 10 years, but this coil comes at a very discounted price for a reason.  There is a very small percentage of the steel that is replaced during the process and therefore the rest of the steel coil is subject to rusting through and developing a leak.  The remanufacturing process does replace the potion that takes the most beating, but it won’t cure everything.  If spending a few hundred to keep it in service for another few years sounds better than spending thousands for the new units then this is your best option.  Time in the shop will be about equal to the time for replacing the cooling unit with a new one. But don’t be mad when it goes out in the third year… remember, you did get it cheap.