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norcold fridge at high altitudes


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We just got back from the bighorn mtns and camped fora week at 7800'. Most of our camping in july and august is usually over 5500' to have cooler nights.  We were not aware until reading the manual that our refridgerator would not light at altitudes.  Luckily we had a big cooler and were able to buy ice this time.

question.... is there a way around this? Is there a way to keep the  pilot light lit?     

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Thats odd, we just returned from a trip into the Wind River Range camped at just over 8000 feet with no issues what so ever. Even kept my homemade ice cream frozen solid. However I do have the Dometic 3-way in our Elite II.

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Legacy Elite II #70

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thanks for the reply.   we did that trip to the green river campground last year... wonderful.   It ran till we set up camp but would not relight.  fine at 5300' at another campground later.  we do have the norcold 3 way  

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We have camped at 8,600 feet for a week and had no problems with the refrigerator.

2019 Elite II with a Norcold refrigerator.

Andrew

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Andrew, Carianne and Buffy | San Diego, CA


2019 Legacy Elite II Hull #468 "California Burrito" | 2018 BMW x5 35d 

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We have camped numerous times, with various RVs, at altitudes over 5,000' and never had issues with fridges self-igniting when running on propane.  Perhaps it is a problem with the fridge settings?

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

1UP-USA Heavy-duty bike rack

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

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6 hours ago, Skipster said:

We just got back from the bighorn mtns and camped fora week at 7800'. Most of our camping in july and august is usually over 5500' to have cooler nights.  We were not aware until reading the manual that our refridgerator would not light at altitudes.  Luckily we had a big cooler and were able to buy ice this time.

question.... is there a way around this? Is there a way to keep the  pilot light lit?     

I understand that the manual said it would not light at high altitude.  Did it not light?  Our Dometic has been reliable at elevations up to 10,000 feet even though there are those that say it shouldn’t be.  Just curious….  Mike

Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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Propane fridges, like propane generators, are less efficient as altitude increases.

I remember Mountainborn having a bit of trouble with his at altitudes over 10,000 ft, where they were summer camp hosts back in 2009 or so.

 The "may not work" is cya/lawyerese, imo. We've never had an issue.

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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I had a heck of a time getting my van's dometic fridge to ignite (manual piezo igniter on this one) at 10K ish at Bryce Canyon NP. Haven't had the NorCold up that high yet. I'm also curious whether you tried or just skipped it due to what you read in the manual?

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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On 7/28/2021 at 5:03 PM, Jim_Oker said:

I had a heck of a time getting my van's dometic fridge to ignite (manual piezo igniter on this one) at 10K ish at Bryce Canyon NP. Haven't had the NorCold up that high yet. I'm also curious whether you tried or just skipped it due to what you read in the manual?

We tried lighting it plenty but would not light. And an F message would come up.  Back dow to below 6 k. Lit  right up

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On 7/28/2021 at 4:32 PM, SeaDawg said:

Propane fridges, like propane generators, are less efficient as altitude increases.

I remember Mountainborn having a bit of trouble with his at altitudes over 10,000 ft, where they were summer camp hosts back in 2009 or so.

 The "may not work" is cya/lawyerese, imo. We've never had an issue.

 

Thx. Hope mine work next week at 6500’.     If not driving to buy ice

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On 7/28/2021 at 4:28 PM, Mike and Carol said:

I understand that the manual said it would not light at high altitude.  Did it not light?  Our Dometic has been reliable at elevations up to 10,000 feet even though there are those that say it shouldn’t be.  Just curious….  Mike

No would not light at 7800’. 

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Another thought - have you looked at  the burner area? The manual mentions cleaning it as needed, and I've read of folks having this problem and gaining at least some extra altitude capability by  cleaning carbon deposits off that area. Makes sense that this might shift the margin  of error down a bit.

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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On 7/28/2021 at 5:03 PM, Jim_Oker said:

I had a heck of a time getting my van's dometic fridge to ignite (manual piezo igniter on this one) at 10K ish at Bryce Canyon NP. Haven't had the NorCold up that high yet. I'm also curious whether you tried or just skipped it due to what you read in the manual?

we tried numerous times to light it. just would not catch until we got down to lower altitudes.   Maybe there is an adjustment we can make?

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13 hours ago, Jim_Oker said:

Another thought - have you looked at  the burner area? The manual mentions cleaning it as needed, and I've read of folks having this problem and gaining at least some extra altitude capability by  cleaning carbon deposits off that area. Makes sense that this might shift the margin  of error down a bit.

its brand new. I will look at it this morning.  hull #822.    thank you

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2 hours ago, Skipster said:

Maybe there is an adjustment we can make?

Good question - please post back here if you  find out the answer! I've seen some comment on some RV web forum about adjusting the  spark gap or some such, to be done by qualified service folks according to said comment. I don't know if that applies to  this model or not.

Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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2 hours ago, Skipster said:

ts brand new. I will look at it this morning. 

I'm guessing carbon deposits aren't the issue but worth  looking - while you're at it you can check the flame color etc as described in the manual

Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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On 7/28/2021 at 3:28 PM, Mike and Carol said:

I understand that the manual said it would not light at high altitude.  Did it not light?  Our Dometic has been reliable at elevations up to 10,000 feet even though there are those that say it shouldn’t be.  Just curious….  Mike

Same here . . . . do others have problems with the fridge not lighting at high elevations?

 

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

1UP-USA Heavy-duty bike rack

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

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Skipper, I think our manual said "may not, "  not will not. We haven't had a Norcold in 9 or 10 years. 

Most people have no problems. I do remember issues at elevation over 10,000 feet, as I  mentioned   At lower elevation,  how many attempts does it take to light the fridge? Most try three times before you get a fault code .

Try running the propane burner first, to fill the line with gas. Also, even before that, open the lower vent/burner compartment and look for a mud dauber nest. A small one could block enough air to let your fridge light at lower elevation. But not at altitude.

Our old (2008) Norcold gave us an extra year's warranty if we had the unit professionally serviced /cleaned annually. As Jim_Oker said, the gap may not be set correctly on the burner and igniter. Not something you should do yourself.

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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On 7/30/2021 at 6:33 PM, SeaDawg said:

the gap may not be set correctly on the burner and igniter. Not something you should do yourself.

Adding to this . . . . it is not advisable to DIY most propane installations as they need to be tested for safety.  Routine cleaning is fine, but making adjustments might just be asking for trouble. . . . . . . . remember the Hindenburg 😲

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Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

1UP-USA Heavy-duty bike rack

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

AZARCAIDNVNMOKORTNTXUTWAsm.jpg

 

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Two men passed each other in the upper atmosphere. One yelled at the other, "Hey Buddy, you know anything about parachutes?" The other answered, "No! You know anything about Coleman stoves?"

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Steve, Tali and the dogs: Reacher, Lucy and Rocky plus our beloved Storm and Maggie (both waiting at the Rainbow Bridge)

2008 Legacy Elite I - Outlaw Oliver, Hull #026 | 2014 Legacy Elite II - Outlaw Oliver, Hull #050 | 2022 Silverado High Country 3500HD Diesel 4x4 

 

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On 7/30/2021 at 10:27 AM, Jim_Oker said:

Good question - please post back here if you  find out the answer! I've seen some comment on some RV web forum about adjusting the  spark gap or some such, to be done by qualified service folks according to said comment. I don't know if that applies to  this model or not.

well we just got back from a week at Quake Lake and Beavercreek campground in montana near yellowstone.     we precooled the fridge on ac power at home then last day turned it to the propane option.  it stayed lit until 8 pm at 6200' the first night  then quit.  no matter what I did it will not light.  I can hear the sparker snapping but it acts like its not getting gas. home now at 4400' and it fired right up.   luckily we have the solar/lithium package and I was able to run the fridge on battery power 2 hours a day for the first 3 days .     I am going to call norcold monday and also oliver to see if I can somehow make this fridge work over 5500''

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On 8/1/2021 at 11:24 AM, Ray and Susan Huff said:

Adding to this . . . . it is not advisable to DIY most propane installations as they need to be tested for safety.  Routine cleaning is fine, but making adjustments might just be asking for trouble. . . . . . . . remember the Hindenburg 😲

I will call around  locally and see if an rv place in bozeman could find time to adjust the  norcold

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Are you sure it is not a gas issue? I would try borrowing another bottle filled with fresh  “local” propane and test that, before I got too concerned about modifying settings. The jet may be slightly blocked, propane has lots of impurities that build up a crusty deposit, though generally that takes a few years. You can have the jet changed for a smaller one, but then it will then run lean (hot) at lower elevations. That would be a last resort IMHO.

My Dometic has been reliable to 10,000 feet. I hate it, but that has nothing to do with how it operates…..

I do  think it is prudent to carry a DC compressor fridge, that gives you an emergency backup, and also a place to store overflow purchases from the grocery store until you have the extra room for them inside the trailer. My medium sized ARB fridge uses a fifth of the amp hours the 3 Way uses on on DC power. I power it from the trailer when parked, using an extension cable coming off the side solar port.

John Davies

Spokane WA

"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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1 hour ago, John E Davies said:

Are you sure it is not a gas issue? I would try borrowing another bottle filled with fresh  “local” propane and test that, before I got too concerned about modifying settings. The jet may be slightly blocked, propane has lots of impurities that build up a crusty deposit, though generally that takes a few years. You can have the jet changed for a smaller one, but then it will then run lean (hot) at lower elevations. That would be a last resort IMHO.

My Dometic has been reliable to 10,000 feet. I hate it, but that has nothing to do with how it operates…..

I do  think it is prudent to carry a DC compressor fridge, that gives you an emergency backup, and also a place to store overflow purchases from the grocery store until you have the extra room for them inside the trailer. My medium sized ARB fridge uses a fifth of the amp hours the 3 Way uses on on DC power. I power it from the trailer when parked, using an extension cable coming off the side solar port.

John Davies

Spokane WA

If we used our Oliver full-time, we would certainly have a ARB to supplement the Oliver fridge and for a backup.  However, for routine camping, we like to keep things simple.  We always take along a good cooler for produce, cold drinks - any food that doesn't require refrigerator temps to be safe.  In the case of fridge issues, the cooler is a backup.

Having had other Dometic absorption fridges, we are pleased that our 2021 Oliver came equipped with a Norcold.   IMO it is far superior to our previous Dometics, with the exception of an older, basic, non-electronic model in our 5th-wheel trailer.  We have not experienced any problem with function at high altitude.  My only complaint is that the fan runs a lot, and is noisy, but is only noticeable from outside.

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Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

1UP-USA Heavy-duty bike rack

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

AZARCAIDNVNMOKORTNTXUTWAsm.jpg

 

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