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Smoke from lower fridge (Dometic 3 way) compartment


Liana

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My apologies for not finding anything about this in a search:

Was washing my poor filthy trailer today and inadvertently (I'm always SO CAREFUL about this!) got water up into the lower fridge compartment.  Spouse was doing inside cleaning, I was doing exterior at the aft end when he comes out asking, "What's that sizzling noise?".  We located it to the lower fridge access, pulled the panel off, and I immediately smelled that "hot electrical" smell.  Burning wire insulation is quite a distinctive odor, no?  Then smoke started wafting from the upper left corner.  I jumped inside and hit the battery kill.  Sizzling and smoking stopped pretty quickly after that.  Both of us have examined the compartment to the best of our abilities to see if we can figure out WHAT was burning.  I'm quite leary of turning the batteries back on!

I don't see ANY burnt wires in the small space that one can actually see anything.  Any suggestions about how to track it down?  Would it be ok to let the compartment dry out and turn the batteries back on?  I would NOT be able to pull that fridge out if that is what it would take to get to the bottom of this, would have to take it for service.

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2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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My guess is an electrical short, most likely triggered by, but not actually caused by your water ingress. You could use an air compressor to blow out the lower area, and apply power again, but I really think it needs to be inspected by a pro. Do not be at all surprised if the fridge is scrap.

https://olivertraveltrailers.com/forums/topic/8865-fridge-fires-if-you-have-an-older-hull-you-really-need-to-pull-out-that-fridge-now/

FYI, a how to remove that unit link, some of the pictures show the electrical connections of concern.

https://olivertraveltrailers.com/forums/topic/9040-how-to-dometic-3-way-fridge-removal-and-demolition/

The entry door and its frame will have to be removed entirely to get the fridge out of the interior, unless you do as I did and dissect the fridge with a power saw… FYI the cooling section is hazmat and cannot be recycled, I paid a local place $75 to take it. If you live in the country, a bullet, fired from a fair distance back, will work well to remove the ammonia, and then you can recycle the remaining scrap steel. (This is comment direct from the guy at the appliance recycler.)

A new DC/ AC (2 way) compressor fridge, should you go that direction, should be chosen with care, so that it will go in and out without any further trauma to the doorway. The ones presently being used in new Ollies will fit through the entry with a little care, I believe. Do not quote me.

John Davies

Spokane WA

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SOLD 07/23 "Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

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13 minutes ago, John E Davies said:

FYI the cooling section is hazmat and cannot be recycled, I paid a local place $75 to take it.

I think the City of Phoenix will pick it up, will check on that.

 

14 minutes ago, John E Davies said:

You could use an air compressor to blow out the lower area, and apply power again

So I'm not going to blow anything up if I turn power back on?  (nervous Nellie about such things...)

2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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8 minutes ago, Liana said:

 

So I'm not going to blow anything up if I turn power back on?  (nervous Nellie about such things...)

Well, I never said that, but use common sense, have a person inside turn on battery power while you watch outside. But seriously, the fridge needs to be inspected by a pro, and that requires it to be removed to the interior of the trailer at least. Don’t discount the fire hazard, many RVs burn to ash from these absorption fridges.

Dometic requires that the working parts be inspected ANNUALLY, but the Oliver factory installation is very poor, to say the least, and you cannot even see some of those critical areas with a mirror. The fridge has to be taken out of its cavity for that.

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

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SOLD 07/23 "Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

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An arc between two contacts could cause the sizzling you heard, but, most likely that would not explain the odor.

It is possible that some insulation on the wires melted due to heat generated by an arc but I wouldn't bet on it.

I'd try like heck to locate the area that had the arc and the area that produced the sizzling/melted wire insulation before I turned the fridge back on.  And, I'd make sure that the area is dry.

 

Of course you know that you can pull the fridge off via the off switch, circuit breaker/fuse so that you can still have power to the rest of your Ollie.

Good luck!

Bill

 

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2 hours ago, John E Davies said:

Don’t discount the fire hazard, many RVs burn to ash from these absorption fridges.

Have you ever seen any statistics on this?

No doubt that there are some RV's that have burned with the absorption fridge as the source, but I'd guess that there are also some RV's that have 12 volt electric and/or compressor fridges that were the source too.  I'd also guess that the number of absorption fridges that have cause fires is very small relative to the number of them on the road.  But, even though I've seen a few videos on the subject I've never actually seen statistics that show exactly how dangerous or not dangerous any of the fridges are in the real world.

Bill

p.s.  It sounds to me that in this case the "problem" is electrical and has little to nothing to do with what type of fridge it is.

Edited by topgun2
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I have never seen a chart, here is some info claiming 4000 rv fires per year and the absorption fridge is the number  2 cause.

https://www.arprv.com/rv-fire-cause-and-prevention.php

And this article:

RV Absorption Refrigerator Fires.pdf

FYI, if yours is in great shape, (which I would doubt), installing a Fridge Defend system makes a lot of sense, but it cannot be installed into an early hull Dometic fridge without removing it completely from its compartment. 
 

John Davies 

Spokane WA

 

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SOLD 07/23 "Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

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45 minutes ago, John E Davies said:

YI, if yours is in great shape, (which I would doubt), installing a Fridge Defend system makes a lot of sense, but it cannot be installed into an early hull Dometic fridge without removing it completely from its compartment. 

Or, perhaps, something like the Proteng fire suppression system would be helpful no matter what fridge you have - here is a link to some info on Proteng

And, the fridge doesn't need to be removed to install.

Bill

2023 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing, Max Payload, 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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According to Google - there are something like 11.2 million RV's registered in the US.  Divide that by 4000 and you get a very small number.  Even assuming that the #2 cause is something like 3,999 you still get a very small number.

Regardless, I certainly don't want to have a fire in my Ollie nor in its fridge area.  I'm just not convinced that "many RV's burn to ash..." due to the fact that they have propane /absorption fridges.

Bill

2023 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing, Max Payload, 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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There have been recalls on certain defective 3 ways, but none of them , to my knowledge,  were ever installed in Oliver trailers. Since I've had several,  I think I would have known.

@Liana, I'm surmising from your post that fridge was operating while you pressure washed the exterior. I'd certainly suggest for future folks that everything be turned off, if pressure washing is your choice. Honestly,  low pressure, if necessary,  would be best. 

There are several electrical connections that could possibly have been affected,,should high pressure through the vent had caused a separation.

In all likelihood,  water hit a hot spot,,and you'll be ok. BUT, before I fired up the fridge, I'd give it time to dry out anything flooded, and  I'd take it to a reputable repair shop, explain circumstances,  and stay with it during initial fire up.

I have no idea what pressure you were running, nor how long lower elements were exposed to higher pressure than  a typical rainstorm, but, better "safe than sorry."

The vent slats are designed to keep rainwater out, not pressure washer. 

Good news is, lower unit is accessible from the outside, and parts are typically readily available for a common fridge. 

If the estimate for repair exceeds $800, I'd consider replacing, vs repair.

The unit can be slid out into the aisle, vs outside the trailer, in my considerable experience with 3ways. 

I have a love/hate relationship with them. Best unit ever for boondocking (our style) with limited battery power. Less reliable and manageable at altitude, and uneven sites. We installed a dc/danfoss/secop fridge years ago,,and I love the reliability.  BUT, significant electrical draw. We manage, as power misers,,with agm batteries  

Please let us know what you find out,,after everthing dries out, and you get it serviced.

I'm very sorry for your experience. 

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I agree with JD with some precautions.

  • Power and propane off the trailer and air hose the interior of the refrigerator cabinet from outside using an air nozzle, typically 30 PSI is the max.  Idea is to blow off any moisture that may have spilled into the area.  Use towels and dry any moisture you see.
  • Then put a fan on the area from outside and force air to dry out all the refer parts in there.  Let the fan run until you are sure it is dry.
  • Then with one of you inside and one outside.  Just turn on the DC power. 
  • Let it start up on DC power.  If no smoke or wierdness let it run for a few hours to continue drying up the machine area.   
  • If no weirdness then flip it to propane and let it run for a few hours to further dry out other components.
  • If no weirdness, then fire off the AC power.    

The above would be a lower risk than just "Smoke Testing It On Full 120 AC.

That's how I would approach it.

GJ

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9 hours ago, John E Davies said:

...Do not be at all surprised if the fridge is scrap.

9 hours ago, John E Davies said:

...Don’t discount the fire hazard, many RVs burn to ash from these absorption fridges.

...the Oliver factory installation is very poor, to say the least,

7 hours ago, John E Davies said:

FYI, if yours is in great shape, (which I would doubt), installing a Fridge Defend system makes a lot of sense, but it cannot be installed into an early hull Dometic fridge without removing it completely from its compartment.

 

I'm considering these 'facts' to be just more of your "doom and gloom" and I recall asking you to cut them out since you've sold your trailer and don't really still have a dog in this race. Speaking of selling your trailer, you failed to let Oliver know about the sale. The need for this information by Oliver was outlined in the Classified Ad rules you agreed to when you placed the ad for the trailer you sold. You need to take care of that.

If you want to continue to contribute to the forum with comments or to answer questions, please do it without your usual negativity toward Oliver. This time, I'm not asking.

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

 

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12 hours ago, SeaDawg said:

I'm surmising from your post that fridge was operating while you pressure washed the exterior.

I was not using pressure and the fridge was off.  I was using my usual garden hose that I've used dozens of times cleaning this trailer.  I think I know HOW the water got in there and at this point, that doesn't really matter, it is literally water under the fridge (HAHAHAHA I crack myself up!)  We let it dry all day and tried turning the battery back on, more sizzling.  I'm trying to get in somewhere to get it looked at.  I would not be a fan of a fridge fire.  🙂

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2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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17 hours ago, topgun2 said:

Of course you know that you can pull the fridge off via the off switch, circuit breaker/fuse so that you can still have power to the rest of your Ollie.

 

12 hours ago, Geronimo John said:

Power and propane off the trailer

We didn't have any power on the trailer other than solar charging the batteries (and the propane was off and the fridge was off.)  

 

17 hours ago, topgun2 said:

An arc between two contacts could cause the sizzling you heard, but, most likely that would not explain the odor.

It is possible that some insulation on the wires melted due to heat generated by an arc but I wouldn't bet on it.

I'd try like heck to locate the area that had the arc and the area that produced the sizzling/melted wire insulation before I turned the fridge back on.  And, I'd make sure that the area is dry.

We did try like heck to locate it, cannot see much past the opening.  All this sizzling was happening with the fridge off and not on shore power.  We let it dry all day and when attempted to turn batteries back on more sizzling.  I appreciate everyone's suggestion to use compressed air to blow moisture out, but I don't own a compressor!

I do agree with someone's suggestion that this is an electrical issue rather than a fridge issue, it just happens to be SOME electrical issue in the lower fridge access compartment.

2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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So, kind of an ancillary question:  I searched for info on this as well...

I need to get the trailer put into storage until I can find some place that can take a look at it.  With the batteries off, I can't operate the tongue jack.  Is there a way to manually operate the tongue jack?

2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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With your propane and the 12V fuse pulled for the refer, and the 120 V circuit breaker off, you have no reason to be worried about the refer causing you any grief. So I would then use the other 12V items, such as the jacks, normally.

GJ

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1 hour ago, Liana said:

Is there a way to manually operate the tongue jack?

As Geronimo John suggested, you can still operate the 12V tongue jack from the batteries so long as the circuit breaker to the refrigerator is off.  That is the easiest way to operate the tongue jack.

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4 hours ago, Liana said:

We didn't have any power on the trailer other than solar charging the batteries (and the propane was off and the fridge was off.)  

When you say the fridge was off - do you mean that it was turned off at the fridge control panel or the fridge fuse was pulled or something else.

I ask this question because  - if the fridge was "really and truly totally off" there would be no electricity going to it.  Therefore, there should have been NO sizzling because there would be no way for anything to arc since there was no electricity going to the fridge.  Of course, if the fridge was "only" turned off at its control panel then electricity was still going to the fridge but the "workings of the fridge would not be able to operate - (i.e. the fridge would not turn on and try to cool itself down).

All of this is to raise the possibility that the sizzling could be coming from something other than the electric connected to the fridge - this is not the most likely situation, but, it is possible depending on your answer to my question.

Bill

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20 hours ago, topgun2 said:

do you mean that it was turned off at the fridge control panel or the fridge fuse was pulled or something else.

We were going to pull the fuse but decided to try once more to just turn the batteries back on to see what would happen.  No more sizzling, everything is operating "normally".   I ran the fridge on DC for a couple of hours as suggested by GJ, it cooled down with no issues (I remain absolutely enamored with our lithium batteries - there was hardly any draw down of the batteries during this time!)

 

23 hours ago, Rivernerd said:

so long as the circuit breaker to the refrigerator is off

I think the fuse would have been the more important link to pull, this was only happening while DC power was energized.

 

20 hours ago, topgun2 said:

the possibility that the sizzling could be coming from something other than the electric connected to the fridge

We discussed that as a possibility but couldn't imagine what other wiring would be in that particular area.

I have an appointment to take it to a local service center to get the wiring checked out to make sure it's not a bomb waiting to explode.

Thank you all for being helpful and supportive!

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2018 LE2 #333  "the Otter"

2015 Silverado 2500HD

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HERE is a YouTube video from a couple called "Changing Lanes" that discusses fire safety in RV's.

About half way they mention the Proteng system they had installed.

Certainly some good safety info in this vid.

Bill 

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On 12/6/2023 at 10:10 AM, topgun2 said:

Therefore, there should have been NO sizzling because there would be no way for anything to arc since there was no electricity going to the fridge.

Likely the sizzling was water hitting the very hot evaporator section of the ammonia unit.  Once it evaporated away, the unit has a chance of working just fine.

 

On 12/5/2023 at 10:05 AM, Liana said:

Was washing my poor filthy trailer today and inadvertently (I'm always SO CAREFUL about this!) got water up into the lower fridge compartment.

They may have lucked out and the wise to do electrical check may find all is OK.  That is my hope anyway.

GJ

TV:  2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Tow, FX-4, Rear Locker      OLLIE:  2018 OE2 Hull 342, Twin Bed.    OLLIE DYI’s:  BB LiFePO4's, Victron 712 Smart, 350 Amp Master Switch, Houghton 3400, Victron Orion DC - DC, 3000-Watt Renogy Inverter, P.D. 60-amp Converter, Frig Dual Exhaust Fans, Kitchen Drawer Straps.    TV DYI’s:  2 5/16" Anderson System, Timken Bearings, Nitto recon’s, Firestone Rear Air Bags, Bilstein 5100’s, Mud Flaps & Weather Tech all.

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On 12/5/2023 at 8:48 PM, SeaDawg said:

@Liana, I'm surmising from your post that fridge was operating while you pressure washed the exterior. I'd certainly suggest for future folks that everything be turned off, if pressure washing is your choice. Honestly,  low pressure, if necessary,  would be best. 

There are several electrical connections that could possibly have been affected,,should high pressure through the vent had caused a separation.

I have no idea what pressure you were running, nor how long lower elements were exposed to higher pressure than  a typical rainstorm, but, better "safe than sorry."

The vent slats are designed to keep rainwater out, not pressure washer

 

 

I went back and re-read this whole thread again but I'm missing where she said anything about washing her trailer with a pressure washer. Was something deleted before I read this thread?

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On 12/6/2023 at 1:23 AM, ScubaRx said:

 

I'm considering these 'facts' to be just more of your "doom and gloom" and I recall asking you to cut them out since you've sold your trailer and don't really still have a dog in this race. Speaking of selling your trailer, you failed to let Oliver know about the sale. The need for this information by Oliver was outlined in the Classified Ad rules you agreed to when you placed the ad for the trailer you sold. You need to take care of that.

If you want to continue to contribute to the forum with comments or to answer questions, please do it without your usual negativity toward Oliver. This time, I'm not asking.

I am of the mindset that a Critique of the Oliver Trailer is very important in discerning the Failure Mode and effect analysis.  John Davies comments provide a wealth of information.  The positive and negative information John has contributed to the Oliver community is priceless.   As a member of Management at Ford Motor, Critique is a very important tool.  Least we forget the PINTO! 

Very Respectfully, George Bergh

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5 hours ago, JKAY2023 said:

I went back and re-read this whole thread again but I'm missing where she said anything about washing her trailer with a pressure washer. Was something deleted before I read this thread?

No, nothing was deleted (that I know of).  But, I think that the "pressure washing" was either assumed in order to get the water into the areas of the rear of the fridge where it would cause problems OR it was assumed that a regular water hose was used and even that is under pressure.

9 hours ago, Geronimo John said:

Likely the sizzling was water hitting the very hot evaporator section of the ammonia unit.  Once it evaporated away, the unit has a chance of working just fine.

Certainly this is a possibility, but, when it was said that the fridge was turned off and then retried a bit later and the sizzling was still heard, I assumed that any water in the area you mention would have been evaporated the first time.

Bill

2023 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing, Max Payload, 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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