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Old 05-05-2012, 02:11 AM   #1
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Bad Refrigerator - Replace or Repair?

Greetings all, newbie to RVing - have a quick two-fold question about my bad refrigerator.

Background - I just acquired a 1989 Kit Companion from my boss, and while running things just to make sure it all worked found that the refrigerator has surrendered to age (STRONG Ammonia smell - talking worse than a blueline machine.) Everything I read says it's toast and not repairable...

I have found about the "Amish" cooling and other Cooling unit replacement kits, and with my limited financial freedom at the moment, I am seriously considering this. I checked a few local RV shops and they are all coming up with approx $2k for a new unit installed, versus doing the cooling units for under $500.

My question is this: Is there a value in upgrading to new technology that justifies the extra cost?

If I just buy a new one and do-it-myself, how much more difficult is that than just replacing the cooling unit?

If I should get just the cooler kit replacement, is the "Amish" one worth the ~$50 more plus core charge?

Vitals - 1989 Kit Companion Elite model 298. The Refrigerator is a Dometic RM2803. The information I am given looks like the suggested replacement is the Dometic 2820, which from what I read looks like it might give me a little more space, not that I really need it all that bad.

All advice and opinions are greatly appreciated.
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Old 05-05-2012, 06:07 AM   #2
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I feel for you been there. There are three ways to approach this, replace the
cooling unit, purchase a total rebuild, purchase a new unit. The three start from
the cheapest to ouch (2K plus). A rebuild is the way to go where everything is
back to norms and all check out.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:33 AM   #3
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I had the same issue with our previous travel trailer.

What did was pull the old Norcold out and buy a small refrigerator at Home Depot for $140.00. It had a separate door for the freezer. I had to strap it and frame around it. I had lots if compliments in the result.

Of course it only worked on electric...but that never bothered me.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:07 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolfsted View Post
I had the same issue with our previous travel trailer.

What did was pull the old Norcold out and buy a small refrigerator at Home Depot for $140.00. It had a separate door for the freezer. I had to strap it and frame around it. I had lots if compliments in the result.

Of course it only worked on electric...but that never bothered me.
I considered that option, but I plan on doing a lot of 'boondocking' (assuming that refers to camping without hook-ups) and the generator I bought is far from quiet enough to run through the night etc to keep the refrigerator cold. I have considered doing that and just building an inverter and battery set JUST for the refrigerator, but then we are running into a cost that is closer to the middle of the range, and it's still not as convenient as having the gas/electric system.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:11 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wb7auk View Post
I feel for you been there. There are three ways to approach this, replace the
cooling unit, purchase a total rebuild, purchase a new unit. The three start from
the cheapest to ouch (2K plus). A rebuild is the way to go where everything is
back to norms and all check out.
So is there anything that makes the upgrade worthwhile? It sounds like you vote for just replacing the cooling unit, is the "Amish" unit really that much better, or should I just get the normal replacement?
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sticcino View Post
So is there anything that makes the upgrade worthwhile? It sounds like you vote for just replacing the cooling unit, is the "Amish" unit really that much better, or should I just get the normal replacement?
No I vote for a rebuilt unit where everything has been gone through.
Have been all three ways and just replacing the cooling unit still leaves
other parts that are how many years old and subject to fail?
When I could not get a rebuild I purchased new but remember they are
not cheap by any means.
I have heard good reports on the Amish units but have not used or installed
one.
Getting the latest new unit will give you all of the newest upgrades and
that is a plus.
On your inverter battery idea not such a good idea as it takes hours
to recharge the batteries during the day and as you say the cost.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:36 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by wb7auk View Post
No I vote for a rebuilt unit where everything has been gone through.
Have been all three ways and just replacing the cooling unit still leaves
other parts that are how many years old and subject to fail?
When I could not get a rebuild I purchased new but remember they are
not cheap by any means.
I have heard good reports on the Amish units but have not used or installed
one.
Getting the latest new unit will give you all of the newest upgrades and
that is a plus.
On your inverter battery idea not such a good idea as it takes hours
to recharge the batteries during the day and as you say the cost.
Ahh, I see you are referring to the entire unit, not just the cooler being rebuilt. Do you know any good sources on this? I don't have much of a worry about the rudimentary (if that complicated) electronics on my existing fridge, since that's part of what I do for a living, but not having to worry about it is worth a few hundred bucks for a whole unit.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:47 AM   #8
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I rebuilt one with excellent success. It was actually easy. The hardest part was removing the refer. As for amish versus any others. Hard to say who might take extra efforts to send out a perfect unit. In any case handle it carefully and be sure to run it when level. My kids ran their pop up in the driveway which is extremely unlevel. They plugged the pop up in to charge the battery and the refer was on electric. They did this for a long time so I don't know how long it takes to ruin one but it sure can.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:53 AM   #9
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Check local RV dealers they may have used units at a bargain. Many RVers are removing their Dometic and Norcold units for RR units.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:54 AM   #10
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You take that $140 residential fridge and then toss in a decent sized solar system with a couple of batteries and you are still below the budget for a new RV fridge.

A modern EnergyStar rated refrigerator will run at an average of less than a kilowatt hour per day. That is something that a 500 watt solar system and a couple of batteries should be able to handle in most situations.

it does make the decision more interesting ... ;-)
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Old 05-11-2012, 05:21 PM   #11
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We replaced our Norcold 1200 Cooling Unit with an Amish built unit and have been very happy.
Our Norcold to Amish Built Cooling Unit Change-out - YouTube
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Old 11-01-2012, 02:42 PM   #12
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Rebuilt Coils vs. Amish New Coils

My refrigerator (Norcold 1200LRIM) failed in Jan. 2012, and I initially tried a rebuilt set of coils from a remanufacturer in Arkansas. The first set did not cool adequately even with the control set to 9. I convinced them to send me another set although I agreed to pay the shipping. This set lasted about 2 mos., and was on a setting of 9 the entire time with total failure shortly thereafter. I then did some more research, and discovered the new units manufactured by the Amish. I purchased one of those, had it shipped to the RV Park I was in at the time, installed it (by this time I had a good knowledge of the replacement procedure), and it has worked better than the original Norcold coils ever thought of working. If you prefer a combination gas/electric unit, I strongly suggest the Amish coils.
Their workmanship and design are readily apparent from the moment you turn it on.

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Old 11-09-2012, 06:39 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handlebar View Post
My refrigerator (Norcold 1200LRIM) failed in Jan. 2012, and I initially tried a rebuilt set of coils from a remanufacturer in Arkansas. The first set did not cool adequately even with the control set to 9. I convinced them to send me another set although I agreed to pay the shipping. This set lasted about 2 mos., and was on a setting of 9 the entire time with total failure shortly thereafter. I then did some more research, and discovered the new units manufactured by the Amish. I purchased one of those, had it shipped to the RV Park I was in at the time, installed it (by this time I had a good knowledge of the replacement procedure), and it has worked better than the original Norcold coils ever thought of working. If you prefer a combination gas/electric unit, I strongly suggest the Amish coils.
Their workmanship and design are readily apparent from the moment you turn it on.

Doug
2006 Newmar Ventana
2005 Jeep Toad
Fulltime
Sad to hear about the issues you experienced with your cooling units but glad to know your success with the Amish cooling unit. We are installing the Amish unit tomorrow and hope all goes well. Thank you for sharing!
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