Norcold RV Fridge How to and Troubleshooting Guide

Norcold is an American company that manufactures refrigerators. However, they are best known for their RV refrigerator line. These RV refrigerators use absorption technology which allows them to switch between LP gas and electricity. Unfortunately, even the best RV fridges will develop problems.

Most of the RV refrigerator issues prevent the unit from cooling efficiently or from working entirely. However, Norcold refrigerators are pretty sturdy and manageable; therefore, you can fix most problems without professional help. Our article will provide basic information on how the Norcold RV fridges work and help you diagnose and repair the most commonly reported issues.

Norcold RV refrigerator is not cooling, but the freezer is

Typically, the cold air moves from the freezer to the fridge section. So the main reason why your the freezer compartment is cooling but the fridge is could be due to airflow problems.  Before troubleshooting the issue, ensure the RV refrigerator is level and give it about 24 hours to cool properly. Also, driving on a bouncy road will cause cooling problems due to the coolant clogging and not flowing properly. Try to drive your RV smoothly.

If the problems persist, continue troubleshooting the other possible reasons causing your fridge not to cool.

Thermistor issues

A thermistor detects temperature change in a refrigerator and then sends a signal to the control board that prompts temperature change.

Check if the thermistor has moved or fallen off from its position and reset it. Make sure it’s firmly attached to the fin to ensure it works well.

If the thermistor malfunctions, your RV refrigerator won’t defrost, and the coils will clog with frost and ice, therefore, preventing the coolant from flowing to the fridge. Therefore its best to replace it with a manufacturer-approved replacement part to get your fridge cooling again.

In case you cannot get a thermistor replacement immediately, but you want your fridge cooling again, you disconnect the thermistor entirely as a temporary solution. This will allow your refrigerator to run continuously without temperature regulation. However, you should not run your refrigerator for long without a thermistor as you risk burning out the entire unit or cause irreparable damages.

Poor air circulation

If you’re using your RV refrigerator during the hot summer, you’re likely to have cooling issues due to poor aeration in the fridge. When cold air circulates evenly around the refrigerator, the fridge’s interior will have consistent temperature throughout. So during hot weather, the coolant heats up significantly slower than the air outside, causing the refrigerator not to cool properly.

A good solution will be to add an auxiliary fan at the back of your RV refrigerator. The fan will keep the cool air flowing and allow the unit to cool efficiently.

Also, avoid parking your RV under direct sunlight. Instead, always park the side with the refrigerator under a cooling shade.

A blocked refrigerator exhaust

Like a domestic refrigerator, the RV refrigerator has an exhaust vent at the back that releases hot air, a product of the cooling process. If there is some blockage in the exhaust vent, it will hinder the hot air from flowing out and cause cooling issues.

Remove the vent cover and check it for any possible blockages. Then shut off the refrigerator and use a shop vac to remove any dust or dirt clogging the vents.

Running out of coolant.

The RV refrigerator uses a coolant to move the cold air from the freezer to the fridge. So when the coolant dries up, the first section that loses cooling is usually the fridge. The solution is to refill your coolant, making sure you defrost the refrigerator first to remove any dirt or odor in the coolant tank.

The RV refrigerator is not level.

Refrigerator coolant is majorly a mixture of ammonia, hydrogen gas, and water. The refrigerator’s boiler heats up, the ammonia evaporates and rises to the condenser. In the condenser, the ammonia vapor cools and turns into ammonia liquid. Gravity drops the ammonia liquid down to the evaporator coils in the cooling unit, where it mixes with hydrogen gas and leads to cooling.

Check this too: How to Run an RV Fridge on Propane

Therefore, gravity plays a very critical role in refrigeration. When the RV or refrigerator is not level, the ammonia will not flow properly to the evaporator coils to cool the unit. Instead, the ammonia will crystalize in the tubing. These crystals accumulate over time and block the tubing permanently.

The first sign of this issue would be a fridge that’s not cooling. Although modern RV refrigerators are stronger, Norcold still recommends that their refrigerators operate within 3 degrees off level side-to-side and 6 degrees off level front-to-back. The solution is to use leveling blocks, electric or hydraulic automatic levelers to ensure your refrigerator and freezer equilibrium.

Poor use of the fridge

Packing warm or hot food in the fridge will prevent it from cooling properly. Therefore, it is important to ensure everything is cold before packing it in the refrigerator. Also, do not overcrowd the fridge because poor ventilation will also cause it to feel warmer.

How to reset a Norcold RV refrigerator

When your Norcold RV refrigerator doesn’t complete an entire cooling cycle for various reasons, a fault will occur, and the ‘no co’ error code will appear on the LCD screen. The refrigerator will then lock the heat sources, prevent the unit from working. Therefore, you need to reset the error code to get your refrigerator working well. Follow the instructions below to reset your Norcold RV refrigerator.

  • Turn off your refrigerator and access the back of the unit.
  • Unplug the wires from the power board in the following order; 12 VDC positive and negative wires, AC power cord, gas valve solenoid wires, and spark/sense electrode assembly wires.
  • Remove the power board cover.
  • Reconnect all the disconnected wires into the power board.
  • Plug the refrigerator back to power and turn it on.
  • Locate Pin 15 on the 16-pin connector. Pin 15 is the empty socket on the right side of the white/violet wire on the top row.
  • Insert one end of a jumper cable into the Pin 15 socket and touch the other end of the cable to one of the mounting bolts on the power board for about 10 to 15 seconds. A click sound will also indicate a successful reset.
  • Turn off the refrigerator.
  • Disconnect the wires connected to the power board again in the order of; 12 VDC positive and negative wires, AC power cord, gas valve solenoid wires, and spark/sense electrode assembly wires.
  • Replace the power board cover
  • Reconnect the power board wires in the following order: Spark/sense electrode assembly wire, gas valve solenoid wires, AC power cord, and 12 VDC positive and negative wires from the power board.
  • Reconnect the unit to power and turn it on. If the error code is still there, repeat the process until it clears.

All Norcold refrigerator troubleshooting fault codes and their meaning

When a Norcold refrigerator is malfunctioning, you may see error codes on the LCD. These error codes help in diagnosing and coming up with the best solution for the problem. The table below demonstrates the error codes in most Norcold models, their meaning, and possible solutions.

Error codesError code meaningPossible solutions
No display.DC voltage is unavailable at the control panel, or the refrigerator is off.Ensure;- The refrigerator is ON.- The battery charging equipment of the RV is working.- The AC/DC converter is operational (if applicable).- Contact your dealer or authorized Norcold Service Center. 
“dr” Audible alarm also.The door was open for more than three minutes.Close the door.  
“no” “FL” Audible alarm also.The burner did not ignite or re-ignite.Ensure;- The valve of the propane gas tank(s) is open.- The propane gas is at the correct pressure.- The manual shut-off valve of the refrigerator is open.- There is no air in the propane gas supply line. – Contact an authorized Norcold technician. 
“no” “AC” Audible alarm also.AC power is unavailable to the refrigerator control panel.Ensure;- The refrigerator is plugged into a working outlet.- The fuse or circuit breaker or the vehicle is intact.- The vehicle generator is operational (if applicable).- Contact your authorized Norcold technician. 
“dc” “LO”DC power to the refrigerator control panel is too low. Ensure;- The battery charging equipment of the vehicle is operational.- The AC/DC converter is operational (if applicable).- Contact your dealer or authorized Norcold Service Center. 
The temperature number flashes when the “TEMP SET” button is pushed. The refrigerator is running on the “Back Up Operating System.”This problem is not owner serviceable. Instead, contact your dealer or authorized Norcold Service Center. 
“AC” “rE” with audible alarm  There is a fault within the refrigerator controls. 
“dc” “rE” with audible alarm   
“AC” “HE” with audible alarm    
“dc” “HE” with audible alarm   
“Sr” with audible alarm  

The RV fridge is not working on gas or electricity.

The Norcold RV refrigerator can use gas and electricity as a power source and operates on the absorption principle, unlike a standard refrigerator that uses a compressor. The fridge runs automatically on electricity when plugged in and switches to gas when there is no power. This allows you to easily switch between gas and electricity to run your RV fridge. So if your refrigerator does not work on either gas or electricity, here is how you can fix the issue.

  • Check for power supply. Check the gas level in your gas tank and ensure the tank valve is on. Refill the propane tank if necessary.
  • Check the pressure regulator and ensure the pressure is correct. The input LP pressure should be an 11″ water column.
  • Ensure to plug in the RV refrigerator to a working power outlet.  If the fridge still isn’t working, test if the outlet at the back of the fridge has voltage using a multimeter. If there is no power at the outlet, replace it.
  • Check the circuit breaker and fuses. Reset any tripped breakers and replace the burnt fuses.
  • If there is voltage by the refrigerator still won’t work, test the electric heating element using a multimeter. First, access the wires connected to the heating element and the cooling unit by removing the shield at the back of the refrigerator. If there is voltage in one wire but not the other, the element is burnt out and needs replacing.
  • Check the quality of the flame. If it lights up and goes out immediately, a thermocouple failure could be preventing the refrigerator from starting correctly. A thermocouple is a safety device that detects heat and turns the gas off once the pilot flame goes out. Test if it works using a multimeter and if no current is detected, replace it.
  • If the flame lights up steadily the check the color. If the flame is yellow and produces soot, most likely, the burner is dirty and requires cleaning. Turn off the refrigerator, make sure it cools down, then clean the burner system with a shop vac.
  • Check for obstructions blocking the airflow around the inside and outside of the refrigerator and remove them. Make sure there is ample clearance between the exhaust vent and the outside cabinet.
  • Check the control panel of your RV refrigerator for any error codes. These error codes will help identify the specific problem and allow you to come up with a suitable solution.
  • If none of the solutions work, reset your refrigerator.

Norcold RV fridge fuse location

It’s essential to know the location of your refrigerator fuse in case it blows out. You have to replace a blown fuse immediately because it protects the refrigerator from damages if there is too much current in the electrical lines. Follow the steps below to locate the fuse to the Norcold RV fridge.

  • Remove the access panel cover on the outside of your RV to easily access the back of the refrigerator.
  • Locate the black box on the lower left with wires going to it.
  • Unplug the cord from the outlet to avoid electrocution.
  • Remove the black box cover and check for the two fuses. One is for the DC power, and the other is for the AC power.

Why is my RV fridge not working on electricity?

The Norcold RV fridge can switch between gas and electric power. However, RV refrigerators work better on electricity than gas. If you notice your unit refusing to work on electric power, here is how to troubleshoot and fix the issue.

  • First, make sure your refrigerator has plugged into a power outlet and is in the ‘on’ position.
  • If it’s still not working, check if the power outlet is working. Sometimes power surges can blow out the fuse inside the power outlet and will need replacing.
  • If the power outlet works, check the circuit breaker. Look for any tripped circuit breakers in the RV’s electrical compartment and reset them to get your refrigerator working.
  • If resetting doesn’t work, check if the refrigerator fuse is blown and replace it if necessary.
  • If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, then the electrical heating element inside the refrigerator may have shorted. Open the back panel of your refrigerator and test the heating element with a multimeter. If there is no current running through the wires, replace the heating element.
  • If the heating element is working, then the refrigerator control board is malfunctioning. You can get the refrigerator checked by a professional to confirm a faulty control board then replace it.

Why is my fridge beeping intermittently?

The beeping from your Norcold RV fridge usually indicates the door is open. This can occur due to several issues:

The door seal is damaged

The seals ensure the interior of the fridge remains airtight to support efficient cooling of the refrigerator. Unfortunately, these seals break or loosen over time, preventing the doors from closing. First, check if they have clogged up with grime. Then, clean the door seals with dishwashing soap, warm water, and a soft cloth.

Also, ensure the seals fit correctly around the door as they often get loose and slip out. If this doesn’t fix the issue, you need to replace the seals. Then, you need to call your Norcold dealer to repair the damaged seals.

The fridge is overloaded.

Overpacking the freezer and fridge compartment can prevent the doors from closing the door properly, setting off the beeping alarm.

Ice build-up

If your fridge doesn’t have an auto-defrost feature or stops working, the freezer will start accumulating more ice than it needs and cause the beeping. If you notice excessive ice build-up in the freezer, transfer your food to a cooler and switch off the refrigerator to let it thaw. This should stop the beeping.

The refrigerator is not level.

RV fridges must be balanced to function correctly. The refrigerator should operate within 3° off level side-to-side and 6° off level front-to-back (as looking at the front of the fridge). Running it at more than these limits can set off the alarm and damage the cooling system if not fixed. Also, make sure the vehicle is level before you power the refrigerator.

The door alarm is faulty.

If the refrigerator is relatively new and the door alarm is beeping, it could be faulty due to low-quality parts. Try resetting the fridge. If the beeping persists, contact a Norcold certified technician to fix the issue.

Which is more efficient; electricity or propane on Norcold RV fridge?

Generally, RV refrigerators work better on electricity than gas. However, both power sources have their pros and cons. For instance, running your RV refrigerator on electricity keeps your food cold for more extended periods, and it is safer. On the other hand, propane will make your refrigerator cool faster and stay colder in high temperatures.

We recommend putting your refrigerator on automatic and allow it to choose between electric or propane.

Also, you can test how your refrigerator performs on both power sources. For example, run your unit for a day on propane and another day on propane, then take notes of its performance, then compare and decide. Sometimes efficiency may depend on other factors such as the condition of your refrigerator, how well you use it, climate, and auxiliary fans.

Read the difference between electric and propane to help you decide which power source is best.

Criteria Electric-poweredGas-powered
PerformanceIt cools slower but is more consistent.Food stays cold for longer and is suitable for compact vans. It cools faster but fluctuates with the high temperature outside the RV.It makes low-level noise.It is easily affected when tilted. 
SafetyIt is safer than propane if you adhere to the basic guidelines for plugs and electrical wires. It is dangerous if not well balanced or driving in high heat and on bumpy roads as propane is highly volatile and flammable.  
FlexibilityThey are more flexible as you can draw solar power when off-grid.Limited flexibility because you need to have gas.
Battery use Require a power supply of 12 V or 230 V and consumes a lot of power, but you can use a solar panel to power the RV fridge. It runs on both 12 V and 230 V batteries and propane. It drains the battery extremely fast.
ConvenienceIt does not need to be level to work well.It has consistent electric battery power. It only works well when the fridge is level. Titling will reduce performance and cause permanent damage.

How to make the Norcold RV fridge colder

Other than connecting your refrigerator to the right power source, there are various ways you can increase its performance. Try the following tips to get your Norcold fridge colder.

  • Reposition the thermostat. All refrigerators have a thermostat at the back that measures the temperature of your fridge and signals the control boars to increase cooling. Move the thermostat to the warmer part of your fridge or clip it to another fin to make it colder.
  • Install an auxiliary fan inside the cooler or near the vent. The fan will increase airflow to get rid of excess hot air out of the fridge. Adding a fan will also improve the heat pump cycle, allowing the refrigerator to work efficiently.
  • Add another fan near the coils to help move air through the coils much quicker. Note that when it gets to the point where you need fans to cool your fridge, it means your cooling unit is malfunctioning. It may be best to address the situation by replacing the cooling unit.
  • Move your thermistor to the top of the fridge compartment. The location of the thermistor will determine the temperature of your unit as it changes resistance with temperature.
  • Ensure your fridge and RV are balanced. Gravity affects the efficiency and speed of cooling in your RV refrigerator. Uneven surfaces cause the coolant to collect on one side of the tubes and hinders proper flow. A coolant that doesn’t flow well keeps your fridge from becoming efficiently cool. Over time, this titled position can cause ammonia to crystalize, block the tubing, and permanently damage your fridge.
  • Avoid overfilling your fridge. Overloading your fridge prevents proper air from circulating in and out of the refrigerator. Also, keep food containers away from the vents at the back.
  • Do not put hot food or drinks in the fridge as it will raise its temperature.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator door for too long. Leaving the door open allows the cool air to escape, making the unit work harder to compensate for the lost air.
  • Turn your fridge on about six hours before your trip. Another helpful tip is putting frozen food and drinks or icepacks inside the refrigerator before running the refrigerator to help lower its temperature.
  • Check your door seals and ensure they are working correctly. These seals keep your fridge airtight and prevent the cool air from escaping.

How long will the Norcold RV fridge take to cool?

Typically, it takes about 24 hours for the Norcold RV refrigerator to get cold using electricity or propane. These refrigerators use the absorption cycle, which takes more time to remove the heat out of the fridge than a standard residential fridge. We recommended turning the fridge on a day before using it to give it time to get cold. You can also pack it with icepacks to speed up the cooling process.

How to adjust the Norcold RV fridge door

A Norcold RV fridge door adjustment is necessary when it’s not closing properly. Excess frosting in your freezer compartment is an indicator that you have door problems. But, before adjusting the door, you need to ensure the problem is not with the door seals.

Check this too: Dometic RV Fridge How to & Troubleshooting Guide

Inspect the door seals and ensure they sit securely in position. Then try the dollar bill test to look for any air spaces. Next, close the fridge door and try to slip a dollar bill beneath the seal, and run it around the door. If the bill moves too quickly without resistance, then you need to adjust the door.

Here is how to do this:

  • Loosen the screws around the door hinges about one complete turn.
  • Open the door 90 degrees to the cabinet.
  • Reposition the door until it makes good contact, hold it in place and then fully tighten the screws down.

Conclusion

Understanding how your Norcold RV fridge work is crucial for successful troubleshooting. Fortunately, with the help of the article above and some standard set of tools, you can easily determine the problem and figure out the best solution. Also, service your refrigerator professionally at least once a year to prolong its lifespan.

Oscar

In his spare time, Oscar loves tinkering with electronics. Solar panels, wiring, old TVs and sometimes DIY powerwalls. When he is not busy trying not to electrocute himself, you can find him in the garden tending to his vegetables and chickens.

Recent Posts