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Old 10-06-2009, 07:20 AM   #1
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3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

Let's say I'm having trouble convincing someone that driving with the propane on is a bad idea. Say there is a slide in camper with a 3-way fridge and no house battery and no conection to the battery. In fact the fridge has 3 settings OFF AC GAS (which means propane) powered by a propane bottle.

But I'm not familiar with 3-way fridges... are they possibly meant to be driven with the propane on? Could the AC lable really mean AC only, and not DC?

And how bad is it really to drive with it lit in gas mode? It seems to stay lit for 5 to 6 days at a time, even while driving... and please don't guess... I'm already guessing it's dangerous, but I can't back that up with more than "it seems like a really bad idea".

If you're familiar with 3-ways and can answer if this is kosher, this then feel free to , I could use some factual convincing evidence.
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Old 10-06-2009, 07:59 AM   #2
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

Jage: I did some quick Internet research and this seems to be a much-debated topic. From my personal experience we always traveled with the fridge on running off propane without a single incident. This was five different rigs over a 40-year period (2 slide-in truck campers growing up, 1 VW Syncro Westy - pre kids, and 2 travel trailers - post kids).

I never give it a second thought and don't shut it off to refuel either. The bigger RV fridges really eat up batteries which is why most people run them on propane or AC only.

Here's what one RV tech posted on trailer forum site:

If your propane system has been checked and verified to be in good condition, then there is no reason not to have it on when driving to keep the fridge on. That is why the RV manufacturers made the fridge outside vent covers for venting while driving or sitting still, and enclosed the burn chamber flame completely so that the fridge can stay on and the wind will not blow out the flame. The fridge is the only appliance that should be on while moving. The hot air coming out of the furnace or water heater will be pushed backwards and possibly burn the paint on the coach. This is what I tell all our customers: a) have your propane system checked once a year with a pressure drop test by an RV tech. Leaks can happen just by letting an RV sit over the winter. I have seen this several times. b) As I said the RV manufacturers made the system and fridge to stay on all the time. The exception to this is refueling for propane AND gasoline or diesel. Shut everything off to prevent one of the appliances from starting up when refueling. c) Make sure your propane detector inside the coach is working properly. d) Have your appliances serviced yearly (cleaning, making sure the electrical connections are good, etc). All of these suggestions fall into the regular maintenance area and if done, your RV will provide many miles of enjoyable driving!

I don't fault anybody who doesn't want to drive with the propane on, but its perfectly fine for me and my family.
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Old 10-06-2009, 08:09 AM   #3
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

Aw, man I'll have to tell my dad he was right.

Thanks a bunch!
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Old 10-06-2009, 09:50 AM   #4
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

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Originally Posted by jage
Aw, man I'll have to tell my dad he was right.

Thanks a bunch!
Don't you just hate it when it turns out the old man was right?

My dad always drives with his refrig on propane. Probably most RVs and trailer do.

Hey, look at the bright side - someday your kids will have to admit you were right about some stuff. Just never in the teen years.

Mike
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Old 10-06-2009, 03:52 PM   #5
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jage
Let's say I'm having trouble convincing someone that driving with the propane on is a bad idea. Say there is a slide in camper with a 3-way fridge and no house battery and no conection to the battery. In fact the fridge has 3 settings OFF AC GAS (which means propane) powered by a propane bottle.

But I'm not familiar with 3-way fridges... are they possibly meant to be driven with the propane on? Could the AC lable really mean AC only, and not DC?

And how bad is it really to drive with it lit in gas mode? It seems to stay lit for 5 to 6 days at a time, even while driving... and please don't guess... I'm already guessing it's dangerous, but I can't back that up with more than "it seems like a really bad idea".

If you're familiar with 3-ways and can answer if this is kosher, this then feel free to , I could use some factual convincing evidence.
I've got a 4CF 3way Dometic and on long trips leave the Propane "on".
I do turn it off when I hit rough unknown trails 4x4ing.. but leave it on for areas I'm familar with like Anza Borrego.
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Old 10-07-2009, 04:11 PM   #6
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

In Europe it is illegal to have a propane/butane installation may it be fridge, or other apparatus on/open while driving... This in case of crash and open gas bottles...
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Old 10-11-2009, 03:02 AM   #7
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

Here in WA it's okay to drive with propane on and a fridge running, BUT when you board any WA State Ferry the port attendants tell the driver of every camper, RV, or anything else that looks like living quarters to turn the propane off for the duration of the crossing. Once years ago I saw a driver lose control as he passed us on the interstate (he had to be doing close to 100 mph). He rear-ended the camper trailer being pulled by a car about 150 yards ahead of us. The (open) propane bottle flew through the air spewing propane everywhere while the car and trailer actually rolled a full flip in the median. By God's grace there was no fire - it was bad enough for the family in the car, although they all recovered. Gotta say that seeing that bottle fly is one of the reasons our SMB is non-propane. I know this is irrational, but I can still see that wreck happen as if it were yesterday!
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Old 10-11-2009, 10:06 AM   #8
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

Jage ,
Ditto on the information that Switchfoot posted we have had many vehicles and many 3 way refers . When I was with Winnebeago we actually encouraged our customers to run on propane whenever possible with the only stipulation that you were as level as possible when stopped or camping , These units are what as known as Heat Absorption Unit and can actually benefit from the surging that takes place while moving . When left off level and in the on position they would overheat and boil the refrigerant out , rendering the unit useless . We were the factory warranty and repair station for all of the Southwest and the the single most frequent problem with all of these units was the Absorption tank and Cooling Coils being ruined from improper leveling when stopped for periods of time .
I actually would have preferred the 3 way for our SportsMobile ! They are very efficient units .
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Old 10-11-2009, 12:15 PM   #9
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

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I actually would have preferred the 3 way for our SportsMobile ! They are very efficient units .
Greggde
Having had a 3-way refrig in our previous camper, and the 4cf Norcold 12v refrig in the SMB, I never want to go back to a 3 way.

Our Norcold maintains temperature, our 3way always needed the flame adjusted to compensate for ambient temp changes.

Our Norcold is louder than the 3 way, but not enough to bother us.

With 2 Group 27 house batteries, we could go 3 days before needing to recharge our batteries, with our 125W Solar panel, we never run out of battery power.

The Norcold does not need to be leveled, we can stop anywhere and go hiking for hours and not kill the refrig.

The Norcold will cool even in hot weather. Our 3-way was at best 40 degrees below ambient.

The Norcold has a real freezer compartment, and it works.

Greg, it looks like we will have to agree to disagree.

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Old 10-11-2009, 08:12 PM   #10
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Re: 3 Way Fridge...Driving with the Propane On?

They do have their glitches but after owning a dozen of these units in everything from motor homes to trailers and two different boats and doing the factory warranty work for 4 different manufactures while with Winnebago , found the heat absorption units to be more proficient in most applications particularly with all units that were four cubic feet or larger .
With regard to failure at the higher ambient temperatures in most cases this is caused by inadequate ventilation and where this occurred a vent fan was usually the easiest remedy . Incidentally the Norcold was the most problematic at that time and was the low end of the different makes available . I am happy with the Norcold that we have now and it would seem that they have improved their design I would also agree with your statement regarding the leveling , you could cook even the high end (A&E and Dometics ) in a couple of hours if not level . I was attempting to address the question posed regarding safety while underway .
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