Level that RV or Wreck the Refrigerator

It is beyond my comprehension but, somehow, in all my years of RVing I missed out on a crucial piece of information that could have turned into a big hit on my wallet. It may still end up going horribly wrong if I failed to correct the mistake soon enough…only time will tell. I’m talking about the RV refrigerator; that marvel of modern science that works on electricity, propane, and (in the high-priced models) 12V battery. Who knew that you absolutely MUST level out the RV when you park it to avoid wrecking the refrigerator? I didn’t and, as I have discovered, there’s more than a few clueless people out there just like me.

In a recent conversation with a local RV repairman, he told me that refrigerator replacement brings his shop a lot of business. Notice I used the word “replacement.” Apparently, that’s the only fix for a fridge with a cracked boiler resulting from operating it when it’s not level. And, when the boiler’s cracked, the RV refrigerator becomes usable only as a nice cupboard…or an anchor for your next fishing trip.

It’s in my nature to want to know all the whys and wherefores of a thing, so I turned to the Internet to figure out how being out of level would do so much damage. The folks over at RV Coach Online (http://www.rv-coach.com) explain it this way:

“When the refrigerator is operating, water moves around the pipes and flows down the coils on the back into the main storage tank. The pipes on the back all slope down from side to side. When the RV is off-level, one direction of the coil will be flowing up-hill and the water flow will stop. When this happens there is no flow to the boiler section and the water in the boiler pipe boils dry. The rust inhibitor dries up and blocks the boiler tube. If the unit is kept running the boiler pipe will get so hot that it will crack from the gas pressure inside the coils.”

So, the fridge in the RV doesn’t have a compressor that circulates a coolant through the coils like our home refrigerator. Instead, it relies on heat and gravity to move the coolant around and, of course, gravity won’t allow water to flow uphill. By the way, we don’t need to worry about running the fridge while we’re on the road. The swing and sway of the RV in transit keeps that coolant moving in the pipes. But, if we stop somewhere along the way and can’t get level, we need to turn off the refrigerator until we’re ready to start moving again.

Okay, so now we know why the RV fridge has to be level. There’s only one more question to answer…how level does it have to be? If we’re talking perfectly level, I wondered how tough that might be to accomplish in some primitive DNR campground where the ground hasn’t been leveled out or improved since the CCC cleared it out during the Great Depression. Once again, the answer was found at RV Coach Online:

“When parked it should be level in all directions +/- 2 degrees.”

For us non-technical sorts, that’s about a half bubble off plumb. That’s easy to remember. Just think, Charlie Sheen.

Happy camping!