Used Autofridge - what to look for

Submitted: Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:09
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I'm looking at a used 39L Autofridge. It's between 8 & 10 years old and is "used but not abused". I rang Quirks and they suggested that I should check it after it's been run for 24hrs - if it's cold then probably fine. A rebuild is around $600 if it fails.

Is this too old? Anything else to look out for? What's it worth?

I know I can get a much newer Waeco etc for probably the same price but the Autofridge suits our style of camping (great insultation/switch it off during the day).


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Reply By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:17

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:17
...don't you mean "switch it off during the night"????

Not even a eutectic fridge is going to stay cold during the heat of the day without being on.....

I'd buy it. I really like the AutoFridge. Considering that they are about $1,700 new, I probably wouldn't want to offer any more than $450 or so for a 10 year old one. That way if you need to spend $600 on fixing it, then it's about the same price as an Engel - and as good as new.
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Follow Up By: AdrianLR - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:41

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:41

Quirks recommend running it for 2hrs in the morning and 3hrs at night after it has been pre-chilled, when in eutectic mode. Does it work out like this in real life (assuming the day temps are no more than 30c) or do you need to run it more like a normal fridge?
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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:53

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:53

Maybe it's the 30 degree ambient temperature supposition. I've only ever had one in use in hot (40 degrees plus) weather, and I'll say that it needed to be run for about 4 hours during the day (and kept under cover out of the sunlight) and for at least the same at night. Sometimes we got away without running it at night at all.... if we didn't open it.

Maybe more temperate weather would mean far less running time. Never had one at these times.... as our fridge is now an EvaKool.
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Reply By: Peter 2 - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:35

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 20:35
I've had an Autofridge since they started making them, I usually get a new one every 5 yrs or so and pass the old one on. They are all still going strong.
I'd echo the comments made previously that Quirks advise and the price range.
And yes that is correct I usually only run ours 2 hours early in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, the rest of the time it is turned off and has no problem holding temps down during the day.
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Follow Up By: fozzy - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 07:27

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 07:27
with autofridge you need to run for i think 4-8hrs before you use fridge so it cools down liquid and think freezes it and from memory that test you refer to all fridges were started at same time etc which didnt allow for way autofridge was designed to operate thus during testing time was running at max power consumption.thus if autofridge run as per instructions(who reads them anyway) think you would find current draw much less for the test

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Reply By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 21:32

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 21:32
I simply do not understand this turn it off or turn it down at night theory.

All compressor fridges are thermostatically controlled and turn on and off as necessary to hold a given temp. They simply run less at a lower ambient temp.

Does anyone turn their household fridge down at night and up again in the morning? No? Why? Because the thermostat looks after holding a constant temp.

Let it do its job is my counsel. Having fitted a thermometer to my fridge and trying to second guess what the fridge is doing has proved to me that the fridge will do a better job than me.

I once tried turning it down at night only to find it was at 6C in the morning. Haven't done it since. My observations monitoring the battery are that it uses bugger all overnight when it is cool. After turning it off you then start the day with a warm fridge that you have to get cold again and use the power you have "saved" overnight.


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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 21:53

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 21:53

This is the difference with an's eutectic.

The cavity between the inner and outer skins is filled with a fluid. The whole idea is to get the compressor and associated bits to chill this liquid - not the air inside the fridge cavity itself. By making the fluid cold, the whole cabinet keeps the cavity temp down..... and it takes a long time for this liquid to warm. Hence, if you really chill it down in the afternoon, most times the latent temperature of the liquid itself will keep the whole shebang cold overnight - and doesn't need the compressor to run any where near as often...if at all.

Very cool... but very expensive.
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Follow Up By: AdrianLR - Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 22:09

Monday, Feb 07, 2005 at 22:09

To add to what Chrispy wrote, the eutectic is effectively a "store of "cold"". Unlike insulation in a normal fridge which keeps the heat out, the eutectic "actively" cools. The idea being that when you have power you remove heat energy from the eutectic & food/beer and then when you don't it removes the energy from the food/beer by melting.

So, you're quite right - you wouldn't use a normal fridge like this but an Autofridge isn't a normal fridge (just look at the price!) However, if it lives up to its reputation it will be cheaper for us in the long run as we'll get away without having to set up a dual battery system in the Disco and use the largish SLA in the camper, battery pack and running while driving (BTW your setup sound ideal if we went dual).


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Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 03:16

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 03:16
I understand the eutectic theory but it must still need a thermostat to tell it when to start refreezing the fluid again.

As for power draw; in an independent lab test conducted by 4wd Monthly, the Autofridge averaged 2.4 amps per hour which was the third highest of the 9 fridges tested. Engel 1.6, Bushman 1.6, Evakool 1.9, Waeco 2.0 etc, so I would question its ability of efficiency.


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Follow Up By: David Au - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 20:01

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 20:01
AdrianLR after spending six months with an Autofridge which is only a poultry 39litres, compared to my 50litre evaKool, I doubt there was 5.0 amps a day difference between the two. Considering the difference in cubic capacity of 11.0 litres 5.0 amps is zilch. There is no free ride in life in any field, and to cool down all that mass in the eutectic system takes considerable power. To duplicate that eutectic system, I could put large PET bottles in my evaKool and basically achieve the same results.
I very much doubt and would happily challenge Quirks to demonstrate their fridge keeps below 4°C for food safety standards on a 30°C plus day, let alone 40°C. If Quirks were serious about their claims, they would have independent NATA tests on their website. What is more, Quirks have no data whatsoever on their website of any relevance or meaning and certainly no temperature rating information.
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Reply By: Bilbo - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:10

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:10
Having owned and used Autofridge and Engels - I just won't beleive anything "4WD Monthly' says ever again. I mean that.

There is no way an Engel etc, will draw less than an Autofridge. NO WAY - Once you've got the Autofridge and it's competitors chilled down and then put 'em side by side on the same duty - NO WAY

AnswerID: 97207

Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:25

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:25
Bilbo - I tend to agree with you on this one. I can't see their rationale in stating that the AutoFridge uses nearly double what an Engel uses - after using one in the field I would have to completely refute their findings. Once the fridge is in the car and moving (at the start of the trip - if you didn't have it running at home first) it's running off a battery being charged by the alternator - so who cares what it _Affordable_Storage_Drawers.aspx at that stage. Get to your destination and it just sits there not really cycling anywhere near what our Engels - and especially - our EvaKool does. Out of all of them, it's the Danfoss in the EvaKool DT47 that runs its head off all day - and cycles every 5 minutes or so (with 8 on the dial which is needed for it to stay at all cool).

Give me another AutoFridge any day :)
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Follow Up By: Mainey... - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:55

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:55
does Autofridge have a timer or thermostat?

Do you have to be there to actually turn it on, and also off, as required, does this limit your movements somewhat?

if you forget to turn it on in the morning; will all your food be spoilt during the day ??

or conversely
if you forget to turn it off in the morning; will it flatten your battery running all day??
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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 11:01

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 11:01
Straigh of Quirk's site:

The AUTOFRIDGE can be operated in any one of the following ways :-


As a EUTECTIC refrigeration system – the AUTOFRIDGE is run for a total of 5-6 hours per day – split into two separate running periods of 2 hours in the morning and ~3 hours in the afternoon. The AUTOFRIDGE is turned "OFF" in the interim. Average daily power consumption for this mode of operation is ~20Ah/day @ 12V.

As a CYCLIC refrigeration system – the AUTOFRIDGE is set on a refrigeration setting (e.g. '2') on the thermostat and left to cycle 'on' and 'off' throughout the day. Average daily power consumption for this mode of operation is ~24Ah/day @ 12V.

As a CYCLIC freezer – the AUTOFRIDGE is set on one of its sub-zero settings ('5', '6' or '7') on the thermostat – the higher the setting, the colder the AUTOFRIDGE will cycle – and left to cycle 'on' and 'off' throughout the day. Average daily power consumption for this mode of operation is ~40Ah/day @ 12V.
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Follow Up By: Mainey... - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 11:31

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 11:31
Chrispy (nsw)
the figures quoted equate to;

1 a/h (24 ah/d) when left turned on full time to cycle as a normal fridge


4 a/h (20 ah/d) when used as a "you be there to turn it on, and again off" situation

For the sake of only 4 ah/d why would anyone even remotely consider the ‘manual’ system where they actually have to be there to turn it on, and again to turn it off..?

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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 11:36

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 11:36
Prolly not Mainey :)

The one I used - I just kept it going all day and let it cycle... and then turned it off at night. Get up...turn on the fridge.

I do it now using my EvaKool - I've not forgotten yet to turn it back on in the morning.....but I've forgotten a few times to turn it off at night (wonder why.......... red wine.....mmmm) :)
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Follow Up By: AdrianLR - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 19:39

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 19:39
As we want to use it without a full dual battery set up, being able to disconnect it from the car (rather than just turn it off) so we can leave it at camp (chained to a big tree!) whilst we go fo a drive is the attraction.
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Reply By: Rod W - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:33

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 10:33
Bought my 39lt Autofridge in either 94 or 95 which is at least 10yrs old. When not out bush it sits in the shed running 24/7. Nothing has ever gone wrong with it.
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Reply By: David Au - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 15:00

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 15:00
I have worked for the last six months with a guy with an Autofridge.
Thanks, but I will keep my evaKool everyday.
Could never come close to justifying the high price of an Autofridge.

I would very much like to test Quirk's claims and see how the temperature fluctuates. With Quirks theory you could place a bladder at the bottom of any fridge filled with saline solution and save a bundle. Overall I am not impressed with the Autofridge for the price.

Regardless of Quirks claims, compared to the price of equivalent size Waeco, you could buy a 155w solar panel and regulator and still have some change. Autofridge compared to an evaKool you could buy a 80w solar panel and regulator.
AnswerID: 97253

Follow Up By: Rod W - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 15:34

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 15:34
Gota agree the price is hexxy $1700 odd bucks is what I paid for mine 10yrs ago including a seperate transformer. But then I had some money.
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Follow Up By: AdrianLR - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 19:48

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 19:48
New price does seem high and we couldn't afford it. If the secondhand unit comes at the right price (and of course making the assumption that we get a reasonable life out of it before a rebuild) then it suits our needs. A large solar setup would also add more complexity/breakability to the camping experience. We already use a small solar suitcase that keeps up if we only use a couple of fluoros.
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Reply By: Paul from Ozroamer Sunshine Coast - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 21:55

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 21:55
I have used most of the major fridge/freezer models over the years and now only use and recommend Autofridge. We also Hire out both the 39lt and 73lt Autofridge for both short and long term periods.
I would not use anything or recommend anything else. I think you will find that many of the commercial concerns that use fridge/freezes also use Autofridge.
My personal experience and that of our customers speaks for itself.
AnswerID: 97336

Reply By: Bilbo - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 23:26

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 23:26
"Chrispy" has quoted Quirk's figures and my experience with Autofridges says that they reflect practical reality. I worked self employed as prospector in WA for a few years and used to set the Autofridge on 3, and leave it there, letting it cycle on it's thermostat (yes it does have one). On that setting, it maintained frozen food at the bottom of the fridge - frozen. Stuff at the top of the fridge was ice cold but not frozen. This was better than my home 240 volt fridge in similar temps of 15c overnight and up to 38C during the day.

Occasionally, a can of beer or Pepsi would slip to the bottom if the fridge. It would freeze solid in 10 hours - and burst!! It used to crap me off having to empty the fridge and clean it all out. BUT - that's how good it was. All this, on a setting of 3 when the max setting goes up to 7.

If I ever bought fresh meat or dropped a roo for same, I'd turn it down (up?) to max of 7 and it would freeze the fresh meat solid in about 8 hours. BUT - any beer or Pepsi at the TOP of the fridge was frozen - and burst if ya didn't take it out in time.

Autofridge are expensive but when yer working fer a living out there & ya need a serious fridge that's reliable, I wouldn't buy anything else.

I borrowed an Engle once and in spite of two 80 watt solar panels backing up my second battery, I had 3 flat batteries in 8 days when temperatures were around 38C. That never happened with the Autofridge. It uses next to nothing once it's cold. Just follow Quirks instructions and you'll be right.


AnswerID: 97362

Reply By: AdrianLR - Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 23:50

Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005 at 23:50
Thanks everyone for your input. The practical experience & opinions (for and against) are most helpful. I'll go into the negotiation on the weekend far better informed. I'll post the result.

Perhaps we should add "fridge loyalty" to the list of dinner party taboo subjects!

AnswerID: 97368

Reply By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 13:45

Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 13:45
Just buy a normal fridge and get some of those blue flexiable ice packs from coles. I put them around the edges of my waeco cooler and they work a treat. I never knew how an Autofridge worked until this post and then realised that's essetially what I've been doing anyway. LOL
AnswerID: 97451

Follow Up By: AdrianLR - Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 21:18

Wednesday, Feb 09, 2005 at 21:18

The ice packs are acting as a eutectic the first time you put them in and they're frozen. Once they thaw then they aren't and cooling them isn't the same. I vaguely rmember from uni days that the important thing in keeping things cool using something that is frozen is that the something melts. The change from solid to liquid is the critical step in the cold-not cold graph. Different materials have a different "heat of fusion".

The temperature profile of a fridge if it is filled with say, frozen water is that it remains at a constant temperature (close to the frozen temperature of the water) until the water starts to melt. The temperature will then go up.

In the case of the ice packs, they are a mix of water and an acrylamide polymer that turns to gel. The acrylamide reduces the freezing point and allows the eutectic effect to "last longer" BUT the water/acrylamide still melts. If it didn't then you wouldn't get a cooling effect.

To make your suggestion into an Autofridge you would need to take the ice paks out and refreeze then (not just cool them). The Autrofridge design allows this to happen without freezing the contects of the fridge (usually).

You could perhaps make an "ice pak refreezer" using a 20A Peltier thermoelectric element.......

All the best

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Follow Up By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 12:28

Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 12:28
Adrian, you are probally right as the packs stay frozen in the cooler for a couple of days, which is normally all I'm away for so I probally have not noticed the change as they defrost so much...
The peltier idea is a good one. That way you could freeze them with the engine running while charging the deepcycle and pop them back in.

I guess in a worst case scenario would those defrosted bags act as insulation for the fridge? (as I normally have them up against all four walls of the cooler).
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Follow Up By: AdrianLR - Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 20:08

Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 at 20:08

I doubt that they would act as an insulator. Their insulating qualities
would be very similar to a moist food - say steak. As long as they stay
cold ie fridge is running and you don't open it very much then it would be
ok to leave them in as a full fridge keeps its temperature more stable then a half-empty one due to the thermal mass of the food.

A thought occurred to me as I was writing this - I wonder if frozen
cryovaced steaks would act as a good eutectic. If they did, they would be a far more useful "ice pak" than the blue jobbies. The melting point may not be as high as the blue ice but the difference may be marginal and what to do with them after melting is obvious. The melting point could be improved by seasoning them before packing!

As for the bigger peltier, have a look at


at max current (32.8A) on 12V you can get almost 400W out of it with a 70K+ temp differential! Will a second alternator fit in the Surf????


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