Perplexing problem with Avan fridge running of battery

Submitted: Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 19:14
ThreadID: 97163 Views:6872 Replies:3 FollowUps:13
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If I plug a portable AGM battery into the andersen plug on the Avan drawbar I can run the Electrolux 3 way fridge well on 12 volts - it will freeze in hours from ambient. (Fridge also works well on 240volt but not at all on gas but this is probably a different story)

If I loop back the Avan on board battery to the fridge 12 volt curcuit nothing happens with the fridge despite the 12 volt light switch being on. In fact I'd almost swear the fridge heats up. I am monitoring ambient and fridge temperatures with a Waeco fridge thermometer.

I have checked the voltage on the avan battery (and the AGM battery) and the polarity all of the andersen plugs. I believe the avan battery is fully charged and it certainly runs the on board lights well.

I'm half wondering if voltage drop is the issue. The cable from the drawbar to the on board battery (for car running of the fridge on 12 volts while on the move) is quite heavy. The cable from the drawbar to the battery for car charging of the on board battery while on the move is much lighter. When I do the loop back I just plug the 2 andersen plugs at the drawbar into each other.

Any suggestions appreciated

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Reply By: Ross M - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 19:49

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 19:49
A 3 way fridge is just not suited to use on just a battery, either in van or portable one.
They draw 10 amps or more and will flatten a 100ah AGM battery in just a few hours. After about 4 to 5 hours the battery voltage would be low enough to be unusable for the purpose.

The 12v will barely keep it cold. The 240v will be more effective and the gas will provide the best performance.

If the van battery wiring isn't heavy enough then it will make the 12v heater fairly ineffective. It will still flatten the battery but not provide any cooling to speak of.

Using the fridge on battery 12v can only be for a short time.
AnswerID: 491941

Follow Up By: IanLR - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 20:19

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 20:19

Thank you for your response. I understand that the fridge uses a lot of power (100 watts) and it certainly does flatten the AGM sometime after about 7 hours. My dilemma is that the gas system doesn't work - while it ignites and burns the shielding around the burner is only just uncomfortably hot to touch. I have been told I probably need a new jet and burner which I assume will be expensive and also require the use of a licenced gas fitter to remove the whole fridge for repair. Given the fridge is 10 years old I doubt the cost effectiveness of trying to get the gas working. Given I usually drive each day and also usually stay in caravan parks at powered sites I was counting on using 240 volts for the fridge at night and a combination of the van battery and a portable AGM during the day while the vehicle is stopped, sometimes for several hours. I was also thinking I may be able to manage one night free camping using batteries if I am driving the following day. I do have a Waeco CF50 in the car running of the auxilliary battery and which I understand is much more electrically efficient. I've researched solar to death and just can't see that it is cost effective or practical for my style of travel. I've also considered portable generators but understand they are not good battery chargers, and even the quietest ones are noisy enough to annoy some people and are banned in many places in any case. If the Christie portable battery chargers were not so noisy(74 dB) they would seem to be a good solution in conjunction with an AGM battery (or 2) and an electric compressor fridge.

Anyhow thanks again for your response. It has helped me clarify my thoughts and accept that I was being unrealistic in my expectations ( which I half knew anyway).
FollowupID: 767557

Reply By: oldtrack123 - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 19:59

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 19:59
HI Ian
A 3way should never be operated off a battery it will flatten most very quickly

They should only be connected by 12v when the battery is receiving a good charge current

YOU MAY have an additional problem of the wiring from the tug supply being too light & the fridge not receiving sufficient voltage

They require a minimum of 12v @ THE FRIDGE 12V terminals with BOTH the fridge running & the tug engine running @ fast idle
ANYTHING LESS & the fridge is underpowered & cannot be expected to perform correctly

AnswerID: 491944

Follow Up By: IanLR - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 20:28

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 20:28

Thank you for the response. Your response and an earlier one from Ross M have clarified the issues and my unrealistic expectations. I've seen 60 litre 3 way fridges on Ebay for $600 shipped that seem to be physically identical to the Electrolux in my Avan and am wondering about this as an option. I understand though that installation is critical for absorption friges as insufficient ventilation has a very detrimental effect on their efficiency.

FollowupID: 767559

Reply By: Ross M - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 21:32

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 21:32
You may be able to use a 150w to 300 w inverter running from a good connection to give the 240v some juice while travelling.
Again the 12v side will have to be up to the mark to run it like this. Not through a ciggy plug though. Dedicated small Anderson perhaps.

If you are travelling in the hotter climates then the absrorbtion fridges are limited to cool/freeze only a certain amount under ambient. The compressor fridge like the Waeco will pull down to 40deg or a bit more below ambient, so if changing fridge it may be better to look at those options.
The fridge you have could be taken apart and the gas burner section replaced fairly easily I would imagine. If doing this yourself, take pictures of the setup so a fridge/gas/retail outlet may be able to give you the whole item as a complete unit and it would just connect with one small gas connection.
AnswerID: 491950

Follow Up By: Member - IanLR - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 06:35

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 06:35

Thanks again for the good advice. I was probably a little light on with the detail - I have done extensive aftermarket electrical and other work on my Prado 120 such as auxilliary battery system, UHF radio, reversing camera, poly air bags, driving lights, dedicatd fridge circuit in rear, dedicated heavy duty line with andersen plug for Avan and of course a electronic brake controller. I am well aware of voltage drop on inadequately sized cable and have installed very heavy cables with similiar sized dedicated earth returns. I've done all this work myself and made my share of mistakes. What is new to me is 3 way absorption fridges. I have extensively reasearched solar versus generator versus petrol powered battery chargers (Christie). In fact I think I've over researched it as I am no clearer on the most economic, practical and effective way forward. I also expect my style of travel will change from what I described in my earlier post. The real reason I am dissappointed about the gas fridge not working is that I understand it would have been the most efficient way to run a fridge (with what I have now) when I free camp on the farm while working at the more remote ends. When on the road of farm as I said its more likely to be driving every day and staying at powered sites overnight although I have been impressed with the number and quality of the free road side rest areas on inland NSW roads.

FollowupID: 767584

Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:31

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:31
Hi Ian
There are 3way fridges & there are 3way fridges
To be of any real help the Brand & MODEL number needs to be known.

FollowupID: 767605

Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:35

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:35
Hi Ian

Cannot edit so another post

The model number could suply the answer to your gas problem as well

I asume you cannot get it to run or light
IS the fridge an AES model??

FollowupID: 767606

Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:45

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:45
Hi Ross
Some model Dometics are now rated up to 40C. ambient

Many have the same size element [Watts] for both 12v & 240v
That means they should perform equally on either source IF CORRECTLY WIRED & INSTALLED

Many ARE thermostatically controlled on ALL sources


I would not advise anyone to pull apart ANY gas appliance unless they have a sound knowledge of the safety precautions
Any problems of fire or human gassing would have serious consequences from insurance & THE LAW
Such work SHALL only be carried out by a licensed gas fitter

FollowupID: 767608

Follow Up By: Member - IanLR - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 18:25

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 18:25

The fridge is an Electrolux Rm4211 60 litre 5 litre freezer.

Avan is 10 years old and I assume the fridge is the same.

The fridge ignites OK and the the shielding around the burner gets nearly too hot to touch. I understand this means it is way too cold to be effective. I have replaced the gas regulator and know there is good gas supply. The gas stove works well also.

I can remove the top and bottom vents from the outside of the van to see the back of the fridge. Even if I wanted to I can see how I could do anything by way of dismantling without actually pulling the fridge forward out of its enclosure. I understand that doing some becomes licenced gas fitter territory.

I would be loathe to pull it out myself as there appears to be a lot of insulation around the fridge which I bet would not go back properly.

Also to note the fridge works very well on 240 volts and from the car or portable 12 volt AGM battery. It literally freezes within hours.

When I light the gas I swear the fridge temperature goes up.

FollowupID: 767634

Follow Up By: mynance - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 22:18

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 22:18
Hi Ian

I also have an Avan Cruiseliner with gas 3 way, mine was not getting cold and was blowing out while travelling.
I had had the regulator replaced under warranty some time before and it had never worked very well since then.
A few weeks ago I took it to Barrens refrigeration in Bundaberg and in the rain he cleaned the jet and boosted the regulator pressure and tested with a manometer and fridge has run perfectly ever since; total cost $60.00.

FollowupID: 767653

Follow Up By: Member - IanLR - Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 06:40

Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 06:40

Thanks - you have revived my hope that this thing might work again. I'll try my luck in Toowoomba. Does anybody have a recommendation for Toowoomba?
FollowupID: 767656

Follow Up By: LeighW - Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 12:29

Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 12:29
If the fridge runs alright on 240 then it should also run ok on 12V and gas.

The burner will get hot but not excessively so, the only way to rectify the problem
though will be to remove the fridge and get someone to check it out.

It should also run ok on 12V from the car if it works from a portable battery
assuming the car trailer socket and or Anderson plug has been correctly
wired on the vehicle with suitable cable.

I run both a waeco compressor fridge in my Prado and a three way in the campa
with no problems though I do have a dual battery system and a movement switch on the 3 way to turn of the 12V when the car stops moving.



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FollowupID: 767669

Follow Up By: Member - IanLR - Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 16:47

Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 16:47

Thanks for the response. Yes it runs well on 240 and 12 volts. It also runs from the car via an andersen plug and very heavy cabling. I'm doing atest at the moment with the gas but this time I got the fridge down to minus 0.3 on 240 before turning the gas on. I also put a brand new gas bottle on and also have removed the gas fuse from the gas bottle. This fuse is one of those after market devices that cuts the gas flow if a sudden leak or worse downstream happens. It was bought for the BBQ and just ended up on the avan. Anyhow the gas stove seemed to light faster and burn hotter and the fridge also ignoited much faster
FollowupID: 767681

Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 22:45

Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 at 22:45
Ok with model number we know that:
Element rating on 240v is 110Watts element rating on12V is 105Watts
So fridge should work just as well on 12v as on240v ,IF IT IS CORRECTLY WIRED and receiving a minimum of 12V AT THE FRIDGE 12V TERMINAL BLOCK while switched to 12v & with the engine running @ fast idle
The fridge is thermostat controlled on 240v & gas
It is not thermostat controlled on 12V

For the gas you need to see the actual flame

The outer edge should be just reaching the tube [as a rough guide]
It should also be burning steady with a bluish tinge ,definitely not smokey or yellow
IF the gas flame is too large it can overheat the boiler& make cooling worse especially if the condenser gets very hot
This can lead to permanent damage to the system

If the flame is too small you may have a partially blocked jet , low gas pressure or a clogged line . since the same thermostat is used for both 240v & gas ,it is unlikely to be the problem

FollowupID: 767690

Follow Up By: Member - IanLR - Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 08:24

Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 at 08:24

Once again thank you for your response. As stated before the fridge works very well on 240 and 12 volt from either the car or a portable battery.

My latest test with gas as per my response to Leigh above was not successful.

I cannot see the flame because of the shielding and being restricted as well to only having access via the external ventilation grilles.

I willnow take the van to a gas fridge repair shop in Toowoomba as I think I have exhausted all my self help options.

Thankyou again to all the memebers of this forum who have been so helpful.
FollowupID: 767702

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