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Author Topic: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?  (Read 12811 times)

Old Blevins

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How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« on: June 16, 2017, 02:46:44 AM »
When I stop to fuel up my truck, if the trailer is on a slope I don't worry about the fridge.  If I stop at a restaurant for lunch and it's not level, I turn it off. Anyone know how long it's safe to leave the fridge running on a slope? Or does that depend on how much out-of-level it is?
Jim
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2017, 08:15:00 AM »
The only safe answer is "zero".  Once the angle becomes critical, the boiler temperature skyrockets and the damage begins. Paul Unmack showed this to me with his demonstration unit.  It can be tilted some with no effect at all, but once the slope is enough the coolant no longer returns to the boiler and the temperature shoots up within  2-3 minutes. Since the normal operating temp is around 350 F., it doesn't take long to reach extreme levels. Depending on what way it is tilted, the critical angle can be anywhere from around 3 degrees to as much as 6.

Two kinds of damage occur:

1. The sodium chromate anti-corrosion chemical in the coolant crystallizes, with two effects:
 1a. Loss of anti-corrosion capability, leading to long term damage by the ammonia inside
 1b. The crystals can clog up the tubing and reduce or stopo circulation
2. High heat stresses the tubing and particularly the critical weld joints where the tubes join the boiler. eventually they crack

These are all long term failures from accumulated damage, so the fridge isn't going to quit immediately. It's more a "death of 1000 cuts". A few episodes of high heat are probably not going to have noticeable effect, but repeated heat damage will surely be fatal in the long run.
Gary
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Hammster

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2017, 08:46:17 AM »
Shouldn't the fridge be shut off when tooling down the road anyway?

keith c

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2017, 09:23:13 AM »
Gary,
I was told that it was safe to have the fridge on why towing.  But, based on your post, it seems that the fridge should be off, especially when driving through hilly/mountainous terrain.
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Arch Hoagland

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2017, 10:45:56 AM »
My refrigerators in all my RV's were on 24/7 for the past 30 years while traveling .   Never had a problem. 

Just went over the Siskiyou mountains in Oregon yesterday.  Believe me the refrigerator wasn't anywhere level for two hours straight!

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The Travelers

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2017, 10:48:36 AM »
We just purchased a 19 Puma TT and planning to take out for the first time this weekend. We are definitely newbies!   We live in WV and will be traveling through the mountains. Am I reading this correctly that our frig should NOT be on while we are traveling to our destination due to the extensive mountains we will be going through?  We have been reading and reading but still finding things we do not know about.  The walk through was a joke. Every question we asked he said ask someone else. Very disappointed. I am going to download the app and hopefully that will help answer some questions for us.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2017, 11:05:36 AM »
Quote
I was told that it was safe to have the fridge on why towing.  But, based on your post, it seems that the fridge should be off, especially when driving through hilly/mountainous terrain.

The key is "while towing", i.e. actually moving. The angles continually change and the constant motion causes the coolant to move around. That is mostly quite safe, the possible exception being a multi-mile long grade in heavy traffic, where the angle is sustained for awhile.  Old Blevins asked about stops, e.g. fuel and lunch.   That's where the temperature problems can occur, and quickly too. In my opinion, neither Norcold nor Dometic provide adequate warning about the what can and does happen during even brief stops.  That gray area between actually towing and getting set up on the campsite.

I helped Paul Unmack field test his ARP boiler monitor by driving from Maine to Florida with a special temperature recording version of the ARP on my coach. Each day I reviewed the time & temperature log and correlated to my route & drive-time.  It was quite easy to pick out stops, even those as brief as a a traffic tie-up in a small town and the wait to check into a campground.  I saw temp rises in the 40+ degree range in just a few minutes, but nothing that caused the ARP to shut down. However, on a later trip my ARP monitor did shut the fridge off while we checked in at a campground on a mountainside. The coach was tilted upward to the front and curb side and the ARP detected an overheat within just a few minutes. It took about 25 minutes for the boiler to cool down to the safe operating range again. That's down to 350 degrees F., so I'll let you guess how hot it was!

The great thing about the ARP is that it not only shuts down to protect the fridge, it also restarts the fridge when it is safe to do so. The beer stays cold AND the fridge is protected. If this sounds like an ARP commercial, I apologize, but in my opinion it does the job right, something neither Norcold nor Dometic bothered to do.

https://www.arprv.com/
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 11:11:08 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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keith c

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2017, 11:29:31 AM »
Thanks Gary.  I did go to the ARP website and read the info.  I think I will be installing the 2.0 version.  I have no idea if my Norcold has a fan.
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mel s

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2017, 11:54:02 AM »
When I stop to fuel up my truck, if the trailer is on a slope I don't worry about the fridge.  If I stop at a restaurant for lunch and it's not level, I turn it off. Anyone know how long it's safe to leave the fridge running on a slope? Or does that depend on how much out-of-level it is?

Old Blevins
The now 21 year ol Norcold 682 refrigerator in my now 149k mile Safari coach has never been run out of level for longer than 5 minuets...(IMO it's NEVER "safe" to leave the fridge running when the RV is "parked" with the fridge "out of level").

BTW regardless of the terrain, (whether flat/level or hilly/mountainous)... when traveling we always run the absorption refidgerator on LP...(apparently the constant movement of the RV prevents damage to the cooling unit).
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 12:15:30 PM by mel s »

meternerd

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2017, 01:36:57 PM »
Being the paranoid type I am, I never leave the fridge on when moving.  I find that the stuff stays cold and frozen from stop to stop and it saves propane because we usually stop at parks that have AC.  Seldom run it on propane.

Derby6

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2017, 06:12:44 PM »
Or does that depend on how much out-of-level it is?

If I dare, I think the answer lies in the above with some common sense.
  If you are stopped or parked in most parking lots they will likely not be perfectly level.  But in most cases it is very close to level and not hurting anything if you are there for a few minutes or even hours IMO.
  On the same token if the parking place is VERY unlevel, then I would say turn the fridge off.
  Common sense will define close to level and VERY unlevel.... ;D
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Lou Schneider

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2017, 06:37:00 PM »
And don't forget to shut off the refrigerator while you're fueling.  Your rig may be taking on diesel, but usually there's gas pumps with their volatile fumes all around you.

BruceinFL

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2017, 08:14:36 PM »
What Gary said. Get the ARP and don't worry about it.
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grashley

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2017, 08:38:59 PM »
Safe when traveling because the normal bouncing keeps things circulating.
Safe when stopped and comfortably level.
NOT SAFE near fuel pumps!
NOT SAFE stopped / parked out of level.

With ARP, see # 3.
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mel s

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2017, 07:57:20 AM »
Being the paranoid type I am, I never leave the fridge on when moving.  I find that the stuff stays cold and frozen from stop to stop and it saves propane because we usually stop at parks that have AC.  Seldom run it on propane.

meternerd
How much propane do you think that saves?

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2017, 09:03:29 AM »
Common sense is, or should be, the answer but too many RVers are simply not very aware of the level angles.  When you pull into the RV office parking area, are you checking for level or are you focused on the impending transaction in the campground office?  And how good are you at judging the difference between 3 degrees vs 6 degrees?

If an RV fridge burst into flames when off-level for 5 minutes, most everybody would remain very aware and be cautious. Instead, we have a situation where damage is slow and accumulative. You can do wrong a dozen times and seem to get away with it, but than comes the day when the fridge quits cooling and you cry and moan about what a piece of crap it is.  >:(
Gary
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regval

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2017, 11:28:34 AM »
Common sense is, or should be, the answer but too many RVers are simply not very aware of the level angles.  When you pull into the RV office parking area, are you checking for level or are you focused on the impending transaction in the campground office?  And how good are you at judging the difference between 3 degrees vs 6 degrees?

If an RV fridge burst into flames when off-level for 5 minutes, most everybody would remain very aware and be cautious. Instead, we have a situation where damage is slow and accumulative. You can do wrong a dozen times and seem to get away with it, but than comes the day when the fridge quits cooling and you cry and moan about what a piece of crap it is.  >:(
:))

Great advice and information Gary. As Einstein once said "Common sense is not so common."
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merlinmurph

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2017, 08:42:40 PM »
Thanks for the info, folks. This relative newbie learned something here.
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John From Detroit

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2017, 07:30:18 AM »
The answer is actually complex and there is no single answer..
For one thing, I sit "Side to side" Tilt, or "Front to Rear" both have differnet answers

1 Degree, 2,3,4,5,6,78,9,10  All different answers.

Now if the rear of the RV is lower than the front for the fridge that is side to side.

I spent 2 months with the rear a good six-12 inches lower than the front, about 25 feet between rear and front wheels. It is still working.

One guideline is this "Are you comfortable sleeping" I was,, but walking around was not as easy as I'd hafe liked.

Once we got the engine back in and the front axle back on.. I leveled it off and was more comfortable walking.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2017, 08:08:39 AM »
It's even worse than John describes. If the fridge is tilted so that the boiler-side is low, the coolant flows toward the boiler and it actually performs as well or better than level. But if the boiler is higher than the return side lines, the coolant has to flow uphill to return to it and efficiency begins to drop with even a single degree of tilt. At 3 degrees on that side, flow essentially stops. Boiler temps skyrocket and all cooling stops. Tilting the fridge (not the RV) to the front or rear has very little effect one way or the other, which is why the fridge makers allow up to 6 degrees of tilt in that direction.

So, how many of you know which side of your fridge has the boiler? LOL!  I'll give you a clue.  Most (but not all) of them have the boiler on the left side as you face the fridge from inside the RV  If the fridge cannot be level, you probably want that side to be the low one. Some Dometics have the boiler close to center, but the return line still slants downward to the left side and the effect is similar, though not as angle-sensitive. Norcolds place the boiler at the far side, making them more sensitive.  It's too complex for the average RVer to worry about, so rules of thumb prevail.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 08:11:15 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
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Gods Country

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #20 on: June 18, 2017, 08:47:18 AM »
Assuming front to back tilt is the primary concern @23' and 6 degrees the rise or drop is 29".  Even @ 3 degrees it's 14.5"  That's pretty substantial.


  For anyone concerned you could simply calculate as appropriate to your trailer/RV and transfer that to anything visual.  I suspect a level bubble would far out of range before hitting that mark.

1 foot is .630" @ 3 degrees for reference.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #21 on: June 18, 2017, 11:47:11 AM »
Right, but the human eye is notoriously poor at estimating angles and height differences. It is easily fooled by perspective, lighting, etc.  And if you are not looking at it from a suitable distance and angle, you simply may not see what might otherwise be an obvious difference.

People also vary a lot in the feel of "level". Probably an inner ear thing.  My wife can easily detect a slight difference as she walks around, inside whereas I need about a half-bubble to become aware by feel alone. 
Gary
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mel s

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #22 on: June 18, 2017, 12:02:52 PM »
I can't understand WHY anyone would NOT level their RV... so that their running refrigerator is "dead level" when parked.

UTTransplant

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #23 on: June 18, 2017, 02:25:59 PM »
Mel, maybe you have a Class A with autolevelers and use them each time you stop for lunch. I have a travel trailer that I use Anderson levelers with. As the OP originally asked, when do we need to be worried when fueling on a slope or stopping for lunch? I don't level when making a stop of an hour or so (lunch, a museum, rest stop), but I will be more cautious about turning the refrigerator off when I am noticeably off level (I am more like Gary's wife and I can tell!).

Thanks for the discussion folks.
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meternerd

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2017, 02:46:00 PM »
meternerd
How much propane do you think that saves?

Well...maybe I didn't make it clear...if it's not turned on to propane or electric, level means nothing.  Park anywhere you want.  It's not really about saving propane, though it does save a little bit.  It's more about leaving the propane tanks turned on while traveling and nobody in the trailer.  I don't think it's necessary.  I honestly seldom use propane anyway.  I don't dry camp much, and the park usually has 50A to run fridge, water heater, etc.  I may turn it on to cook on the stove, but my wifey prefers the toaster oven or the convection/microwave.  Grill stuff outside on the portable grill.  In cold weather we use small portable electric space heaters.  Also have a fireplace with heat.  Why use propane when you're paying for the electric hookup anyway?  Just me.  Why run the fridge when traveling short distances if it stays cold anyway?  Just seems simple and maybe even safer.  A propane leak alarm isn't much good if you're not back there to hear it.  I had a work friend who got a pretty nasty injury when his leaking propane tank in his work truck (stored behind the seat) wasn't shut off tight and the fumes drifted along the floor and ignited when he got in and started the truck after a job. I guess whatever paddles your canoe, though. 

Lou Schneider

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #25 on: June 18, 2017, 02:47:39 PM »
As the OP originally asked, when do we need to be worried when fueling on a slope ...

That shouldn't be a problem, you turned off the fridge before you started fueling, right?   ;)

Doesn't matter how off-level the refrigerator is when it's turned off.

Old Blevins

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #26 on: June 18, 2017, 03:53:15 PM »
Thanks, all.  If I could judge angles, I could putt - but I can't.  I think I need to look into the ARP.
Gary, thanks both for the detailed info and the link.
Jim
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camperAL

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #27 on: June 18, 2017, 04:30:18 PM »
Hi All,

This is something I worry about, but I am usually fairly level (using a level). With that said, maybe the way to go about leveling, is to check the refrig itself for level. After checking, then see if the floor seems level or not. I  have been level long ways before and off a bit side to side. So wondering what the effect is there?

Most of us have a little money tied up in our units. Jumping out a window before the unit is totally in flames isn't my idea of an enjoyable trip. Paying attention to level, LP, CO or exhaust is an important part of our travels. Great thread!!
CamperAL (Indiana)
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Gods Country

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #28 on: June 18, 2017, 05:19:28 PM »
Right, but the human eye is notoriously poor at estimating angles and height differences. It is easily fooled by perspective, lighting, etc.  And if you are not looking at it from a suitable distance and angle, you simply may not see what might otherwise be an obvious difference.

People also vary a lot in the feel of "level". Probably an inner ear thing.  My wife can easily detect a slight difference as she walks around, inside whereas I need about a half-bubble to become aware by feel alone.

I agree on all points, but I think if someone were to calculate the drop based on the info I provided and set their rig to those extremes they would have a pretty good visual for future reference.   When I get a chance I'm going to try it myself.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: How Long Is Safe to Leave Fridge Out of Level?
« Reply #29 on: June 19, 2017, 10:43:38 AM »
Quote
Why run the fridge when traveling short distances if it stays cold anyway?

Each of us may have different needs.  It's not always a short distance, or at least not a short time. Not everyone travels to an electric hook-up site each night. And some of us open the fridge at times during the travel day, maybe at a lunch stop or just to get a drink. Opening the door just once can cause major warming.
Gary
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Gary Brinck
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Home: Ocala National Forest, FL