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Old 01-31-2013, 04:36 PM   #1
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Changing out the Norcold

Ok... we've been researching this whole Norcold issue, and frankly it is scary and to the point that I do not want to head out on the next trip with NORCOLD as a passenger in the rig!

We have the 2002 Winnebago DL Journey 40' DP

We're looking at evicting the Norcold and putting in a residential refrigerator. After making several calls to RV Service shops AROUND the Country... we're wondering if anyone here has done what we want to do?

Currently, we have 4 batteries, we understand we likely need to increase to 6. We have a solar panel but DH isn't all that familiar with it. (Bought the MH in late August, and he got hurt shortly after so at present facing surgery and cannot climb up on the roof)

We don't know for sure what came factory with the
MH or what the previous two owners may have added. We know what they took out!

Does anyone here have some ideas that would help us determine what the best outcome for us might be?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions, recommendations or referrals you may have.
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Old 01-31-2013, 04:55 PM   #2
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How serious are you to "Boondock"? If you don't do much, you won't need any additional batteries. Many RV'ers have installed residential refers, w/o adding additional batteries and are managing fine. Some worry about keeping food cold while traveling. They just need to realize that a refer not hooked up to any power, will last a long time. My refer stayed cold over a 24 hour period, while it was in the shop, for other problems.If necessary, the generator (if they have one) can be operated to keep the refer going, along witht he A/C. I am very satisfied with my residential and have not added batteries or increased the inverter size.
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Old 01-31-2013, 05:08 PM   #3
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We boon docked for a couple of weeks on the first trip to Oregon. Of Course, we used propane and the generator. Most of the time, when we travel we tend to boon dock for like a week and then we go find an RV park and spend a night or two to do our shopping, laundry and give the MH a good cleaning, then it's back to the boonies. When we are driving one family member to another, we will often pull over at a truck stop to sleep, or a casino, Wal-Mart, rest area .. it all depends where we are, how tired we are... the weather.... we try to stop depending on our location about 3 to 4 in the afternoon. We like campgrounds, we just prefer not to deal with the hassles nightly.
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Old 01-31-2013, 05:45 PM   #4
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Colorado Kay, You didn't say what model Norcold you have. I'm assuming it is a Norcold 1200 like most of us Journey owners started out with. While there are many others who will recommend the residential type refrigerator, if you tend to boondock alot and don't like running the generator alot, may I suggest having an amish cooling unit installed on your Norcold. I installed the Amish unit a couple of years ago and am quite happy with it. I'm sure there are many RV shops near you who could do the work and it may be a good alternative to the residential swap. Here is a video I made while doing my Amish Cooling Unit Conversion.

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Old 01-31-2013, 06:39 PM   #5
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We have same coach in the 36' length. We swapped the Norcold for a residential. We got a 18.2 cu ft Frigidaire stainless from Lowes for less than $700 and shipping to either your home or to a shop who is doing the swap is free. We considered the Amish cooling unit but we'd still have an absorption fridge and they have never impressed me. We don't boondock much except an occasional overnite in a Walmart lot. We have three 12 volt batteries and a 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter and we've not had any issues. We do have auto gen start so the generator will automatically start up if the house batteries fall to a certain level.

We did pay a local RV repair/remodel shop to do the swap since I have a bad back and DW did not want me doing the work. They did an outstanding job as you can see:


The old Norcold 4 door fridge will go out your entry door if you remove the fridge doors, the passenger seat and the grab handles on your dash and the long grab handle near your entry door. The Frigidaire also came thru the entry door with its doors removed. This fridge (and others of the same or similar dimension) fits in the existing Norcold opening with minor mods. The shop had to install a new, stronger plywood floor in the space to support the residential fridge. They were able to make a bit lower than the existing floor since this fridge was about 1 1/2 inches taller than the Norcold. This fridge was not as wide as the Norcold so they added new matching wood trim to close the gap. It looks like it was installed at the factory.

DW loves the residential. Cools great, keeps ice cream hard, and has plenty of room. Wish we had done this sooner.
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:32 PM   #6
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If you are looking for someone to do the work this place has a lot of satisfied Tiffin owners. The reviews do not mention replacing the Norcold but quite a few Tiffin owners have had him replace theirs.


RV Service Reviews
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:40 PM   #7
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Colorado Kay,

We replaced our Norcold 1200 cooling unit with an Amish cooling unit. We researched the residential vs Amish unit at great length, and for our coach, the amount of modifications just wasn't worth it. My wife and I did the conversion to the Amish unit, and we're not spring chickens. The job wasn't that difficult, and the Amish unit eliminates the potential problems with the Norcold unit. We find it to be more efficient, and couldn't be happier with our choice. Just something for you to consider.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:05 PM   #8
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smlranger, I really like how nice and sanitary your refrigerator swap turned out. Had I to do it all over again, I would probably go with the residential refrigerator as I don't do that much boondocking anymore. How close to the ceiling is the door of the fridge when you open it?

Anyhow, for now the Amish/ Norcold works fine and I hate the thought of having to pull it again as I too am getting older and out of shape for heavy duty work.

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Old 01-31-2013, 09:28 PM   #9
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SMLRANGER Thank you for sharing, and thank you to all the rest of you for your suggestions as well.

We do more boon docking I would have to say because when we stop for a week or two at a family member’s home – we choose to sleep in our own space. We do have shore power at most of the family member’s home while we are there so that is not a problem. Some we do not, so we rely on our own resources. In fact last September while patiently waiting for the first granddaughter to arrive, I parked that RV across the street from my daughter’s place in the Fred Myer’s parking lot… with their permission of course and they were wonderful. Again, we relied on our own sources… generator!

I used to stay in RV parks years ago and honestly… now days it seems to be more of a hassle than anything for us. We’re pretty darn quiet, but we have been burned 8 times in the last couple of years while traveling in the old pace arrow we had, by people pulling in and being truly 3 feet from us and we can Jay Leno, Dave and then the bang bang shoot em up shows while we would like to sleep so we can continue to our destination in the morning. Or, they have the little purse dogs who make sure everyone know a leaf just hit the roof of their coach… RV parks are not my favorite place anymore. I would rather be self sufficient and park elsewhere where we can have peace and quiet, a good night’s sleep.

That said… our 1200 Norcold the service shop claims the seals are bad on the door because it would cool, then seem to warm up. Ice would flood the bottom of the freezer… they have did the recall. But they also claim the door seals are not made anymore and we would have to replace the doors. $1400.00 plus $640 to install so the total would be $2040 PLUS tax and shipping.

I had them get me a estimate for the Amish unit. Parts $1665.00 Labor to install $1300 plus tax and about $250 shipping.

Nearest I can figure… the Norcold would cost us roughly $ 5455.00 plus the sales tax. I would still have the Norcold death trap and the stress…

I found a company in Denver that has RV Solar and for about $4400.00 I could get a 675 Watt RV Solar Full-Timer Plus installed, and as SLMRANGER points out a new stainless steel refrigerator for about $700, I was thinking about $1000.

Basically, about $5455.00 versus about $5400.00 and in the end we would have a pretty good solar system I think… and no stress of the Fire Bomb waiting to go off with the Norcold…
I think I am going to go with the Solar System and New Residential Refrigerator. My DH isn’t much help at the moment with his shoulder injury… so it’s not like he can do anything in terms of doing the work himself as he’s used to doing.

The way I am thinking, and yes… I am probably thinking crazy here… but if I go the Solar
route, it will likely be much better when we pull off and park overnight at the good old Wal-Mart, Truck Stops, Rest Areas, BLM, or even Fred Myer’s unless I get daughter to MOVE!!!!

Oh and one more thing... when the service shop did the recall work... I asked them if the wood was scorched or any other evidence of too hot or fire, they said no... So when the NORCOLD comes out I will be there to inspect... I hope they were not lying... and IF they were... they have learned by now that I am really good at broadcasting!
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Old 02-01-2013, 12:22 AM   #10
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My good friend John Canfield replaced his Norcold last Spring when it just couldn't keep up with the heat wave in the southeast. He has documented the replacement process on his website here.

It's been working well for him and he decided to add solar so he could do more/longer boondocking.

Good luck,
Bill
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Old 02-01-2013, 07:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammie View Post
smlranger, I really like how nice and sanitary your refrigerator swap turned out. Had I to do it all over again, I would probably go with the residential refrigerator as I don't do that much boondocking anymore. How close to the ceiling is the door of the fridge when you open it?

Sammie
Sammie, no closer than the upper doors on the Norcold. The camera angle of that photo gives the impression that the freezer door is really close to the ceiling and it really is not.
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Old 02-01-2013, 08:06 AM   #12
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Colorado Kay:

I think your plan is solid. Our residential fridge normally draws only 400 watts so a 675 watt solar system will run it fine, along with your inverter and some judicicous use of your genset.

As Duner noted, John Canfield has a great blog with pics of installing the same fridge I have in his Horizon. In fact, his work was the stimulus for us replacing our Norcold and going with the Frigidaire.

You will need to factor in the cost of the fridge swap. Depending on who you use (helpful friends or a shop who has experience with this type of work), we paid $2,000. That was for all the labor and materials and they really did a professional job which included the custom trim work.

The solar system sounds nice but you may want to consider trying an auto gen start system before you spend that kind of money. You can add the Onan EC30W wireless AGS for about $500. It is simple to install, a DIY thing that takes about 30 minutes. The gizmo will monitor your battery voltage and automatically start the genset whenever they drop to a preset level. The genset will shut off when the batteries are fully charged. When we are in the bed at night, we don't really even hear the generator running if it starts. And, since it sounds like your boondocking is in places where a running generator will not bother anyone, that is certainly a less expensive option.

The AGS will also start your genset if power is lost to your coach (when you are plugged into shore power) if you want it to. We have 2 pups and we don't want to roast them while we may be off sightseeing on a hot day. If shore power is lost and the AC is running, the AGS starts the generator if the temp in the coach rises about a level we set. In fact, that was the main reason we added the EC30W.
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Old 02-01-2013, 10:11 PM   #13
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UPDATE:

Well, after an ALL day of being spun around ... I look back and think..geez it's Friday... note to self *Never call for info on Fridays.*


So here goes...

I get the nice folks at Winnebago on the phone. I had prepared a list of questions ahead of time to ask...

I wanted to know what our Coach left the factory wearing... I did learn all that... also learned the #1 owner removed the satellite system

The *co-invertor* is 55AMPS and located under the Fire Bomb Norcold.

I spent about 30 minutes talking with the Factory dude... nice guy, very helpful on most everything. He gave me the number to Winnebago Parts and Service place right next door and told me I could call them and order stuff from them but Winnebago does not sell parts and such direct to consumers... I'm guessing but I think the "Mobility RV" business is somehow part of Winnebago.

I got the weight stuff down pat now... no more than 36,850 that includes all the peoples, cargo and any tow vehicle I want to take. THE DOG might need to be farmed out! ahhhhh I might be able to rid the sinus problem for a few months, then as I forgot what it feels like not to have a headache since we came home in later October.

My next question was if I could tow my 2006 Chevy Suburban 4WD.

Now I have called 3 Chevy dealers in 3 different states. I went to the RV Service center and asked them.

RV Service Center states I need to spend about $5500 to set it all up so that I can tow the suburban.

1 Dealer said they don't know.
1 Dealer said You can't tow a 2006 Suburban that is 4WD
1 Dealer said (where I bought it from) told me I should have no problem towing it with all wheels on the ground all I have to do is put the 4WD in neutral hook up the hitch and hit the road.

Something tells me all of the above is mixed up or something is missing.... the grandpa is no longer around to help me weed out the real thing.

So, can anyone here tell me if I have to spend $5500 to rig up the RV and the Suburban to tow the suburban on all four wheels?

I really would much rather have my suburban on this next 10K mile journey than a little go cart.

As for the refrigerator issue... I am going Residential and getting solar system. Anyone want a target practice box, comes complete with 4 doors and I promise it will be clean... you can have it for FREE!

Any assistance would help... I really want the suburban with it hauls the kiddo's wheelchair so nicely.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:20 AM   #14
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Does Chevrolet have a customer service number? If so, I would call them and inquire about the towability of the Suburban since they should be the best source of info. Motorhome magazine publishes an annual guide listing every manufacturer's vehicles and which can be towed. They are owned by the RV.net folks so you might want to check RV.net and see if they still have the guide for 2006 available in an archive. Another option is to post a question in the Towing and Tow Vehicles forum on IRV2 to see if anyone else is towing a '06 Suburban.

Assuming the Suburban can be towed 4 wheels down without any modifications to the vehicle, a base plate for the toad, a tow bar for your coach, supplemental braking system, wiring for the lights could likely cost nearly $5K if you have it done. The labor costs will be high since you have to remove much of the front trim (bumper, grill, etc) from the toad to install the base plate. I've installed this stuff on 4 vehicles since we started motorhoming and it is labor intensive. Part of the cost you have been quoted may be for some modifications to the Surburan's drive train to allow you to tow it.....Demco makes devices that can disconnect the drive train and/or provide lubrication to the transmission during towing.

I would just make sure to try and find a good, reputable shop that you trust to do the work for you. That can be hard these days but you may want to check with RV Service Reviews to see if there are reviews on shops in your area.
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