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Old 07-19-2023, 03:31 PM   #1
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Refrigerator cooling unit replacement or DC unit?

Hey folks, just looking for a sanity check. 2004 Journey 36G. We've been nursing our Norcold 1200 along for a couple of years, knowing it was failing. It has finally given up the ghost. Logic board checks good, but it is not cooling. I'm debating doing the cooling unit replacement with the DC compressor unit versus the standard cooling unit--both from JC.



I'm concerned that our battery capacity (3 X 100ah AGM) will not be able to keep up with the DC unit when we are dry camped, without extensive generator use. That drives a whole bunch of other expensive upgrades--solar (not too expensive) and lithiums (lots more expense with batteries, a new inverter-charger, and rewiring). While I would love to do the electrical upgrades, I'm not sure how much longer we'll keep the coach, after having very little use the past 3 years.


Right now I'm leaning toward the AC/propane replacement cooling unit rather than sinking several thousand extra dollars in a coach we aren't using a lot and may sell in a few years. I would prefer the DC unit, but just not sure it makes monetary sense. Am I overthinking the supporting upgrades needed?


When we have the coach out, we do "dry camp" at times, usually not more than a couple of days at a time.
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Old 07-19-2023, 04:14 PM   #2
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First, have you done a complete troubleshooting of your existing unit, following the process in the service manual? There are a lot of fixable problems than can cause underperformance. There's no substitute for following the manual, taking a shotgun approach sometimes works but can cause you to either miss something or jump to the wrong conclusion. Here's a link to the manual:

https://norcold.com/wp-content/uploa...68C_020807.pdf

Otherwise, I'm with you on replacing the cooling system, either with an OEM unit or an "Amish"unit:

https://jc-refrigeration.com/

I haven't done it but I understand that it's a doable DIY project.

If it turns out that your unit doesn't need replacing, there are low amperage cooling fans, and other upgrades that can improve its operation:

https://rvcoolingunit.trueims.com/ (they also sell replacement cooling units).

I know you're going to get a lot of conflicting opinions, and even the 12V compressor units use a significant amount of power and would require battery upgrades, etc. I think there's nothing better for boondocking than an LPG/120V absorption refrigerator. There are some who will tell you that you're risking your life and that these units are bursting into flame all over. There have been recalls and, unless your unit has been subject to one, I believe they're safe.

I do think that a modest solar installation is a good idea in any case.
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Old 07-19-2023, 05:30 PM   #3
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First, have you done a complete troubleshooting of your existing unit, following the process in the service manual?

Bob, I have done the troubleshooting from the manual. Flowchart leads directly to replacing the cooling unit. When I say we have been limping along--that includes the extra fans and ensuring the baffling was arranged correctly.



Thanks for the inputs! We don't do a lot of boondocking, but want to retain the capability.
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Old 07-19-2023, 05:51 PM   #4
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If you are of the mind, consider a used unit from Visonerv.com or Colaw.com since you don't use the MH much and are considering selling.
I think both of those salvage yards test every appliance they sell to make sure it works before it's shipped. (or pick-up if the customer desires).
It doesn't even have to be the same model 1200, there are newer models the same size.
I've even read on other RVing forums where an owner converted to a residential fridge and is giving their working Norcold away.
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Old 07-19-2023, 08:11 PM   #5
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Colaw is at colawrv.com

I wonder how high shipping is for those of us not near MO or KY.
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Old 07-20-2023, 03:12 AM   #6
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When my Norcold 1200 went bad, I did the normal research to find out how, what, etc to replace it with.

I went with the JC Refrigeraiton product. https://jc-refrigeration.com/

As I never dry camp am always plugged in I chose the 120 unit. The project is a great and easy DIY fix it. JC folks are very customer helpfull in every step of the way. I would recommend their replacement unit.

The hardest part was removing the bolts and screws that hold the frig in place. There are brackets on the top of frig that can only be reached by removing the top vent cover. I made a rolling table the height of the base of frig so pushed it out onto the table was able to do all the work right in camper.

Good luck which ever way you go
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Old 07-20-2023, 08:13 AM   #7
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You can see drawings showing the mounting brackets, etc. in the parts catalog, on pgs 10 - 13, depending on what model refrigerator you have. I don't see it pictured there, but the Norcold in my 2002 Suncruiser has a drain hose for condensate underneath the refrigerator. I didn't realize this and, when I removed my refrigerator for some cabinet remodeling, I broke the plastic fitting on the bottom of the refrigerator that it connects to. I don't see this in the parts catalog for my MH, nor in yours, so be careful and look for it before pulling the refrigerator out. Here's a link to the parts catalog for your's:

https://www.winnebago.com/Files/File...04/4wkp36g.pdf

There are numerous Youtube videos on replacing the cooling units.
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Old 07-20-2023, 08:45 AM   #8
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Are you near enough to visit the shop and have it done for you? Shipshewana, IN is in the heart of both Amish country and the RV industry in Elkhart, IN. If you went there you'd be able to get your RV fixed head to toe with all the RV Suppliers there.

Martin, of RVStreet YouTube Channel on RV repairs, "last" video was on his trip there. Martin announced a cancer diagnosis just 7-months ago and he passed away in April of this year.

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Old 07-21-2023, 08:48 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creativepart View Post
Are you near enough to visit the shop and have it done for you? Shipshewana, IN is in the heart of both Amish country and the RV industry in Elkhart, IN. If you went there you'd be able to get your RV fixed head to toe with all the RV Suppliers there.
I've lived in the midwest and much prefer the weather in northern CA, along with being 2 hrs away from the coast and 1 1/2 hours away from the mountains, but I'm jealous of all the RV related companies and salvage yards there.
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Old 07-21-2023, 11:38 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by BobC View Post
Colaw is at colawrv.com

I wonder how high shipping is for those of us not near MO or KY.
While this IS a logical question, the details may help?
Shipping IS high but then dragging the RV across several states really bites both on time wasted if it isn't where you wanted to go as well as I've noticed RV do eat a bit of gas!

In this situation, I favor ordering a used unit that likely lasts longer than I keep the RV.
A couple nights in a motel while waiting for the many, many supply screwups to be worked out can offset any savings reallly quick as well as there being the question of how awkward it will be to travel without a frig!
I favor waiting at home while the supplies get to me!
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Old 07-21-2023, 09:15 PM   #11
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Colaw and Visone are the two largest salvage yards, there are many more: https://rtrvg.com/blog/2017/07/22/us...ards-by-state/
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Old 07-26-2023, 04:34 PM   #12
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I got a scratch and dent frig from these guys for my 31M. https://parts.unitedrv.com/ it has been running non-stop since I got it and I am happy.
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Old 07-26-2023, 04:49 PM   #13
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Hi Dixie Dogs,
Welcome back to the forum!
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