The fridge in my motorhome is a Norcold 8663. This is a 3-way model, meaning it can operate on:
- Propane (requires 12V DC ignition)
- Shore power (plugged in at a campground) or
- 12V only (for brief periods such as when in transit)
The Problem: At first, I would find the fridge dead by morning and would require several attempts to re-ignite the burner. The problem could be solved initially with servicing as described in the second half of this blog post. However over the ensuing years the problem gradually got worse and eventually no amount of servicing would fix it.
Here's a story of similar symptoms described in 1999 by Dave and Helen Damouth at:
"Ever since we acquired our 1988 trailer, three years ago, the Norcold model 8663 refrigerator has sporadically refused to operate on propane. Usually, the problem was that the flame would light, appear to burn normally, then go out after 10 seconds or so, refusing to start again until I cycled the control panel switch to "off" and then back to propane. In recent months, there has also been another failure mode, where the flame came on very weakly or not at all, and then blew out with a loud "pop".
Each time it failed, I did all the standard maintenance things, and it generally started operating just fine. Then, a few months later, it would fail again."
My solution is similar to theirs, but I have a few additional notes and observations.
The main problem was the ignition module, although annual fridge maintenance is always important with an evaporation fridge.
Here is a link to the Dinosaur website showing their various Universal Ignition boards, and here is a link to Dinosaur Ignition Module UIBS that I purchased on Amazon.ca, and here is a link to the cover. Installing this ignition module restored the fridge to correct operation. I believe that the UIBL (large) ignition module may have fit better, so be careful to measure before you order. I am not certain. I was able to make the UIBS fit, by drilling some additional holes in the metal panel that the ignition module mounts onto. Other than that, installation was fairly easy.
|Old ignition module|
I believe that the old ignition module, pictured above, may have been replaced by the previous owner at some time in the past. Note that the module is only mounted with two screws, and the one in the top left has a metal S bracket because the hole on the module does not match up with the hole on the mounting plate behind it.
|New ignition module from Dinosaur Electronics|
You might also want to replace the ignition/sensing electrode as well.
On early Norcold fridges, there were two electrodes; a sensing electrode (thermocouple) and an ignition electrode.
|Sensing electrode AKA thermocouple|
|Norcold Ignition/Sensing Electrode|
If you replace this ignition electrode with a new ignition/sensing electrode, but also leave the old sensing electrode (thermocouple) in place, it is unnecessary. I suspect that this redundancy may have contributed to my problems in the past. I removed the old sensing electrode and the fridge works flawlessly with only the single ignition/sensing electrode.
To recap, here are some pictures of an annual fridge cleaning, plus replacement of the electrodes (optional).
|Wiring from the ignition module to the two electrodes|
|Remove the evaporation cup|
|Clean out the cup|
|Remove the drip tray|
|Expose the drip tube|
|Blow out the drip tube with compressed air|
|Remove the cumbustion chamber cowling|
|Remove the old ignition electrode to clean or replace|
|Remove the sensing electrode (thermocouple) to clean or replace|
The entire area around the electrodes and burner should be blown out with compressed air. This area gathers a lot of debris over a year of use.
|Remove the gas line|
|Here is the gasket referred to in the previous picture|
|Burner and orifice: clean these with compressed air|
|Install the new (or cleaned) ignition-sensing electrode|