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How to Keep Your RV Fridge Cold While Driving

Keeping your RV fridge cold while driving is one of the surest ways to prepare for your summer travel. As an RV owner, your fridge is one of the essential appliances you should have in your motor home.

Why is this? Because the refrigerator helps keep your drinks and beverages chilled while on the go.

If you’re like me, you like to keep your RV fridge stocked with cold drinks and food while traveling. But what do you do when the weather gets hot, and the RV starts to heat up?

Read on as I walk you through a few tips on how to keep your fridge cold while driving.

*Note: To keep your RV fridge cold while driving, you’d require lots of energy, and this depends on your preferred power source. However, this might not be a good idea because your van is in motion. 

How does an RV fridge work?

RV fridge works differently from your regular home refrigerator. Unlike your home fridge, an RV fridge doesn’t require a compressor to run.

RV fridge
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It runs with a different kind of technology. Instead of using the liquid refrigerant and the compressor, it uses the sponging method of cooling, using ammonia and hydrogen gas.

However, the ammonia mix is heated by a burner or an electric heating element, and this is where the magic of chilling starts.

The absorption refrigerator in your RV functions better on a plain surface. While driving, your RV fridge efficiency is limited by the hills, corners, and bumps on the road.

Meanwhile, leveling your camper eventually won’t prompt its high performance, supposing it had been running off. You must switch the unit off until everything returns to the average temperature.

Power sources used by RV fridges

Typically, we don’t compare fridges and heat. To retain a certain level of low temperature, all refrigerators require heat. There are three different powers sources for RV fridges;

  • 12V DC
  • 120 AC
  • Propane

Although many RV fridge designs can operate on 120 AC and Propane, allowing you to use generators or electrical grids on campgrounds.

Therefore, transitioning to a propane tank while driving would be an alternative.

However, if you choose to do so, you should take every safety measure to avoid possible gas leakage. The three-way RV fridge requires choosing among the 12V DC, the 120 AC, and the propane power sources.

RV refrigerators powered from three sources are much smaller than two-way RV fridges. Above all, RV fridges are preferable for small trailers and campers.

Even though the 12V DC power source is one of the safest. Yet, It drains the RV battery quickly, which is why RV owners opt for the two-way RV Fridges that use the propane 120 AC power sources.

Neither of the power sources used by RV refrigerators is flawless since a 120 AC power supply requires that you have a battery that can produce sufficient power to keep the fridge running efficiently.

On the other hand, it is legally prohibited to refuel while your propane-fueled fridge is on.

Some RV refrigerator designs can automatically detect the available power sources and switch between Propane and 120 AC whenever required.

How to keep your RV fridge cold while driving in 4 easy steps

One important thing to remember when driving in an RV is keeping the fridge cold. This can be tricky, but with these few steps listed below, you can keep your food and drinks chilled and safe on your trip.

Step 1. Limit the space in your fridge and fill it with cold items:

While driving, packing your fridge correctly should be a top priority if you want it to stay cold. I highly recommend not allowing for too much room space between your items.

Restricting the space in your fridge eliminates movement in your fridge and prevents possible spillage. Do you know that having more cold items in your fridge keeps the temperature low?

Therefore, ensure you fill the excess space between stocked items with ice packs and cold items.

Frozen drinks like juice or water bottles would serve this purpose better because they don’t spoil or develop moisture as they melt.

Try as much as possible not to pack ice cubes or frozen foods. The reason is that these items accumulate moisture as they unfreeze, and thawing food has a high chance of spoiling.

You wouldn’t want a soured food on your vehicle on a long journey, or do you? You wouldn’t want that, I guess.

Step 2. Keep the fridge temperature low before the trip

Turning the temperature of your RV fridge to the lowest setting when it is turned off is the simplest way of keeping the temperature level. You can do this a night before you embark on a trip.

To avoid freezing items when you do this, ensure that you set them to the lowest temperature. Lowering the temperature a couple of hours before leaving rather than the night before would also prevent the freezing of items.

Step 3. Avoid the frequent urge to open your fridge while driving

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Opening your RV fridge door is the fastest way of losing cold air. Doing this won’t be considered a problem if your RV Fridge runs.

Nevertheless, if you intend to conserve cold air and keep the perishable items fresh, I’d advise you to avoid doing it.

Avoiding the frequent urge to open the fridge will also help lower the air temperature before the refrigerator is off.

If you’re traveling with your family, inform them how crucial not opening the door is while on the move.

Packing a small cooler with valuable items is an easy way of avoiding the frequent opening of your fridge.

Furthermore, taking an ice cooler along with you means you can have any drink or food you need for your trip and not lose any cold air in your fridge.

Step 4. Making use of a generator

Peradventure, nothing seems to be going as planned. The last option would be running your generator.

However, running your generator while driving is totally not advisable.

Although, you can plug your fridge into the generator and let the temperature decrease while stopping for lunch or quick breaks.

Generators are very noisy alongside the unwanted fumes they emit. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to disturb the neighborhood with the loud sound of the generator on your stops.

So, ensure you park at a distance from other vehicles if you’re in a rest area.

Running your generators inside your RV is dangerous. This is because the generator releases toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide, which is detrimental to your health.

Maintenance tips for keeping your RV fridge cold while driving

Lowering the fridge’s temperature to a minimum before switching it off is one way of keeping your RV fridge cold while driving. A regular check-up will maintain your RV fridge temperature, even when you didn’t turn it on.

Below are tips that might significantly lengthen the time a fridge can stay cold.

#1. Circulation of air using an RV fridge fan

Unlike the conventional refrigerator, most RV fridge does not have a fan that retains the same temperature everywhere.

You should know that the traditional ‘muffin fans‘ are inexpensive and readily available. Most importantly, they are straightforward to install.

RV fridge fan
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Keeping them at the back of the refrigerator, very close to the evaporator coils, will help circulate the air. The installation of two fridge fans will raise the airflow to the optimum while substantially reducing the power usage.

Fridge fans use either D batteries or 12V DC lines to power the fridge light as a power source, and they apparently can’t increase the amount of fuel you spend on running your fridge while driving.

For this cause, buying an RV fridge cooling fan can be pretty helpful in maintaining a constant and stable temperature and inhibiting the concentration of hot spots.

#2. Ensure things are kept at a required level

RV fridges do not possess mechanical pumps that allow refrigerant flow in the cooling system, unlike the fridges in our homes. Instead, they rely on the gravitational pull, which is why you need to ensure that your RV fridge is aligned with the ground.

Understand that the slightest mismatch can block the flow of chemicals through the cooling system and prevent the fridge from working effectively.

If you turn your RV fridge ON when driving, ensure to turn it off when you’re ascending a steep hillside or a mountain range. Whenever possible, don’t park your RV on rough ground.

Ensure to add a bubble level to the refrigerator to determine if it’s mounted appropriately.

#3. Avoid opening and closing the refrigerator door

The consistent opening of the door would make the refrigerator lose its cold once the temperature of your fridge is set.

The central and internal heat will decrease gradually until it meets the desired temperature. 

Avoid openng your RV fridge while traveling
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However, the refrigerator obtains outside air temperature when you open and close the door to get yourself something to quench your thirst or hunger.

For this reason, it loses its coolness and takes a long time to get that coolness afterward.

Therefore, I recommend that you close the door all time except for important occasions.

Tips for keeping your fridge cold even when it’s not turned on

The total distance you intend to cover in a day plays a vital role in your decision to keep your RV fridge working when enjoying your journey.

Your RV fridge’s temperature mustn’t be above 4°C over 6 – 8 hours of operating at full capacity.

Nevertheless, if you’re trying to keep your fridge switched off for the whole road trip, you should not hit the road unprepared.

Below are the measures you should employ to maintain your RV Fridges’ Coldness before starting your journey.

  • Ensure you pack your fridge with plenty of Ice or freeze some bottles of water to use as ice packs.
  • Make a list of everything you will need to put into your fridge, so you can pack it in, all at once, rather than doing it twice or more.
  • As a sequel to the above point, avoid the temptation of visiting the fridge now and then while driving.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, there are so many ways to maintain the coolness of your RV fridge while on the go. While it might be a no–brainer to leave your fridge turned on throughout the entire journey, it might place much strain on your RV power source.

That said, the idea of running a refrigerator powered by propane isn’t such a good idea.

Whether you are about to take trips with your RV or are making plans for the future, the steps outlined here should be of great advantage.

Frequently Asked Questions

1 thought on “How to Keep Your RV Fridge Cold While Driving”

  1. We typically have run our 2way on propane while traveling until this year.
    We run a cord to our 1000w inverter and simply unplug from the motorhome electrical and plug into the extension cord to the inverter.
    In 10hr + days the fridge stayed at 0 degrees c the whole trip, same as on propane.
    Works awesome


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