Sunday, February 15, 2009


We love food, and we love our refrigerator. We have a big, four-door model with a built-in ice maker, and we tend to keep the freezer full of goodies, especially if we are going to be moving around frequently. We buy "bulk" meat (beef filets, chicken thighs, and salmon) at Costco, repackage it in vacuum-sealed "couple-sized" portions, and live from the freezer for a month, buying fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishables from local grocers or farmers markets. We can easily cram a couple hundred dollars of food into the freezer alone when we are fully stocked.

The refrigerator holds a load, too, with three produce bins and plenty of shelving and door space. So, you might wonder by now... WHY IS IT EMPTY??

It died. R.I.P.

Friday afternoon, I reached into the freezer and noticed that the bag of TJ's turkey meatballs (these are delicious, by the way - fabulous texture) seemed... well, soft. Yipes. Further investigation made my heart race - food was thawing!

I put the thermometer in, closed the door, waited 15 minutes and read the bad news. The freezer was about 35 degrees, the refrigerator around 55 degrees.

This is an RV'ers nightmare. The 250 pound, 4-door refrigerator cannot be removed and replaced through the ridiculously skinny door of the motorhome; instead either a window (if you have one large enough) or the windshield has to be removed if the refrigerator has to be replaced. The thought of losing your frozen and refrigerated perishables is quickly replaced by the even more horrible realization that, if your unit is dead, you are facing several days of repair work, several thousand dollars in replacement costs (about $4000 for the unit, plus intallation labor) and numerous high-stress moments of fingernail chewing. This is not a happy vision.

We turned up the temperature gauge, projecting to each other a rosy optimism that we had solved the problem. When we got back from dinner with Sydney and Frank, we checked the temperature again. No change.

We donned a headlamp and jackets, went outside to the access door, peered at the tubing, wires, and coils, looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and went back inside, exhausting our knowledge of refrigerator repair. During the night, I dreamed that the ice-maker started cranking out cubes and the refrigerator was cold in the morning. No such luck... everything continued to warm. :(

To the web! No service centers in little Bisbee, of course, and none in Sierra Vista, either. The nearest Norcold service centers are in Tucson, and we found listings for 5 of them. A couple phones calls later resulted in a diagnosis (the cooling unit - aka "the guts of the refrigerator") is dead. The GOOD news: Trailer Refrigeration, Inc. can replace the cooling unit WITHOUT replacing the entire refrigerator, AND they can do it next week, AND they are on the southeast side of Tucson, east of the endless I-10 construction project (we will be arriving from the east).

This is our current refrigerator, on loan from Sydney and Frank! The best thing about this mess is that we haven't restocked our freezer significantly since before we left Loma Linda, so were down to a 2-pack of steaks, 6 chicken thighs, a bag of Odel's special spaghetti sauce, and dibs and dabs of other frozen bits that didn't matter: buttermilk, mashed potatoes, half-bags of peas and corn, english muffins.

Our fresh vegetables hardly warranted the description "fresh", so tossing limp parsley and green onions didn't hurt. We formulated carnivorous menus for the next three nights and loaded those goodies into the ice chest, moved our condiments to the large-ish cooler we have in the "basement" (which usually holds wine and other beverages) and made a short grocery list of mostly salad greens.

Our original plan to spend 2 weeks in Bisbee is trashed, but who cares? We can get our refrigerator repaired! YAY! We're leaving here Wednesday afternoon to spend the night in the parking lot of the repair facility. They will start work first thing Thursday morning - pulling the unit out of the cabinet into the motorhome and replacing the cooling unit - then we'll spend another night to make sure the refrigerator cools and freezes properly. With luck and the checkbook, we'll be back to Rosanna's for the weekend.

So, how was YOUR Valentine's Day???


  1. How can they tell the cooling unit is dead from a phone call? Did you try running it on both gas and electric? Are your batteries charged? I think the refer needs a 12 volt source even if plugged in or using propane.
    Don't let them sell you an expensive cooling unit without diagnosing it first as it might be something simple to fix!

  2. Oh, Sister, I am so sorry for your refer wows! But as you said, it could be worse. Love your humorous writing. Miss you. Bobbie

  3. I didn't want to go into TOO much detail! Thanks for your suggestions - this isn't an area of expertise for us.

    Yes, we ran it on both gas and electric. Yes, our batteries are charged, and all the readouts on the front of the unit were normal. On the phone, they asked about "gurgling" (which we had not heard), then asked us to go outside and see if we saw any "yellow powder" on the back of the refrigerator. Did we ever!

    So, the demise of the cooling unit is the diagnosis, to be revisited when we arrive at the repair facility. We'll evaluate the situation again then... for now, we are comfortable with how things are moving along.