The Norcold company, now a division of
Thetford, has had a constantly expanding RV refrigerator recall on certain models of RV refrigerators
that started in 2002. The recall has been expanded from the original cooling
unit manufacturing dates of 1996-1999, each time including units manufactured
at progressively later dates. RV fires caused by the affected refrigerators
have occurred in units 5 to 7 years old. There have been several thousand RV refrigerator
fires as a result of this problem. Some have resulted in deaths and many caused
complete destruction of the RV.
The actual defect is a fatigue failure that can be cracked welds and or cracked tubing in the boiler section of the cooling unit which contains the refrigerant and is subject to the most heat. These cracks could allow the liquid solution to slowly leak from the cooling unit. If a leak happens and the refrigerator is still on after circulation has stopped, the heat source could generate high enough temperatures that the steel material of the cooling unit could soften and rupture. If refrigerant gas is still in place when that happens, hydrogen gas may be expelled and could be ignited by the high temperature, possibly causing a fire.
RV refrigerators generate heat to cause a chemical reaction in the cooling unit to make the inside of the refrigerator cold. This Heat is generated by propane gas or by electric heaters. What that means is you can experience a failure when operating on either gas or electricity.
Currently, models included in the recall are 4-door model numbers 1200,1201, 1210, and 1210 manufactured between 1997 and 2010. There are many single and double door units included in the Norcold recall as well. for the same reason.
Once you determine that your unit is
part of the RV refrigerator recall, make an appointment with an RV
repair facility that can do the work. The cost of the parts and labor are borne by Norcold. The recall kit includes installation of a
metal sleeve toward the base of the refrigerator chimney/flue. On the sleeve is
a thermal switch, which is designed to cut all power to the refrigerator in the
event of excessive heat being generated. When power is cut, the refrigerator
will not run on gas OR electricity. Unfortunately, this kit does not fix the underlying defect of thin wall tubing and deficient welds. Once the heat is high enough to cut off power, the entire expensive cooling unit is usually defective and must be replaced.