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Old 17-12-2007, 01:24   #1
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Cold plate trouble shooting?

K, We just bought new old boat and will be spending the next week cleaning and trouble shooting. The one thing Ed knows absolutely nothing about is the fridge system (which is Norcold and suppossedly set to work with engine or DC power). I had read here that Norcold doesn't care to share info, so can anyone tell us where to start looking for the problem?

Ed did just buy a refrigeration book, but I doubt that he'll have time to read it --I mean-- this will be the first time aboard OUR new ole boat! Between the 5 hour move and sea trial, the plate never got cool. We tend to think that this was perhaps original (1976) equipment? But who in the heck knows? At this point is it worth researching, trying to find parts and all, or should we just replace? (Of course the brokers told us it works, the surveyor was stumped and had more important things to check.)

Please don't let me down guys, we leave for St Aug early Tuesday for a week and I have to pray that I get the wi-fi to work! Oh yeah, can't even go anywhere due to no nav lights or depth finder--we have MUCH to do! Living 5 hours away from the boat kinda stinks!

BTW, Have I told you guys that I love you lately?

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Old 17-12-2007, 02:49   #2
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Richard Kollmann has an excellent Refrigeration website & forum, where he offers incredibly detailed and specific advice.
Web: KollmannMarine Boat Refrigeration Specialist
Forum: :: Index

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Old 17-12-2007, 05:01   #3
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Suggest that you:
(1) Post model and serial # in case someone reading has that model they can share info. Asking about norcold in general is a real shot in the dark.
(2) The most important words for any repair person are: "Can I please speak to someone in technical support?" If there is no corporate tech support then call a service center and BEG for help.
(3) Google search for you norcold model number and general terms like manual and service.
(4) Explore Norcold (Thetford) website.
link=> Product Manuals
Service Centers:
link=> Service Centers
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Old 17-12-2007, 05:29   #4
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Also - As you troubleshoot problems try to be very specific in what you have done and what you have not done.

The start of every electrical problem is - Does the unit have power available to it in the right voltage. For this you will want to learn about Voltmeters. Basically you need to confirm that there is a fuse, the fuse is ok, the switch is on and there is power at the distribution panel.

Then you want to verify that the switch to the fridge is on and if there are any lights that the lights are on. If there are lights and they are not lit then you stop here and start working back to the distribution panel

If you have power then we are on to part II - What makes the plate get cold and is that stuff, charged and working. Much beyond that point we will need specific model numbers and such to troubleshoot a specific system type.
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Old 17-12-2007, 15:43   #5
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If Ed's gonna do his own work, he'll need a set of AC gauges, and some basic trouble shooting and repair tools. If you're going cruising with this boat, they'll be really handy.

The most common reason for non-op fridge is a low refrigerant (freon) condition. However, that condition will only exist if there is a leak somewhere. Don't expect to charge the system with freon and go on your merry way. It will then be necessary to find out where the freon escaped in the first place (if that's the problem).. The leak will then need to be repaired and the system, evacuated (all the freon and air sucked out) and recharged. If the system has been inop for a long time (which you don't know) it may be better to throw it out and start over.

Once a fridge unit is allowed to sit dorment, with no freon, it is susceptible to all sorts of moisture and corrosion issues. In that case, you may well spend more $ on an old unit than purchasing a new one (and you will still have an old unit).
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Old 17-12-2007, 16:08   #6
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Wow you fellas are terrific!

I think Kanani may have hit it on the head tho--we know the old owner hadn't used the boat for over a year (he had fallen off the roof of his home and is now just barely walking). How long is too long to be ruined?

Luckily we have much daysailing to do to get used to her--Ed's completely redoing the wiring and much more.

Frankly, these photos scare the crap out of me! The rest of her doesn't look like this, YUK! Would I ever feel it was clean enough?
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Old 17-12-2007, 17:03   #7
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Can you take a picture of the compressor?

The compressor may have a label on it, giving you the year, make, model etc.

I am guessing that it is a small 12v compressor and not an engine driven compressor.

As for "How long".....well it could be a week or a year. It depends on a lot of things. Where are you located? If you are in a dry area and the fridge still has a partial charge, you may be fine after a year. If you live in a hot humid area and the fridge has "0" pressure, a couple weeks could introduce a lot of moisture and start deteriorating a lot of sensitive parts especially if the oil has leaked out too..
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Old 17-12-2007, 17:13   #8
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Looking at the pictures, it also appears that the doors may be damaged and the insulation possibly compromised. In any case it looks to me like that front opening door isn't thick enough to have proper insulation.

If you're planning to go cruising - I think you should consider gutting the fridge and putting in a new properly insulated box with new cooling guts. There are a lot of good companies on the market - Frigoboat, Seafrost and others.

If your budget can't take the hit - (plan B) you could also look into portable fridge freezers like the Engel. see: Engel Australia - Portable Fridge Freezers

These are portable 12V units that can be set to act as a fridge or freezer, run off 12V and don't use much power! They run around $600 or so in the US. see Refridgerator/Freezer - 12 Volt Portable - Grey* - *Refrigeration, Portable* - *Galley, Stoves & Barbeques* - *Downwind Marine Inc

Some cruisers have 2 on board, one set to be a fridge and one set to be a freezer.

You could of course, move to "plan C" and convert your box to use block ice or "plan D" do without refrigerated foods all together (doable, but who likes warm beer?).

Best wishes on your new boat!
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Old 17-12-2007, 22:00   #9
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Having totally rebuilt 2 boat's boxes from scratch, I agree with Bill.
Start over and you will KNOW what you have. It's not that hard. Messy? YES, but not technically hard. My main piece of advice is to do it before you leave the home cruising grounds.

One of the boxes I rebuilt was when we were in the middle of cruising in Mexico.
I had to design what we wanted at the end of one year's cruising, take all the measurements with us back to Seattle for the summer, build a mockup of the box out of cardboard, build or buy all the bits and pieces, make a list of absolutely EVERYTHING needed to take back to the boat (even saw blades) and a list of exactly what steps to take in proper order. Then I had to gut and rebuild the box while the boat's inside and outside temp was in the mid 90's and the humidity was similar. My wife was the tool nurse through all this.

It took 2 weeks of living in sawdust and fiberglass dust, but I'm still glad we did it.

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Old 26-12-2007, 18:53   #10
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Thanks for all your advice! We took a portable down with us and left it, good thing too, looks like the rewire job will happen sooner than expected. At least she's much cleaner now and ready for the next stage.

Thanks again
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Old 26-12-2007, 21:22   #11
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I had an old Norcold freon refrigerator. The refrigerant leaked out and I soon discovered that I could not (legally) put in more freon if the leak was not fixed. The parts were a pain to get and the freon was a real big pain to get.

I gave up and bought another Norcold freon free refrigerator. It was just not worth the hassle of trying to fix it or get freon for it.

BTW, mine ran on both 12VDC and 120VAC


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