How to troubleshoot electronically controlled RV appliances

How to troubleshoot electronically controlled RV appliances

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Perhaps some of the most mysterious of RV technical issues surrounds electronically controlled appliances. ‘Back in the old days,’ as some of us recall, we didn’t have fancy control boards on refrigerators, furnaces, and water heaters. Of course, ‘back in the old days,’ a lot of us had to go outside in the cold or heat to light off those selfsame appliances.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 8.45.01 PMNowadays, the trouble is, when things start getting “buggy,” it can be difficult to track down the problem. Not long ago one of our 3-way refrigerators, which had been a straight-A student, suddenly went rebellious on us. Sitting on a hot parking lot just outside of Old Mexico, our refrigerator stopped being a chill box, and the threat of global warming parked itself right in the middle of our kitchen. Only by turning on the generator and resorting to “shore power,” would we get any chill in the box. Gas didn’t light, and DC simply knocked all the low voltage power out throughout the rig. We cut our time in the field short and headed back to base camp.

In a safe harbor with another working ‘fridge available, we started down through the diagnostics process. The whole works pointed to a control board failure — or so it seemed. We contacted an RV refrigeration supplier who opined that it ‘sounded like’ a board too, but he couldn’t really be sure without running tests on it. Too bad he was 1,500 miles away. Finally, we called the horse’s mouth–or should we say, the Dinosaur’s mouth.

Yep, when campfire talk comes around the appliance control board problems, the name that probably gets mentioned the most is Dinosaur. Built by a seemingly obscure company, in an equally obscure town (OK, maybe not real obscure, Lincoln City, Oregon), Dinosaur boards are the leading word in replacement control boards. The Dino-folks build replacement boards for just about every RV appliance (and generator) application there is. We called in and immediately tied into one of Dinosaur’s tech fellows. After an initial discussion of the problem, the technician asked if we wouldn’t mind checking a couple of things “in situ,” right on the back of the refrigerator. Thanks to cell phone portability, the Dino-tech walked us through a series of tests with a digital multi-tester that soon assured us that in fact, our refrigerator control board was ready for the scrap pile.

TO HIS CREDIT in addition to making a suggestion for a given Dinosaur board, the technician did suggest we could try an OEM replacement board. Maybe there was a bit of tongue-in-cheek here, because the old “pudding covered” board out of the back of our ‘fridge was “out of production” from the reefer maker. That’s a common complaint among RVers: Seems like a lot of the control boards aren’t “replaceable” with OEM boards–it’s a case of “Well, we’d be happy to direct you to a dealer where you can by a new refrigerator, furnace, water heater, etc.

Bottom line: We got a new refrigerator control board, and after it was installed, everything was as happy as could be. The new DINO board even had a function our OEM didn’t have — the ability to fine-tune how “cold” or “warm” we wanted our refrig to run. Our advice? Got a board problem? Contact the Dinosaur folks without delay. Dinosaur Electronics can be reached by phone at 541-994-4344 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday, Pacific time or at the company website.

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