Has the RV-type fridge on any RV you’ve owned ever caught fire?

Has any RV you’ve ever owned that had a traditional RV refrigerator, one powered by both electricity and propane, ever caught fire?

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51 Thoughts to “Has the RV-type fridge on any RV you’ve owned ever caught fire?”

  1. Barbara Roth

    I know i am late posting and we just lost our RV due to a Norcold 2018x fridge fire. When we noticed the fire, we had flames coming out of the unit, and it was pretty much too late. We used 5 fire extinguishers to no avail. Since we were in a remote BLM campground, the fire department was an hour away and our RV burned to the ground. Working with the insurance company is fun, because no upgrades were covered that were done after it was manufactured, including the dealer add-ons that were included in the sale. These fires are no joke and it can happen to anyone. We will get a residential fridge the next time.

    1. Judy Andrepont

      Our 2016 TT burnt on Monday, April 15, 2018. The flames were not visible until 10:50 pm. The fire marshal stated that the fire started at the refrigerator. We haven’t received the written report but have been searching to see if this was an RV issue. We have the “Warranty Forever” so this TT was “rigorously” inspected at the end of November 2017. We haven’t received any notifications from the RV service dept. or manufacturers of any recalls.
      The TT was parked alongside our home. The 5 fire trucks were able to contain the fire with only roof damage and some smoke damage to our home. We don’t have a video of the flames but I will always remember that orange glow!

  2. Gary

    Back in 1987, I bought a salvage 23ft. Shasta travel trailer at a insurance auction. At the time that I purchased it I didn’t know what had caused the explosion that had blown out both sides of the trailer. There had been no fire damage in the trailer but the center of what seemed to have the most damage was the area of the refrigerator. When I was in the process of removing the old refrigerator I tilted the unit a little to get it out of the door and was almost overcome with the ammonia that then leaked from the fridge. So what had caused the blast with no fire, I’ll never know, but with the amount of ammonia still in it, it was a miracle. Needless to say, I replaced with a 110 volt residential unit and a Honda generator to use if we camped where no electric was available. Buying them was still cheaper that a new rv unit and safer as well.

  3. Gary

    Hi there Chuck,

    I really love reading your articles and the stories that are published and the readers who are RVers. I have an RV travel trailer 31 foot bunkhouse, I’ve never had an issue with the RV fridge but had a recall for an update after we had for a year, it was a shield installed around the burner area, the fridge is a Dometic RM2862 no problems so far. lately the RV travel trailer hasn’t been leaving my driveway much this is the place I go to get way for some good peace and quiet relaxation and reading these wonderful stories. I have never had a problem with our fridge, when we travel we will take a couple of ice chests along with us just in case. I also travel with the fridge off until we get to the site we are going to, then I will start it up, it i’ll either go on propane or electrical power depending what’s available.

  4. K Luke

    Add us to the “charred wood” category. When we upgraded to a residential fridge (part of our solar install) we were shocked to see so much of the framing behind/beside the old Norcold so burnt. And ours had the infamous retrofit! We sleep quite comfortably now, to say the least.

  5. Alan Bottorff

    Those comments about charred wood are kind of scary. I didn’t see anything like that in my case. The compartment was insulated and much of the insulation was coming loose so I removed it, and covered the entire compartment with reflectix. Used glue and staples.

    As far as replacing the cooling unit, the hard part is getting the frig out, its heavy. I removed the doors, shelves and anything else I could. Then a friend helped slide it out to the floor face down. Removing the old cooling unit was just unbolting stuff. The new Amish unit is considerably heavier, I needed help getting it into place after all the prep work was done.

    First test was to stand the frig upright without the doors and turn it on. Pretty amazing how fast the freezer got cold, even without door. While it was upright, I also changed the ice maker. Got one from Lowes, its an Amana unit. About half the price of a Norcold. Exact fit.

    Once put back together and installed, hooked up, turned it on, in 4 hours it could make ice. Its been running since, I never turn it off, that was about 2 years ago.


  6. Greg

    I had two recalls on my four door Dometic but it failed about three years later. I replaced the cooling unit with the Amish cooling unit because it was cheaper and better quality. If I could do it again I would have put a residential unit in. One positive thing is that I joined the class action lawsuit against Dometic and I received the first of four checks for $228.90. I personally changed the cooling unit and there was a piece of wood behind the refrigerator that was burnt black from the heat from the refrigerator. I consider myself very blessed it did not catch fire.

  7. Sheridan J Ball

    Great information here. Thanks to all the contributors to this thread. I have replaced one Never-Cold unit already (under warranty). Will avoid that in the future. The Amish option sounds very helpful.

  8. Hank Smith

    One of our friends wives died in a fire caused by a Norcold Refrig.

    1. RV Staff

      We’re very sorry to hear that, Hank. —Diane at RVtravel.com

  9. Alan Bottorff

    We had the 4 door Norcold. It had the updates installed. While coach was parked inside my barn (steel building) it was plugged in to shore power. As I entered the building one morning I could smell the sulpher smell. I checked the back of the unit and sure enough it had blown. Yellow powder all over the burner area. No other damage and the recall kit did its job, as the power was OFF.

    Replaced the cooling unit with an Amish unit which works a lot better than the original. It cools down faster and can even make ice in middle of the desert on a hot day. I like being able to boondock without worrying about battery usage as much.

  10. Jane

    Thanks to everyone who commented here. Good information for me to mull over as I plan my van conversion.

    Check out this web page that discusses the Amish refrigerators and Norcold problems:
    One of the comments mentions marine refrigerators. They run off 12 v so no inverter and its energy waste needed.

  11. sally


    The residential freezer we put in was 180$.

    Our new rig was 11 years old when we bought it in 2015. The people we bought it from used it about 2X per year(they had lots of toys) they had it stored well and cared for it very well. it saw near no use when we bought it. So thank god they used the fridge literally 20 times in the time they owned the rig for short 1-2 days at a time.

    As far as the fires go, the last number I saw posted by the insurance companies was 5 per week nationwide. Now, one must factor in all the fires from fridges that happen and dont get included on insurance lists because they werent insured .

    I dont think the risk of fire due to faulty LP fridge is small.

    I can tell you this, even though we have removed our own, I think about our risk from other rigs who run them and really dont know the risk of them. Like when we go to a park, all the people we park next too will probably have one, so how far away should we park to minimize our risk of catching fire should our neighbors rig burst into flames? Or how many of the rigs we pass on the hiway are driving down the road with an LP fridge onboard. Or How far away should we keep distance while driving to escape a Flame-ON fridge fire on the road?

    Valid Questions given the fact that manufacturing has been dropping the ball for YEARS now on the things, and when its more profitable to pay out settlements to people who incur losses due to fridge fires than change their manufacturing to a safer alternative, just having one in your Rv becomes a very questionable choice.

  12. sally

    In 2012 we bought a 24ft 1978 Prowler 5th wheel. The fridge never really worked right. we quit using it at all after the first year .

    Between 2013 and 2015 I read alot about the fires in the LP fridges.

    In 2015 we bought a Full Timers unit. 37 ft Wilderness 5th wheel The first thing we did, very first order of buissness was removing the fridge.

    Funny thing was I ran the SN on it and it was on the catch Fire recall List Issued by Dometic. I sold it for 400$ and told the buyer it was on the recall list they needed to have it serviced before use. They were just glad to be able to get a cheap one i guess.

    We modified the cabinet, put in a 3/4 solid floor, moved the wires, added in ReflecTex to the walls , and bought a Marine Hatch and replaced the old fridge vent in the side of the coach corresponding with the door. All we have left to do now is remove the roof vent and seal that up .

    We bought a 5.8 cubic foot Vertical residential freezer to put in the place of the fridge, and bought a vertical Whynter 3.6 cubic foot fridge to take the place of our fridgeration needs. (we freeze more than we fridge around here anyway) we built in custom locks to hold the freezer in place(one of the issues with residential in mobile applications is lack of buffer for movement), we built in holding blocks to keep it from shifting side to side and front to back as well as custom doors for the cabinet, and a UPS battery backup system to serve the freezer independently of the House batteries during travel. Our system carries the freezer 6-8 hours 70-80 degrees as is setup.

    The Whynter fridge is so completely portable and uses 70watts when it cycles.

    I am so glad to be rid of the LP based Fridge system. We have something in place that serves us so much better and does not carry the same risks as the LP fridge Bomb most people with RV’s are cursed with.

    Note: after we got our new rig in 2015 , not long later, like weeks later, the amonia(mind you it was unplugged, removed from the LP lines and not in service at the time) burst in the fridge in the old rig-the Prowler- and completly saturated the Prowler. We couldnt even sell it to anyone. It was completely poisoned . We ended up having to tear it down a year later all the way down to its frame and take it all to the dump ourselves in pieces and then send in written documentation to DMV to have it archived.

    There was no using it ever again after that happened. Just the amonia totally ruined that rig, now think of what would happen if you add in the LP gas to the equation and boom!

  13. Sandy Swede

    When the control board on our Norcold 1200LRIM “froze” I took the opportunity to replace the cooling unit (never very cold) with the Amish helium cooling unit. Now it’s very good at keeping food cold or frozen. Had the ARP thermal limit switch installed before the cooling unit was replaced. I still like the option to run on propane.


    No fire, but coil failed. $4300 to remove old frig and install new one. Number 1 on list when buy a different motor home was residential refrigerator. Bought a 2007 has 8- 6 volt batteries. Overkill? Maybe. Would not go back. Ice cream temp perfect.

  15. Paul

    Did not have a fire with the Norcold, but when I replaced it with a residential at the 11 year point I found singed fabric, melted styrofoam, and charred wood in the ceiling area near the “chimney.” This was not due to any Norcold issue, but to bad engineering/installation on the part of the RV manufacturer. I feel extremely fortunate that my coach did not burn to the ground.

    1. Bob Gash

      Same here. Our “RV” fridge in our used Tiffin was almost useless during hot days. When I pulled the wiring, etc…, to investigate, I discovered burnt wiring, insulation, etc…

      A fire hazard for a product that barely worked – we sold the motorhome and bought a new one with a residential fridge – couldn’t be happier!

  16. George

    Chuck, you may need to delve deeper into the “RV” or “Residential” refrigerator issue, as some of the rhetoric you’ve posted may not stand up. First, there are many reasons for preferring residential or switching. While the number of fires may be viewed as “small”, the risk of fire, at least for Norcolds, is significant. And their patch had to go through numerous “revisions” (I think it’s at RevF) that failed in place. Many “seasoned” RVers understand risk management.

    But the most pressing reasons for having a residential refrigerator are economic. Replacing a Norcold can cost two or more times the cost of replacement with a residential. If the cooling unit gets weak or fails, replacing that alone can cost more than a residential. On our Norcold, the door seals started leaking after about 8 years, and even THAT was going to cost more than a residential. Switching to a residential was a no-brained after doing some research.

    And in practice, your comments on energy use may be dated or ill-informed. Today’s residential refrigerators are generally energy efficient, many with “Energy Star” ratings. Many models run on MSW inverters in rigs with 2-4 deep cycle batteries. They hold temperature well if off for periods of several hours overnight or driving. And while they do require battery charging off-grid, it’s likely not as onerous as you make it sound.

    Lastly, you should talk to some RVers who have switched. Many are likely to tell you it’s one of the top mods they’ve made, that their ability to boondock isn’t severely curtailed, and they sleep better with little risk of fire.

    I fear that you may be conflating the tired old “people don’t camp anymore” lament (which sort of trys to invalidate a significant portion of the population’s lifestyle choice) with a basic advance in how technology is applied to the RV world.

    Just my two cents… ????

  17. Harry

    $2300 for a new Nocold or $360 for a Whirlpool residential that is 10.7 cf or 40% larger in the same space!!!
    Coach came with 4 golf cart batteries, added 500watts of solar, about $1500, still less then a new Nocold!
    In good sun no problem recharging the batteries next day. If no sun, yes it will take about one hour of generator run.
    A happy camper

  18. Bill

    Chuck, if you go back and look at some of the original camper trailers from the 30’s and 50’s I think you will see residential refrigerators. We have had six class B motorhomes and 3 class A, one with a 12 volt compressor refrigerator which did suck down the battery, and the rest with RV fridges. No fires, but I do have a friend who had a fire start in his, and I had a fire start in the TV amplifier. We have an automatic fire extinguisher mounted in the refrigerator compartment.

  19. Dave

    We were sitting on a Sunday morning, in 2014, having coffee, when we smelled something burning …. Damn, it was us. Had it been 2 hours earlier, we would have been in bed. 2 hours later and we would have been in church.
    Since then, we have changed to a Amish Cooling unit and have been HAPPY CAMPERS

  20. Brenda

    Never a fire but after we had a cooling unit replaced….that one failed in less than two years. Warranty would only replace with another cooling unit. $1,300. So we had enough and they allowed the same money and we replaced with a two door residential in place of the 4 door NEVER COLD. We never boondocked but do always stay at State Parks and COE Parks.
    So yes we have electric hookup. We can travel for 5 hours with the doors shut without running the generator.
    We just couldn’t afford the over $3,000 price of another new RV refrigerator. The residential was $800. It’s been two years now and we don’t have to worry about spoiled food which is important as we have been fulltime since 2013.

  21. Don

    My last motorhome had the 4 door Norcold refrigerator that was the prime reason for the recalls and major culprit of RV fires. I had it updated at least 3 times as the different recalls evolved and never had any problems. The recall upgrade included putting a thermistor on the boiler to ensure the boiler didn’t overheat. That feature should have always been standard equipment. Problems developed when the refrigerator was being used and not level causing the boiler to overheat and actually melt releasing its contents which immediately caught fire. Very often those refrigerators were installed right next to the exit door and the fire trapped the occupants inside the RV – a sure receipt for disaster.

  22. vernon webb

    wonder if all the rvs that come with residential friges come with an inverter ? how long will food keep ,if theres no electric ? if im traveling six or eight hours and stop at a walmart for the night how long will i have to run the generator. wll there be more food poisonings ? weve had three mtr homes in the last 25 years no fire and no work done on the elec propane fridge. reminds me of those cheap windows that just tilt out at the bottom. its just cheaper for the manufacturer,but your not going to pay any less.

  23. Ray

    I prefer Dometic Vs Norcold. We have an 8 year old dometic still going strong.

    1. Patrick Granahan

      Have owned 3 travel trailers since 1985…all have had Dometic units…none has ever failed….always worked on both propane and electric…absolutely no fires.
      The trend of using electric only refrigerators reflects the “new age campers” who never venture too far from cities….never camp boondocks style…they are what I call Disneyland campers…plastic animals…plastic trees…paved campsites in RV Parks…closest thing to nature they ever get is the organic vegetable department at their local supermarket !

  24. Jim

    Chuck, please have one of your experts write a story on fridge fire suppression systems. Thanks

  25. Jim

    many reasons for going to residential. First is cost, a replacement Domentic for our Wanderlodge is over $3200 while a residential with over 50% more space is about $1000. It will also keep ice cream frozen, make plenty of ice, does not need defrosting and will keep vegetables fresh. We do extensive boondocking at Quartzsite, Oshkosh (EAA Airshow) and many other sites for over a week at a time with no issues. Generator time is only increased by about an hour a day with the residential refrigerator and can be easily reduced with a solar installation. Our experience with replacement Domentic units was very poor with a lifespan of about 3 years.

    I am sorry to say, maybe you should consider that you are looking at all changes as negative. Not all changes in RV’s are negative.

    1. Brenda

      I agree. Lately the weekly posts have been doom and gloom. Not everyone stays at private parks or boondocks. We are fulltime on the eastern US and Stay at COE and State Parks as we prefer natural settings. It’s not all one or the other.
      We have been completely satisfied with replacing our 4 door NEVER COLD with a two door residential.

    2. Joe S.

      We have the same year/size Adventurer and fridge mounted in a slide as Chuck. We suffered years of chronic Norcold absorbtion fridge problems literally from day one of taking ownership, which included under warranty replacing the entire fridge… and later two cooling units AND a class action settlement check. After the last cooling unit failure which Winnebago, Norcold, or any authorized service center in san Diego could not remedy… we finally put in a residential fridge. We gained over three cubic feet of cooling space in the same footprint, now enjoy minus degrees freezer temps in +100 weather, no frost,, plus the financial benefits that Jim and others here describe . It’s also Energy Star efficient with a three year service warranty. If beyond that a problem occurs… we can replace the ‘entire’ fridge for 60% less than just a replacement absorption cooling unit, with no delays for warranty begging! So… what’s not to love? We couldn’t be happier!
      We delightdly chuckle at the despairing and uninformed remarks about owners of rvs equipped with residential fridges. When anyone owns an RV beyond about 25 feet, I believe it’s unrealistic, perhaps even delusional, to see it as anything other than a cabin on wheels instead of as a rugged camp nestled in the wide open wilderness; Especially if the only differentiation is a residential versus a weak absorption fridge.

      Interesting note: No one we talked to on the phone would admit to even knowing this problem existed… but curiously enough sold REMEDY kits to FIX it. Because the fridge was in a slide, heat had to vent vertically, instead upward… so the tin baffles suggested did no good at all.. Heat, still wanted to still rise, even though apparently there is no problem… the Adventure now offers a choice of absorption and residential fridges. You can do the figuring.

  26. ken

    No fire but I think my fridge was recalled and worked on before we bought the rig. There’s a tag on it. Settled the Norcold class action suit last year and WOW surprised at the $$$ amount. For four years! I guess I’m suppose to buy another refrigerator but this Norcold works perfectly. At least on electric.

    1. Dave

      I missed out on the class action lawsuit somehow. How much was the settlement? Usually only the lawyers make out on those

      1. Greg

        I usually do not send in the cards for class action lawsuits but I did for my refrigerator and I received the first of four checks for $228.90 last summer.

  27. The Brookers

    Ours has not caught fire but it has been replaced at a cost of nearly $3000. At the time we had not known residential refrigerators were even possible. We would have gone that way if we had known. RV refrigerators are also costly to run and not all that efficient.
    We did add an auxiliary fan and it has changed the efficiency immensely. We found it at https://smartrvproducts.com/works/
    We are not connected to that manufacturer FYI.

  28. Eric

    We have a 18 year old Dometic New Dimensions that has never had a problem (knock on wood). It’s extremely large for a dual energy fridge and I already did the research on it. There is no current electric/propane replacement for it in this size and the space it’s in is not deep enough for a residential although that was not the optimal choice for us. So, I have a site bookmarked that replaces the entire coil system on the back. A bit of a task to do but it should be the right solution for us if it ever quits 😉

  29. Mark Becker

    Had A fire in our motor coach, the ice maker line burned off and put out the fire. The coach flooded however we are still alive. Insurance investigator spent about 2 hrs looking at the damage and the only thing he said was go buy a lottery ticket! 4 months later we have a residential fridge. Going down the road and boon docking we get around 8 hours of run time. Much better option for us.

  30. Lance Craig

    Never had a fire, and never had an issue with keeping things cold or frozen. We have had small Dometic in a Class C and a large side-by-side Dometic in our current Class A. Going to residential would require more batteries (we already have large inverter) and solar or more generator run time. But, if you don’t boondock and stay in parks with electric hookups, I guess it is cheaper.

  31. Jean Corsetti

    We have never had a problem with our refrigerator however we owned a 2012 Thor Challenger that we could not get the microwave/convection oven to work. Thor replaced the oven 5 times. Every time I tried to use it, it would short out. In the 9 months We owned this RV I was never able to cook anything in the ovens.

    We told Thor we thought there was a wiring problem but the said they would continue to replace the oven rather than replace the wiring to the oven.

    I pity the person who purchased this RV when we traded it in 2013. I hope it hasn’t caught fire on them. When we traded in the RV we were very clear to the salesperson that one of the main reasons we were trading was our fear that the RV would catch fire.

  32. Curtis McRee

    I have owned 10 R.V’s since 1974. I live full time in my R.V. now. I converted my R.V. to total electric. including my frig. much safer and cheaper to operate. also my water heater. I have never had a fire in any of my R.V’s. I am 83 years young and still love to travel in or with an R.V.

  33. Gregg

    Our RV frig had gone out and when we shopped for a replacement we found that the RV frig would be 3 cu ft smaller and $800 more expensive than a residential one that would fit the same compartment. We went with the residential due to the fact that we do not boondock. While moving from place to place we are only on the road no more than 5 or 6 hours at a time before arriving at the next RV park or location that has electricity. We were advised that if the frig being without electricity while traveling was a problem then a inverter could be installed and that would maintain the frig between electrical hookups..

  34. JRW

    With a residential fridge why have the propane option on the hot water tank?

  35. Tom

    More fires are in the generator compartment. Replace the gas lines with barrier hose. Install a fire suppression system.

  36. Mike

    When we bought our 5th wheel 2 years we had a choice and went with the RV type for the versatility. Hadn’t heard of the fire issue but that would not have changed our decision.

  37. Buck

    Have owned at least 8 to 10 rv’s over a 45 year time period and [knock on wood] NEVER had a fire problem.
    This residential style fridges is the reason went aren’t buying anything above a 2012 year. I’m from ole school and old is better quality and pride in building our recreational vehicle. Have a good day and better tomorrow plus great newsletters.
    Buck K.

  38. David

    Sorry, spellcheck incorrectly changed these words in my previous comment:

    Coolsown is supposed to be cool down
    LESd is supposed to be LED

  39. David

    Fire is a possibility but not something I lose sleep over. However, RV fridge units are a pain and someone should have improved their functionality by now. Leveling, inadequate heat exchange and cooling in outside/rear mechanism, inadequate cooling and air movement inside the fridge, long coolsown times and slow recovery when you open the doors. Fire isn’t my main concern, but poor performance despite having added multiple gadgets myself (cooling and exhaust fans inside and outside, LESd lighting, frozen ice packs, temperature monitoring alarms, etc.) my fridges rarely kept food at safe temperatures. So, I would prefer compressor style residential or dorm/office style units. Yes, this would limit boondocking without some other power options being added. And I do agree most RVers won’t add these expensive and complicated power systems.

  40. Walt

    Never had one catch on fire. In our current RV we upgraded our Norcold cooling unit with the “Amish” replacement unit. I don’t even worry about fridge fires now.

    1. James

      What is an Amish unit?

      1. Walt

        Amish units are made up in Northern Indiana (Shipshewana). Much better quality than the Norcold. More tubing, heavier guage construction, etc.

        We picked ours up at the factory. Took about 2 hours to replace the unit and put the fridge back in.

        I also added fire resistant panels around the fridge.

        1. Rich H

          We also replaced ours at the Amish factory in Shipshewana after a noxious smell. Was worth the drive there as we have not had a problem since. Unit now produces ice in the hottest conditions.

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