keeping your RV fridge cold while on the move

How to keep Your RV fridge cold while driving

Keeping your RV fridge cold while driving is one of the surest ways to prepare for your summer travel. Well, as an RV owner, your fridge is one of the essential appliances you should have on your motor-home. Why is this? The fridge helps in keeping your drinks, barbecues, and beverages chilled while on the go.

Running your fridge is quite straightforward. All you need to do is to configure the process to your preferred power source, and the rest is settled. 

An important thing to note is, to keep your fridge cold, you’d require lots of energy, and this depends on your preferred power source. However, this might not be a good idea, due to the fact that your van is in motion. 

In this post, we are going to learn;

  • How an RV Fridge works
  • Power sources used by an RV fridge
  • How to keep an RV Fridge cold while on the move
  • Maintenance tips to ensure coolness while driving
  • Some tips to keep your RV fridge cold even when it’s not turned on

How does an RV Fridge work?

RV fridge in an RV

RV fridge works differently from your regular home refrigerator. Unlike your home fridge, an RV fridge doesn’t require a compressor to run.

It runs with a different kind of technology. Instead of using the liquid refrigerant and the compressor, it makes use of the absorbent method of cooling, using ammonia and hydrogen gas.

However, the ammonia mix is heated by a burner or an electric heating element, and this is where the magic of chilling starts.

The absorption refrigerator in your RV functions better on a plain surface. While driving, your RV fridge efficiency is limited by the hills, corners, and bumps on the road.

Meanwhile, leveling your camper eventually won’t prompt its high performance, supposing it had been running off. You must switch the unit off until everything returns to the average temperature.

Power Sources Used By RV Fridges

Typically, we don’t compare fridges and heat. To retain a certain level of low temperature, all refrigerators require heat. There are three different powers sources for RV fridges;

  • 12V DC
  • 120 AC
  • Propane

Although many RV fridge designs can operate on 120 AC and propane, allowing you to use generators or electrical grids on campgrounds. Therefore, transitioning to a propane tank while driving would be an alternative.

However, if you chose to do so, you should take every safety measure to avoid possible gas leakage. The three-way RV fridge requires you to choose among the 12V DC, the 120 AC, and the propane power sources.

RV refrigerators that can be powered from three sources are much smaller than two-way RV fridge. Above all, RV fridges are a preferable choice for small trailers and campers.

Even though the 12V DC power source is one of the safest. Yet, It drains the RV battery quickly, which is why RV owners opt for the two-way RV Fridges that make use of the propane 120 AC power sources.

Neither of the power sources used by RV refrigerators is flawless since 120 AC power supply requires that you have a battery that can produce sufficient power to keep the fridge running efficiently.

On the other hand, it is legally prohibited to refuel while your propane-fueled fridge is on. Some RV refrigerator designs can automatically detect the available power sources and switch between propane and 120 AC whenever required.

How to Keep your RV Fridge Cold in 4 Easy Steps

how to keep your rv fridge cold while driving

Step #1. Limit the space in your fridge and fill it with cold items:

While driving, packing your fridge correctly should be a top priority, if you want it to stay cold. We recommend that you do not allow for too much room space between your items.

Restricting the space in your fridge eliminates movement in your fridge, and also prevents possible spillage. Do you know that having more cold items in your fridge keeps the temperature low?

Therefore, ensure you fill the excess space between items with ice-packs and cold items. Frozen drinks like juice or water bottles would serve this purpose better because they don’t spoil or develop moisture as they melt.

Try as much as possible not to pack ice cubes or frozen foods. The reason is that these items accumulate moisture as they unfreeze, and thawing food has a high chance of spoiling. You wouldn’t want a soured food on your vehicle on a long journey, or do you? You wouldn’t want that, I guess.

Step #2. Keep the fridge temperature low before the trip

Turning the temperature of your RV fridge to the lowest setting when it is turned off is the simplest way of keeping the temperature level. You can do this a night before your embarking on a trip.

To avoid freezing items when you do this, ensure that you set it to the lowest temperature. Lowering the temperature a couple of hours before leaving rather than the night before would also prevent the freezing of items.

Step #3. Avoid the frequent urge to open your fridge while driving

The fastest way of losing cold air in your RV fridge is by opening the door. Doing this won’t be considered a problem if your RV Fridge is running.

Nevertheless, if you intend conserving cold air and keeping the perishable items fresh, we would advise you to avoid doing it. Avoiding the frequent urge to open the fridge as it will also help to lower the air temperature before the fridge is off.

If you’re traveling with your family, inform them of how crucial not opening the door is while on the move.

Packing a small cooler with useful items is an easy way of avoiding the frequent opening of your fridge. Furthermore, taking an ice-cooler along means you can have any drink or food you need for your trip and not lose any cold air in your fridge.

Step #4. Making use of  a generator

Peradventure, nothing seems to be going as planned. The last option would be running your generator. However, running your generator while driving is totally not advisable.

Although, you can plug your fridge to the generator and let the temperature decrease while stopping for lunch or quick breaks.

Generators are very noisy alongside the unwanted fumes they emit. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to disturb the neighborhood with the noisy sound of the generator on your stops. So, ensure you park at a distance from other vehicles if you’re in a rest area.

Running your generators inside your RV is dangerous. This is because the generator releases toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide, which is detrimental to your health.

RV Fridge Maintenance Tips to Ensure Coolness While Driving


Lowering the fridge’s temperature to a minimum before switching it off is one way of keeping your fridge cool while driving. A regular check-up will maintain your RV fridge temperature, even when you didn’t turn it on.

Below are tips which might significantly lengthen the time a fridge can stay cold.

#1- Circulation of Air Using An RV Fridge Fan

Unlike the conventional refrigerator, most RV Fridge does not have a fan that retains the same temperature everywhere.

You should know that the traditional ‘muffin’ fans are inexpensive, and they are also readily available. Most importantly, they are very easy to install. Keeping them at the back of the refrigerator, very close to the evaporator coils will help in the circulation of air.

The installation of two fridge fans will raise the airflow to the optimum while substantially reducing the power usage. Fridge fans use either D batteries or 12V DC lines to power the fridge light as a power source, and they apparently can’t increase the amount of fuel you spend on running your fridge while driving.

For this cause, buying a fan can be quite useful in maintaining the constant and stable temperature and inhibiting the concentration of hot spots.

#3- Ensure things are kept at a required level

Unlike the fridges in our homes, RV fridges do not possess mechanical pumps that allow the flow of refrigerant in the cooling system. Instead, they rely on the gravitational pull, which is why you need to ensure that your RV fridge is aligned with the ground. 

Understand that the smallest mismatch can block the flow of chemicals through the cooling system and prevent the fridge from working effectively.

If you turn your RV Fridge ON when driving, ensure to turn it off when you’re ascending a steep hillside or a mountain range. Whenever possible, don’t park your RV on rough ground. Ensure to add a bubble level to the refrigerator to determine if it’s mounted appropriately.

#4- Avoid Opening and closing the refrigerator door

The consistent opening of the door would make the refrigerator lose its cold once the temperature of your fridge is set. The central and internal heat will decrease gradually until it meets the desired temperature point. 

However, when you continue to open and close the door to get yourself something to quench your thirst or hunger, the refrigerator obtains outside air temperature. For this reason, it loses its coolness and takes a long time to get that coolness afterward.

Therefore, we recommend that the door should be kept closed all time except for important occasions.

Tips for Keeping Your Fridge Cold Even when it’s not turned on

The total distance you intend to cover in a day plays a vital role in your decision to keep your RV fridge working when enjoying your journey. Your RV fridge’s temperature mustn’t be above 4°C over 6 – 8 hours of operating at full capacity.

Nevertheless, if you’re trying to keep your fridge switched off for the whole road trip, you should not hit the road unprepared.

Below are the measures you should employ to maintain your RV Fridges’ Coldness before starting your journey.

  • Ensure you load your fridge with plenty of Ice.
  • Make a list of everything you will need to put it into your fridge, so you can pack it in, all at once, rather than doing it twice or more.
  • Sequel to the above point, avoid the temptation of visiting the fridge now and then while driving.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I run an RV fridge on propane?

To run an RV fridge on propane, first, level your camper. Secondly, unscrew the propane bottle that supplies propane to the camper. Thirdly, turn the propane knob to the left.

After that, turn on the propane switch. And of course, ensure the battery is connected to the camper.

Now, the next step would be to turn on your fridge. If you notice that your fridge hasn’t come on after 45 minutes, turn it off and wait for a few minutes before repeating the process.

Finally, after completing the above process, you need to wait for at least 24 hours before your RV fridge can start running on propane.

How much propane does an RV fridge use?

The volume of propane used is directly proportional to the size of your fridge. You should note that the size of your fridge will affect the volume of gas it’ll consume.

Let’s take for example if you have a 12 cubic feet RV fridge. The consumption rate will be anywhere from 1.5lbs to 1.7lbs of propane gas daily. In other words, a 20lb gas cylinder will only take you for two weeks maximum.

However, you can take a look at our previous post on how much propane an RV refrigerator uses to get a more detailed answer.

Does RV fridge need a battery to run on Propane?  

No, running your propane RV fridge with a battery is absolutely optional. However, the benefit of running your RV propane fridge with batteries is that they tend to last longer

Is it advisable to drive on a propane-powered fridge?

While it may not be advisable to drive on a propane-powered fridge, you should always try to take an explicit measure while on the go. However, you can’t be too sure when a massive swing would jolt the propane tank and result in leakages.

Although it is not against the law to cruise your van while your propane-fueled RV Fridge is on. But you must always make sure to turn off your propane RV system whenever you go through tunnels or stop to refuel.

How long will the RV refrigerator sustain a low temperature after I turn it off?

Your RV Fridge temperature will probably wind down over a period of 6 – 8 hours stretch. The fridge temperature increases by 4 degrees every 10-hour cycle, in standard condition. Besides that, installing an RV fridge fan and leaving your fridge’s door shut over a period can significantly maintain the temperature for up to 10 hours.

What’s the recommended method of powering your RV refrigerator when in motion?

One of the best recommendations for this is to consider switching over to a 12V DC power source. If your type of refrigerator is the 2 – way type, then making use of a generator that should provide sufficient power to keep the fridge running is a smart move.

Final thoughts

There are so many ways to maintain the coolness of your RV fridge while on the go. You should know that while it might be a no – brainer to leave your fridge turned on throughout the entire journey, it might place much strain on your RV power source. That said, also, the idea of running a refrigerator powered by propane on isn’t such a good idea.

Whether you are about to take trips with your RV or are making plans for the future, the steps outlined here should be of great advantage.

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