Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Fun Comes to a Halt

Friday July 25, 2014
Red Trail RV Park
Medora, North Dakota


You will be amazed to see there are almost no pictures in this post.  Don’t be shocked.  That’s because not a bit of this is picture worthy.  So instead of too many pictures, now you get too many words.  

For those of you considering full timing, read carefully. It is not all great hikes, kayaks and terrific campgrounds.   Sometimes you’ve got big problems and you are out in the middle of nowhere.




As you may have noticed, the last post was all about a great day at Painted Canyon on Tuesday the 22rd. That’s a link to it and it is much more fun to read than this one.

Now it is Friday the 25th..  And that is not because we were so busy having fun on Wednesday and Thursday.  It is because Tuesday was the last day we’ve been able to do any of the great things to do here in this fantastic place.  

Why you ask?

On Tuesday night we noticed that our fridge was not staying cold.   It was in the 40’s in the refrigerator part.  We turned the temperature up to the highest setting thinking it was the less efficient propane causing the problem and we’d just tell it to work harder.

We don’t run our refrig on our inverter because it takes too much power.  When boondocking we run it and the hot water heater on LP.  We do run the microwave and toaster for their short periods of time on AC with the inverter and of course all the outlets for the laptops and charging and all the lights.   So far the solar seems to be working well.   WHEW!!



We wake up the next morning, Wednesday, and things are worse.



Moving the temperature control up didn’t help.  So we go into research mode.  I google the problem and find all sorts of advice. 

David calls Winnebago. The tech advises that we call Norcold.  We do and find that Norcold only has customer service, they have no service technicians to answer questions.  

So I email my friend Annie, a veteran boondocker who says clean the flue, check the flame.  We do.  The flue turns out to be not that dirty but David cleans it anyway and  checks the flame which looks lazy by comparison with some photos I found on the web.  

More research.

I find on line that the burner orifice might need cleaning. But taking that off to clean it looks like it requires further investigation.  You are dealing with propane here.

As all this is happening we are monitoring the temperature of the fridge and recording it every 45 minutes. Remember David was a statistician in a former life and has ‘records’ of everything.  In spreadsheets of course.

We turn on the generator to make sure it is only the LP that is a problem.  The generator takes the temperature down into the lower 40’s.  Still not low enough but we know that it takes these RV refrigs a long time to cool down once they get heated up.  We can’t leave the generator on that long.

We decide we just need to find an RV service center, so another call to Norcold.  Knowing we have a Class A rig, they give us two names of places 45 miles away.  We call them both.   Each of them says yes they work on Norcolds but not on Class A’s.  Only trailers and 5th wheels. 


What?   An RV refrigerator is an RV refrigerator whatever type rig it is in. 


They are the same refrigerators.    I’m pretty disgusted about this.  

One of the RV places gives us the names of two mobile techs and says he thinks one of them is certified by Norcold.




David calls the two service techs. They will have to come from the closest town, Dickinson, also 45 miles away. (Aside:  This is also the only place to get groceries. So come here with a full pantry and fridge.)

The first tech charges $100 for the service call, 80 cents a mile for 90 miles round trip and $85 an hour for the time he is here. And if we need a part he doesn’t have that would be another trip. On a 10 year old motor home no one has the parts you need. They always have to be ordered.

Second guy is at least willing to discuss the details of the problem and make some suggestions. He doesn’t charge a service call but he does charge $2.00 a mile for 90 miles and $100 an hour for his time once he gets here. They both end up being $172-$180  just to get them out here to look at it.  That seems like a lot of money to not guarantee that it would be fixed

As things do this takes the entire day so our plans for doing the rest of the drive and hikes falls by the wayside and we still have no solution.





Overnight there is a tremendous rainstorm.  We wake up on Thursday morning to find a little bit of water on the dashboard and a drop hanging from the trim pieces above the windshield.  Oh great, another problem.  

So before going back to the refrigerator problem, David  goes up on the roof to look for cracks that need to be sealed. None.  He inspects Winnona’s outside front cap to the roof seam and finds it all well sealed too.  He does find that the black trim across the top of the windshield was not sealed and had never been sealed. So a call to Winnebago to find out if that is the way it is intended to be. Should we follow recommendations found on the web to seal that? 



Have you been counting up the number of phone calls?

Winnebago says no do not seal that. Water might get behind there but there is no way for that water to get into the coach.  It would drain down the center or off the side outside. However if there is rust then that strip should be removed, the rust removed and the metal primed and repainted to stop the rust before reattaching the strip. There is rust.  So that definitely needs to be done.  But that’s for after the refrigerator.  SIGH……

I find on line another useful tip that the five overhead clearance lights might be the source of the leak.  Since they are above the windshield the water could be running down from there.

Back on the ladder, David takes one off and finds that the gaskets are dried and cracked.  Possible solution to this problem, order 5 new gaskets, take out all the lights, clean them thoroughly of any rust, put the gaskets in and reseal them.  



He calls Lichtsinn Motors and orders 5 new gaskets and puts white duct tape over the lights until the gaskets come.   Problem solved for now we think.  But we have no water to run a rain test.

Back to the refrigerator. In spite of having run all night on LP, the temperature is at 50 degrees this morning although the freezer still has ice in the ice tray so there is some cooling going on but not enough to do the refrigerator too.



More research. THANK GOODNESS we have internet and phone service here!


In National Parks this is definitely not a given.   I find someone on an RV forum who advises to tap on the cooling tube to dislodge any clog.  Perhaps things aren’t circulating.  David does and puts a fan blowing into the back of the refrig through the access panel on the side of the coach. The idea being that if the heat isn’t being cleared then the fridge won't cool properly. Neither of these improves the fridge temperature.

More research which turns up this plan.  David takes the circuit board cover off and checks the fuses and thinks he will disconnect the thermistor.  Perhaps it is cutting off too soon.  After studying the manual’s wiring schematic and checking outside, he finds he cannot do this from the outside back of the fridge because the thermistor has in a wiring harness that connects a lot of other things.   So unplugging it would remove power from the front circuit board and he couldn’t see what the unit is doing. 

Scratch that.

He looks inside the refrigerator and discovers that both the thermistor and the light have a wiring clip that can be unplugged from inside. Therefore if the thermistor is faulty it will stop shutting off cooling prematurely. Maybe that’s the problem. 

No luck.  After several hours, no effect.


So now what?

It does better with the generator and terribly on LP so we need to know what it does when directly connected to AC.

Therefore we are going to have to leave our wonderful campsite and move to a commercial campground where we can hook up to electric and see what the fridge does so we know what we are up against.  If we can’t get the temperature down with electric then we may be seeing visions of $1500 for a new refrigerator.

We cannot boondock, solar or not if the refrigerator won’t run on LP.

I check RV Park Reviews for local campgrounds.  It is 3:00 on a Thursday during the height of tourist season.  Oh dear!

There are 4 campgrounds.  One is a state park with only boondocking.  NIX.  One is a Guest Ranch and 6 miles away.  Of the two in Medora, one has better ratings.  I try calling them.  Busy. 

I try for a half hour, busy busy busy.   This is making me nervous so I get in the car and drive over there.  Its location is pretty nearly just across the street from the park. Perfect IF they have a space.


Time to get lucky.

But the park entrance is 6 miles from the campground and they are working on the road so it takes me a total of an hour to go over and happily arrange a site there for two nights.  I am lucky to get it. 

AND more lucky that they give a Good Sam discount and MOST lucky that the owners are RV Technicians.   They say they will come over and take a look at the problem when we get there.

Things MAY be looking up.  That’s a lot of luck here at the end of the day.

I return to Winnona, we go into pack up and leave in 30 minutes mode.

Our great site is paid for through Friday so we put our bikes chained to the picnic table, leave a chair and the table cloth and pads out to make sure we can keep the site and head over to Red Trail RV Park.

Will the technicians have even more ideas about what could be the problem? 
Will they be able to fix it? 
Will it need parts? 
Will they have those parts? 
Can they get those parts? 
Stay tuned for the continuing saga of sh*t happens on the road.


  1. Oh lordy, do I ever empathize with your troubles. Why is it that you need a traveling repairman rather than having the problem when you're driving in or near a large city with plenty of repair services around. I had to have a tech come out twice when I was at Lassen in 2009, in the middle of nowhere at an exhorbitant fee! I hope you soon get the problem ID'd and fixed at the RV Park and can return to TERO quickly!

  2. As I used to say to Rich. "One can't own an RV if things that go wrong are going to upset them. Houses weren't meant to move down the road." We once followed our NEW motorhome which was on a flat bed truck for hundreds of miles in Nevada to find out after three days of technicians trouble shooting that the problem was a 97 cent part. Fortunately, it was still under warranty, but we never did get to drive I50; something we had always wanted to do--something no warranty could make good. Though it's no comfort to you, I'm sure, I, at least, wanted you to know that Winona is a good old gal--things can go wrong on the first trip out. Anxious to hear that everything is fixed and you're on your way, again.

    Oh, I had a leak from the lights on the roof of my truck. Once fixed--no more rain inside.

  3. Oh my! What a complete bummer, but guess that's part of it. Not fair to leave us hanging.

  4. WELL! when I read your update on my blog roll ... I said Ohhhh noooo... something's happened to David again...

    Sooo... I know this RV maintenance repair business is frustrating and that's one reason I don't have one ... but dang almighty! Sherry... my heart did skip a beat when you said the Fun Comes to a Halt!

    Didn't Judy Bell just go through this?

  5. Oh, dear!!! What a mess when your home is not performing as it should.... I was having a problem with frig... but it was just NOT working at all and it as that GFI thing in the bathroom!! after all kinds of check this and check that back and forth with my rv tech in Calif, all it needed was for that button to be reset!!! thank heavens!! Hope they have an easy solution for you too!!

  6. When was the last time the burner orifice was cleaned? It should be a regular maintenance item on an older RV, especially one that does get used on propane regularly. For example, when we're using ours a lot, it needs cleaning every three months.

  7. Oh my ... you've been having quite a few problems on the road this year. Hope this ones resolves itself quickly and without much of a hit to the pocketbook.

  8. And I began reading your blog thinking "oh no! something is wrong with David!" ...... so your problem made me feel a bit better, Just a little bit. Problems with our homes are so frightening. They never come at a good time. Right now, we are having toilet problems. John will take the toilet out for the second time tomorrow.

  9. I just had the exact same symptoms a few months ago. Had the burner and orifice cleaned and it works great now! Good luck.

  10. I read your posts and comments.
    Ammonia RV fridgs are most reliable things. They cool quicker on propane than electric due to difference in heat applied to boil the solution. ( down side is they cool slowly and do not work if parked tail down ).

    The flame being lit is a great thing, as the igniter and thermostat system is working correctly. I have never cleaned a orifice as it has never been needed, but....if some rust or regulator rubber got over it, I could see it getting clogged and causing a small flame, less heat than electric. This could very well be your problem.

    The burner is kinda like a gas grill or camp gas stove. Except the normal flame looks like a giant pilot light.

    Look at the gas valve as a possible restriction also.

    With Propane turned off at the tank, and fridge turned OFF. Open lower big door and identify gas valve copper pipe in and steel pipe with orifice on right side. There will be 12 vdc wires on valve also. Remove copper pipe and wires and slide unit out. Remove orifice and blow back through it. It is a tiny hole, do not make it bigger. Look at the input of the valve, any rubber, trash etc. The vale will be closed at this time, as no 12vdc, so you can not blow through it. If possible connect wires and turn fridge on propane and blow though the valve backwards and forwards.

    I know I am a Clueless Know It all, but this should find your problem. The Ammonia condenser and evaporator are OK if it works at all on the genset.

    Good luck.

    PS I had a leak in my old RV and it was those dang yellow clearance lights letting water into my over dash console.

  11. An RV tech did my cleaning. Cleaning the orifice is a bit tricky, and can easily be damaged.

  12. Sure wish you lots of luck! Yes, this life is not always a "piece of cake". --Dave (GoingRvWay.com)

  13. Sure hope it's an easy and inexpensive fix for your fridge. You're right, this RV life isn't all hiking, biking, kayaking and exploring beautiful places. I just had some major, very expensive, and unexpected dental work while we were in Ashland. Sigh. (But aren't we lucky that we get to have so much fun in between the other stuff?) :-)

  14. I don't know if my last comment went through - resending...
    What a bummer to have not one, but two, problems going on. I hope your move to the new RV park with technicians will solve your issues. I'm looking forward to the continuation of your story...

  15. Oh..I've been there too..My marker lights were leaking...My Norcold had the same issue..And my Winnie is a 1988, parts available? Ya sure...You Betcha!.It's a Ballard Wa. saying or someone from Minniesooota....
    I bought a small fridge rather than spend $1500 for a new one and you know how it goes...That will be another $1000. to install it...The campground we were in, Almo Idaho, when I thought the fridge was dying. I went around the C.G. asking if anyone wanted some steaks or whatever..we will take care of the ice cream. The fridge was loaded in anticipation of 2 weeks "out there". Must have scared the Norcold...this was 3yrs ago and it's still working swell.
    Hang in there..things will work out eh??

  16. Our Suncruiser would leak around the windshield when the rain came from the "right direction" or was really hard. It was just a small leak. That did not happen too often so we just lived with it. Hope they can help you get the fridge sorted out. We found unhooking the thermistor solved the issue in our suncruiser.

  17. I'm sure so many people appreciate your very detailed account of everything you've tried to get the fridge problem fixed. Thank you for sharing. Hope things get resolved soon!

  18. Oh Sherry, sure hope you find a fix for your refrigerator problem. Stuff does happen, even in this wonderful RV lifestyle. Last week our AC went out. We had to replace it.....2 times.....the first new one was a dud. The day after replacing the AC for the 2 n time while cooking dinner I smelled ammonia. Our 16 year old refrigerator had gone out! It's been an expensive couple of weeks. Good news was we are hosting at our home base Airstream campground and were able to use the parks commercial refrigerator and freezer to keep our food for the 3 days
    It took to get the new unit installed. For now all is good. Hope all ends well for you all

  19. We had a problem with a fridge not cooling enough, It turned out that the top insulation had fallen off the top of the fridge and was blocking the air flow. The tech never charged us. I wouldn't be opening the fridge every hour to check the temp, you'd loose any increase in cooling. Good luck, at least it's working some so I think that means it's a smaller problem than a dead fridge.

  20. Your post really shows a good example of how fulltiming is not all fun and games. I belong to a few full time rv groups on Facebook and so many of these people (mostly young and poor) have such a romantic idea of the life style. Many of them don't have the money to get from point A to point B and they are considering fulltiming. I sure hope you find a fix and can get back to enjoying yourselves. At least you've found a Rv mechanic.

  21. We had the same thing with our frig. Ours didn't work with either electric or propane. Can you say Walmart and coolers!!! At least we could continue to travel until we got it fixed which for us was switching out to a residential frig. We aren't boondockers so it works for us. Hope yours is the least expensive fix!

    Finding a leak near the windshield can be a bear. Been there, done that. Hope you can locate the spot. It took us two years which included removing the rubber trim around the windshield (which didn't fix it). Lots of caulking finally did! Ours started when new!

    Good Luck! I can feel your pain:)

  22. Well, thank goodness, it is just a machine and not your hubby!!

    I had this same problem. I bought a replacement Thermister at Camping World, plugged it in, and it worked like a charm. You say you checked it, but mine was still working, just not working properly, so there was no way to check without replacing. So maybe it is worth replacing. I think it cost me under $20, and for once, I DIYed!!!

  23. About the only good thing about all this is that you are retired and not on a two week vacation. It's a bummer, though.

  24. Criminy! A refrigerator problem seems like the worst type of problem...all that good food going to waste and the headaches involved. I don't envy you...fingers crossed...

  25. so sorry for all of this - hope today is a better day!!

  26. Fridges seem to be a consistent source of trouble for every RVer at some point, I hope your tech that you've found can sort out the trouble and it won't cost a bundle. Live on the road has many wonderful adventures and an occasional bummer thrown in every once and a while to bring things into perspective.

    I think you've covered all the obvious bases, I hope this will be solved with an easy fix. Caring for an older MH is a big job, don't I know it.

  27. That is really a bummer. Our fridge was doing that sort of off and on. Checked out the external drain tube, cleaned the tiny opening and hung it outside the fridge vents. Seems to have leveled off for the time being, at least. The fridges are so touchy . . . Glad you got a spot in an RV park and hope things level off soon.

  28. I don't see any references to the known Winnebago "rust around the windshield" issue. I hope that is not your issue because it is ours. Many RV forums discuss this. iRV2 has a lot of information about it. Just put in windshield and rust and, unfortunately, you will find out a lot more than you ever wanted to know. Our motorhome is a 2003 Itasca Horizon and we will have to have the glass removed, rust taken off, glass reinstalled and sealed. Winnebago knows all about the issue that that built in but takes no responsibility for. We spoke to representatives in Forest City, Iowa last year when we were there and to them it will remain a "maintenance issue" even though it was never sealed at the time of manufacture or mentioned as something to watch for. Rant over. Hope your fridge issues with your Norcold end soon and fairly inexpensively.

  29. How nice of Winona to have the leak at the same time you are already seeking a technician - hopefully one service call can resolve both issues :-). Sounds like you and David did all the right things to eliminate many possible problems - and hopefully are rewarded with technicians on-site who use that research for a quick fix! Hoping to hear the right answers to all those questions!!!

  30. Sorry about your fridge; o (( Hope by now you know what the problem is and can be moving toward resolving it. Sure good that more of our fulltiming days are the good days. Hope you get back to the good days ASAP!!

  31. Motorhome repair issues are both inevitable and devastating. I sincerely hope your fridge is an easy, inexpensive fix. When our cooling coils failed a few years back, we were forced to move out of our home. We ended up repairing rather than replacing the fridge, about the same cost, as it involved removing our windshield to remove and install...plus the time factor we would be laid up. Wishing you luck!

  32. Wow, you have some great commenters! All these useful tips are duly noted and will be kept handy until all is well again.

  33. Totally sucks! But just like any home, things go wrong. I used to have a hard time keeping the fridge cold on LP when the outside temps got hot. Sure hope help is coming, or already there.

  34. Oh boy. Just reading that made me tired. So many phone calls. You certainly are resourceful! It is too bad you had to leave that campground, but luck at the end is hopeful. Hope you can get back out on the trail soon!

  35. We've been through this road Sherry. It cost Steve sleepless nights, researching and figuring out what the heck the problem is. He had it looked by several technician but was still unresolved for months. Finally, when we arrived in Florida, after more research and study Steve decided not to fix the Norcold Refrigerator. To repair it would cost us $1500 so he opted of replacing and installing it himself with a residential refrigerator costing way less. ( i know this may not sound like the solution you are looking for). Keep this option in the future if the fix that you just had may not last long. Since you have solar panels, you will still be able to boondock with a residential ref. There are places also that will do the work for you should you decide down the road.
    I feel your pain and frustration and hope that the fix you just had will last long.

  36. Lucky that David is so handy but you are kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place given that there aren't RV techs everywhere and that they are really expensive. XXXOOO


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!