This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy.

How to Prevent Your RV Refrigerator from Exploding If You Can’t Level Your RV.

This post was updated on March 15th, 2024

If you’re as green as I was when I started RVing, you may be surprised to learn that your RV refrigerator won’t work properly unless it’s level.

I learned about this the hard way during my first year as a full-time RVer.

When relatives invited my husband and me to stay in their home for a few days, we parked our RV curbside at a very tilted angle.

Sign up for the newsletter today!

Please enter a valid email address.

An error occurred. Please try again later.

× logo

Thank you for subscribing to the Do It Yourself RV newsletter, keep your eye on your inbox for updates.

We didn’t think anything of it, and left our food chilling inside the refrigerator.

A few days later I went back into the RV to retrieve something, only to see that the refrigerator had a big “ERROR” message on the readout.

In a state of panic, I opened the door and was greeted by a warm box of stinky, rotting food.

Related: After a Lightning Storm, Always Check Your House Batteries. We Didn’t and Wasted Our Time.

I was pretty mad thinking that our brand new RV had a defective Norcold refrigerator.

But after a little research on how RV ‘absorption refrigerators‘ work, I realized I had nobody to blame but myself.

Why RV Refrigerators Must Be Level

To keep your food cold, RV absorption refrigerators must have a constant flow of gravity-fed chemicals.

If your RV is parked off-kilter like ours was, the chemicals can’t circulate throughout the system’s plumbing.

When the chemicals don’t circulate, the refrigerator stops working and your food gets warm.

Sometimes the refrigerator will just shut itself off like ours did.

But when the parking angle isn’t as severe, or when you’re driving long distances in hilly terrain, the heating element will dutifully trudge along.

The refrigerator won’t sense anything is wrong.

Without correction, your RV refrigerator’s plumbing may overheat, which in time can severely damage refrigerator pipes and eventually lead to premature burn-out.

Even worse: an off-level refrigerator that keeps trying to work under these conditions can explode when internal refrigeration chemicals back up.

The aftermath of an RV fridge fire
The aftermath of an RV fridge fire

We were lucky that didn’t happen to us!

If you’re the type of RVer who likes to get away from it all and stay out of parking-lot style RV parks, you’ll always be faced with the challenge of making sure your rig is level enough for safe refrigerator operation.

Sometimes all the leveling blocks in the world can’t make your rig perfectly level.

Which is where a relatively new and inexpensive aftermarket product called the ARPrv Controller comes to the rescue.

The ARPrv Controller Monitors the Operational Temperature of Your RV Refrigerator

The ARPrv Controller ensures the safe operation of most RV refrigerators.

ARP controller
ARP controller

This user-installed gadget goes right on the boiler tube, and is programmed to know what temperature provides the best operation of your RV refrigerator.

If things get too hot, the ARPrv Controller will shut off the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

This allows your refrigerator to cool down to a safer level.

Once the refrigerator has cooled to a safe temperature, the ARPrv will restart the unit.

Should the refrigerator once again exceed safe operating temperatures, the gadget will repeat the off-on cycle until you find a better, more level place to park.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably parked your rig on uneven surfaces many times and nothing happened, which leaves you a little skeptical about a product like this.

However, the folks at ARPrv want you to know that oftentimes the damage is cumulative and happens over time.

Here’s how they explain it:

Each time the boiler overheats, damage is done to the refrigerator. With the accumulation of off level overheating the refrigerator loses efficiency, thus in warm weather the refrigerator may run all the time and only cool to 55ºF in the refrigeration compartment. Often, the damage will result in no cooling at all above a certain ambient temperature.

Just about anyone can install this $160 device, and complete documentation is included for the most common RV refrigerators.

ARP installation schematic
ARP installation schematic

But if you’d rather leave installation to the professionals, the folks at ARPrv are happy to provide tech support to RV mechanics who need it.

For more technical details and operating information visit the ARPrv Controller website.

Be sure to check out their Testimonial Page which features more great reasons why this $160 product can save you from purchasing a new RV refrigerator that costs ten times more.

More Resources

ARPrv Control FAQ page
Read about the inventor of the ARPrv

If you liked this RV refrigerator mod, you’ll love the DoItYourselfRV Insider’s List. Get free updates, unpublished content, and special offers. Sign up now. No spam. Not ever.

1 thought on “How to Prevent Your RV Refrigerator from Exploding If You Can’t Level Your RV.”

  1. “an off-level refrigerator that keeps trying to work under these conditions can explode when internal refrigeration chemicals back up”

    Wow, such ignorance

    10 degrees sideways, 5 degrees front to back
    nothing remotely explosive except for your poorly maintained propane in that fridge

Leave a Comment

Welcome! Please follow these guidelines:

  • Be kind and respectful.
  • Keep comments relevant to the article.
  • Avoid insults, threats, profanity, and offensive remarks.
  • Refrain from discussing gun rights, politics, or religion.
  • Do not post misleading information, personal details, or spam.

We may hide or remove comments at our discretion.