KEYWORDS: fridge, car, battery, water, gas, refrigerator

Have Trailer--Will Travel--Part 9: Water & Fridge

David Berg

DFO 812-913/7/79

1. A 15–TO-18–FOOT-SIZE TRAILER BODY (6-to-7-METERS OVERALL LENGTH) CAN USUALLY VERY WELL LIVE & SLEEP SIX ADULTS, OR POSSIBLY THREE ADULTS & THREE OR FOUR OR FIVE CHILDREN. Also the trailer then is equipped with a good kitchen & every convenience almost like home: Stove, sink, running water, fridge, cupboards, everything your heart could desire! Some even have running hot water, but usually not that small a trailer.

2. THESE CAMP TRAILERS ARE DOING WELL TO HAVE ANY WATER, much less running hot water! They figure in the Summertime you don't need much hot water even to do dishes, & you don't even need a hot shower. But should you need hot water, you can always heat it on your stove or carry it from the washhouse. Our big Dodge Motor-Home had both hot & cold running water working on an air-pressure system. We had huge storage tanks that held 30 gallons of cold water & 20 gallons of hot water—a total of 50 gallons of water!

3. WE ALSO HAD A SEWAGE TANK which held 30 gallons of waste water, that we only had to empty about once a week—if we found a place to empty it, which was always a problem. These small camp trailers that I'm describing do not usually have any kind of big water storage tanks except jerry-cans, or two or three 10-litre (two–gallon) water jugs. But they hold sufficient for a normal amount of camping for drinking‚ hand & face washing, dish-washing etc. You just make more frequent trips to the water faucet with your jerry–cans, & to the showers for bathing, & the washhouse for hot water or washing clothes.

4. SOME ARE EQUIPPED ONLY WITH FOOT-PEDAL PUMPS to pump water with your foot from your jerry-can through the faucet into the washbowl or the sink‚ but most of them are equipped with electrical pumps operated either on your car's electrical circuit, like your lights, or 220-volt mains (110-volt in the U.S.). Most are equipped with 12-volt circuits with 12–volt lighting, which operates from the car generator &/or battery. They are designed for travel & can be used while on the road or parked hitched–up overnight, but don't try to run the fridge on it while parked or you will kill the battery!

5. SOME HAVE SEPARATE 220 CIRCUITS (110 in the U.S.) with a plug-in for electrical hookup to the mains. Others have a main line plug–in, but a transformer that steps the current down to your 12-volt system. Nearly all modern trailer refrigerators are the three–way fridges, which means you can run the fridge either on the gas from your gas bottles when camping without electricity, or you can run it on the 12-volt car current while driving, or you can run it on 220 or 110 when plugged into outside local current, which is very convenient.

6. SO YOUR FRIDGE CAN STILL RUN ON GAS whether the car is there or not, & whether you're hooked up to the local electricity or not. Your stove & heater also run on gas, & some trailers even have gas lights, in case you're really camped out. If you're totally disconnected & free of electricity‚ you can still run everything on gas: Your heat, cookstove, fridge & lights. This is very convenient for isolated camping‚ especially since you don't want to run down your car battery.

7. IF YOU TRY TO RUN YOUR FRIDGE ON YOUR CAR BATTERY WHEN STOPPED, IT PROBABLY WOULDN'T LAST AN HOUR—it would knock your battery flat in no time! However, if the car is moving on the road & the generator running, then of course you can keep your fridge on its 12-volt circuit & keep things cold in the refrigerator when the car's moving while you're travelling.

8. THE ONLY PURPOSE OF THE 12-VOLT CIRCUIT IN YOUR REFRIGERATOR IS JUST FOR TRAVEL while in motion on the road. It's not for camping—not for standing still very long when the car engine is not running, because then the fridge will completely discharge your battery. The 12-volt circuit for the fridge is strictly for travel‚ to keep the fridge cold while travelling. So be sure that when you start off on your trip & you're hooked up & ready to roll, you turn off your gas or 220 & switch over your fridge to 12-volt electricity so that it will operate on the road when the car is running while you're travelling & continue to keep it cold.

9. THEN WHEN YOU STOP, BE SURE THAT YOU TURN OFF THE FRIDGE from the 12-volt circuit as quickly as possible, or you're going to run your battery down real flat real quick! Trying to run a refrigerator on your car battery without the car running will quickly kill you battery!—While the car's running, it's generating electricity & you're not draining your battery. While you're driving & your car engine is running & the generator or alternator is working & generating electricity, so it's not coming out of your battery‚ but the power is coming from the engine's own electric generator, this does not knock your battery flat—in fact your battery's being charged at the same time.

10. BUT WHEN THE CAR IS STOPPED & THE MOTOR'S OFF, then everything electrical about the car runs off the battery, & if you leave your headlights or the fridge on for even a little while, your battery will soon be flat! Whereas you can drive for hours & all day & all night with your headlights &/or fridge on, as long as the car's moving & the engine's running.

11. YOUR TRAILER FRIDGE YOU CAN RUN ON THE 12-VOLT CAR CIRCUIT AS LONG AS THE CAR'S MOVING & ENGINE RUNNING—as long as you want, no matter how long the trip. It's not going to hurt the car or the battery. But the minute you stop, you'd better disconnect that fridge quick! If you're in a spot where you can plug in right quick to 220 or 110 on the mains circuit, & you can get local electricity, then you can plug that in right away & switch your fridge over to 220 or 110, regular house current.

12. HOWEVER‚ IF YOU HAVE NEITHER THE CAR RUNNING & NO LOCAL ELECTRICITY from an outside source, no 110 nor 220, then you're going to have to switch it over to gas, & light the fridge gas flame underneath it. There are various types of fridge ignition, so I can't tell you exactly how to do that. But most of them are ignited by pressing a button to open the gas valve underneath‚ & immediately pressing another button to create a spark that ignites its tiny flame.

13. AND IF IT HAS THE AUTOMATIC CUT-OFF TYPE OF SAFETY VALVE, you have to keep your finger on the gas button for about one minute while you count 60, until the thermostat is warmed up enough to keep the gas flowing. Otherwise if you take you thumb off & it's not heated up enough to keep going, the automatic cut-off will cut it right off again. So that is the way the fridges usually light.

14. IF YOUR TRAILER IS PERFECTLY LEVEL, THE FRIDGE WILL WORK VERY WELL ON GAS, on just one little tiny blue flame not much bigger than a pilot light or about the size of a match flame! This tiny little flame of continuous heat keeps the coolant circulating in the coils of the refrigerator, & keeps the fridge constantly pumping the heat out of the refrigerator.

15. THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE TO HAVE A VENT OUT OF THE REFRIGERATOR COMPARTMENT that's usually under the sink or the cupboard somewhere. There's a vent in the side of the trailer to let this heat outside, so be sure it is not closed up. If it opens & closes & it's closed for travel, be sure it's opened up when stopped if you're using your refrigerator. Because your refrigerator is a heat pump—it pumps the heat out of your refrigerator into the outside surrounding space of the fridge compartment—that heat's gotta have some place to go, or it's going to heat up your trailer! Of course if it's Wintertime & you need that heat‚ well fine, it will help heat your trailer as well as cool the refrigerator! And you can keep your vent closed. But otherwise, in Summertime, or if running it on gas, you want that vent open so that you can vent that heat &/or fumes from the refrigerator, so it goes out behind the refrigerator & out through the vent.

(Continued in Part 10.)