How To Avoid Problems With Your Car Fridge

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You’ve arrived at your favourite campsite and set up. Time for a cold drink. You go to the car fridge and grab a bottle of your favourite beverage.

What’s this, it’s warm! Oh yuck, the milk’s warm too… and that juicy steak you were going to cook tonight. This is a disaster!

How can you avoid this from happening to you? I’m not talking about when an internal part fails. Not much you can do about that. No, I’m talking about simple steps anyone can take to ensure your in-car fridge actually does its job properly.

So what are the common issues with car fridges and how can you avoid them?

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Clean Power, a Car Fridge’s Best Friend

The most important thing you can do is make sure your fridge has a secure electrical connection. This is known as clean power.

Cigarette lighter plugs simply don’t give you clean power reliably. And neither do Merit plugs. It only takes one knock or bump to disconnect the plug and socket. The worse thing is, you won’t even notice. At least, you won’t until your fridge is warm.

Take off the red cigarette lighter adaptor and it becomes a Merit plug. Car fridge.
Take off the red cigarette lighter adaptor and it becomes a Merit plug.

If the plug is loose, it will eventually overheat and partially melt. Not good!

Yes, you can use a roll of duct tape… stick toothpicks between the plug and socket to stop the plug from moving… use even Blu-Tac to make it secure. However a much better way is to cut off the plug and fit an Anderson plug.

If you’re handy you can do it yourself. If not, it’s an easy job for an auto electrician. Of course, they’ll have to replace your existing socket in your vehicle with a matching Anderson plug.

An Anderson plug. The best way to ensure a secure electrical connection for your car fridge.
An Anderson plug. The best way to ensure a secure electrical connection.

Give Your Car Fridge Some Wriggle Room

You don’t breathe too well when your face is buried in a pillow. And neither does your car fridge.

Give the fridge room to breathe. Make sure both ventilation slots are not covered. One is the air inlet, the other is the air outlet. Make sure you leave a gap between them and any other items. 50mm or greater is enough.

So many times, I’ve seen one or both ventilation slots covered and the owner complaining that the fridge isn’t working properly. Well, you wouldn’t work too well either, if you couldn’t breathe.

You don’t need much air space around your car fridge, but you must keep the ventilation slots clear.
You don’t need much air space around the fridge, but you must keep the ventilation slots clear.

Show it Some Love

Be kind to your fridge. This of course applies to any appliance. We’ve all heard stories of how Uncle Dave’s old fridge used to be chucked in the back of the ute with 5 tonnes of wet wood thrown on top of it every weekend. And the good old fridge never missed a beat.

Don’t make ‘em like they used to, blah, blah, blah. Makes a great story, but it’s probably not a very smart thing to do.

Make sure it’s securely tied down and try not to leave it in the sun. I know, plenty of utes have a fridge on the tray in full sun. And sometimes you don’t have a choice.

In this case, an insulated fridge cover is a smart option. It helps to keep your fridge cool and you won’t use as much power either.

We had ours in the luggage compartment of our Pajero. In really hot weather we simply bought a cheap sunshield and taped it to outside of the back window (it doubled as a rock shield when towing a camper trailer). This kept the sun out and gave the fridge a fighting chance to do its job in extreme heat.

Keep it Dry

This is more about long term care. If you want your fridge to last, you really need to keep the insides in good condition. Once mould takes hold or it gets a musty smell inside, you’ll have a lot of trouble getting rid of it.

Most car fridges spend lots of time turned off. They can get mouldy or musty inside. To avoid this, wipe out any moisture or spills with warm soapy water. Then wipe inside with absorbent paper towel, making sure all surfaces are dry.

Now there’s two ways you can keep your car fridge smelling fresh when not in use.

The first way is to use bicarbonate of soda. Grab a small plastic container and fill it halfway with bicarbonate of soda.  Sit this in the bottom of the fridge and leave it there until you use the fridge again. This will soak up any moisture in the air. Then use a piece of timber or even a scrunched up rag to keep the lid ajar. This way, fresh air can get into the fridge.

Bicarbonate of soda is an excellent way to keep your car fridge mould-free when in storage.
Bicarbonate of soda is one way to keep your car fridge mould-free when in storage.

The other way is a bit out there, but works like a charm. After you’ve cleaned your fridge, grab three tea bags and drop them into the fridge. You can close the lid and leave it closed for as long as you like.

Then when you need to use your fridge again, remove the tea bags, turn it on and away you go.

A mate told me about the tea bag trick. I was sceptical at first. But it works! I’m not sure why, I just know it works. Give it a go.

Summing Up

So if you have a fridge that’s not really doing its job, check the power supply and make sure the ventilation fins are not covered. These two faults are all too common in many installations.

And be kind your fridge. Look after it and it will give you many years of trouble-free service.

If you’re looking to buy a car fridge, go here to find out more.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for avoiding problems with your car fridge? Let me know in the Comments below.

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