Review: Waeco CF-50 Fridge/Freezer, 10+ Years On (+FAQs)

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The Waeco car fridge is often portrayed as the cheaper alternative, the poor man’s Engel.


Brand loyalty is a funny thing. Just look at cars – Ford vs Holden. Four wheel drives – Toyota vs Nissan. Hang on, that’s not quite true – it’s actually Toyota vs every other brand ever made, according to Toyota owners! Anyhow…

Access to the fridge is easy when mounted on the fridge slide.
Our Waeco car fridge lived in the back of our Pajero for 10 years.

Car fridges are no different. Waeco owners swear they are the best. Engel owners likewise. And neither camp will be swayed.




Engel (and other) fridge owners will tell you that Waeco are cheap plastic rubbish, the lids break, the compressors break down, they draw lots of power, the cigarette lighter plugs melt… the list of supposed ailments is a mile long.


So, What’s the truth?

Well, we’ve had a Waeco CF-50 fridge/freezer for well over 10 years now. So we’re qualified to give you an honest answer. I’ll attempt to remain impartial and just give you the facts.


Have We Used it Much?

Yes, lots. We bought our Waeco car fridge in 2007, with a Waeco fridge slide.

It was a promotional pack:

  • fridge,
  • insulating cover,
  • tie down straps,
  • a RAPS (Waeco 12V power unit with one Merritt socket and one cigarette lighter socket), and
  • a portable 36Ah battery.

We installed the fridge slide into the back of our Pajero, tied the fridge down and did a 3 week trip from Wollongong to the Gulf and return. Ambient temperatures varied from around 5°C to well over 40°C.

We did a similar trip the following year, with a similar range of ambient temperatures.

Then in 2009 we did the Big Lap of Oz. Twelve months of travel with the fridge running the entire time. We encountered several consecutive weeks over 35°C in Western Australia, up to 47°C on the Nullarbor.

Our Pajero loaded on one of our trips. Note the air gap around the Waeco fridge, especially around the ventilation slots.
Our Pajero loaded on one of our trips. Note how the ventilation fins were given plenty of space so that the fridge could breathe.

Of course, there were lots of other weekend and day trips. We even used the fridge as a drinks fridge for parties at home or as a second freezer at busy times like Christmas. As a freezer, it was set at -18°C and maintained this easily… even on hot days.

So yes, we’ve used our car fridge many times over the last ten years.


How Does it Handle the Heat?

This fridge has never had a problem maintaining temperature. Keep in mind 2 things:

  • There were usually four of us – 2 adults and 2 kids. Being kids, they were constantly in and out of the fridge.
  • On the road, we only used it as a fridge, not a freezer.
Simple but effective display on Waeco CF-50 fridge.
Simple but effective control panel. The yellow button is “Turbo Mode”. It brings the fridge down to temperature very quickly.

Normally, we’d set it to 2°C. It maintains this very closely, never varying by more than 1 degree either way.


Does it Use Much Power?

We’ve never measured actual current draw. However, it was connected to a 100Ah AGM battery. In hot conditions the battery would run the fridge for a couple of days, as a rough rule of thumb.




Of course, this depends on how full it is and how cool overnight temperatures are.

Waeco fridge has 3 levels of battery voltage, below which the fridge will switch off.
You can easily set 3 levels of battery voltage. LOW – the fridge will cut out at 10.4V (use when connected to a 2nd battery). MED – the fridge will cut out at 11.4V. HIGH – the fridge will cut out at 12.0V (use when connected to starting battery).
100Ah second battery, used to power the Waeco fridge.
100Ah second battery is tucked in on the side (to the left of the fridge).
100Ah battery powers our Waeco fridge.
After issues with the Waeco cigarette lighter plugs, we connected the fridge directly to the second battery via an Anderson plug and fuse.


Any Problems?

We’ve had three issues. The first was the bane of pretty well every fridge on the market – the cigarette lighter plug. After two melted lighter plugs, I replaced it with an Anderson plug and an inline 10A fuse. Problem solved.

A 50A Anderson plug solved plug melting issues with our Waeco fridge.
A 50A Anderson plug solved plug melting issues with our Waeco fridge. If you do this, make sure you fit an inline fuse as shown here.

The second issue is a known problem with these fridges. The lid is reversible, ie it can hinge from either side. The hinges on the lid are in fact just a short stub of plastic – see photo below. These are known to break off.

The lid hinges are a known weak point on Waeco fridges.
The weak point. The lid hinges (the plastic pin on the lid that slides into the groove) are known to snap off.

Ours finally let go a couple of years ago. I wasn’t surprised.

After enduring years of kids dropping the lid from a great height, not closing it properly or just generally being rough, I had expected the hinges to snap off years ago. No big drama. We simply ordered another lid online.

The third issue happened after 14 years of faultless service. The thermistor finally decided it had done enough work and gave up the ghost.

What’s a thermistor? It measures temperature… so it’s pretty important! I decided to have a go at replacing it and have a full description on how to replace a Waeco fridge thermistor here.


Has it Lasted Well or Is It Worn Out?

This fridge has done at least 100,000 km on badly corrugated roads, probably more. It has been pounded, bounced and shaken for years. Our Waeco has endured -5°C temperatures in the Southern Tablelands and 45+°C in Western Australia. But it just keeps chugging along.

Of course, it has wear and tear. The inside has marks where containers have been slowly revolving due to mile after mile of bone-shaking corrugations. The outside has scratches and the cover is looking a little worse for wear. But it still works as well as the day we bought it.

Inside our fridge. It is still in very good condition, considering the pounding it has copped in the last 10 years.
The dairy compartment of our Waeco fridge. Normal wear and tear after 10 years of use.
The dairy compartment has rub marks and scratches, but nothing more than you’d expect after 10 years. The light shown here illuminates the whole fridge.
Our Waeco fridge cover is showing a few signs of age after 10 years of use.
The cover is getting tired after being opened and closed thousands of times. Nothing a piece of duct tape wouldn’t fix…


Any Tips?

We have a few tips, not just for a Waeco car fridge but for any portable fridge. Go here for ideas on how to avoid problems with your car fridge.





Would We Buy Another One?

We wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one. This fridge has been so reliable. Yes it was bought as a mid-range model, but has exceeded our expectations.

I fully expect it to last many more years.

It has an easier life now, with our kids using it for occasional camping trips and the odd time when it’s pressed into service as a backup fridge or freezer.

I can see no reason why our Waeco car fridge won’t continue to keep chugging along, quietly doing its job. Hopefully, we’ll do a 20-year review!


If you’re looking to buy a reliable mid-range fridge, a Waeco CF-50 is a great choice.

Or check out the latest range of Waeco CFX fridges, available now.

In Summary


Pros

  • Competitively priced.
  • Accurate control of temperature within a small range.
  • Proven to maintain set temperature, even in extreme heat.
  • Will comfortably maintain -18°C in hot conditions.
  • 3 position battery monitor to prevent battery draining or battery damage.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Last-lasting and durable. Internal lighting is sufficient.
  • Removable basket allows large items to be stored.
  • Can stand up a 2 litre milk or juice bottle in the main compartment.


Cons

  • The lid hinges are a known weak point.
  • The supplied cigarette lighter plugs are not up to the job and should be replaced with an Anderson plug.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions About Waeco Fridges

What’s the Difference Between Waeco CF and CFX fridges?

✓ The CFX has a deep freeze function which is quite a bit colder (-22°C) than the minimum temperature of a CF model (-18°C).

✓ The CFX has Wi-Fi and an app on which you can adjust fridge temperature remotely, and check temperature plus power consumption. It also tells you if the lid isn’t closed properly.

✓ The CFX has USB ports for charging small devices like phones.

✓ The CFX has Waeco compressor while the CF has a Danfoss compressor.

✓ The CFX has thicker insulation than the CF, making it more energy efficient.

Are Waeco and Dometic the Same?

Yes. The Waeco brand was rolled into the parent Dometic brand a few years ago. So all new fridges are now sold under the Dometic name.

How Do Waeco Fridges Work?

They use the same cooling cycle as your domestic fridge:

✓ A compressor to compress the gas.

✓ A condenser (where the gas becomes a liquid) to release the heat from inside the fridge to atmosphere.

✓ An evaporator to convert the liquid back to a gas. Then the cycle repeats.

Are Waeco Fridges Waterproof?

No. They are splash resistant, like most portable fridges. A cover will help, however every fridge needs an air intake point and another air outlet point. If you immerse your fridge, this is where water will enter and likely damage electronic components.

Do Waeco Fridges Have a Fuse?

Most Waeco fridges have a fuse in the 12/24V cord, usually inside the connection plug.
There’s also a 110/240V fuse, above (depending on model) where the power cord plugs into the fridge.

What Temperature Should I Set my Waeco Fridge?

✓ For use as a fridge, start with 2°C and adjust to suit your preferences.
✓ For use as a freezer, set between -10°C and -18°C.


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