How do You Run the Refrigerator While Driving?

by Dave (Michigan)

Question: How do you run the fridge while driving?

Answer: There are a few options for keeping your food cold while driving. First, consider that even if you turn the refrigerator off before driving, most RV refrigerators will keep your food cold and fresh for hours.

And you can help things along with a few tips:

  • Start with a very cold refrigerator – turn it on the day before and/or set the fridge temperature to the coldest setting the night before travel.
  • Pack empty space in the fridge with cold beverages. Make sure everything in the fridge is cold before you turn it off.
  • Minimize opening the fridge door – plan ahead by using a cooler for the food and beverages you will need for the day. Or at least think ahead so when you open the door, you take out everything you need at one time.

Another option is to run your generator to power the fridge and perhaps air conditioners and other appliances.

And many RVers travel with the propane on to power their refrigerator. This has been the subject of much debate over the years, due to safety concerns.

If there is an accident, propane lines can break and propane in the tank could escape, which could ignite and trigger an explosion and fire. Some regard the risk as minimal, others are of the “better safe than sorry” philosophy and turn their propane off at the tank.

In particular, if you do travel with the refrigerator operating on propane, you must turn off the propane and all appliances prior to entering a fuel stop. It is illegal to have any open flames while near a service station fuel pump, and some tunnels and bridges also have restrictions.

And while we are on the subject, it is important to maintain your propane system and fridge. Pressure testing on the the propane system should be done annually. You should also inspect the burner area for any loose connections or accumulated debris. Consult your refrigerator owners manual for recommended maintenance and operation of your specific refrigerator.

Comments for Refrigerator While Driving

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by: Anonymous

For a trip to Alaska a few years back we towed a 28′ Alumalite. We stayed in campgrounds at night with power and while traveling I had mounted a 1200 wqatt inverter at the back of my truck bed. Ran an extension cord back an into my electrical cord box in the trailer. I installed a 30 amp 2 pole circuit breaker near my vehicle batteries to energise the inverter. When getting ready to travel I would unplug from shore power and plug in the cord from the inverter. With everything ready to go I would switch on the 2 pole breaker and turn on the inverter after engine start. A better option might be install a relay or contactor that can be switched on & off from the cab. Switch off the inverter as soon as you turn off engine as it will run down you battery in a short time. This worked well as we never lost our cold frige for the 3 months we were in Alaska.

Dec 20, 2013 Solar Power
by: Anonymous

Add enough solar panels on top of camper,to charge a battery bank,with a good size inverter – to run icebox for hours during day and even at night.

Feb 08, 2013 Charging House Battery from Truck
by: Jill and Jose

Regarding your question: “When you plug your trailer into your vehicle for towing, doesn’t your vehicle supply power to your fridge?”, our quick answer is “not usually”. Most RV refrigerators work on propane or 120 Volts AC. There are some 12 volt powered refrigerators but those are only common on smaller rigs or pop-ups.

Your tow vehicle will typically only power the 12 volt lights for breaking and signaling, etc. So unless you do something special like add a charging circuit, it’s unlikely you’d get an adequate charge to the trailer battery.

You could add some hardware and a charging circuit to charge the trailer battery.
Here is a link to a related post on the subject:

The general consensus is that, while not impossible, it is not very efficient to run a refrigerator on 12 volts unless you have taken a lot of steps to improve the charging circuit to the trailer batteries.

Feb 06, 2013 Fridge running while driving
by: Herb

When you plug your trailer into your vehicle for towing, doesn’t your vehicle supply power to your fridge?


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