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Why Does My RV Refrigerator Smell Like Ammonia?

Why Does My RV Refrigerator Smell Like Ammonia

Is your RV refrigerator smelling too much like ammonia and you don’t know why it is happening? Well, the main reason behind this is that the cooling unit of your RV refrigerator is leaking ammonia. 

As RV refrigerators use ammonia as the refrigerant, it is highly likely that the smell of ammonia is actually coming because your refrigerator is leaking it. Hence, in order to prevent the smell of ammonia, you need to change or fix the cooling unit. 

To know more about ammonia smell and leaks in the RV refrigerator, continue reading further! 

How Do I Know if My RV Refrigerator Is Leaking Ammonia?

Before you troubleshoot and find a solution for your RV refrigerator’s ammonia leakage, there are certain signs to look out for such as: 

1. Smell of Ammonia 

One of the clear signs of an ammonia leakage is the smell of ammonia itself. Now, are you confused about how exactly ammonia smells? 

Usually, as ammonia is used in various home cleaning products, you can expect a smell similar to that. However, it is much more pungent and may also cause irritation. 

2. Yellow Stains 

Another sign that you can look out for while checking your RV refrigerator is yellow stains. Yellow stains are also caused due to ammonia. It is because when ammonia comes in contact with your RV refrigerator, it fastens the process of oxidation. Thus, leading to the yellowing of your refrigerator’s surface. 

So, if you find any of the above two signs while inspecting your RV’s refrigerator, then you’re definitely dealing with the problem of ammonia leakage. 

Is the Smell of Ammonia Bad for You

Ammonia doesn’t cause serious problems usually but its smell can definitely affect your health. It is because exposure to ammonia is known to cause irritation in the throat and nose. Moreover, overexposure to the smell of ammonia further increases the risk.  

Hence, in order to stop this from happening, you need to provide enough ventilation in the room before you repair your RV refrigerator. 

To do this, consider opening up all the doors and windows to get the smell of ammonia out of your RV. If you have a fan inside, consider turning it on as it can increase ventilation in the room too. 

However, this isn’t a permanent solution as you have to get your RV refrigerator repaired to stop ammonia leakage. 

How Do I Check the Ammonia Level in My RV Refrigerator?

There are two ways to check the ammonia level in your refrigerator. These include: 

1. Using Ammonia Detector

To know whether there is an ammonia leak, you can start by checking the ammonia level in your RV refrigerator. 

You can do so by making use of an ammonia detector. Now, what is an ammonia detector, and how can you check the level of ammonia in the fridge? As the name suggests, an ammonia detector can help in detecting the presence of ammonia in the air. It does so with the help of an electrochemical principle. 

So, while making use of an ammonia detector, if you see that it is detecting a leakage, then there’s definitely a drop in the level of ammonia in your RV fridge. 

Using an ammonia detector like this one is the only surefire way to check the ammonia levels in your fridge.

2. Heating of RV Refrigerator 

If you don’t find an ammonia detector, there is another way of checking for ammonia levels in your refrigerator. Here’s what you can check: 

The coils present in your refrigerator are quite hot. Hence, in order to cool them down, refrigerants like ammonia are used. However, if there’s less amount of ammonia, the coils would remain heated. 

So, you need to check the coils by checking if one of the boiler or coil’s parts is too hot. If it is, then it signifies low ammonia levels in the RV refrigerator. 

Once you are sure that there’s an ammonia leakage, you can go ahead with finding and implementing a proper solution. 

How Do I Get the Ammonia Smell Out of My Fridge?

If you want to remove the pungent odor of ammonia from your refrigerator, there are certain solutions that can definitely work. They are as given below: 

Tip 1: Install a Cooling Unit 

The first thing you need to do when you suspect an ammonia leakage is to remove your existing cooling unit and install a new one. 

However, installing a new cooling unit may cost a bit more. But, if you consider installing it on your own, you can save up on labor costs. Given below are some steps to follow to replace the old cooling unit and install a new unit. 

Step 1: Take Out the Refrigerator From the Cabinet

The first step is to remove the RV refrigerator from its cabinet. Then, take it out and place it properly. 

Step 2: Clean Any Spilled Ammonia and Get Started

In this step, if you see any spilled ammonia, then make use of a damp rag and clean it. Here, keep in mind that you are wearing gloves as ammonia can cause irritation to skin and eyes too. 

Then, make use of a screwdriver and remove the back cover. 

Step 3: Remove Out the Cooling Unit 

Once you have removed the back cover, reposition the refrigerator such that the cooling unit is facing upwards. Then, unscrew the screws putting the cooling unit in its place, and remove the cooling unit carefully.

Then, make sure you remove the dried thermal mastics from the fridge cavity as well. 

Step 4: Installation of New Unit 

After following the above steps, start with the installation of the new cooling unit. First, make use of either a knife or wood rasp that can help in removing the new unit’s foam such that it fits inside the RV’s refrigerator. 

Then, put the new unit inside and check whether it fits. If it does, then take it out once again. 

Now, you need to cut the corners of the thermal mastic – that comes with the new unit. Then, taking half-inch increments, apply them to the evaporator tubes. 

Once, you are done with the steps, place the new cooling unit inside the refrigerator extremely carefully. Then, press the unit for a few minutes such that the thermal mastic has adhered properly. 

Lastly, put everything back on the refrigerator and keep it in its place. 

Tip 2: Make Use of Coffee Grounds

Even after changing the cooling unit, you can still smell the lingering odor of ammonia, then try this tip.  Coffee grounds are the best option for removing the smell of ammonia from your RV’s fridge. 

To make use of them, all you have to do is put some coffee grounds in a few dishes. Then, leave these dishes in the RV’s refrigerator for about 24 hours or more till the ammonia smell fades off. 

Once you notice that the ammonia odor is totally gone, you can proceed with removing them from the fridge. 

Final Thoughts

To conclude, ammonia leakage can cause a lot of problems to both you as well as your RV refrigerator. 

It can cause the pungent odor of ammonia to spread across your RV. This can lead to health problems. Due to this reason, it becomes necessary that you inspect the problem and follow the solutions suggested above. 

So, consider replacing your old cooling unit with a new one to get rid of the smell.

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