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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

MacGuyver knows his fridge system best

Shortly after we moved the boat to Carillon Marina in June 2018 all the coolant leaked out of the refrigeration system.  So we called Cliff Marine service to come take a look. Dave was certain that there was a leak in the system somewhere. Cliff had serviced the unit and filled the coolant before we left Seattle for Mexico in 2012.  So he knows Apsaras’ fridge system. Figured calling him was logical.


He came out June 2018.  Dave wasn’t present but Melissa was.  She explained that Dave was sure we had a leak because the fridge and freezer suddenly stopped working.  Cliff disagreed. Cliff was sure that what happened was that the coolant leaked out slowly over time because we hadn’t had the system recharged in years.  And he swore that while the coolant leaks out slowly, it reaches a point where it can’t cool anymore and hence seems to suddenly stop working. He checks things over and refills the coolant and charges us $450 for the service.  

Dave was suspicious this was not the problem, but sometimes you need a process of elimination to find the real problem, so he went along.  File this under the category of MacGyver knows best. A bit like when your doctor tells you what’s wrong with you when you know that the doctor doesn’t know your body like you do.

Ten days later, Dave discovered that the refrigerant had leaked out again.  There was some dried green stuff that apparently leaked out the back of the pressure switch on the high pressure side.  He can’t say for sure, but he doesn’t remember seeing this before. His theory is the sensor melted when the system overheated due to low refrigerant not the other way around.

A week later Cliff comes back and replaces both the pressure switches.  Cliff is sure these were the source of the leak. Cliff claims to have done a nitrogen leak test.  A nitrogen leak test is where you take all the coolant out of the system and pressurize with nitrogen - which is a much smaller molecule than the coolant.  So in theory it should leak out faster than the coolant. Cliff says that everything is now fine. This costs another $700. Again Dave is dubious this is the actual source of the leak.  (You all know what comes next.)

Two weeks later - sure enough all the coolant leaked out again.  Disgusted at spending a ton of money and making no forward progress - having damaged both pressure switches after Cliff claimed it was fixed, Dave decides to go buy a set of pressure gages and coolant so he can diagnose the system himself.  Once properly equipped, he adds some coolant to the system and turns off the fridge side - running only the freezer and the system continues to run for months with no problem. Ok, so now we know the problem is on the fridge side.

With the freezer running fine, for short weekend outings, we freeze a gallon jug of water in the freezer and move it over to the fridge to keep it cool.  We went all last summer and winter with it this way.

But eventually it’s gotta get fixed.

So we tried to call Cliff again, but he’s retired so he referred us to Ben.  Ben showed up June 28 to try to diagnose the system. Melissa instructed essentially, “don’t give up till you find the leak cuz there is one and it's in the fridge side of the system”.  Several hours later Ben said that he thought the leak was in the fridge plate itself. The way the system works there is a plate in both the fridge and the freezer through which the coolant runs taking away the heat and thereby cooling the plate down to freezing or near freezing.  The plate has to be sent in for repair/remanufacture. Ben removed the plate and capped the system. He then refilled the system with Nitrogen so that he could leave it that way while the plate was being repaired. That way we can be sure when the plate is reinstalled that it is indeed the sole leak.

Here are some pictures of the plate being remanufactured - they had to replace all the piping inside:


And on Dave’s birthday, Ben came back with the plate and reinstalled it.  And low and behold no Nitrogen had leaked out meanwhile. Cost for Ben and the plate rebuild was $1800.  But finally fridge is back in action and ready for our two week upcoming cruise to Canada!

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