Electrolux RM123 fridge restoration

Discussion in 'Restorations' started by Jules65, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. In 2017 we had an issue with the ‘Electrolux’ fridge in our VW camper van, in that it stopped cooling down. Initially I put it down to it being a really hot weekend, but on the following camping trip it still would not work and we had to fully rely on the ‘Sibir’ portable 3 way fridge that is normally the beer fridge ( I was gutted to say the least).

    We found that the flue on the Electrolux fridge was as hot as normal and the pipe work hot to touch, but there was no cooling within the fridge compartment. This resulted in an examination of the fridge when we got home.

    With our camper being a Viking conversion the fridge is sited to the right of the sliding door and sits within a cupboard where there use to be a drawer and sink draining board above (we now have the zig unit above and a storage compartment). The air circulates from under the fridge up the back and over the top of the fridge exiting at the front. This circulation and gap behind the fridge is imperative to good operation of the unit and if warm air recirculates it impedes performance. Also vents under the fridge are important to allow any gasses to escape. In addition the flue MUST be an airtight fit so that all burnt gasses from combustion are directed to vent outside the van.

    These are the holes under the fridge that vent out under the van
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    And the gap behind the fridge to allow air flow
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    Instead of doing a write up on the history of the Electrolux absorption fridge (now ‘Dometic’ fridges) and the principles of how they work and the chemicals/fluids within them I will just attach a link. I will also add other links photos regarding fridge installation. Please be aware that the way the fridges were installed when our classic vans were converted will by no means comply with the regulations for new installations.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_refrigerator



    http://www.obrienscamping.co.uk/articles/FridgeInstall.htm


    The ‘Electrolux’ fridge we own came with the van when we purchased it in 2002 and it is an RM123 model which means it operates on gas, 12 Volts and 240 Volts, (there is also the RM122 model which only operates on gas and 12 Volts). The RM122 and RM123 were the smallest fridge in the range that Electrolux made at the time and that made them the most commonly used fridges in VW campers.
    For those who have the old Electrolux RM122/123 fridges they will most probably have the old Flint starter where you have the joys of holding in the ignition button to allow the gas to flow and have to keep it pressed in whilst you rotate the Flint starter in the hope the sparks will ignite the gas.

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    The new ‘Dometic’ fridges have piezo lighters rendering the Flint starters redundant. Common to both though is that the starter has to remain pressed in until the thermocouple gets warm enough and the valve stays open so the starter button can be released.

    Shortly after acquiring our camper van we discovered that the 12V heating element in our fridge was not working and we were unable to find an element that would fit as they were all too large a diameter to fit in the metal tube in the fridge. It was around this time that a friend was breaking a caravan and the more modern (at that time) Electrolux RM212 fridge in it was obtained to see if we could utilise any parts from it.

    On acquiring the RM212 fridge we saw that it had a piezo lighter and saw that the ‘frame’ that holds the burner in position under the flue was the same as on the RM 123 but had the other part of the piezo lighter riveted into position. As such we changed the frame and fitted the piezo lighter to our fridge. We also removed the 12v heater element and holder and welded them to our RM123 fridge.

    (I DO NOT ADVISE DOING THIS AS THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF CUTTING THE PIPES AND RELEASING THE GASSES WHEN REMOVING THE ELEMENT HOLDER AND BURNING THROUGH THE PIPES WHEN WELDING THE ELEMENT HOLDER TO THE FRIDGE)

    I do advise everyone to check their 3 way fridge regularly, clean underneath it and ensure there is nothing combustible under it. We say this as as we found that at some point the heat melted the support feet on ours and it could have caught fire. These were the feet in question.

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    The main case/body of the Electrolux RM122/123 fridge is metal on the outside and the inside plastic with the void between the two being foam/polystyrene that is bonded in position and virtually unremovable. This means that the fridge is often screwed in to place through the side of the cabinet it is sited within as there is little chance of damaging the fridge element.
    The element which holds the cooling fluids is screwed onto the outer case from behind and the cooling section fits through an aperture in the case and has polystyrene that separates the inner from the outer and some sealant/putty to keep it air tight.
    The area where all the heating up occurs is encapsulated in a metal case and within that case there is some insulation material. (THIS MATERIAL IS ASBESTOS SO DO NOT TOUCH IT WITH YOUR BARE HANDS AND DO NOT OPEN THE CASE UNLESS YOU ARE WEARING A MASK OR BREATHING APPARATUS. THE ASBESTOS MUST BE PLACED WITHIN A BAG AND THEN WITHIN ANOTHER BAG AND DISPOSED OF CORRECTLY)

    If you are considering taking your fridge apart like we did I can not emphasise enough that cleanliness and a good quality non setting sealant are a must to ensure there are no leaks when reassembled.

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    The thermostat that regulates the gas flow to the burner may well be a ‘Ranco’ model and there is a thermo couple that runs from the valve up behind the element and through a hole into the cooling/freezing section and is held in place by a metal clip.

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    There is also a second thermo couple that runs up the back of the element from the temperature regulator inside the fridge for when the fridge is running on electric. Once unclipped from the fins of the freezer element these thermocouple wires can be removed from within the cooling section (the small polystyrene bung must be saved where the hole is that allow the wires to pass through).

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    The pipes from the gas valve to the gas jet/burner need to be disconnected so that the metal cage that holds the burner to the flue can be removed. It is not uncommon over years of use for these pipes to become blocked with a thick residue and if you are competent you can clean out the pipes, jet/burner and gas regulator, but do not poke any wire through them or the burner jet as the hole size is crucial. The removal of the copper pipe work needs to be done carefully so as not to crack the pipes or put any strain on the olives which are essential to seal the gas within the pipes.

    Within the flue is a spiral baffle which should be on a rod from the top of the flue and this causes the heat to spiral where it is most needed so as to transfer heat to the fridge element. This baffle is a crucial part and without it the fridge will struggle to work on gas.

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    After the electric wires to the heating elements are disconnected,

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    the screws that hold the main fridge element to the case can be undone after which the fridge element can be gently prised away from the case.







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  2. Looking at the rear of the fridge there is a metal galvanised case that encapsulates where the heating of the fridge element takes place and it has a flat plate at the rear and this slides out of the main section (this can not easily be done when the element is attached to the fridge body). This reveals the asbestos and once the asbestos is removed the electric elements and their holders will become visible. It will be seen that the holders for the electric elements and the flue are welded to the main fridge element in the same area and that is because that is where the heat is required to generate the chemical reaction to make the fridge work. There is every chance it will be rusty and the same goes for the inside of the flue which MUST be clean and clear.

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    Our fridge case looked shabby for years of brush painting by previous owners so it was repainted before being reassembled. In addition the galvanised case that encapsulates the heating elements and flue had been cut open so we had to screw it back together.

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    This is what the underside of the fridge looks like showing the gas regulator, the gas valve and the cage/burner assembly that screws to the underside of the flue and galvanised box section

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  3. Tidy work. Lots of pics and lots of info :thumbsup:
     
  4. Once removed the fridge element looks like this

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    This picture shows where We had previously welded the replacement electric heater element holder in place and where the flue and other electric element are located. I apologise for the state of the welding but the amps were turned down on the welder to try and prevent burning through the pipe.

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    I cleaned all the rust and old paint off the fridge element and after masking off the part of the element that freezes and locates within the fridge I sprayed it with heat resistant paint. We did not want to paint the internal section of the element as we did not want the fumes from the paint curing to taint any food.

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    A block of rock wool was obtained to replace the asbestos

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  5. The asbestos was fully removed from the galvanised case and it was refitted over the pipe work and the electric heater element refitted before the rock wool was stuffed inside.

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    The fridge element was refitted to the case and sealed at the back with the thermocouple wiring fed back from the rear and clipped to the freezer plate underneath. The small polystyrene bung was refitted and a bit of blue tack held it in place.

    after refitting it the galvanised case was painted red, but not on the bottom where the gas burner cage screws on as we did not want any fumes from it heating up.

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  6. Before reassembly we checked the operation of the gas regulator to ensure it functioned too

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    Next came the fun of the door seal which was no longer flexible and was cracked/brittle.

    The door is basically a large piece of foam/polystyrene with a plastic inner and an aluminium frame around it. The aluminium is necessary to provide a solid area for the hinges to attach to the door.

    This is the profile of the old door seal which is no,longer available

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    After much searching the best replacement was this and I had a replacement seal made using the inner plastic section of the door as the template.

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    There is no easy way to remove the old seal and it requires that the foam be cut and the aluminium outer be removed. The aluminium is one long continuous piece and is held together by a metal staple and piece of plastic in the bottom corner. You must be careful when removing the staple as it is an odd ball thickness so you will be reusing it and the plastic clip.

    Once off the door itself the foam stuck within the aluminium needs to be removed as you will have to think of a way to attach the aluminium back to the door.
    We did this by obtaining two pieces of paper covered 10mm foam from a craft shop and cut the foam door to remove the aluminium and seal from the plastic inner. We placed the paper covered foam inside the aluminium (aft cutting it to size) and cut the centre of it out to suit what we had left on the original door. The new door seal was bonded to the inner plastic section and that the aluminium strip and paper covered foam was bonded on.

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    We have made it so that the electrical connections and gas connections are quick release so that the fridge can be easily and quickly removed. The reason for this is that over time the fluids within the main fridge element settle/crystallise and prevent the fridge from working. Therefore when not in use the fridge is now regularly inverted and left so for some 24hrs (or longer) and then put the right way up where it is left for 24hrs before being operated.
    For us this has made it that the old fridge is now usable again and I have my beer fridge back.

    By providing this information I do not advise that people do what we did and I am only providing the information of how we got over our problems. The fluids within an old absorption fridge are dangerous to humans and the environment and all gas joints should be checked by a qualified person before use.








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    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
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