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:
     
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  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
  7. [​IMG]


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  9. Yes.....

    Check those fridges and there is nothing combustible under them.....:eek:

    Fridge.jpg
     
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  10. It’s been very useful reading this thread.
    As usual with my camper I’m left with a dozen questions though. My priorities are safety and the functionality of the fridge; so I am not adverse to putting the necessary vents in place (figure I can colour match them to the van).

    Good to note that a Quick Release connector can be used for the gas as I am wanting to do that. Seems quite important to be able to clean and inspect regularly & easily.
    I’ll enclose the back, top and underneath of the fridge (Dometic RM123) in a cladding of Promat Masterboard (fire resistant for 30mins). That will go some way to making it draught proof.

    Now for the stumbling blocks.
    My fridge was made in 2011 and has the flue on the left when looking from the rear. All the LS200 Vents I’ve seen have the flue connection point on the right. They are massive (700cm2) vents anyway and wider than the fridge itself and suggested recess dimensions. I also don’t have the space above the fridge (the cooker is above the fridge but I’ll partition it off with the same fire retardant board) to fit such a vent.
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    However, I’ve read that a minimum vent size of 240cm2 can be used and “Position the upper vent relative to the rear of the fridge so that the top edge of the vent is at least 55mm above the top of the fridge.” I will have 75mm available above.

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

    I’m also confused by my Flue. The new manual (2016) shows that the Flue should be positioned at an acute angle of 45•...
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    This would surely position it in conflict with the Upper Vent, as the upward trajectory angle would put the top of the pipe at the height of the fridge, then the Flue Cover adds several centimetres to that. On mine, the predrilled holes would actually take it at an obtuse angle and away from the vent; which would work in a practical sense. But taking the Flue off at any angle will surely mean that it won’t sit flush with the van wall! Confused as to the necessity of this.

    The questions:
    •What non-combustible filler should I use?
    •Is the draught-proofing tape also to be non-combustible? I haven’t found one yet so suggestions most welcome
    •Does the Flue have to go at an angle to the fridge and if so can I take it away (obtuse) from the Upper Vent location?

    What I can do:
    •Lower Vent flush to the floor
    •Vent under the fridge but not the Burner
    •Draught & Fire Retardant enclosure of the Burner
    •20mm clearance at the back
    •Upper Vent...
    -If there is no conflict with the Flue then the widest it can be is dictated by the fridge width itself (380mm)
    -It has to be rain and insect proof...I’ve struggled to find anything suitable so what about this for Upper & Lower Vents?
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    They are actually Cab Window Vents (slotting on to the glass and in to the top channel), so in theory both water and insect proof. At 66cm Wide they are massive, but looking at their construction I think I can trim them down. At 17cm high I could achieve a surface area greater than 250cm. The groove at the bottom could sit over the metal cutout of the van with butyl tape all the way around and bolted through (so I can remove them if required).

    Sorry it’s long. I’m new to all this and desperately want to finalise all my designs so I can get a pro to help me out with the stuff I can’t do myself.

    Cheers all.


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  11. Firstly let me say that I am not qualified in anyway in giving advice regarding gas appliances and their installation or maintenance.

    The current laws regarding gas appliances in camper vans I feel sure would make it that my old van would would never be able to comply. As such all I can do is work with what was already installed when the van was first built/converted.

    It’s good to see that you are reviewing the advice on the O’Briens camping site as they have mentioned the rehanding of the flue on the new Dometic fridges compared to the old Electrolux.

    On my set up the air to circulate around the rear of the fridge is drawn in from within the camper and exits within the camper too. The flue directs only the combustion gases to the outside and runs at 90 degrees to the van panels.
    The 2 vent holes under the fridge are to allow any unburnt gases to vent out.

    As you say, the vent holes under the fridge must not be directly under the burner assembly. I have 2 holes and have contemplated more

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    There is a plastic grill that fits under the door of the fridge and ours looks like this

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    Following a recent camping trip where the fridge struggled to keep cool I realised the vent above the door was not big enough so I have got to increase it after which I will fit the original top vent.

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    I also plan on fitting some small fans to aide drawing the air around the fridge to hopefully increase efficiency

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    The flue for our fridge passes through the cupboard/unit and to a vent in the near side panel, but when the sliding door is left open it hampers the ventilation and removal of the exhaust gases.

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    In respect of the flue itself I do not think the length of it or direction it vents in will affect the function of the fridge. But clearly it must be able to fully vent all combusted gases out of the living compartment of the van.

    I dont feel that I would like to cut large holes in the side of my van to fit the large vents that O’Briens sell/recommend nor the door vents you mention (I do have a set of those and have them fitted when camping so as to help with ventilation).

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    I am also considering fitting the quick release connections externally (under the van or in the engine bay) so that I can leave the gas bottles outside when camping. That way if the valve/connection leaks then it vents directly to atmosphere and disconnection in an emergency would be easier that reaching into a confined cupboard.


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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  12. In respect of the flue, I do have some spare parts which may assist in you fitting a smaller vent to your camper

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  13. Thanks for the response @Jules65, and your honesty, though you know a lot more about all this than me. I’ve not even had mine running, but it looks brand new at the back.

    I am constrained by a dream to live in the van 6 months a year and hire it out the rest of the time. I have to try and match the regs as closely as possible, considering the amount of use it will get and safety issues etc (Insurance too).

    Your setup is more or less in line with the manual (from 2003) that came with mine. 2016 manual has changed all my designs.

    Interesting you are thinking of a fan assisted vent. I was considering this with my original internal airflow design, like yours, as the heat source might be useful, but with a fan to the external side to draw hot air out during the summer. Sliding vent on the front above the fridge.
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    New suggestions of floor vents are 250cm2, which is massive. Over 4 of the standard 75mm gas floor vents.

    Thanks for the offer of your Flue. Mine came with a new kit so I should be ok. I might end up with a spare Grey top internal vent if you like.

    I’ve read on TLB that the Flue length should be as short as possible to reduce backflow of condensation.

    I think the LS200 vents are a bit OTT (can’t see how the 45• Flue correlates to them either) and simply won’t work with mine, so I might buy those window ones (want them anyway) and see if they can work...should end up looking better than than the image you posted - fingers crossed ha ha but my hands are tied. As you’ve noticed, having the air flow right has a big impact on performance and therefore safety.

    Do you have a recommendation for a non-combustible filler to use around the Flue!

    Cheers.



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  14. Unfortunately I am unable to recommend a non combustible filler as I’ve never had need of such a product. You may want to consider contacting a van conversion company for their recommendation.

    If you are considering renting the van out have you considered converting to a compressor fridge like the Waeco/Dometic CRX50 http://www.obrienscamping.co.uk/Fridges/waeco-crx50.htm and putting a solar power set up on the roof of the van. That could open your van up to more “off grid” camping and also negate the gas safety aspect. Also means you won’t have to cut big holes in your vans side.
     
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  15. I’ve looked at the compression fridges but my budget doesn’t stretch that far. The ones on the link you sent (thanks) wouldn’t fit in my recess either.
    I’ve read good things about the Dometic rm123 so once I’ve gotten an LPG Refillable gas bottle it should be fairly efficient - Zig 12v & 240v supply for hook-up and driving.

    Definitely will eventually go down the solar panel route on my PopTop at some point in the future!

    I might just pop in to O’Brien’s for a chat, as it is located near a friend’s place.

    The filler is to go around the Flue and fill the cavity, so I imagine it might be required for the vents too.

    Think I am close to finalising a design...for about the third time! Haha

    One last thing. I am wondering what this wire is where the Flue connects?
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    Not mentioned in the manual. It seems to twizzle around and lift out (I haven’t pulled it out). Is it just to retain the Flue T connector? The T connector is slotted Front & Back.

    Cheers


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  16. The wire has a thin spiral baffle on the end and the length of the wire with the baffle attached will correlate exactly to where the flue is connected/welded to the fridge element.

    The baffle is a crucial part as it causes the hot exhaust gases to spin thus ensuring the flue at that specific point gets as hot as possible by the transfer/convection of the heat of the exhaust gases to the flue and then by conduction of the heat of the flue to the fridge element thereby causing the chemical reaction to take place and the chemicals/gases to circulate. Without the baffle the fridge would struggle to work correctly.

    Ensuring the flue is clean also improves the heat transfer.

    I believe the extension for the top of the flue just sits/fits over the top of the main flue and is flared to allow for the piece of wire. I also believe there is a small screw that holds it in place. I’m not aware that any sealing compound is used and to be fair the area of that joint will get extremely hot and I don’t know if there is a compound available to handle the heat without eventually breaking down.
     
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  17. Great. Thanks for all of that info. You pointed me in the right direction to look in to it more. Found some images.
    Trying to understand as much as possible so that I get my designing right first time, as once it’s all in place I just want to use it and maintain it, rather than carrying on tinkering - which too often is the case! ha ha

    Although my fridge looks unused, I haven’t actually checked to see if it works. It currently has a computer style plug on it to go directly in to a Zig CF9. Last question, I promise (with fingers crossed), do you think I could put a regular 3 Pin plug on it and test it on mains in my garage for a few hours?
    Cheers


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  18. In addition to the Electrolux RM123 in the van I use a ‘Sirbir’ 3 way fridge as additional food/beer storage. The wires to the 12V and 240V are clearly different so there would be no,mixing them up if there was not a plug or cigarette lighter connector.


    I recently acquired an Electrolux 3 way chest fridge free of charge but found out that the DC element was for a 24V set up and the AC element was for 110V.
    As such I replaced them for 12V and 240V (not cheap let me tell you) but the cables are identical so if I had not changed the elements I would not know which was which.

    Both are currently connected to the mains (via 3 pin plugs provided by the manufacturers) so I feel sure you could test your 240v fridge element by connecting it to a 3 pin plug.

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    The current element temperature in the Sirbir is....

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    And the Electrolux is.....

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    Following the refurbishment I tested the fridge that is in our camper in the garage using a gas bottle, then 240V and a 12V battery to ensure it worked on all 3 sources.
    Last weekend we were at an event when it was over 27 degrees and our old fridge was so cold it made ice in the ice tray and the element was covered in frost.


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  19. Great stuff!
    It seems my fridge works, on mains at least...pretty sure the other 2 ways will work too.
    Temperature went down from 23• to 7• in 4hrs on setting 4.
    The back didn’t get as hot as I expected, but that’s likely to not be the case in a confined space.
    Quite satisfied to progress with the carpentry aspects of fitting the fridge and vents.


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  20. Whilst at VW Action we had the Electrolux RM123 running on gas (it really is crucial that the van is as level as possible for the gas to be able to heat the element correctly).

    Once again it performed great and the current Mrs T had ice for her Baileys.

    [​IMG]


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