Why Do RV Refrigerators Catch Fire? – 7 Most Common Causes

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RV Refrigerators are a vital part of your camping and its inhabitants’ lifestyles. Without them, many dishes will not stay cold and fresh for very long, nor will any leftovers get eaten. Refrigerators can also be invaluable for keeping medications, medication, linens, and more organized and out of sight.

Unfortunately, refrigerators aren’t perfect – they often have issues that could cause them to catch fire or leak under normal conditions. Depending on the severity of these problems, they could end up causing enough damage to your RV or its contents to make it unlivable.

Read on to learn why refrigerators catch fire in RVs and what you can do to prevent this from happening again.

Why Do RV Refrigerators Catch Fire?

Why Do RV Refrigerators Catch Fire? - 7 Most Common Causes

One common cause is a malfunction in the cooling unit, which can lead to a build-up of flammable gases. If these gases are not properly vented, they can ignite and cause a fire.

Another potential cause is a malfunction in the electrical system, which can result in a short circuit or overheating.

Your RV is too old

Most refrigerators have a life expectancy of around 20 years and are designed to last that long. This is because they are typically made with older, more toxic materials that could cause an issue in the future.

These refrigerators might not be as energy-efficient as they once were and might also be filling up with dust and debris. In addition, appliances of this age often contain small-scale leaks that can eventually become bigger problems.

The best way to prevent your refrigerator from catching fire or leaking is by getting a new one when it’s time for a replacement.

Too much liquid in the fridge

One of the most common causes for an RV refrigerator to catch fire is not having enough space in the refrigerator. If there is too much liquid in your fridge, the freezer compartment will overflow and could cause a fire.

If you have too much liquid in your refrigerator, you can fix it by emptying out some ice trays or getting rid of any larger pieces of food that would be difficult to put back into smaller portions.

Lack of Ventilation, Space for the heat

Refrigerators are notorious for catching fire because they produce a lot of heat and need to vent that heat. Due to the flammability of their materials, they need to be able to let off the heat they produce.

If there is not enough room or proper ventilation, the unit can overheat and catch fire. When this happens, it can cause serious damage – including fires and carbon monoxide poisoning – and may even be fatal if you inhale too much smoke.

If your refrigerator is producing a lot of heat, make sure it has ample ventilation space. Make sure there is sufficient clearance between it and other objects in the RV that might block airflow.

Take advantage of spaces like cracks or seams in walls or floors so that any hot air coming out of your fridge doesn’t end up near other items in your RV where it could set something else on fire or start a carbon monoxide leak.

Not enough Insulation

The most common cause of refrigerator fires is the refrigerator not having enough insulation. Not only does it prevent your food from staying cold, but it also allows your refrigerator to release heat into the space around it, which can lead to a fire. To avoid this, make sure you have plenty of insulation in your RV refrigerator compartment.

Faulty Wiring

The most common type of refrigerator fire is caused by faulty wiring. Faulty wiring can be caused by a loose connection, a short in the wire, or a broken wire.

The best way to fix this problem is to replace the refrigerators’ old wiring with new and updated wiring.

As well as fixing your refrigerator from catching on fire, installing this updated wiring will also allow you to effectively cool your fridge more efficiently.

Incorrectly Installed Appliance or Fixture

One of the most common causes for refrigerators to catch fire is that they contain a faulty refrigerator or appliance. This may be the case if the fridge has been improperly installed, for example, if it was not installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and was not properly grounded.

This could also be due to improper wiring, which can cause power surges that result in fires when appliances are plugged in. Another big issue with refrigerators and other electrical appliances is that they aren’t always grounded properly.

If your RV has a water leak and you don’t want your fridge or other appliances to overheat, make sure it’s grounded properly.

Plugged-up Drains or Plumbing Fixtures

Nearly 30 percent of refrigerator fires are caused by a plugged drain or plumbing fixture. This is because the water and electricity used to power your RV refrigerator can build up pressure that’s too much for it to handle.

When this happens, excess water can boil over into the freezer, causing it to catch on fire. Because refrigerators are so large, when they catch on fire, they tend to spread quickly and burn everything in sight. To avoid this issue, make sure you keep your drains and other plumbing fixtures clean.

Should You Leave Your RV Refrigerator on All the Time?

There are pros and cons to leaving your RV refrigerator on all the time. When you leave your RV refrigerator on all the time, it automatically keeps food cold so you don’t have to worry about it going bad before you get to eat it. It also means that you won’t have to run your water and electrical hookup as often.

Keeping an RV fridge on all the time can help extend the life of your RV refrigerator if you do so by not running it as often. However, leaving your RV refrigerator on all the time will make it more difficult for maintenance people who come out once a year to fix any problems that might arise from being left on all the time.

And, when you leave your RV refrigerator on all the time, it will use more power than when you turn it off every now and then. You’ll need to weigh these pros and cons before making a decision whether or not leaving your RV refrigerator on all the time is right for you.

What Should You Keep in Your RV Refrigerator?

When you have an RV refrigerator, it’s important to keep food items that need refrigeration in the fridge. For example, you might want to keep milk and juice in your RV refrigerator as they can spoil quickly when left outside.

You should also make sure that your RV refrigerator contains a variety of food items so that you won’t be stuck without something specific if you don’t store it in your RV refrigerator. For example, if you don’t eat red meat, make sure that your RV refrigerator contains other types of meat like fish or chicken.

If you want to store some produce like apples or bananas, make sure that there is room in the fridge for them too. Finally, make sure your RV refrigerator has a ton of space so you can store all the food items that are essential to your traveling lifestyle.

How Long do RV Fridges Last?

The average lifespan of an RV refrigerator is 7-9 years. So, if you plan on keeping your RV refrigerator on all the time, it will last for a long time.

If you decide that leaving your RV refrigerator on all the time isn’t for you, consider turning it off every now and then between full loads. This way, you won’t have to worry about your RV fridge breaking down at a crucial point in your trip.


A contemporary RV has a refrigerator, freezer, and water heater designed to keep your food and beverages cold and ice-cold for hours. But how do you know if your refrigerator is safe? A good sign that your refrigerator is safe is if it’s plugged up.

If you notice a slow leak, it’s time to take it in for service. If your RV is more than 10 years old, or the compressor has stopped working altogether, it’s time to upgrade.

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