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Can I Run My RV Fridge While Driving

For the type-A planners among us, preparing to take a trip can be almost as fun as the trip itself!

The anticipation, packing your RV, planning out the groceries you need for a week away from home: the process really can be thrilling.

However, it also can leave campers with more than a few questions.

Many of which involve whether or not you can run your RV fridge during the drive.

While you can run your RV fridge while driving, you must understand how to do so safely, and your decision may change depending on your specific RV and fridge. If you choose not to run your fridge while driving, there are alternate ways you can keep your groceries chilled.

How do RV Fridges Work?

If you’ve been camping before, you may have noticed that your RV fridge seems to work differently than your refrigerator at home. 

This effect isn’t in your mind!

While most refrigerators work using an air compressor, RV fridges work through absorption and chemical compounds.  This process works much more slowly and requires an outside source of electrical power or propane.

An RV fridge differs from a conventional refrigerator in several ways that are intended to make it more durable.

Newbies who try to get away with passing off a regular mini-fridge in place of a more expensive RV fridge quickly find that the delicate equipment of this replacement can’t stand up the bumps of the road.

RV fridges are typically built out of durable steel.

Their simple, sturdy design makes them less likely to be destroyed by a few jostled parts.

An absorption fridge operates through the use of a complicated chemical process using water and ammonia.

This combination travels through your RV fridge in a series of tubes, which it is separated after coming into contact with an internal generator.

From here, water travels into the absorber while the ammonia makes its’ way to the condenser.

The ammonia cools, turns back into a liquid, and combines with hydrogen gas to form the cold vapor that cools your fridge.

While this process is fascinating, it’s not especially powerful.

Most RVer’s find themselves running the refrigerator overnight before a trip to build up a chill.

Is it Even Safe to Run an RV Fridge When Driving?

Though it’s safe to run your RV fridge while driving, the process can pose some risks, especially if using propane.

While using battery power to cool your RV fridge is a safe option, you may find that your battery won’t last long enough to make it worth the effort.

Propane

Many experienced campers run their propane while driving with no real problems.

However, just because it’s been done hundreds of times in the past doesn’t make this move necessarily safe.

A damaged propane line can prove a massive fire hazard, and the propane lines themselves are surprisingly fragile.

When you’re driving your RV, you won’t necessarily be available to maintain a constant eye on your propane.

Just the slightest bit of damage could ignite your truck immediately.

Though fire problems aren’t necessarily common, they can be heartbreaking when they do occur.

In the end, operating your RV fridge using propane isn’t likely to do harm, but you will have to weigh those risks for yourself.

Battery

Running your RV fridge using battery power is undoubtedly the safest option, but it may not be the most efficient.

In addition, every fridge may not be available for use with this power source.

Depending on both the size of your fridge and your battery, you’ll likely only be able to fully power your fridge for three to five hours using this process.

That being said, this is only really a problem if you are planning on boondocking using that same battery power. 

If you’re traveling to a site with shore power anyway, you may find that ice-cold groceries are worth the temporary loss of your battery power. 

Editor’s pick: Do RV Batteries Charge When Plugged Into Shore Power

Can Running My Fridge Drain My Batteries?

Running your RV fridge takes a lot of power, and running your fridge can quickly drain your batteries. 

While your battery is a great asset to have while driving, battery power on its own is unlikely to go the distance once you’ve actually parked your RV.

What if I Choose Not to Run it While Driving

If you decide that the risk isn’t really worth the reward, you aren’t alone. 

In fact, many experienced campers find that it’s far easier and safer to use alternative methods to keep their food cold during the trip!

Give these a try:

  • Fully chill your fridge before starting the trip.
  • Keep frozen ice packs along the top shelf of the fridge.
  • Don’t open the fridge unless absolutely necessary.
  • Freeze a few water bottles inside the fridge.
  • Leave as little empty space as possible.
  • Fasten the door closed to avoid it bumping open during the drive.

In all actuality, unless you’re planning a major cross-country journey, these few tips alone should be enough to keep your groceries fully chilled.

Your refrigerator may not be powerful, but it’s well-designed.

Even without power, your fridge is well insulated and should be able to stay cold enough to keep your lunch meat chilled for roughly twelve hours.  

Conclusion 

Though it’s possible to run your RV fridge while driving, after a little research, you may find that it’s not worth it to do so.

By fully chilling your fridge prior to hitting the road, you can still keep all your groceries at an optimal level without taking on any additional risk. 

If you do decide to run your fridge while driving, be sure to research your specific model.

If possible use battery power as much as you can before switching to propane, and understand how you can use additional cold packs to help your fridge go that extra mile!