Why I Took a Hacksaw to our RV Refrigerator

One of the things Stef really wanted in a new RV was a larger refrigerator.  And she certainly got that in our Travato.  The refrigerator is a Dometic RML 8330, which is a 3 way fridge.  It’s also a manual changeover fridge, which means you have to access the controls to change it from 12 volt to 120 volt to propane.  And it also has manual ignition, which makes it kind of like lighting a grill.  It doesn’t always light on the first try, so there are times when you may need to access the controls for a minute or more.

The controls, Stef! Look at the controls!! They're behind the door!

The controls, Stef! Look at the controls!! They’re behind the door! That’s just wrong!

And therein lies the problem.  The design of the refrigerator is sleek and modern, with an uncluttered front.  The Italian in me loves the look.  But the German in me is driven absolutely insane because you have to hold the door open to access the controls.  As in – “Shut the refrigerator!  You’re letting all the cold out!”  (Thanks for that, mom, I can still hear you…)  It seems a strangely inefficient design.  It had always bugged me, and in the end, let’s just say I’m a lot more German than Italian…

I finally realized I could, possibly do something about this.  The gasketing on the refrigerator actually only covers the compartment proper.  The controls are not inside the gasketing, and are just covered up by a piece of plastic.  I reasoned I could remove the door, cut it down, and thereby have access to the controls without opening it.  I had a little free time this afternoon (OK, not really.  I never have free time. I was just goofing off.), so I decided to tackle it.  Here’s how it went.


Step 1:  Remove door.

This is actually very easy.  Open the door.  Remove two screws holding the control panel on.  Then, use a right-angle screwdriver to remove the three screws where the hinge pin attaches to the case.

Removing refrigerator door

When your wife finds you bringing the dismembered refrigerator door into the shop to saw it, that would be a good time to verify that she will still love you even if you destroy the RV refrigerator.


Step 2:  Hacksaw the door.

Exactly what it sounds like.

Hacksaw Door 2

It’s plastic, so you’ll need a saw with fine teeth.  A hacksaw works fine, but I realized later I could have just run the door through my bandsaw.  I cut the top of the door off right down to the mount for the hinge pin.  I did it freehand, and it came out surprisingly well.  Do make sure you save the offcut, because you’re going to need it for the top.

Chopped Down Door


Step 3:  Salvage the top.

I suppose I could have stopped there and just mounted the door back.  But it was ugly.  I wanted the wife to think I was awesome, and not just still love me out of obligation even though I massacred her refrigerator.  I needed the door to look nice.  The next step was to free the very top of the door from the offcut.  I did this at the bandsaw, but it still wouldn’t fit back on the door because of the remaining bits of the original door still stuck in it.  I tried to pare it out with a chisel, but that wasn’t going to work.  I would have broken the top if I had kept trying.

Door Remnants


Step 4:  Build a jig and rout away the waste.

I decided to use a trim router with a small straight cutting bit to remove the remaining rim of former-door-waste.  But long story short – that method wouldn’t work unless I could come up with a way to hold the router level as it moved over the inverted top.  Hence, the jig.  It’s just two runners, taller than the top, and close enough together that the router could span them.  My trim router is a Bosch Colt.  I like it well enough, even though I hate routers in general.  This time, it all worked like a charm.

Router at work


Step 5:  Reassemble the door.

With the extra plastic removed from the top, it actually fit back onto the shortened door really well.  I did have to drill a hole for the hinge pin, but once that was done, I used a little silicone adhesive to make the top stick to the door.  By this time, Stef had quit fretting about her fridge, so she had gone inside and didn’t take any pictures.


Step 6:  Gloat.

All that’s left then is to put the door back on the refrigerator, put the control panel back on, and soak in the awesomeness.

Awesome Door

This all worked out much better than I had feared it might.  Usually, when I’m working “without a net” or, in this case “without a backup door”, something goes terribly wrong.  Not this time!  The door almost looks like it was made that way now.  The only difference is, you can see the controls and the hinge.  All clearances are fine, the function of the refrigerator as a whole is completely unaffected, and we can get to the controls without letting all the cold air out of the refrigerator.  I’m calling it 100% successful.


Improved Door

So there you have it.  My inner German is at peace, our refrigerator is more efficient, and Stef’s glad I didn’t ruin her fridge.  That was my Saturday afternoon!

James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he's also an IT consultant.

    28 thoughts on “Why I Took a Hacksaw to our RV Refrigerator

    1. Tony - Bend OR


      Just saw this on the Travato page. You really out did yourself…amazing! Time for you to open a mod shop for us Travato owners. I’m tempted to drive to Salt Lake to get this done! Numerous times while dry camping lost precious cold air while hitting the igniter. Did buy a wireless temp unit to keep from opening door. Btw – getting rig out from storage today will forward over dinette modification we talked about.


      1. James - Post author

        At the very least, there are a few people who want to send me their doors!
        Looking forward to seeing what you’ve done to the dinette.

    2. Wayne

      No guts, no glory! And you definitely deserve the glory on this one!
      Very nicely done.

      It is so gratifying to “work without a net” and actually have the job come out right.
      All too uncommon an occurrence (at least in my house). 🙁

      Kudos to you James, you’re my new hero!

      PS- are you selling signed posters yet?

      1. James - Post author

        Hey thanks, Wayne!
        Some day (never), when I’m famous (not likely), you’ll be able to say “I knew him when…”

    3. Donald P Wolf

      I really laughed out loud at the look on your face in picture one. Stef really looked delighted on the picture above yours. I am amazed that you were able to cut that with a hacksaw but it looked pretty good. O bay the way your shop looks very clean and organized. Picture number four looked a little rough around the edges but still acceptable. Picture number five looked very tedious and but professional. Picture number six was a look on satisfaction. The last Picture was a job well done. I just enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures that you two created from this project and it helped me with my stress while waiting for my R V. Thanks Don

    4. Drew


      This is really nice looking work- terrific job! I wonder though, how often does one really need to make changes in the refer controls?


      1. James - Post author

        More often than you think! Class Bs move around a lot. We run on 12v when traveling. But since that runs at about 10 amps, we switch to propane when parked for any length of time. We never stay in one place very long, so the fridge is switched over a lot. (Auto Changeover would be a huge win on this one…)

    5. Ted

      Whoa!, dancing into the “Danger Zone” this time. If anything went wrong I’d expect them to find you pummeled under a pile of pistachio nuts.

      I’m just trying to figure out using the headlamp with the router.

      1. James - Post author

        The Headlamp: I was working with a black-on-black target, 3/32 of an inch from a surface I couldn’t damage. The extra light and strong shadows from the headlamp really helped!

    6. Andy & Kim

      Wow, that was an exciting project! One wrong move could have spelled disaster, but the end result is fantastic.

      If you had done a video you could sell it to the TLC channel as a reality show.
      “Dr. James: RV Surgeon”!

      Just imagine the drama as Stef sits in the waiting room as her “baby” goes under the saw.

      Just a thought ;-p,
      Andy & Kim

    7. Karsten Askeland

      I don’t get it … why is this fridge a “MANUAL” change over? Has Dometic and Winnebago taken a step backwards with their refrigerators? I have a 2012 ERA that has a Dometic fridge. It is 3-way operation with the AUTO selection. In four years I have never had to made any changes to the AUTO section since they are made automatically. <<>>

      1. James - Post author

        I think this fridge was selected more for its narrow width than anything else. It’s not the end of the world, but I do agree an auto changeover would be more convenient.
        (But if we had that, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this mod!)

    8. Velda Solomon

      Err, good job James. Hugs to Stef, who much like I’ve done for nearly 40 years, puts up with our “creative” men!

    9. Steve Bartolucci

      Great Job James!!
      I knew that would work, as we discussed. Glad that you took the plunge.
      Now, how do we send our individual doors, and what’s the turn-around time? !!

    10. Mark Roberts

      The engineer in me has also internally wailed at the design of the door. I never thought to actually do anything about it. Now I must. Thanks James!!

      1. James - Post author

        Well, he might, but I don’t think it’s something Winnebago can do anything about it. I mean, yes, they could make the mod, but if they spent 3 extra hours per coach on delicate mods where one mistake ruins a refrigerator door… well, let’s just say I’m sure Travatos would start to cost a whole lot more.

        Who I really hope is reading this is Dometic! It would be a super easy change for them to make. They would have to make a new plastic mold for the doors, but that’s about it. If anyone has a contact at Dometic, please pass this on!

        (Oh, wait, maybe Russ has a contact at Dometic!)

    11. Al and Sherryl

      Holy chopped refrigerator James! That turned out so well that the refrigerator manufacturers will have to take note and ask themselves what were they thinking! Very brave but of course it was the talent and German ingenuity that won the day.

    12. Roger

      Great job! Winnebago should take note. I admit I had my doubts too yesterday when Stef posted posted that awesome photo of you coming out of your RV with the door!

      1. James - Post author

        I honestly had my doubts too. Plastic is different to work with than wood, and it’s really easy to chip, crack, melt, or otherwise damage it.


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