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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!