How to Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving?

When driving to a new destination or heading to an RV campsite, it’s great to pick up the groceries along the way.

This way, you’ll be stocked up and have fresh produce to cook up a sumptuous meal shortly after arriving.

Depending on how your refrigerator is operated, keeping food and drinks cool enough could be a problem.

You may ask: How to keep RV fridge cold while driving? What are your options when you have the propane disconnected for safety reasons while in transit? If you don’t use the propane in transit, then you may need to rely on the battery inside the fridge.

Read Also: Should I Leave My RV Refrigerator On all the Time?

There are choices to be made around keeping the RV fridge cool while driving on the road. Let’s address those now.

How to Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving – 5 Ways to Do It:

Here are some suggestions to avoid the RV fridge warming up too fast while unplugged.

1. Prepare Hours Ahead of Time

To get the best head start, turn the thermostat to its lowest setting.

Then let the fridge get as cold as possible before disconnecting the power source when you’re about to set off.

It will depend on the RV fridge model as to how many hours are required to reach maximum coldness. Allow at least this much time.

2. Be Extra Careful with Frozen Goods

Be careful with frozen foods. Even a loss of power for just 3-4 hours can cause enough defrosting of ice cream and other delicacies to make them unsafe to consume later.

In a situation where ice cream has turned to liquid, then re-freezing it into a solid isn’t advisable — it can cause a stomach upset.

Because of this, it’s sensible to pack around the items in the freezer that are most at risk.

Also, before reconnecting the RV fridge, check on the frozen produce to see if anything is already too far gone.

3. Keep the RV Refrigerator Door Closed

Before heading off and during transit, it’s best to not open the refrigerator door.

Doing so will allow precious refrigerated air to escape. It will then require extra time to cool the fridge down if it’s still powered up.

If it’s disconnected, then the cold loss to the refrigerator’s internal storage could be significant.

4. Use Bags of Ice

Bags of ice and ice cube trays are effective in maintaining a cooler temperature around them.

This applies within the freezer section, but also when stored in the main food and drink compartment too.

When storing ice cubes in the central compartment, consider where the water will go as the ice melts.

Placing ice cube trays in a bowl is ideal.

Also, if using bags of ice cubes, it’s not a bad idea to do the same because sometimes they can leak.

5. Pack Smarter

Cans of drinks keep colder than plastic bottles filled with liquid nectar. Food is less effective on its own to maintain a cooler temperature.

Therefore, pack cold drinks around food items to reduce potential temperature loss.

By doing it strategically, you can slow the rate that sensitive food items will warm up. This could allow a little more time between stops.

Can You Run RV Fridge While Driving?

It’s possible to run the RV fridge while driving. The question is more whether you should?!

Concerns abound about the use of propane while underway. With a propane tank connected to the RV refrigerator and the valve opened, the propane gas is being fed slowly into the fridge as its source of power.

If there’s a severe accident on the road, the RV fridge could take a tumble. Should the connection between the propane tank and the refrigerator become separated, then the tank will start venting propane gas inside your RV.

For this reason, many RV owners prefer to adjust the valve controls to the OFF position and disconnect the propane tank from the fridge before traveling.

How to Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving?

Do RV Refrigerators Use a Lot of Electricity?

It’s useful to understand the typical power usage of an RV refrigerator.

Now…. Your mileage may vary so please know that the following information is provided as a rough guide. To know the figure for yourself, testing will be required.

It’s reasonable to assume that for one-day use, an RV fridge may use around 5 kWh of power.

For instance, the Walsh WSR31TBK compact refrigerator (affiliate link) is suitable for RVs and doesn’t use much energy to operate. Obviously, the make, model, and size/capacity will impact this too. However, it’s unlikely to be much less but it would be a few kilowatt-hours more.

Walsh WSR31TBK Compact Refrigerator, Dual Door Fridge

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Should You Use a Propane Refrigerator While Driving?

Many within the RV community debate the option of running the propane fridge while transiting from one location to the next.

Here are some reasons for doing so:

Positive Reasons for Running a Propane Fridge While Driving:

  • Propane powers the fridge and no food is at risk of spoiling (assuming the gas supply is plentiful).
  • The heating is often powered by the same propane supply keeping you warmer in colder months.
  • The water heater also keeps hot water ready for later use.

Negative Reasons for Running a Propane Fridge While Driving:

  • A broken road or unexpected pothole could displace the fridge. Then the propane line could break causing a gas leak inside the RV.
  • A single spark or a lit cigarette could be sufficient to ignite flammable gas in the air.
  • Driving restrictions apply both generally and by state.

Put simply, being both on the move and with propane still turned on is risky. Accidents occur.

If you’re unfortunate enough to swerve off the road, hit a pothole, or get into a head-on collision, it could dislodge the refrigerator and break the propane line.

The total loss of the RV and risk to life are all possible at that point. Is it really worth it? We think not.

Is It Legal to Drive an RV with the Propane Turned On?

We believe that it is legal, for the most part, to drive with the propane turned on.

However, it is ill-advised on every level and can create a potential danger for the driver, any passengers, and people in the vicinity should something bad happen.

It is always best to turn off all propane gas sources before driving.

We do know that propane inside an RV is not permitted at a gas station due to the fallible risk.

Also, when going through a tunnel, all propane must be turned off.

Often, an attendant will enquire about this when there are a booth and a barrier, such as a toll road that includes a tunnel system.

Likely there are other places and situations where it’s legally necessary (or requested for safety reasons) to disable or otherwise turn off the propane and other gas sources.

N.B. We’re not lawyers. If you wish to check the legal status for driving in a particular state in an RV with the propane turned on, please consult with an attorney who has knowledge of local state laws. You are the responsible party here – no one else.

Use a Generator to Keep Your RV Fridge Running While Driving?

An interesting option with a three-way RV fridge is to use a generator to keep the fridge running.

This would sometimes suit a refrigerator that accepts multiple power sources (propane, AC, DC, shore power).

Depending on your fridge, it would require a surprising number of watts.

That’s even more so when it’s started up while only on generator power.

A refrigerator will spike up the initial starting watts compared to what it requires once it’s up and running. It’s a little like a car engine in that way.

Generators are far safer to operate compared to leaving the propane turned on when in transit.

To handle the wattage requirement, it may be necessary to get a 3,000+ watt generator.

If you want it to be able to supply different types of power, then an inverter generator is useful too.

The Champion 3400-watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator is a colorful model (affiliate link). It has an electric start and accepts 30-amp, 120-volt RV connections too. The power is 3,100-watts during normal operation, which allows the model to operate for several hours.

Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Electric Start

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The Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Ready Inverter Generator (affiliate link) is another great option. It supports up to 3,500 starting watts thanks to the PowerRush ™ feature from the company. Also, using a special kit, it’s possible to use two of these inverter generators side-by-side to double the capacity.

Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Ready Inverter Generator (3,500 Starting Watts with PowerRush Technology)

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Another Method to Keep the RV Fridge Colder for Longer

Another possibility is to invest in an aerator.

The idea with an aerator is that it circulates cold air and has the added benefit of eliminating unpleasant odors too.

The Camco Fridge Airator (affiliate link) fits inside your refrigerator. It runs on its own battery, has a simple ON/OFF button, and takes up little space while it works to push cold air around the fridge’s interior. It includes a replaceable pack with activated charcoal that captured the odors.

Camco Fridge Airator with On/Off Switch

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Closing Thoughts

It is simply not worth the risk of running a gas link into your RV fridge with the propane free-flowing while underway. While we never expect to get into a collision on the road, life does happen.

It’s better to use a reliable refrigerator, rely on its internal battery to kick in, and use a portable aerator inside to maintain a cooler temperature.

If you can stretch to a portable generator, then they’ll be no need to turn off the RV fridge at all or rely on the limited duration internal battery. Otherwise, follow the above suggestions to do your best with the fridge no longer propane-powered when driving.

Safety should always come first.

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