Dometic Fridge Thermistor Replacement

We have been noticing of late that our fridge does not seem to keep things as cool as we think it used to. A few factors could be related to this, such as the really hot summers we now have, and of course, the age of the cooling system. A little research pointed me in the direction of replacing the thermistor, which controls the preset temperature, as a simple and relatively inexpensive first action to see if there is an improvement.

A quick search on Amazon turned up the correct part, and a tip for Canadian owners, try to source it on, as you will find the prices significantly cheaper. Of course, you then have to figure out how to get it, and we have found shipping it to a UPS store somewhere along your travels is a good option.


The hardest part of the installation is getting the cover off the control box. The way the fridge is installed, the cover is jammed tight against a metal channel, and this does not allow enough room for the cover to be maneuvered off. A few summers back I wanted to check the fuses found in that box, and had a hell of a time figuring out how to get this thing off. As chronicled here, , I think this is the only way to go about it, without pulling the whole unit forward from the inside, an even bigger effort!

Get the cover off, then disconnect the wire connector from the circuit board. Of course, there was a little zip tie preventing the complete removal of the wire without cutting the connector off. As I wanted to keep the old thermistor intact, I worked at getting some small side cutters around the tie. Then I went inside and removed the thermistor holder from the refridgerator fins, removed the thermistor, then the little plug for the hole. After that it was just a matter of reversing all the tasks, a few zip ties to clean things up, cover back on, and you are done.

The fridge fired up no problem, and although it is only the first time out, the internal thermometer is showing that the fridge does seem to be cooling thing off a little further. One other think I noticed was the impact of the placement of any thermometer used to monitor the internal temp of the fridge. We use a wireless temp sensor, and I originally had this placed in the back left corner of the interior. This I found resulted in a higher temp reading, to the tune of 3-4F, than when it was moved, as a test, to the middle of the lower shelf. This sort of makes sense, as the back wall of the fridge is the closest to not only to the workings of the fridge, but also an increase caused by the sun pounding on the sidewall. Given that an absorption fridge works using heat as part of the process, it is little wonder that the back of the fridge might be a tad warmer.

So in short, I think changing the thermistor, and finding the best location for getting an accurate temp reading, were good moves.
Win Win.

New Curtains

Never underestimate a job. Akin to that thinking is to never undervalue the effort that goes into something you are paying for. Again, easier said than done, and sort of against an ingrained mindset to find the best value. So when we pondered making new curtains, I did think “how hard can that really be”. The answer...much harder than you think.

Keep in mind this is from an amateur perspective, a skilled seamstress/seamster would probably view this job as child play. I however, are far from that skill level. Nonetheless, the search for a new fabric forged ahead. We wanted a fabric that would be pet hair friendly, as black certainly is not, as well as a colour that would lend an air of openness to the Alto when the curtains are drawn. We happened upon a nice fabric, something called a soft touch polyester. It does indeed have a nice feel to it, and as a bonus, it has a sort of shiny backing, which may provide a teeny tiny bit of reflective quality, for hot days when we close the curtains. Another bonus...on sale! We bought what was left on the bolt (already into the lingo).

When #80 got stored for the winter, all the curtains came out, to be used as patterns. It was not until a close examination of the various pieces occurred that it started to dawn on me that perhaps I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

There were seams to allow for, folded over edges to allow for, curves to allow for...every thought I had seemed to include the words “allow for”.

Our fabric was a little narrower than the original, so any pieces to make up a needed height, were different than the originals, another thing to allow for. After much thought about how this was all going to come together, out came the sewing machine.

I won’t bore you with too many of the challenges faced, but the total job was daunting. So many things for an amateur to figure out how to do, it was endless. After the first panel was done, I found I was getting braver, and perhaps slowly discovering little tricks of the trade. The pace soon picked up.

I ordered the fabric strip of snaps from SC, and these were sewn into place. I also ordered magnetic snaps, to replace the snap rings that are more often than not a bugger to pry open. Now was the time to make those tiny improvements to the design to make usage a bit easier.

After finishing all the curved pieces, the bench curtains were a relative breeze to create. I built in a little extra fabric to areas where it always seemed to be a bit short. In particular, the back curtains are now a couple of inches wider, making closing up at night so much easier.

Once done, I had to wait for spring, and the return of #80 to the driveway, to see if my efforts had paid off.

It was great to get them installed, and our hopes of achieving what we set out to change/improve, seems to have worked. We like the new look, it feels a bit less confined when all closed up, certainly more Barley friendly, and overall, we are pleased with the results. The negatives are few...look close and you may find a crooked stitch line or some bunched up threads, and the fabric tends to show wrinkles a bit more. All very liveable concerns.

If you want a new look...go for it! It is a doable project, but be prepared for a bit of work to figure it all out.

2018 Trip 2: raining caterpillars

Trip 2: Silver Lake

A short weekend away, to our favourite site on the lake. As we have said many times over, you just cannot beat a site right on the water. Last time we were here we backed the Alto in, but that ended with us having the door side away from the water. There is a vague pull through route to get out if you drive directly in, so we had another good look, and figured we would give it a go.

Our friends Helen & Paul came by for dinner, as they have a lake home near here, and we always get together when we are camping close by. Fish tacos and a salad were on the menu, and we enjoyed a nice fire and conversation down by the water.

The weather is fabulous, and we were outside constantly. Barley enjoyed being with us, quite content to observe from his protective little enclosure. The place is literally crawling with tent caterpillars, as it is that time of year. They are falling from the trees, and you have to watch where you step. They also like to be inside any shoes left on the ground, and that makes for a rather unpleasant squishy surprise if you do not check before pulling them on. It is also raining bits of leaves, and you can see the damage that these things do as they munch their way to maturity.

Tried out an neat little solar accessory that Dale's brother and his wife gave us for Christmas. It is a BioLite solar panel, with an integrated battery. It puts out 5 watts of power, and when set up in a nice sunny spot, it charged up all our devices up quite nicely. It has a very cool feature that helps you optimally angle the panel for maximum solar efficiency. Simply line up the little shadow dot between the crosshairs, and you are done. It is quite well made, looks to be relatively water resistant, has a same footprint, and will be a great way to keep all those smart devices up to charge. The beauty about these guys is that you can easily move it around to chase those precious rays. Great gift guys!

note the front window...

found these guys in another part of the park
our boy Barley

Dale the hardy decided a relaxing float in the lake was in order, Jim the wimp just waded around a bit. Stepping from the campsite into the water is such a treat. We brought some smoked salmon for dinner, which we placed over the campfire to heat it up a bit. This then went on some ciabatta bread, with cream cheese and some fiery pickles on the side. A simple tasty meal.

maple smoked or pepper...both very tasty

pretty tough to take...

Some storm clouds started to roll in Sunday morning, so we slowly packed things up while keeping an eye on them, then headed out. It was a nice little getaway...which is exactly what we hope for on these weekends.

Wheel Assembly Replacement...a bit of a job

What started out as a straight forward replacement and repacking of the bearings, soon turned into a far larger job. This became immediately apparent as soon as I laid my eyes on the inside surfaces of the drum. Before I go any further, please take a moment and read my little disclaimer.

"I do want to stress right now that unless you are seriously mechanically minded and are confident that you can perform the job correctly and completely, do not attempt any of the work that I will talk about here. Get it done professionally."

The surfaces of the drum were scored far more than I had anticipated. When I repacked the bearing in 2016, the surfaces were only just starting to show a bit of scoring. There was no point installing new bearings and races into a worn out drum. As you can see from the photo, the scoring is quite heavy. The magnet was also quite worn, and it was easy to see where the scoring matched up with the surface wear. My theory is that at some point in the wear cycle, perhaps the magnet gets to a point where it is causing more harm than good. I would say that I have noticed of late that the brakes were not as efficient, or present, as they have been in the past. Clearly it is time for a renew.

some serious scoring happening there

Fortunately a couple of years back, when I was ordering some parts, I noticed that eTrailer had a sale on the entire Dexter brake assembly, and I think that the price point was around thirty bucks. Having changed car brake shoes over the years, and the bugger it is to deal with the springs, I figured replacing the entire assembly would be the way to go, so I ordered a set. They have been waiting in the basement for this very day. I was able to find a Dexter distributer in Ottawa, and quickly purchased a new set of drums. Now we are good to start the work.

The first step is to get the trailer jacked up and the tire off. I use a bottle jack, placed at the end of the axle box, followed with a jack stand for an extra measure of safety. Next came removal of the drum and bearings, the only parts now being kept were the spindle nut, washer and retaining clip. No messy cleanup to be done this year. The next step was the removal of the brake assembly, all of which is mounted to the backing plate. This is held in place by four nuts, conveniently placed so as to not allow any sort of arm leverage to be applied. Figuring that many years of accumulated road grime would make the nuts tough to remove, I gave them all a good spray of Liquid Wrench. I used a hammer to lightly tap the end of the socket wench, slowly moving the nuts off the studs. The plate comes off, the electric brake wires are snipped, and you are done...that part.

the bare spindle...with no signs of wear

Before mounting the new brakes, I gave all the pressure points for the shoes a little inspection and a touch of extra anti-seize. I also did any of the movement points for the acutator arm. This will keep things moving smoothly. Reconnected the electric brake wires, an even easier task when there is no polarity concerns, then mounted the backing plate with four new nuts. Snagged a good idea from fellow Alto owner Ralph, and covered the crimped connectors with heat shrink tubing. Torquing to spec proved difficult in the confined area, so I did the best I could with my wrench and hammer. They are not going anywhere.

The new drums came with the races already installed, so it was just a matter of packing the bearings, applying additional grease to the races and spindle, placing the rear bearing in and installing a new seal. On went the drum, outer bearing and the parts to hold it all together. All of these components were installed following the Dexter Service Manuals. Dexter provides extensive information on their web site, and reading these service manuals and tech sheets is a valuable activity before starting any of this work!

The brakes were adjusted, and once they seat after a couple of short trips, I will jack the wheels and give them a quick re-adjustment.

So now we have new parts all around, including a new set of Carlisle Radial Trail HD, load range D. The originals were a bit overdue to be replaced, and these tires looked good. I like having the extra load capacity of these ones, even if we will only make use of this from a safety margin perspective. Our driving and loading routines will not change.

Definitely a big job, but one that offers big satisfaction for the effort expended. It is little wonder why having this work done at a shop can be expensive...there is a fair amount of expertise and labour involved...and my joints could make a good argument for just taking it into the shop the next time! At some point I will be, but I'm not there quite yet.

I think the big takeaway for me is how much sense it makes to change everything when needed. All the pieces work together, and ulitimately, wear together. No point changing brake shoes, if the drum is also worn. Same with new bearings in an old drum. From a cost perspective, with a little planning ahead you might be able to get in on some sales, but regardless of that, the piece of mind far outweighs a little extra outlay of cash. I know we are towing safe, and that makes means a lot.

2018 Trip 1: and another season begins...

Trip 1: Bayview Lodge

Exciting times...the start of another camping season. We brought the Alto home a couple of weeks ago, slowly put our gear back in, planned some meals, and by the time the weekend rolled along, we were all hyped up to get out there.

Heading to Bayview Lodge this time, also on White Lake, as our regular spot had to cancel our reservations. Seems the strange spring weather had thrown a wrench into their opening efforts, and they would not be ready in time. Bayview was up and running, and is an excellent alternative.

We arrived after work, and Ian & Karen were already well set up. A short time later Chris & Jen arrived, and once they got settled in, we got together at Ian & Karen’s, and got caught up on everyone’s latest happenings.

a nice little group of Altos

Cool overnight, but as we had full services, we were nice and cozy. The sun was beaming in, and we were up and about early. I started the bleaching of the fresh water tank, then poked around at a few other little jobs.

It was a fabulous day, so we all decided an afternoon hike through the woods was just the thing to do. Ian, the resident naturalist, shared his vast knowledge of the flora and fauna, which added tremendously to our enjoyment of the hike. We came upon a small pond, and as much as we wanted to hike around the perimeter, our path was soon blocked by some heavy underbrush. We retreated back the way we came, and continued our way down a cottage road.

spring has sprung

a bit of an odd find...slowly being absorbed

if it's mechanical...I will take a picture of it!

We decided that our foray into the wild earned us a cooling beer, and that’s exactly what we did. Soon it was time for a pot luck dinner, and it was a nice little spread. We had appetizers of cold cuts and a variety of home made pickles. A main of fish tacos, coleslaw and a bean salad, followed by dessert of sticky pudding with toffee sauce. Actually, for me, it was toffee sauce with sticky pudding!

The bugs eventually drove us inside, where we finished our chatting and soon called it a day...and a fine day it was.

Sunday was a very relaxed day, with lots of visiting and chatting between the sites. Slowly we all got our act together, packed up, and pulled out. What a great way to start the season!

2017 Trip 11: doing that winterizing thing...

2017 Trip 11: Cedar Cove

It's closing weekend, and that means we headed to Cedar Cove. This has become a staple of our camping season, as the campground has so much to offer. The site services help with the closing routine, and when the weather is inclement, the restaurant sure is handy to have available.

We arrived around 4:00pm, and after we got set up, Dale made up a couple of G & T's, we grabbed our chairs and headed to the end of the dock to enjoy the sunset. The forecast is for rain off and on throughout the weekend, so we wanted to take advantage of any sun we could get.

2017 Trip 10: the non-summer, summer weekend

Trip 10: Sharbot Lake PP

The weather all week has been fabulous, and the forecast is calling for more of the same, with temps in the high eighties. This is unseasonably warm for late September, but with the wet and somewhat unusual weather over the summer, a little warmth is certainly welcome.

We were on our favourite site at Sharbot Lake, right down by the water, and it is just a dandy. We were soon set up and enjoying a beverage by the water. I would have to say, it might well be one of the nicest evenings we have had this summer. We sat out until the stars appeared, then sat out longer.

Earlier in the summer we were contacted through the blog by a couple in Belleville. I talked to Rob on the phone at that time, and they were actively researching the Alto. Rob touched base again last week, and as we were camping a relatively short drive away, we arranged for them to drop by Saturday morning. Sure enough, Rob and his wife Sherry arrived bright and early. We sat outside and chatted about all sorts...travels, camping, work, and of course, the Alto. They have pretty much narrowed it down to the 1713, the windows once again proving to be a huge attraction. We talked about the variety of options available, and looked over the Alto closely. They have an appointment next week at the factory, to see the production line and no doubt, talk options.

It got very warm in the afternoon, so we went for a refreshing swim. The water was very nice, and we floated around for the longest time, chatting with everyone who paddled by. We went for our own paddle later in the day, the lake being just the right size for a nice easy loop. Lots of people on the water, taking advantage of an end of season bonus.

A nice G&T set us up for dinner, then we fired up the Q and cooked up some burgs.

A couple that were tenting next to us came by to ask about the camper. He is very close to retirement, and they have the same ideas of hitching up and exploring for extended periods of time. We had a nice visit, and they were quite interested in the Alto.  They have been looking at small Airstreams, but were concerned with the weight and the tow vehicle requirements. We then settled in our chairs by the lake and enjoyed another wonderful evening, gazing at the stars for the longest time.

Ah yes...the reflection shot

Barley was clearly tuckered out from the days activities, and he slept soundly all night, which means I did as well. Another fine day shaping up, and coffee was made overlooking a lake as flat as a pane of glass. Dale finally stirred from her slumber, and joined Barley and I outside. We sat and soaked in the whole morning.

these guys are just so damn cute!

cobbled together lunch

Yet another couple wandered over to ask about the Alto. Their first question was how many it could sleep, as they soon said they had three boys around the age of ten. They peaked inside and soon realized it would be a bit of a squeeze, at least until they could be relegated to a tent. We had a nice visit, then we were back to seriously taking it easy.

We started to square away the site, then headed into the water for another good float. Lots of people on the water again, and the day was stellar. Spent the better part of the day hanging out before we finally pulled up stakes and hit the road. What an absolute bonus this weekend was!