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Ditching My ARB Fridge for a Dometic

May 21, 2023

When I showed up in Las Vegas for Three Days of R&R, I followed my usual procedures, picking up the Tacoma from storage, turning on the various systems, and then heading to the grocery store to provision my ARB fridge with a few days' worth of food.

My ARB Fridge Bites the Dust

As I was stopped for gas on my way to Utah, I happened to glance at the control panel for the fridge and noticed that it hadn't gotten any cooler than when I'd turned it on a couple hours earlier. No bueno. Thinking that there might just be some electrical glitch, I turned it off for 10 minutes, then turned it back on and continued on my way for another hour. Knowing that I'd need a solution, I pulled over at the last grocery store along my route, and sure enough, the temperature still hadn't dropped. Dang!

My $1000 ARB fridge, now a glorified ice chest.

Ultimately, the ARB worked great as an ice chest for the entire Utah trip, and after I got home, I promptly set it aside for a few days to focus on a kitchen remodel that we have ongoing. Eventually though, our next trip - Idaho-whyee - was just around the corner and I needed to get a solution figure out. I started - as would seem reasonable - by contacting ARB support and letting them know what was going on.

From: Dan
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2023 20:21
To: ARB Tech <>
Subject: RE: ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer issue


I wanted to reach out because I just got back from a trip where my ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer failed while I was on the trail, and I’d like to figure out the best way to get it fixed or replaced.

I go on trips pretty regularly - generally for 3-7 days, approximately every couple of weeks. Between each trip I empty and clean the fridge, and leave it open so that it doesn’t develop mildew or anything. On my last trip (I departed on Wed 4/19 and returned today, Sunday 4/23), followed my usual procedure of taking the fridge to my truck, powering it on (12v), and loading it up before taking off for SE Utah.

A few hours into the journey, I just happened to glance at the temp on the fridge - not sure why, I don’t generally check it, as it’s performed pretty well as long as I’ve had it, except for the issue I contacted you guys about below) - and I noticed that it hadn’t dropped at all from when I’d loaded up.

I made sure the fan was on (it was), and the temp was correctly set to 37°F (it was), and decided to give it another hour. After that hour, it still wasn’t cooling, so I was forced to stop at a local Albertsons to grab a couple of 10lbs blocks of ice, converting my fridge into a cooler for the rest of the trip.

As soon as I got home, I took a bit of a closer look. I don’t see any broken wires, the fan comes on (with both 12v DC and 120v AC), and the control panel still “works” - the light is green when it’s trying to cool, no flashing red light, etc. but it is not cooling at all.

What would you guys suggest?

Thanks much,

My hope was that they'd get back to me quickly, and suggest that I bring it in to an ARB service center somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, where they could take a look at it and - hopefully - fix it for me for less than the price of a new fridge. Because really, this one has been pretty great up until this point.

Unfortunately, I didn't hear back quickly, so five days later, I reached out again.

From: Dan
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2023 12:14
To: 'Technical Support' <>
Subject: RE: [Request received]

Afternoon folks,

Just wanted to reach out since I hadn’t heard back on this. I’m sure you are busy, but just wanted to make sure it wasn’t lost in the shuffle.


With a kitchen remodel going on at home, I had other things on my mind, and it wasn't for another two weeks until I finally heard back from ARB:

From: Don (Technical Support) <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 14:46
To: Dan
Subject: [ARBUSA] Re: RE: ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer issue

Your request (18199) has been updated. To add additional comments, reply to this email.

Hello Dan,

Have you turned off the fridge and let it sit for an hour and then plugging the system back in on AC and see if it does the same? This can sometimes reset the system.

As for the issue you're experiencing, I suggest that you reach out to a small appliance shop that deals with fridges or a dealer that sells ARB products to help diagnose. There may be several factors that could cause the problem, and diagnosing them is best done in person. Unfortunately, being a remote team, we're unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the issue.

What I can provide you with is the troubleshoot manual for your reference. This provides a flow chart and troubleshoot steps that can help pin point what part that may need to be replaced on the fridge if applicable.

We appreciate your understanding and hope you're able to find a solution soon.

Best regards,
D - ARB Technical Support

Since I was hoping to take it in, rather than try to figure it all out myself, I asked if there was somewhere ARB would recommend:

From: Dan
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 17:25
To: Technical Support <>
Subject: Re: [ARBUSA] Re: RE: ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer issue

Thanks Don, do you have a place that you guys recommend near Seattle, Washington?

Cheers, Dan


From: Don (Technical Support) <>
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2023 08:03
To: Dan
Subject: [ARBUSA] Re: RE: ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer issue

Your request (18199) has been updated. To add additional comments, reply to this email.

Hello Dan,

We currently have no recommendations unfortunately. We would recommend reaching out to an appliance shop that works on fridges that would be able to look into your issues.

You can also go to our website on and look under Find a Dealer and this will show all of our ARB shops near your area. They should be able to point you the right direction.

Best Regards

Disappointed that I wasn't getting anywhere, I pulled out my tools and multimeter and set to work troubleshooting the fridge as outlined in the Service Manual that Don had sent my direction, compiling the results so I could give him more information for a diagnosis:

From: Dan
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2023 09:10
To: Technical Support <>
Subject: RE: [ARBUSA] Re: RE: ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer issue

Ron, using the service manual you provided (thank you), I have some additional information that I hope helps:

  • It seems to me that the compressor is not actually turning on after I left the fridge for1 hour, then plugged it into AC power. The front control panel was set to 37°F, and it was 60°F in the room, and the cooling fan came on, but I never heard the compressor kick in (after waiting for about a minute). The entire time, the green light was illuminated on the front control panel (as if it was working correctly), with no flashing lights indicating errors. (NOTE: after running the tests below, I think the compressor did actually come on but this was my impression initially.)

Given that, I proceeded into the service manual:

8.2 - skipped this test, as I was using A/C power at this point.

8.3 - Test main circuit board - 100-240V AC
* result: 122V AC measured between input “L” and “N” and output “L” and “N” -- good
*** Test Pass - the main circuit board has now been eliminated as a possible fault.

8.4 - Test compressor control unit - 100-240V AC
* result: 122V AC measured between terminals “L” and “N” on the compressor control unit -- good
* result: 13V DC measured between terminals “A” and “C” on the compressor control unit -- good
*** Test Pass - The compressor control unit has now been eliminated as a possible fault

8.5 Test compressor (windings)
* result: 2.5ohms between center and left pins -- good
* result: 2.5ohms between center and right pins -- good
*** Test pass - compressor windings are OK.

8.6 Test thermistor (my fridge has the thermistor connected directly to CN7 on the main PCB)
* result: Ambient temperature of 60°F, 13.6kohm on thermistor -- good (between 8-14kohm)
*** Test pass - the thermistor is functioning correctly.

With all those tests coming out good, I went back to test 8.2 to recheck the compressor control board and compressor.

8.2 Test compressor control unit - 12/24V DC
* result: When terminals “T” and lower “C” were connected, the cooling fan and compressor turned on. (Neither was on prior to connecting the two terminals.) -- good
*** Test pass - The compressor control unit has now been eliminated as a possible fault. (again)

So, it seems that there are no faults in the system, and yet it is not cooling at all. With that information, do you have any further recommendations as to steps to take prior to my having to pay out of pocket to go to a third party? And, if the problem does turn out to be a leak in the refrigerant system, is there any way to fix that, short of purchasing a new refrigerator?


And Don's final reply:

From: Don (Technical Support) <>
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2023 09:25
To: Dan
Subject: [ARBUSA] Re: RE: ARB 50qt Fridge/freezer issue

Your request (18199) has been updated. To add additional comments, reply to this email.

Hi Dan,

From what it sounds like is that you may have a leak in the system like you have stated. Though being remote I cannot confirm this. I highly recommend reaching out to a repair technician that feels confident on sourcing the problem. If it is the compressor Im afraid you may have to get a new unit.

Hope you're able to find a solution soon.

Best regards,
D - ARB Technical Support

Don was polite enough, but quite unhelpful through the whole process and this left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth when it came to my ARB fridge. Even with that sour taste though, I knew I needed a new fridge, and when considering quality fridges, there were really only two brands - ARB and Dometic - that were at the top of my list.

My Fridge Options

Now in the market for a new fridge, I really only considered a couple of options.

  1. Picking up another identical ARB 47L Classic Series Fridge - a black and grey version of the blue-and-grey fridge that's worked so well for the last several years.
  2. Going with a similarly sized Dometic CFX3-45. Also black and grey, it has a great repuation on the market, and two of my buddies really like theirs.

With similar specs, the price and warranty differences pushed me over to Dometic.

Dometic First Impressions

I haven't yet used the Dometic, so these impressions are based on my unboxing and running the fridge next to my desk for a few hours to make sure that it cooled before taking it out on the trail. I'll be sure to update them after my upcoming trip to Nevada, and again in about a year.

My actual fridges, side by side.

What I like

  • The cost. I was able to pick up a Dometic for significantly (about 30%) less than the ARB fridge.
  • It uses the same 12V and 120V plugs as the ARB fridge, so I don't need to rework any of the wiring on the Tacoma.

    I was very happy to see that the inputs were identical.

  • The footprint is a similar size - just slightly wider and slightly shorter than the ARB, so it'll fit in my existing fridge slide.
  • It's a little bit shorter than the ARB fridge, so if I can find the time, I will be able to lower the height of my bed rack a few inches, bringing the tent entirely below the height of the cab.
  • It seems to cool more quickly than the ARB ever did.
  • The warranty is great. Where the ARB warranty was three years parts and labor, the Dometic is three years for the fridge and five years on the compressor system.

What seems meh

  • It's a little smaller than the ARB fridge, at 48qt rather than 50qt. I hope this won't be an issue.
  • The control panel doesn't display the temperature inside the fridge at all times. Rather, I have to press a button to have the screen "wake up" and show me that my food is cold.
  • It seems a little louder - or the compressor has a slightly different pitch - when it is on. This may or may not be an issue when it's in the bed of the truck and we're sleeping in the tent above, so I'm reserving judgement until after a few nights on the trail.

What I don't like

  • The lid on the Dometic seems flimsy in two ways:
    1. The whole thing sort of "wobbles" on the hinge, which seems loose. While technically secure, it just doesn't give the feeling of proper workmanship as compared to the ARB.
    2. Where the ARB used a locking cam lever to keep the lid securely closed, the Dometic has a small plastic tab that engages when the lid is pushed down from the top. It feels flimsy, and I'm worried that it will break.

      Not loving the small tab on the Dometic (right).

  • The internal storage. While the shape of the Dometic is similar to that of the ARB, the ARB had a permanent divider between the larger main compartment and the upper-rear "vegetable" compartment (a place that stays slightly warmer so you don't freeze fresh veggies). The Dometic uses a wire basket for the upper area, and which reduces space and makes access more difficult.

    I was very happy to see that the inputs were identical.

So, without further ado, let's put it through the paces. We're headed to Nevada, in search of rock art I couldn't find earlier this year. The forecast is calling for 90°F temps, and we ought to hit at least a couple bumpy roads. Let's hope that the Dometic is up to the task.

You can read all about it in Curse of the Pahranagat.



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  1. DK
    DK July 17, 2023

    I probably won't be rushing out to pick up an $1100.00 ARB fridge anytime soon. I always had my eye on one as well. Sounds like their customer service leaves a lot to be desired. I would have expected more for that kind of cash outlay.

    I use the YETI and block ice. I can say that it does keep the ice icy, and the beer and food cold.

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 18, 2023

      I have to say, I was pretty impressed with how well the ARB worked with two blocks of ice at the bottom. Stayed relatively frozen for 5 days and kept everything in the fridge nice and cool (in the 37°F range). My dad has a Yeti (among others) and uses it with dry ice as his long-term cold storage. Works great!

  2. Jareb
    Jareb July 18, 2023

    That's too bad it didn't work for you. Maybe I just had better luck with their tech support on my 8 year old ARB frizzer and getting the parts needed at no cost to me.
    Anxious to hear how the Dometic works out for you!

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 18, 2023

      Glad to hear you had a better experience Jareb! I'll definitely have a "few months later" and probably "year" and "few years" later review of the Dometic coming! ?

  3. Jack Garden
    Jack Garden July 18, 2023

    Isn't ARB USA located in Washington?

    I saw that the thermistor tested ok, but it seems that every time an ARB stops working it's the thermistor. They are fairly easy to change. ARB overnighted a replacement to me (out of warranty). You might try that, and possibly have a back up fridge, or then you could sell the ARB and recoup a good chunk of change.

    Fwiw, i had much better luck calling their tech support line than exchanging emails.

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 18, 2023

      I thought / think ARB USA is in WA (not even all that far from me), which is part of what I found strange. I'm going to give thermistor replacement a try - heck, if it solves the problem, that'd be GREAT, and then I'm still considering taking it to a local HVAC shop to see if I can get it fixed for a hundred bucks or so - wouldn't hurt to have a second fridge, or be able to choose which one I want to use...

      I'll give a phone call to their support a try for the thermistor, thanks for that suggestion! ?

  4. Jim M.
    Jim M. July 18, 2023

    I picked up my first ever vehicle fridge last year. I shopped around but eventually went ARB because of friends that have them and I've personally witnessed the abuse they are getting through. Researching other brands was getting daunting but I was leaning Dometic for the price and quality, and experience with them in my medic unit at work.
    But......I still went ARB based on my observations in the field and reputation. So far I love it. Don't know what took me so long to pull the trigger on a fridge and ditch the ice chest. Game changer since I am out there a lot as you are.
    H O W E V E R !!!! A point to concur with you on. Something seemed lacking in their customer service. Not that I needed much on a new fridge, but I was researching portable power units like the Jackery and such. So I wanted to know how many watts the ARB drew (I have a 37 qt). The manual and tags on the fridge didn't specify so I contacted ARB. THEY HAD NO ANSWER and did not know ?? WuuuuuuuuT ! They gave me the whole volts times amps draw equation to try and figure out. No what I was expecting from the mfg, to not know that simple data point. Felt a little let down.
    I ended up choosing a Power Block that had good reviews, was new to the market, and everyone raved about the Data Screen and info it provided for inputs & draws and it DOES have pass through charging with your solar set up. That data screen gave me the watt draw on my 37 qt. ARB fridge fluctuating in the 48~55 ish watts when it running. Those are real numbers -we- need. Now I have a good idea of how long my power station will last on its own.
    Anyway......that was my experience with ARB Customer Service. Not the standard I was expecting. But so far loving the fridge despite that. And if it poops out......we'll see......
    SIDE NOTE: By the way, the power station I got, which is somewhat new to the market is: FFpower 614Wh Portable Power Station #CN505. I have minimal needs so it works great. The data read outs for input, output, times to charge and discharge, is constantly alternating through that list so you know the state of everything with it. It has the newer LiFePO4 internals. 12V socket & 12 jacks, sine wave inverter with two outlets, & 4 USB plugs. 110V charger for home, a 12V car plug, and a solar panel with also keep it topped. 100 watt panel is all you need as the power station can only take in 68 watts for recharging it.
    That's my contribution safe.....keep it shiny side up......see you out there.

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 18, 2023

      Thanks for your experience Jim. I went with the ARB my first time around for much the same reason as you. And really - as I mentioned - I've very much liked the product over the years; it has served me well and done everything I asked of it. I only wish I'd gotten better service engagment from the company.

      I will say, I've still got the ARB, and I may still try to get it fixed locally. It has some features that I like better than the Dometic (and others I don't) so I'm going to keep using the Dometic for a bit to see whether I can get over those things, or whether I want to go back to the ARB (without their held).

      Stay safe and have fun out there!

  5. Robert P
    Robert P July 18, 2023

    I have had a Dometic CFX40W for about 4 years now and while I don't go out as much as you do, I did just return from a 3 week trip to Tuktoyaktuk and it performed flawlessly. It ran inside the cab for 21 straight days in weather that got as high as 95F.

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 18, 2023

      That's great to hear! I'm a little worried about the lid functionality with mine being in the bed of the truck, but time will tell if that's just a concern or a real issue. Hope mine holds up as well as yours (and others I've heard about).

      • Robert P
        Robert P July 18, 2023

        Mine spent its first years in the bed doing Death Valley, Black Rock, and various Sierra trails. I've not had any issues with the lid or any of the other components. I'll look for your nest gear roundup and observations posing to see how yours did. 🙂

  6. Tom
    Tom July 18, 2023

    Is the interior light bulb working or is it burned out? I believe that if the light bulb is not working, that will prevent the fridge from working properly.

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