Troubleshooting the Norcold N821 RV Refrigerator

We’ve been giving the fridge a serious workout the past few weeks as we have traveled through some record-breaking heat in Arizona and Utah. I’ve been meaning to post about how the fridge issues that began at Lake Francis RV Resort seem to be resolved. Then I noticed the ignition fault error this morning after our first night in the Rockies outside Steamboat Springs, CO.

It has been working fine without any fault codes ever since we had it checked out in Yuba City. Of course, it didn’t act up once at the shop. All the technician did was tighten a battery terminal cable and say “if everything’s workin’ I can’t fix it.”

The only thing we’ve noticed since then is that it seems to work much harder if operating in LP mode when boondocking. The freezer makes ice noticeably quicker when running on AC power. I could live with that, but I was surprised to when it failed to light this morning after working fine since we arrived.

After consulting the Norcold manual (numerous times) we discovered the small blurb about operating it in LP mode at altitude. It appears that when operating the fridge at altitudes above 5500 feet, users may experience burner outages. Norcold’s recommended solution? Use AC power at altitudes above 5500 feet… Not an option for those of us who go to such heights to reach places where power lines don’t.

Yes, we could run it off AC power using our solar power system’s inverter, but that will be the last resort as we’d rather not run down the batteries any quicker and have to run our generator more than absolutely necessary.

So… Thinking it might be a low voltage issue, I opened the rear compartment to access the fridge and tested the leads going into the control board with my multimeter. I got a reading of 12.6V — more than adequate for ignition. I then noticed a small brass dial on the gas line marked only with “on” at one side. The manual has no mention of any such dial, and says nothing about adjustments to the gas line.

I noted the position of the dial and turned it fully to the on position, which it nearly was. After a few failed attempts it finally caught and has remained lit. So far so good.

This leads me to believe that our issues have been due to using the fridge in LP mode at high altitude. But there is one other thing… we have pinpointed an other anomaly.

If we turn on the overhead fan in the kitchen quickly, the front panel display on the fridge will go blank. If we are very careful to turn the fan on slowly, and gradually ramp up the speed of the fan, it will usually not affect the display. This one I can’t figure out other than there is something funky going on with the wiring. Especially since I pulled fuses to determine that this fan and the fridge are on different circuits.

Additional Help

I have posted my two cents to an Arctic Fox user group forum thread where various people discuss their Norcold refrigerator trouble.

Below are a couple other discussions about RV fridge issues from RV.net …

Download the Norcold N-Series RV Refrigerator Owner’s Manual

49 Responses to “Troubleshooting the Norcold N821 RV Refrigerator”

  1. Hi,
    I have a Norcold N811 and it keeps blinking 5 times everyone tells me that I need to take it in, is there anything I can do? And if I need parts whare do I get them. Sorry the frig does not get cold on gas or 110 there is power to the board and it is making a buzzing sound.
    Thanks
    Jimmy

    • Thanks for asking, but I’ve never encountered that issue. Sounds like some serious trouble shooting is definitely in order. Maybe someone else can provide better feedback. Good luck!

  2. chris robinson May 5, 2010 at 7:27 am Reply

    Norcold 821RT fridge. Displaying N code,, I understand this can be reset,, however having trouble finding instructions how do do so on this model. If you can tell me,, please tell me where the conector is I need to JUMP.

    Thanks

    • Sorry, wish we could be of more help but we have the N821L which doesn’t even have the capability to display an “N” code with it’s single digit readout. Thanks for commenting though, and good luck!

    • Hey Chris, we had the same issue with the “n” code showing and found a way to resert ours. We have a N821. Have you got it figured out?

      • Thanks for the comment! So… in case we need to someday, how do you reset the N821?

        • my N821 has the “N” error message on it as well. there is power in the module on the rear of the fridge, but there is no power being transfered to the heating element. The gas valve or igniter will not respond either. How do you reset the unit?

  3. Mississippi Jim September 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm Reply

    My Norcold just stopped cooling. No fault codes, stack is hot, fan works just stopped cooling. I turned it upside down to get air out but did not work. What do I do next, buy a new one?

  4. Refrigator problems on gas could be oil in propane lines, this problem shows up more in cold weather. Check for oil at low point near regulator hose.

  5. my norcold gives me an error message saying no co and it keeps op beeping. when switched to ac or propane

    • Must be a different model. Our display couldn’t show such an error and it doesn’t beep! Sorry I can’t help. Best of luck to you.

    • Scott Slater June 18, 2009 at 8:13 pm Reply

      I’m currently having the same problem. Have you figured out what the “no co” means?

    • Mine is doing the same to me now, and I’ve had technicians checked on it twice already, but still didn’t get fixed completely, but I’m told that it might be caused by the unlevel position of my fifth wheel, I will keep working on it, and will let you know if I can get it figured out soon, please keep me informed too if you have any better suggestion.

      • We have discovered that being pretty level is indeed required to keep this fridge operating properly. Altitude makes a big difference too, anytime we’re above 5,000Β± feet it acts up. Good luck, and thanks for the comment!

  6. I had the same problem. The chimney or flue above the gas jet had alot of carbon in it. I blew it out and it was ok.

  7. Karen and Jim: Sorry, wish we could be of more help. Luckily we haven’t experienced the issue you and Lori have. Yet … Hopefully someone else ca nhelp. Best of luck, and thanks for commenting!

  8. karen and jim July 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm Reply

    Our norcold is having the same problem as Lori…. its not getting cold, only the freezer… any ideas or answers? thanks

    • Check for poor grounding of refrigator 12V to chassis along with the ground wire to frig.
      Lights that interfere with frig could also have a bad ground.

  9. Hello, I was reading and noticed that Ron was having the same problem as we are having with our norcold 683. The freezer works great but the refridge is not getting very cold. We are totally stumped on what we should do.

    We did however get our norcold to run on electric while trying to figure out what was wrong. This is the first time since we have had our RV that is has worked on electric. (5 yrs)

    So Ron if you find out what is wrong with yours let me know I would be forever grateful.

    Thanks in advance for any help or Ideas you may have to help us figure out this problem we are having.

    • I just took mine in today for this very problem. He showed me where the system is clogged. If you take the back panels off, the top coils are warm and the bottom ones are not. The solution was: 1. new fridge 2. New cooling unit 3. Bang it with a hammer! I’m thinking of taking the door off the freezer part and letting the whole thing cool. Has anyone ever done this?

      • Has anyone ever done this?

        Not personally, but it sounds like a plan! If at first you don’t succeed, get a bigger hammer. πŸ™‚

  10. Damn. The minute I got this comment and looked up, we had a Fault on our fridge. Thanks Ron. πŸ˜‰ We’re at altitude again, in the snow. Had to light the old Norcold manually.

    But we’ve never had just the freezer work. I don’t know enough about the cooling system – or systems apparently – to troubleshoot that. Perhaps a line somewhere between the fridge and freezer is kinked, or fouled like you said.

    Good luck. Thanks for the comment.

  11. We have a Norcold problem. The freezer gets cold on A/C ( 5 Degrees) and gas. The refrigerator is not getting very cool. Trouble getting it below 55 degrees. Currently it is empty of food. No fault signals. On gas, we can see the flame.

    It probably needs to be cleaned, but since the freezer gets nice and cold, not sure that is causing the problem.

    Any ideas

    • I am having the same problem (freezer good, refer warm) as you had and can’t find anyone with answers. Did you have any luck? Thanks

      • Hopefully others have subscribed and can provide advice – our issue was with lighting the fridge at altitude. Thanks for asking and good luck!

    • Hi Ron.
      I am have the same problem with my Norcold 683 that you had in 08. I’ve seen this question before in other forums but never any answers. Did you ever get an answer?
      Thank you
      Al

  12. Thanks for the update! I also just read in the Good Sam Highways magazine that misplacement of the sensor can cause trouble.

    Funny thing is … our fridge has been acting fine until just recently after you commented. We’re parked at the curb visiting Rene’s folks and after a couple days I noticed the “n” error on the display indicating the cooler has failed. After leveling the trailer, it’s working fine. Turns out it must be pretty level to operate after all.

  13. Hay Jim I installed Spark sensor ekectrode wire seems to have fixed the problem.I don

  14. Hmmm … wish I could help you out more on this one! When you find out the problem/solution, be sure to come back and let us know.

  15. Battery 12.6. Ilive at an Elevation of 800 ft. temp this morning 60 .this problem has always under 5000 ft. seems I need to change something but what.While I was watching the flame before it went out it was nice blue but you could here the ignition sparking long time after it should have quit.It started ignition shortly after the gas valve shut off.

  16. An RV tech told me the Norcold needs full battery power to spark. Anything less than 12v and it may have a hard time igniting. If its going out on you i’m not sure … could be the thermostat. But I wouldn’t venture to guess since that’s not the problem we were having. Sorry.

    We were recently back at altitude again in New Mexico, about 6500′. Sure enough, the fridge would intermittently have a hard time lighting. After cycling the power and trying a few times it would eventually light, and stay lit. It seems a combination of (very) cold weather at night and the altitude cause trouble. Depending on where you’re camping, this could be the problem with yours too.

    See if it works consistently at altitudes less than 5000′ before you worry too much about any serious repairs. Hope this helps … good luck!

  17. I did what you suggested,tried itoday worked about two hrs. went out whithin 5 min. Lit it again and watched , the ignition started while the gas burning good flame . the gas valve shut it down while the ign. was still poping. I checked the since wire whith ohm meter. probly not a ggod check. Do you think it could be the sensor wire. Thanks for any help

  18. Thanks for asking, geo.rusher! If the problem isn’t altitude related, try pulling the front control panel off — between the freezer and fridge doors — and reseat the connections firmly. Norcold told me this is often a problem.

    From the symptom you describe — flame going out — it may also be a clogged line or bad regulator. On older rigs, this could mean a spider in the gas line or flame duct. In newer rigs it can be construction debris. I blew ours out with canned air and got some sawdust to fall out.

    Best of luck to ya!

  19. I have norcold 8421m. The problem with the unit starts when on gas.The burner goes out. It does it sitting or moving. It might goe for several days before it start acting up.It lifhts good ,flame looks good, propane half fuul. NO other problems with gas on any other appliancess. I have checked and clean all connections on circuit boards.and grounds.

    thanks for any help

  20. Here is another response that just got posted to the Arctic Fox Forum where I also mentioned this issue…

    I will let you know what I did to fix my Norcold. I had the very same trouble and I called Norcold and they said to take it to a service rep. I needed to try my hand at it once. The problem is in the igniter. Mine was located too close to the burner tube. The angle was also bad and not centered on the tube opening. I adjusted the igniter tip to center on the opening and moved it about 3/8″ from the tube. That is what the installation manual said it should be. I have not had any more trouble with my fridge. It starts the first time and always works now. It even continues to operate while going down the highway.

  21. Thanks for the tip Bill. I actually did turn up the regulator and it did help. I commented on that in the RV.net discussion, but forget to mention it here. Issues continue, however, at higher altitudes. And according to the Norcold manual this can be expected.

  22. We had similar problems. Turned out that the regulator was not adjusted properly and the pressure was too low. You might check that if the problem returns.

  23. We do indeed turn off our propane tanks when traveling. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how they leave their fridge running on the highway, but we turn off all appliances and the tanks when in motion.

    As a follow up to my original post … the issues at altitude may have been exacerbated by a low propane tank. We did have to switch over to our full tank the next day. Once we did, the fridge would stay lit (and/or re-light?) all day. It would, however, still have an ignition fault every morning. I believe a combination of the cold temperature at night and the high altitude caused the problems. I solved this by manually assisting the ignition each morning … I held our BBQ lighter by the flame orifice to warm it a bit then kept it there while turning the fridge back on. Over the three remaining days, this did the trick and it would run all day. There is something to be said about enjoying ice cream and cold beer while camping!

  24. air gets into the propanesupply lines precisely because you turn off the tanks, something has to occuppy the inside of those lines, either propane or air !

  25. Remember my LP gauge indicated full one day and empty the next (with a full tank). Seems like there are more than a few issues with propane at altitude (maybe you should switch to a Butane/Propane mix πŸ˜‰ JK!!

    We had a number of issues with poor propane performance on our last trip. We were camped at 9,000 to 10,000′ most of the time.

    Question?
    Do you turn off your propane while you are traveling? I noticed that I had issues each time we set up camp (I always turn off the propane for travel). The issue seems to get better or go away altogether after a day or two of use. I think the system purges it’s self when you turn off the gas. Air gets into the lines and this causes reduced performance.

    //A

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