One of our favourite modifications to a 4WD is having a fridge in the back. Cold drinks, food for days and if you are sneaky, even a couple of ice creams!
How you install and use your fridge though, is the difference between it being easy and enjoyable, and annoying and frustrating.
There’s a lot of different fridge slides on the market, starting at $100 for a cheap Kings Titan Fridge Slide, and working their way right up to nearly a thousand dollars for a big drop down fridge slide.
Like everything, we believe in buying a product that is going to suit your needs, so shop around and consider your options.
Fridge slides can be a great option depending on what you are trying to achieve, and we’ve built a couple over the years.
Alternatively, you can do away with a fridge slide all together, and get yourself a 12V upright fridge, or even a drawer fridge that has them in built. We went with an 85L Bushman Upright, and have been fairly happy so far.
What to think about when buying or building a fridge slide
Do you actually need one?
The first, and most important consideration is to look at whether you actually need a fridge slide. They tend to offer two advantages; they get the fridge closer to where you are standing, and they get the fridge out from under a box that you might have gear on top of.
Some of them also drop the fridge down, which is useful if you can’t see into them in their normal position.
However, I have seen plenty of people with fridges that are just mounted in one position, and that open and can be accessed perfectly fine. If you don’t need one, why get it?
The flip side of this of course, is some fridges don’t need slides. You can get drawer fridges that have their own runners, and upright fridges that also don’t need to come out. Both are great options in their own right, but you have to decide what’s going to suit yourself best.
Weight is a bad thing. It will put you closer to your maximum axle capacities and GVM, hurts your off road ability, fuel economy and leads to further modifications to counter the additional load. Fridge slides are inherently heavy, especially the drop down versions and that is a problem.
If you are putting a 42kg drop down fridge slide in, plus a 40kg fridge, and then filling it with 25kg of weight, you’ve just added nearly 110kg of weight to your vehicle. The weight is often right at the rear, or on one side of the vehicle too, which is not ideal.
You can even get electric drop down fridge slides now, which are only going to be heavier and more complicated!
Ideally, the fridge slide is exactly the right size for your fridge. This becomes problematic though, as there are so many different fridge sizes and types on the market and they won’t all fit. To make it worse, once you do eventually change to something else you’ll potentially have to change fridge slides too!
In an ideal world you have a box over your fridge, so you can store items on top of it without it affecting the use of the fridge. You need enough space for good ventilation, and to ensure the fridge stays protected, but the smaller the better.
Running a 40L Engel on a fridge slide designed for an 80L unit will work, but you’ll use up a lot of space and weight capacity in doing so.
Seriously think about the accessing of your fridge. How far out does the fridge slide need to come to be comfortable, and will it be at a height that is suitable? If not, do you need to go down the path of a drop down fridge slide?
If your fridge has a door that opens upwards, is it going to hit on anything? What will it come to rest on? You’d be surprised at how many people put fridge slides in only to find their lids open about 30% and no further!
In general, the lower you can mount your fridge the better, especially when it comes to seeing in and working in your fridge. I’ve always thought its a better idea to have a fridge on one side, and drawers on the other, and not a fridge slide on top of a drawer.
You can spend as much on a fridge slide today, as you can on the fridge itself. The 4WD accessories market has gone absolutely bonkers, with more products available than you could ever need.
We are always pretty conservative when it comes to buying gear in a financially viable way, and fridge slides are no different.
A big part of cost is not the physical value, but whether its the right product for you, and whether its going to last and do the job. There’s nothing worse than going through several cheap products in order to ‘save money’ before you end up buying something expensive anyway.
Have a good think about how you are going to mount your fridge, as not all slides come with attachments to do this. Most people use the pull down straps off lugs, which work fine.
It is a good idea to put your fridge on some rubber, or dense foam to absorb any of the vibrations and knocks off road. They are subject to the same punishment your vehicle is, and its worth making their life more comfortable.
Do you want a table?
I would encourage anyone who’s getting a fridge slide to seriously consider some additional bench space. There are so many options on the market today, with small slide out tables under a fridge slide through to clip on aluminium options, fold out or drop down units.
Bench space is hugely appreciated when you are travelling, and its one of the best things we ever did when designing the kitchen of our Isuzu Dmax.
Building a fridge slide
If you go down the path of building your own fridge slide, plan it out and consider the costs before you do, and the price of buying something off the shelf. By the time you buy slides, timber, fixings, metal and carpet, it can become a pretty expensive enterprise.
Our 1000mm runners that extend 1000mm and can hold 220kg were several hundred dollars, and that’s more than some of the cheaper fridge slides.
When it comes to designing the slide, stick with something that is light, solid and easy to install. We’ve used 50 x 50 x 3mm aluminium angle (from an aluminium wholesaler like Capral as Bunnings is insanely expensive) with countersunk bolts going through 12mm marine ply.
The runners are bolted to the aluminium, and the aluminium is bolted to the timber. You can get timber nutserts known as tee nuts, which are exceptional for doing this sort of work, and the lifting eyes that screw in (M6 is plenty) to hold your fridge down.
If you go with traditional runners, rivet a piece of aluminium between the two levers to open and close the fridge slide, as it means you can now do it with one hand.
This is important when you pull up somewhere that isn’t flat; its pretty hard to pull the fridge out and push two levers down at the same time!
One thing to remember with the runners is the clearance needed; you can either have the runners level with the slide, or underneath it. Either way works, one gives you options for a table but also takes up more room.
If you look at some of the commercially made drawer systems in a 4WD, you’ll see that they run small ball bearings, and square hollow section, or RHS to support the drawer, and stop it tipping over. This is actually fairly easy to do, and isn’t a bad idea at all.
Using plastic slides
The last idea, which is my favourite for drawer systems is not using any heavy metal at all, and just allowing the drawer or fridge slide to run on slippery plastic.
This is often referred to as nylon or even polystone, but it has limited friction and you can move the drawer or fridge slide in and out easily without the need to install heavy runners.
Drifta probably coined this setup, with some of the best drawers in the country coming from them and they make for a light weight, easy setup (just not cheap!).
Building a drop down fridge slide
One of the major problems you face with many fridges in the back of a 4WD is that people often cannot see into them. This is especially the case if you are shorter, but even on our Dmax which is not highly modified, and me being 6 foot 6 tall I could only just comfortably see what was in our Evakool fridge.
Sarah had to either get me to find what was needed, or to use a step to get up high enough.
Of course, the alternative is to make your own drop down fridge slide, and its been done by a few talented people who weren’t prepared to pay the $800 for one off the shelf.
Before we go any further, these need to be done well, and they are seriously dangerous if not set up, or used correctly. The scissor action could very easily take your fingers off, and its not something to muck around with.
Regardless, you need a frame for the fridge to sit on, flat bar to do the scissor action and a way to lever it up and down without having it move too quickly and in an uncontrolled manner. Expect to mock a couple of these up before you get it right!
Building a tilting fridge slide
A much easier option is to make a fridge slide that just tilts, instead of dropping down. These can be a traditional fridge slide that is modified at the rear so as you pull it out the fridge tilts down at the front, allowing you much better access.
It’s not perfect, but its cheap, easy to do and much lighter than using a drop down fridge slide.
Set up a good fridge slide
There really is nothing better than a fridge or freezer in your 4WD, camper trailer or caravan. Set up well, they make life on the road so much easier. If you need a fridge slide, seriously consider what is important to you, and what products are going to suit before making your own up.
We’ve completely ditched our Dmax fridge slide and Evakool Fridge, and gone to an 85L Bushman upright fridge, but still have the factory fridge slide on our Reconn R2 Hybrid Camper, and have no plans to remove it; its just too functional to matter.