Evakool Fridge Freezer failure, repairs right before Cape York

We’ve had an 82L Fibreglass Evakool Fridge Freezer for a number of years now, that came with our Reconn R2 Hybrid Camper. It was new when the camper was built in 2018, which would make it just over 5 years old, and its been used extensively on a huge number of very rough tracks and roads. As a result, it was dropped off at a fridge repair place in Port Douglas, awaiting a repair, and ultimately its demise was a very slow one.

Evakool Fridge failure
Our Evakool Fridge Freezer died a very slow, drawn out death

What’s the Evakool Freezer been used for?

Initially, we used this Evakool Fridge Freezer as a combo unit, meaning a small portion was for frozen items, and the rest was for a fridge. This worked OK, but we always found that it froze the fridge stuff and was hard to keep balanced. When we upgraded our car fridge to a Bushman Upright Fridge, we decided to move the Evakool to a full time freezer, meaning we could take frozen food for up to 3 or 4 weeks, which hugely helped our off grid living options.

For the last 7 months, its been run flat out, at -20 degrees, and has been keeping a huge amount of food frozen for us, as we travel around Australia. It’s been in the front of our Hybrid Camper, which gets far too hot for my liking, and we do our best to open hatches and let air flow through when we around, but its not an ideal place to have a freezer, and we’re looking at different ventilation options.

Evakool Fridge Freezer
I don’t like where the Evakool is mounted with hot hot it gets, but there’s limited options

You should know that our Reconn R2 has done a massive number of 4WD tracks and roads over the years, and its probably done a lot more than many people do in decades of part time travel. It’s done the Kimberley, Pilbara, Southern parts of WA, Flinders Ranges, Grampians, High Country and everything in between, and its probably done millions of corrugations in that time.

4WD tracks in our Reconn R2
Our camper (and Evakool) has seen a huge amount of Australia, on proper 4WD tracks

How did it fail?

I’m always on the look out for performance reduction in things that I own, and the Evakool Freezer appeared to die a long, and slow death. In actual fact, when we dropped it off it was still working, but overnight it’d struggle to get down to anything below -7, and during the day we’d frequently see temperatures of -2, which is no good. To top it off, some of the food inside was not freezing, and that can create a pretty significant health issue.

To top it off, we were just days away from heading towards Cape York, where its hot, rugged and you really want a reliable, and working freezer to take ample food.

Anyway, I digress, over the last 7 months of our lap of Australia, I noticed that our freezer was slowly getting worse and worse. We’ve always run it at -20, and at the start of our trip it would hit this relatively regularly, and the compressor would cut out, until the temperature rose enough for it to kick in.

As time went on, it was struggling to get to -20, and was essentially cycled on for the better part of 6 months. Asides from using a lot of power (which is OK, as we have a substantial lithium battery system), it was struggling. The real telling tale though, was that in South Australia where it was warmer, it performed better than it did in Victoria a few months later, where it was significantly colder.

In South Australia, if we were careful with air flow, we’d regularly see – 15 degrees, and down to a minimum of -10 through the day.

When we got to Victoria though, even on nights that were 0 – 5 degrees, we’d barely see -13, or better, and that’s made it pretty clear something wasn’t right. Nonetheless, on a bit of a time frame, we legged it up to Queensland, and you guessed it; the freezer started performing a lot worse due to the extra ambient heat.

A few months prior though, we did have the cooling fan start to make some lovely bearing noises, and I managed to get it to stop by spraying it with WD40, but don’t believe this had anything to do with the fridge failure, as it was always cycled on, and I regularly checked for air flow out of the fridge, which their always was.

Evakool Fan failure
The fan was on its way out, but still working

What did we do about it?

In Cairns, I finally caved, and knew we had to do something about the freezer, or we’d be in trouble. Chilly Dog in Port Douglas agreed to take a look at it, and we had a week up our sleeve to get it diagnosed and repaired, before heading north. I rang a couple of other Evakool Fridge repair agents, with them saying they’d need at least a week before they even looked at it, which limited our options, but Chilly Dog were hugely helpful.

Their initial assessment was that just the fan needed replacing, which I provided (I’d ordered one from Evakool after it started making noises, and in the mean time it went silent). They ran this overnight with the new fan, and it didn’t get down to -5, and agreed that there was something else causing the problem. They were leaning towards a gas leak, which is problematic and hard to find.

They continued their investigations, and found the fridge to be running in a vacuum. After a fair bit of work, they ordered a replacement dryer, and found oil blocking a small orifice, and cleared it. They also went above and beyond to keep the pricing reasonable, as I’d looked and could get a new unit for $1600 – $1800.

We’re stuck with this unit

I want to make a point of mentioning that due to the location of this freezer, we have no other options for changing to something else. The height is 440mm, which is tiny, and I have yet to be able to find a replacement option that would actually fit in the fridge slide, let alone one near 82L in size.

Interestingly, the new 82L Evakool Freezer says its not suitable to be run as a complete freezer, despite being the same as our unit, and that one being OK. I questioned Evakool, and they said its probably due to it being so long, and customers complaining it doesn’t work well as a freezer. With the baskets in, it works fairly well, and whilst the length certainly would be a hindrance, we haven’t noticed it being a major problem.

So, ultimately I had to make a choice; get it repaired, or buy a new one, and wait 2 – 3 weeks for delivery, which would never have worked. On top of this, we’d already clocked up a decent bill for the repair, and it would have been silly to throw that away as well.

The Evakool Fridge repair works great

I’m very pleased to report that the freezer is now working better than I can ever remember it going. After running it overnight I was very pleased to see the cold air waft out as I opened it, and temperatures well into the negative teens.

We’ve since filled it up with a massive meat shop of vacuum packed food for the Cape, and its frozen the items and cooled down within a day, and many frozen, which I can’t even remember it ever doing.

Chilly Dog were fantastic, and whilst they don’t like to take on 12V fridge repairs, I’m pleased they helped us out, and we had zero lost time in waiting for a replacement fridge. In the interest of being totally transparent, this repair was around $550, which was primarily labour costs, but they did a great job, with a very thorough service report and photos, which I’m grateful for.

If we didn’t have a week up our sleeve though, we’d have been in trouble, so fortunately it all worked out well! This will get a mention in our Evakool Fridge review, to keep it all honest, and balanced.

We need to improve the ventilation

I mentioned earlier that our Reconn R2 has the freezer in the front tunnel boot, and its a rubbish location for a fridge, or freezer. The box is essentially sealed, and on a black hybrid caravan it does exactly what you’d expect; it gets scorching. 

If I leave both doors locked, I’d say the air inside comfortably hits 50 degrees after a few hours in a warm climate, with the sun shining on the front of the camper, and that’s not what you want for a freezer.

I’m probably going to cut a couple of vents into the inside of our camper, so the hot air can escape, and so it can suck cooler air from the camper, for the times that we do leave the camper all locked up when we head out.

82L Evakool Fridge Freezer
A freezer in a sealed box that gets really hot on a warm day is a very bad idea

We’re off to the Cape

Regardless of the above, I’m super pleased that we have a working freezer, that is full of frozen meat, and we’re well stocked for doing Cape York. Hopefully this post has been a help to you, if you own an Evakool Fridge Freezer.

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