Ambulance Build 6

Today we attempted to finish the fridge install.

First we plugged in an electric heater to shore power because it’s barely above freezing outside. Then I stuck my head in a box, and reached around under a board and drilled a hole into the fridge compartment for the 12v power to run through.

It went reasonably well.

kays butt poking out of cabinet
kay’s butt poking out of cabinet

The fridge just fits in the hole we made. Lots of luck involved with that.

Then we remembered the under fridge metal… thing. There’s some piece of plastic coming off of the front of the fridge bottom in the center that it will protect, but other than that we’re not sure why it exists. We had no idea what we were in for when we decided that a little protection was good and we should install it.

Around then Dachary’s back decided it could only take so much ambulance time, and she went inside to work on wiring up the LED lights that will replace the “Dome Lights”. In the current generation these are all LED to begin with.

dome light wires
dome light wires

The wiring is a little weird. We have one ground, and two power lines. This picture shows why I love ambulance electrics. Everything is labeled. I couldn’t hold all three with labeling pointed at the camera but the black one is clearly labeled as the ground. The other two are “Dome Light Low 4” and “Dome Light High 4” (We have 6 “Dome” lights). I was expecting one line with differing power levels for high and low, but no, two lines. Where it got really weird was that they appear to have bought some 3rd party light fixture with red, black, and white. The way it’s connected to the fixture the red is the ground, the white which is wired in as a ground is actually power, and the black is the other power. If you’ve spent any time with electric wires you’ll be going “that’s ALL kinds of wrong”. We tried one way of wiring it and they worked on low but not high. We tried another way and they didn’t work at all. We tried another way and killed all the dome lights on the left side.

This was a bit demoralizing for Dachary, and we were already late for lunch so we decided to pause there. Later in the evening I spent some quality time with the wiring diagram and discovered that it’s a circuit breaker not a fuse (yay) and that circuit breaker #37 needs to be flipped. Only problem is, we have no clue where the circuit breakers are. I thought we’d seen everything but the bowels of the engine, and yet neither of us can recall a circuit board. Fuse block yes. Circuit board, no. [Side Note: OMG largest vehicle fuzes I’ve ever seen.]

It’s somewhat annoying that the wiring diagram tells you how everything is connected but not where 99% of the stuff is on the vehicle. We’ll go searching tomorrow. It really bugs me that we broke something and haven’t fixed it yet.

Anyway, after lunch I went out, finished off the shelf to support the fridge, and then Dachary joined me and we began the ordeal of installing that metal… thing.

We bought this fridge for a few reasons:

  1. It takes about half as much power as the Truck Fridge we had in our Vanagon.
  2. Dometic fridges have a great reputation
  3. It fit the spaces we were willing to put it.

We were not expecting what came next.

We don’t know what to call the metal thing that goes under the front because it doesn’t exist in the manual. We weren’t even sure what exactly it was for or what orientation it was expected to be in. Eventually we figured out that two of its holes line up with the front feet of the fridge, and that you’re expected to remove them, stick it in place, and then use them to hold it on.

We also don’t know what to call the … flange thing that goes around the left, top, and right edge to hold it in the hole (it screws into the wall its installed in) and to hide the gap (and rough edges) between the fridge and the wall. It doesn’t exist in the manual either. Additionally it goes down below the fridge to the same level as the bottom of the feet, so it’s not actually possible to make it just rest its weight on the feet unless you remove that.

You may have noted that i didn’t say “bottom” the thing that goes under the front does not go out and down like the flange thing. So, you’ve got a fridge with a nice flange around 3/4 of the sides. We think maybe Dometic’s engineers thought “meh, it’s most of the sides. it’ll be fine”. I’ll admit you wouldn’t want it to go down if you were installing it on the floor, but not everyone installs their fridges on the floor. Some of use actually want to be able to use them without doing toe-touches every time we want a drink.

While we had it on its side we decided to take the opportunity to flip which side the door opens from. Dometic suggests that this is easy, and technically it is. What they don’t tell you is that they didn’t bother to put a hole in the flange for 2 of the screws. So, you have to remove ( and replace ) 12 flange screws to undo one screw, move it to the other side, and screw it in there. There is absolutely no reason they couldn’t have put a small cut-out for this.

So, we remove All The Screws™️, swap the sides, put it back together, and then I get curious. We’d never seen what the freezer looks like inside “hey, what does the freezer look like?” I ask Dachary. We pull it down…and it hits the door. We considered leaving it like that. It was almost all the way open, but I know me. It would have made me hate the fridge a little bit every time I used it if I didn’t fix that.

There is a lot of play in the metal bar that holds the door in place. It doesn’t have screw holes. It has screw slots. Ultimately we found out that it has to be essentially all the way out to work. So, 12 screws out AGAIN. loosen up 6 more for the bar on top and bottom. Adjust how close the door is, lightly tighten, test, repeat. Eventually tighten it all up…. again.

Now you may have noticed I said “screws” and not “bolts” This was not an error, or me speaking casually. Two of them were stripped in their holes and required creativity to remove. Maybe 2 of them were in there straight. One of them had its thread all dulled and mostly useless. Every time I had to replace one i was very careful because it’s highly unlikely to go into the existing thread grooves precisely.

I suspect the assembly process is “Hey bob. See those holes? Drill a screw through each one.” No robot. Not even a jig to have everything go in correctly. How hard would it be to make a jig for each side with 4 screw holes?

Everything “looks” fine, but it’s the lack of attention to quality, and lack of regard to the people installing the thing that really bugs me. It would have been so easy to not cover up those two screw holes. It should have been even easier to just not install the flange before you shipped it so that people could swap the door side without having to take it off, but that would have required precision, and bolts welded to the inside in the right place, instead of screws

I’m sure it’ll work fine. I’m just really irked to find such half-assed workmanship.

The Truck Fridge? That thing was awesome. It used more power, but swapping the side? Easy. No undoing a bajillion screws because of lack of forethought or empathy.

…. end rant.

Anyway, we installed a thing on the fridge, but the thing we installed, meant the bottom of the fridge was now lower. That meant using the demonic drill saw to shorten the wood. My line, unsurprisingly, went all wiggly and too low.

Then came the angle grinder. [Side note: use Diablo cutting blades are way nicer than Rigid.] Surprisingly, even though I’m dealing with a “chop your arm off” kind of tool, I have way more finesse with it than the stupid drill saw. That cut, and grid, came out nicely.

We’ll try sticking it in again, and building some extra crap for the shelf to compensate for the poor design of the flange tomorrow.

It was good to make progress, but frustrating to deal with the fridge construction issues.

There was one entertaining thing today. Fall invaded our garage. I swept it out. It reinvaded. There aren’t even any leafy trees near our driveway or garage.

fall leaves invade the garage
fall leaves invade the garage

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

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