Old geezers. We hate thinking of ourselves under that label. Sad to say, if you’re part of that generation that can recall the Vietnam War without having to have a history teacher tell you about it, then you’re probably under that old geezer label. For us, some of the most mysterious of RV technical issues surround electronically controlled appliances.
Back in the old days, as some of us recall, we didn’t have fancy control boards on refrigerators, furnaces and water heaters. Of course, back in the old days, a lot of us had to go outside in the cold or heat to light off those selfsame appliances.
Nowadays, the trouble is that when things start getting “buggy,” it can be difficult to track down the problem. A while back one of our three-way refrigerators, which had been a straight-A student, suddenly went rebellious on us. Sitting on a hot parking lot just outside of Old Mexico, our refrigerator stopped being a chill box, and the threat of global warming parked itself right in the middle of our kitchen. Only by turning on the generator and resorting to “shore power” would we get any chill in the box. Gas didn’t light, and DC simply knocked out all the low-voltage power throughout the rig. We cut our time in the field short and headed back to base camp.
In a safe harbor with another working fridge available, we started down through the diagnostics process. The whole works pointed to a control board failure—or so it seemed. We contacted an RV refrigeration supplier who opined that it sounded like a board, but he couldn’t really be sure without running tests on it. Too bad he was 1,500 miles away. Finally, we called the horse’s mouth—or should we say, the Dinosaur’s mouth.
Yep, when campfire talk comes around to appliance control board problems, the name that probably gets mentioned the most is Dinosaur. Built by a seemingly obscure company, in an equally obscure town (OK, maybe not real obscure, Lincoln City, Oregon), Dinosaur boards are the leading word in replacement control boards. The Dino folks build replacement boards for just about every RV appliance (and generator) application there is. We called in and immediately tied into one of Dinosaur’s tech fellows. After an initial discussion of the problem, the technician asked if we wouldn’t mind checking a couple of things on the back of the refrigerator. Thanks to cellphone portability, the Dino tech walked us through a series of tests with a digital multi-tester that soon assured us that, in fact, our refrigerator control board was ready for the scrap pile.
To his credit in addition to making a suggestion for a given Dinosaur board, the technician did suggest we could try an OEM replacement board. Maybe there was a bit of tongue-in-cheek here, because the old “pudding-covered” board out of the back of our fridge was out of production by the manufacturer. That’s a common complaint among RVers: Seems like a lot of the control boards aren’t replaceable with OEM boards—it’s a case of “Well, we’d be happy to direct you to a dealer where you can by a new refrigerator (furnace, water heater, etc.).”
Bottom line: We got a new Dinosaur refrigerator control board, and after it was installed, everything was as happy as could be. The new board even had a function our OEM didn’t have—the ability to fine-tune how cold or warm we wanted our refrigerator to run.
Our advice? Got a board problem? Contact the Dinosaur folks without delay. Not only are refrigerator control boards available, but did we mention they also carry the boards that fit up in refrigerator “eyebrows,” that is, the narrow strip with switches and indicators located at the top of your fridge, staring accusingly at you when you reach in for a cold brewski? And boards for RV generators, too.
Dino techs can help you track down the cause of the problem, help you identify what new board you’ll need, and even point you in the direction of a retailer. What’s that? A retailer? Yes, there’s what we feel is the sad part. Dinosaur doesn’t sell direct to the end user, you’ll need to find a retailer to make the actual purchase. There are quite a number of them out there. If you’re in a hurry, your local RV parts dealer may be able to secure the board you need quickly—depending on how outlandishly old your unit is. Others will ply the Internet and look for a retailer who offers a cut-rate price.
Dinosaur Electronics can be reached by phone at (541) 994-4344, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Pacific time. The company also maintains a web-based “customer help form,” where you can e-mail technical help requests, at dinosaurelectronics.com.
Russ and Tiña De Maris are authors of RV Boondocking Basics—A Guide to Living Without Hookups, which covers a full range of dry camping topics. Visit icanrv.com for more information.