The Flaming 3 Way Fridge….

When I was building new Bumblebee I decided on investing in a 3 way fridge as the 12v compressor fridge drained the battery on old Bumblebee, was noisy and wasn’t very big either.

After a good deal of research I settled on an N4100 3 way auto selector fridge which I ordered from Jacksons Leisure. I spoke to Jacksons for considerable time to ensure I bought everything I needed including the correct vents, I was advised by Jackson that the Dometic vents were perfectly fine for the Thetford Fridge install, you’ll see why this is important later.

The vents and fridge were installed in France by Simon, the Fridge had to be raised to meet where the vents were cut (due to the van structure) and the fridge was surrounded by fire retardant insulation, all electrical and gas connections were made as they should be, the Fridge was briefly tested on 12v and 240v but not on gas as there was no LPG in the cylinder. I returned back to the UK assuming all was well with the Fridge.

Covid reached our shores in March 2020 and we all got locked down and for a time I was working from the van as a make shift office, I had the fridge hooked up to 240v to store food that wouldn’t fit in our house fridge, all working as it should do for a good few months. As the lockdown measures eased slightly we decided to head off to some land a friend owns to stay in the van and escape the house, I’d filled the tank with LPG so thought I should test the Fridge before we left to make sure there was no Carbon Monoxide issues when running on gas. I double checked all the connections for gas leakage, no issues there so was confident in firing up the fridge on gas which I did, hung about for ten minutes to make sure there were no immediate issues and then headed off into the house to grab some food, a short time later there was furious banging on my door, my neighbour enlightened me that the van was on fire, luckily we extinguished the fire relatively quickly, the culprit was the 3 way fridge.

The rear of the Fridge post fire

To this day I do not know what caused the fridge to go up in flames, we were very lucky nobody was in it and thanks to the fire retardant insulation the damage to the van wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

The aftermath

I immediately tried to contact Thetford who had shut down their UK operation due to Covid, I managed to report it to their US counterparts who took down my details and then sat on it for a good month or so. Eventually after much chasing on my part a member of the UK team, Paul McNulty got in touch asking for more photos of the damage and the fridge.

What then followed was essentially Thetford’s representative telling me that there were flaws in the installation such as the fridge cavity not being fully sealed, the exhaust pipe not being something he recognised and the vents used being incorrect. None of these things would cause a fire. He then went on to question whether something else in the area where the fridge was installed caused the fire, there is only a water pipe running underneath the fridge so not likely to have caused a fire. The fridge was returned to Thetford who concluded there was no evidence they could see that the fridge caused the fire despite it being the only thing on in the van at the time, the only thing in the cavity where the fire started and the only thing in that area that had a naked flame.

The customer service from Thetford was appalling and consisted solely of them pointing out how they were not responsible and would no way be replacing the fridge. I contacted trading standards and they advised me to take it up with Jacksons as per consumer law, they were just as bad and offered to sell me the same fridge at a reduced cost!

Since this incident I bought a second hand Dometic fridge, myself and my mate Adam installed it ourselves in the same cavity using the same vents, gas pipes and wired the same way, it works exactly how it should, I’ve used it countless times on gas with no issue whatsoever which leads me to believe even more so that the fridge from Thetford was faulty.

If you are thinking of installing a Thetford fridge in your van build please bear my experience in mind, I hope never to have to deal with Thetford again for anything, I do have one of their toilets however and thats great for taking a dump in, it least it won’t go up in flames…

2020 – Bit of an odd one…

So as most of you reading this will agree, 2020 was a bit of strange year. For me it started out alright, I began the year by heading over to France to start work on our new van, did that, came back, we had a baby and I’ve been working from home ever since…

The real baby Yoda!

Little Arielle arrived at the beginning of March, I went on paternity leave and at the end of it the whole company I work for moved to a working from home model as did I, however mine was slightly different as we don’t have the biggest house so I worked from the van parked outside!

Van / home working

The upside of working from the van is that in between calls I could do some work on the van and to be honest, if it wasn’t for the whole lockdown thing it wouldn’t be where it is now. With the help of some very good friends we managed to get the van to a state that we could actually use it to go away in despite also having a fire thanks to a Thetford N4100 fridge which I’ll write a separate article on.

Post fire fridge

Having the van and a network of friends who have land we can stay on meant when some of the restrictions were lifted we could get away and we had a lovely summer.

Camp Penshurst

Arielle took to vanlife pretty well too and between when she was born and now her sleeping arrangements have been modified a few times and are still an ongoing project, it’s been lovely to get away as a family at short notice and not have to really book anything, living not too far from the coast we did a few midweek trips to the beach and it’s surprising how many car parks you can stay the night in!

A car park believe it or not!

Dare I say it, the van itself is almost finished, the fridge has been replaced, the door under the fridge fitted and shelving installed along with a shelf above the cab too.

Just needs a paint and net added
Cab shelf, you can never have enough storage!

It now looks a like a van and comfortably sleeps the four of us

We’ve even had a trip out in the snow!

The kids love the van too, here they are a year into lockdown, it amazes me how resilient they are to it all as is Lauren

Stella was so excited she passed out

Hopefully I’ll be sharing some details of trips out and about and will be updating the build section with all the things I’ve done in the hope it will help others on their quest to build a home on wheels, with the whole covid thing I reckon there’s going to be a rise in motorhome builds!