Buy all your VW California Accessories at the Club Shop Visit Shop

Faulty Fridge - Do Not Worry

I live in Madrid, there is a VW garage, but by no means are they experts.

Could it be a faulty thermostat?
Any more ideas people? Could it be the Earth Shunt wasn't repaired correctly?

How easy is it to remove the fridge and have a look? I've been 'googling' it and had no joy.

I'm sorry I can't help. I know how frustrating it is, having had similar problems which were sorted by a UK garage. Attached is a VW T5 wiring diagram for the leisure side which may help.

Re the earth, many people on this forum talk about it causing the heater to be faulty. Is yours faulty? Have you tried it lately?

There are lots of posts on the forum re the earth shunt if you search Google.

Good Luck

VW T5 schematic.jpg
ps are you sure both leisure batteries are ok? While on hook up, even faulty batteries can display 100%. The question is how they behave after you have unplugged? Do they maintain 100% for many hours whilst no current is being drawn?

I have a suspicion that your rear leisure battery could be a problem. Any decent garage can check that. It's at the back under the rear shelf inside a little panel opened with a coin or screwdriver.
I changed the rear battery a year ago and bought the original VW one, so I can't imagine it could be that, but as you say its best to be sure, so I will get it checked out. I'm also planning on looking under the fridge to see if I can see anything loose!? Fingers crossed
bernie said:
ps are you sure both leisure batteries are ok? While on hook up, even faulty batteries can display 100%. The question is how they behave after you have unplugged? Do they maintain 100% for many hours whilst no current is being drawn?

I have a suspicion that your rear leisure battery could be a problem. Any decent garage can check that. It's at the back under the rear shelf inside a little panel opened with a coin or screwdriver.

There are two leisure batteries, as you say one is under the wardrobe accessed through trap door in the boot, the other one is under the passenger seat.
Last night I opened the access panel in the cupboard and managed to have a look under the fridge. All was very dry and looked fine, I wouldnt even know where to begin. I think I need to take it to a garage where they can test each part. I've attached a picture of something with a switch on it, I haven't got a clue what this is or what it does? Anyone have any ideas?

PS I fliped the picure over, this device is positioned upside down and it was/is plugged in, (I just removed the plug for he picture as the cable was in the way).

Ignore that black box, that is the electrical hookup charger. I will come back on here later to give you some tests that you can perform to identify faulty part.

The image on the following link shows the controller used in the California: ... ,7103.html

1. The fridge needs approximately 11volts for it to start so firstly you should check the voltage at the wire that connects to the top + terminal.

2. If your fridge is turning on but turning off without getting cool enough then your thermostat could be faulty. The thermostat can be found inside the fridge behind a small vented cover.
To check the thermostat you need to disconnect the wires from C & T, then bridge the two with a wire to eliminate the thermostat. With the bridge wire in place, the fridges compressor should run constantly.

3. If your fridge is not tuning on at all I would disconnect all wires from the controller and wire it with a test circuit.

1. Battery or regulated 12v supply connected to the + & - terminals.
2. Bridge wire between the aforementioned C & T terminals.

The fridge should start within 5 seconds of connection, if it does not I would consider replacing your Danfoss controller. The controller is very tightly squeezed into the fridge housing but it does come out after a lot of twisting and pulling. It should be noted that the controller is held in place with the one screw and an internal wire between the controller and the compressor.

I hope the above helps and identifies the fault. Any further questions, please just ask.

Many thanks for the reply, all very clear. I've printed it out and going to try and carry out the tests between french campsites, beers and moments of relax when the kids are asleep! Will post my findings next week. Thanks again for all your help!
The fridge works! And has been working fine all week set at 5ºC, what was the problem? God knows. I'm not sure if cleaning the 80amp fuse helped or not. I think the most likely cause of this problem and error message was just lack of use. The last time we used the fridge for a long period of time was about a year ago. Its now had a full week being plugged into the mains and been running fine. Bit of a mystery.

Thanks again for everyones help!
Good news. If the connection was poor at the fuse, am I right in saying that the rear battery would be intermittently connected to the rest of the circuit? Please feel free anyone to correct me if I'm wrong.
Some great info here, I love these stories!!

Interesting to know the helpful company in question are relatively local to me should i need their assistance. :thumb
A handy tip or two for those who are struggling with their fridge when the hook-up isn't charging the leisure battery.
It happened to us in France when the split-charger gave up the ghost and we didn't want to use up our Euros on a repair :eek:,
assuming that you're getting a charge from the engine:
• top the battery up as often as possible by driving the van (with the fridge ON)
• 8ºC is plenty cool enough to keep food fresh (and the beer cool :crazy )
• switch the fridge OFF at night if it's not too warm outside
• keep the fridge door closed as much as possible - don't let warm air in
• use a couple of freezer packs during the day: freeze them overnight at campsites
• monitoring the temp with a thermometer in the fridge can give peace of mind

We coped very well for 3 more weeks using a little common sense and these hints, then had a new split-charger fitted on our return. Not cheap, but didn't break the bank by any means. I got the job done at a caravan/motorhome repair shop: there's plenty of them around - just use Google to find one in your area.

many thanks as I have just been through the process of repairing my Cali fridge. Like you the fault turned out to be a faulty Danfoss controller and with the help of Zeb, at Penguin Refrigeration, I managed to get a new controller. :D

In my case I had to take the fridge out to modify the earth connection to the earth shunt, which sits under the fridge. Even with the fridge out replacing the controller was tricky, especially connecting the 3 pin plug that connects the controller to the fridge compressor motor. So much respect to you Andrew as you managed to replace the controller with the fridge installed. :thumb :eek:

It was useful to have the fridge out as I could check the fridge compressor. They are pretty bullet proof and don't often fail. Even so you can do a quick continuity check on the motor winding's. By connecting a meter between each of the 3 pins, you should get a reading around 3 ohms.

Finally here are some useful tips, that Zeb passed on to me, when checking the controller.

First you have to remove the 3 plugs that are connected to the controller. You then connect terminals C and T using a short length of ordinary wire with 2 crimped connectors. Now the fridge needs the minimum of 11.5 volts to start and draws a hefty 12 amps when it is starting. So make up a power lead with hefty wire, I used a short length of domestic ring main cable, it needs to be at least 2.5 mm copper cable and be terminated with crimp connectors. Connect this to the top two + and neg connections on the controller. Next hold the other ends of the cable onto the terminals of a fully charged battery (I used one of the Cali's leisure battery's). It takes a while for the fridge to power up so you need to be patient and wait for at least 10 seconds. If the fridge fails to start, using this check, it is most likely to be a faulty controller.

The Danfoss Controller fitted to my Cali was a 101N0220 but Zeb sent me a 101N210 which is compatible. The only difference is that the 220 has a aluminium box slotted over it, so make sure you remove this box if you intend to send your controller away for testing.

Hi John,

Glad to be of some help, we have just sold out T5 with the California kitchen and cupboards and now have a California SE. We are going to miss run home conversion despite our lovely new Cali.

To be honest, I am dreading anything going wrong with our new Cali kitchen as all the Cali interior and wiring in our old camper conversion was so easily accessible compared to the new one where everything is hidden away etc. Who knows, it may behave and work for years!

Hi there Andrew,
Glad to read of your troubles ……..and solution!
We have a 56 California and the fridge has been playing up for some time now. Once working it appeared to run fine, however it does not like being left for any period of time - more than a week or two. After this period the unit will not run despite the amber control panel light holding in for a second or two. There is no reassuring compressor noise either. It has been like this for a number of years now but has never let us down while away…once again, once working it appears to run fine.
However now it no longer wants to know. Amber light for 1-2 secs, no compressor activity….no fridge. Have now taken out fridge and removed controller Danfoss 101N0220 controller and have contacted Penguin…….See what Monday morning brings as we only live in Poole so I could easily whizz across.
Fingers crossed.
My bet is it is the Danfoss based on your symptoms. Was it easy to take the fridge out as I replaced my controller with it left in place although I did cut my knuckles up!
Cut you knuckles up… must be a gynaecologist or one of "The Borrowers" if you can get your hands in that space!

Removing the fridge is not bad - just a bit tedious.
Later models not too bad as the RHS retaining screws are accessible beneath the sink/cooker tray.

Unfortunately if you have an earlier one the process is confounded by the fact that you have to remove the hob/sink unit to enable access to the three RHS retaining screws.

On ours I had to:
Remove the glass top, the cooker/sink unit (inc gas supply, waste pipe and tap switch) , the fridge top. Removing the cooker/sink unit requires some care as the 4 retaining corner studs are a little on the fragile side so watch out when you replace them or you will break them off the sink…..(only brazed on). The retaining brackets on the four corners underneath are also fragile but if they become detached you can re-bond them as they are designed to be stressed in compression - not tension. As previously mentioned by another contributor, you need to protect the side of the cupboard with tape as the rough edges of the retaining bosses in the LHS of the fridge will mark it on the way out - apparently very costly! To improve access when you lift the fridge unit out it is necessary to remove the pillar trim - straight forward incremental pull but you need some nerve !!

So straight forward but tedious - must have taken me about 20-30 mins.

As for the 101N0220 Danfoss controller - now tested and no life in it.
Lets see what Penguin think of it!!
Just to share with you a rather comical situation…..
Replaced battery after testing the fridge controller only to find that I could no longer charge leisure batteries :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Started to investigate possibility that I had blown the leisure battery charger, then panic, and what was worse I'd couldn't even find it. "Under the fridge", I was told by various blogs. Looked in camper under where the fridge used to be……nothing!!! (Fridge at this stage was in the kitchen)

Then, while having dinner - and worrying where it could be situated on this 56 model, I realise that the other contributors meant "under the fridge"…..and there is was in front of me, under the fridge in my kitchen…... :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Must have another glass of wine.
Hopefully final update.

Visited the excellent guys as Penguin this am.

Danfoss controller was the problem, and they replaced it for the sum of £95 plus VAT. One further bit of information that might be of interest to older California owners is that the fault code indicated excessive usage - switching on and off - which may well have been a function of battery voltage fluctuations - which in turn may well have been caused by poor earth shunt.
Ian at Penguin stated that these controllers are usually 'bomb proof' and suggested running an additional main feed and earth directly from leisure battery to avoid problems in the future, incorporating a 15amp fuse as close to the battery positive as poss. for safety reasons.

Hopefully that concludes fridge issues at a very modest price compared to VW!
Respect to the Penguin staff, they were very helpful throughout my fridge diagnostic and repair process.

Thanks for the info regarding the fridge removal, doesn't sound so bad.