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Old 11-11-2012
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Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

My Adler Barbour 12-volt refrigerator stopped working. There's kind of a mild hissing sound coming from the refrigerator and someone told me I have to replace the "cold Plate." It's a Cold Machine, and I can't find anything called a cold plate. What the heck is it? Thanks to anyone who can help.
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Old 11-11-2012
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Do you get any cooling effect after a half hour or more? A cold plate is an evaporator that is inside a vessel and it's filled with a eutectic fluid that gets colder then water.

This is a cold plate
This is a evaporator.
One of the first questions I ask.. has anyone tried to remove the frost with an icepick?
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Yeah it sounds like you are low on refrigerant. While the hissing sound could be from the actual leak, that sound would not be around long; a leak big enough to hear would lose the entire charge very quickly. More likely the hissing is the sound of what is left of the refrigerant flowing into the evaporator. The pressures are probably too low for the refrigerant to condense into liquid so you are just feeding gas through the system, hence, little or no refrigerating effect.

You will need to try to locate the leak. It could be a damaged evaporator plate, as DeniseO3O suggests, or it could be somewhere on the lineset between the compressor and the evaporator. Sometimes there will be an accumulation of oil at the leak, but not always. look for spots where the copper pipes could be chaffing on something. Sometimes on kit systems the excess line set is left coiled up in such a way that it can vibrate and chaffe together. you can use a slightly diluted dish soap solution on spots that you suspect might be leaking, and if it bubbles it is leaking.

If you can find the leak then we can talk about what needs to be done to repair it. There are a number of options ranging from a DIY repair attempt. (with our professional advice of course) to replacement of the entire evap section. Or you might want to hire a professional in your area to repair it.

One note: do not run the system knowing it is low on refrigerant. Doing so will cause the compressor to run much hotter than it should. More importantly, the suction side could actually run in a vacuum, and if the leak is on the low side of the circuit it will draw moisture into the system, causing even more problems than you already have.
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Old 11-14-2012
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Thanks a ton for your reply! I have a little more info now. Apparently there was a leak and I've been told I have to replace the evaporator unit. Problem is, the fridge dates to 1986 and uses R12 refrigerant, which, as you know, is not legal. So any replacement available will use R134 and not be compatible with the compressor.

A local marine fridge company said I should replace the whole unit Do you see any practical alternative to that?

If not, would you recommend another Adler Barbour unit or a Seafrost BD, which the local company recommended to me?

I have a 1986 Cal 28-2 with a small capacity fridge, around 4 cubic feet, so I don't need anything big. If I do replace the unit, I'd like something efficient I can use on a mooring with minimum drain on the battery. (I have a Honda generator that I run a few hours a day to recharge the battery.)

Any advice would be welcome!
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Old 11-14-2012
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Convert the R12 to a R134

Then find a used evaporator from someone who had a bad compressor and ripped his unit out because he didn't ask around on Sailnet

Take the money you save from doing that - and buy a solar panel set up so you don't need the honda as much.

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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Nice. I'll take a look. Thanks.
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

It has been proven over many years that in small systems like yours R134a can be dropped in without an oil change. You don't need the automotive 134a fittings or anything.

As for the evaporator needing replacement, I have sucessfully repaired leaks on those aluminum plates using a special epoxy intended for that purpose.

The biggest problem you will have is evacuating the system, and then recharging with the correct amount of refrigerant because you need some specialized tools. Some people just replace the entire system because it is easier.
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Replacing it would be a good thing if you want reliable refrigeration. I have a AB evaporator if you want it Chris. They only hold about 5 ozs, you should be able to find a local hvac tech that has some R12. I still use it in my old car.
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

R12 is no longer manufactured, but there's still plenty of it around for small systems. You can find people selling it on eBay, there are listings there as I type this for single cans at $13.00 plus $7.00 shipping.

As ShockT mentioned, putting 134a in would work, but you'd still have to evacuate the system first. BUT, if you still have a partial charge in the unit, simply replenishing it with R12 should buy you some time. You SHOULD find and repair the leak, but that may be difficult adn or expensive. Heat-Seal Stik and Highside Red Epoxy will both do the job, but they're not cheap, and you won't find them at HD. But there's a good chance that your leak is so small that $20 worth of R12 could keep it going for years. I once spent hours with an electronic CFC detector trying to find the leak on a buddy's old kegerator. Never could find it. Put in a few ounces of R12, one time, and it ran another 6 years til he got a new one.
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Re: Adler Barbour Cold Machine troubleshooting

Just some points to remember when servicing AB coldmachines/supercoldmachines. The refrigeration oil used in an R-12 system is NOT compatible with that used in a R-134A system, if changing refrigerants, change the oil as well. The AB toll-free tech service people can tell you exactly how many ounces of refrigant each different system needs. My supercoldmachine with VD-160 holdover plate freezer uses exactly 3.52 oz. Having more or less will cause the compressor to draw more amps and lengthen chilling time. My system draws 6.5 amps running, but 15 amps starting-it's VERY sensitive to use of 12 gage or heavier wiring. The comprressor shuts down when the plate is at -5 deg. F. The correct way to charge the system is to evacuate all the refrigerant, then use a vacuum pump to get the whole system down to -29lbs and be sure it holds the vacuum with all service hoses shut off for at least 8 hours-if the low pressure gage rises, you have an air leak. Charge the system initially by placing the R-134 can + tap on an ounce-reading scale. Write down the initial weight. Open the can tap and the low pressure valve on the gage set until the can and refer pressures have equalized, and write down the ounce reading. Then turn on the compressor to suck in as many more ounces the system calls for-immediately shut off the can tap and low pressure valve. Different configurations run with different pressures. Mine peaks out at 155 lbs on the high side and 9 lbs on the low side with the plate reading -5 deg. F.
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