Late last night Nina noticed that the refrigerator seemed not to be working; and sure enough after a little investigation it was clear that the control panel lights were operating but the compressor was not running. Hence nothing was being cooled down. We could not believe it; yet another thing in this camper that had stopped working. We spent a little while discussing where we could get a new refrigerator and how we would cope without one. Then since it was late (like 22:00) we knew that Roger at GXV would be awake and at work so we called him (actually sent him an SMS to call us). His reaction mirrored ours, "you have got to be kidding".
After a while Roger called back and he had the refrigerator companies customer support on one line and us on the other. It was a bit like one of those old comedy shows where Roger was putting two telephone hand sets together so I could describe the symptoms to the customer support guy. But it worked and eventually we were told:
On the back of the refrigerator there is a small (1.5cm x 2cm) circuit board; it sounds like that has malfunctioned. The good news is that it can be removed and bypassed. The refrigerator will not cool down as quickly without it but it will still work.
So at mid-night I started the process of removing the refrigerator from its cabinet, not an easy task. The good news from the exercise was that the little circuit board was not defective; it had simply been dislodged by all the vibration of the last (3 days, 2 weeks, 1 year??). This circuit board attaches to a male blade connector on one side and a wire (with a female blade connector) on the other. All the movement had dislodged the connection to the male blade. Pushed back to the correct position and voila the refrigerator compressor is magically working. Called Roger to let him know the good news; then to bed.
So all is (maybe, almost) well with the refrigerator. This morning we noticed that the non-freezer compartment is not very cold (10°C after running for 8 hours) so we have a residual concern that something else is wrong. But we will watch it for a few days before drawing a conclusion.
The big question that this event highlights for me is whether this Vitriofrigo (thats the Brand) is suitable for use in an overland or expedition vehicle at all. If it has one vulnerability to vibration one wonders what other vulnerabilities it has and while the roads of the past weeks or months have been rough (even very rough) they are routinely traveled by vehicles ranging from small Japanese cars, through refrigerated semi-trailers, and big trucks hauling earth moving equipment and pre-fab buildings. We are left wondering how the refrigerator (indeed the entire vehicle) will cope with the remainder of our planned trip where we are told (by Russian 4x4 folks we have met) the roads are much worse than we have encountered so far.
So after the nights repair adventures we woke to a bright sunny day, warm temperatures and a relatively good road. With this as the backdrop we setoff west towards Chita (Чита) the next big town on our route.
All in all it was a quiet day of simply driving. The road was sealed all day (though regularly showing signs of frost damage), and traffic was light. This section of road feels very remote. Throughout the day we passed only a few villages and only 4 or 5 fuel stations; this is not a place to forget to look at that fuel gauge. The terrain became more hilly as the day wore on and late in the day the sun departed and rain appeared. But never the less a nice relaxing day of driving.