Using my fridge and lights

I am a new 89 Westy owner and we are going on our maiden voyage, the first of two 3 day tryouts before I cycle across Canada with my wife driving. We have the auxiliary battery installed but I would like to know how to manage our resources, battery, propane and mains power.
Should we leave the fridge on propane all the time or switch to battery when driving?
Is it generally worthwile to pay the extra for a powered camp site just for the fridge or not?
Many people seem to not use the stove, is there something wrong with cooking inside? How long does a tank of propane last with the way most people use it?
The led indicators for battery go green, yellow red but when should I start to worry and turn off the lights?
Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to answer....Mike

Capt. Mike

DO NOT, under any circumstances, run with the LP on. Always switch to DC. If you need a reminder why, look at my pics site linked from the home page under the My Photographs folder. See what a burned out RV looks like that did!
There seems to be a general feeling that the resources of the Westy are somehow inadequate for routine camping. That's far from the truth, and in trips that involve driving a little each day, it doesn't even come into play.

LP: There's a thread on the Fridge forum that talks about LP consumption. Using the fridge every day for up to 16 hours we typically get 2-3 WEEKS from a tank. That includes normal cooking, boiling a couple gallons of water each day for baths and dishwashing, and plenty of coffee or hot chocolate.

The reason for not using the stove for all cooking is trying to avoid the smoke, grease splatters and the film it will generate on the interior. We use the inside stove at every meal, but use a Coleman Dual-Fuel outside for the greasy, splattery stuff. I'll to my frying, french-fries and messy stuff out there while saving the inside for heating vegetables or canned goods, grits & coffee . Besides avoiding damage to the interior, it cuts clean-up. The Coleman outside also allows me to use their stove-top oven for baking or roasting, and a 2-burner griddle for pancakes and larger fry jobs.

Otherwise, the stove works well. You may find you need a flame diffuser (screen or grill) when using the small camping size cookware to keep them from tipping. About the only "defect" is that the simmer setting (full left) is often so low it will blow out with drafts and you will always have windows and usually the door open when the stove is on.

Since you have the auxiliary battery, it can be used for short stops like lunch, a museum or short hike. If your relay is hooked up properly, it disconnects from the main when the engine stops. A good battery seems to be able to hold about 5 hours maximum but will be getting marginal after about 3. It won't affect the main. However, that's plenty of time for most of the activities where you don't quite feel like cranking up the LP. Not that switching to LP is a chore when in daily use. After you turn on the LP at the tank (Always drive with LP turned off at the tank.) it will usually fire the first or 2nd try. The notoriety seems to only come on the initial firing up after a long idle period. Our routine is to switch to LP at camp set-up and it's typically that last change-over before we leave since I'll be using LP to the last minute for that cup of 'road' coffee.

You have a nice monitoring panel on the galley cabinet for the main battery. Your interior lights are on it anyway so you can watch the condition. Drops into the yellow are NOT a cause of alarm -- it goes to yellow at 12.5v. I wouldn't run it long into the red, but it will usually start the car even near there. And you always have the auxiliary to jump from -- I carry a small, short single jumper amongst my tools as the batteries are already mutually grounded.

I rarely hook up to camp AC unless staying for several days consecutively without driving. You will quickly find that camping the powered sites also means you're caming amongst the 3 bedroom-bath & a half crowd with their generators, air conditioners, TVs & stereos and tons of lights half the night.

As long as we're on the subject of supplies, if you use campground water (or even creek or lake water) for your dishes and bath, the water tank will go forever. We use a water-cooler full of ice for tea, drinking and most cooking water since we'll be wanting to pick up ice every day or two anyway. That also cuts tank consumption. We just did a 5 day trip with 3 people and barely got into the yellow range on the tank monitor that last day. Red doesn't trip until 4 US gallons, about 1/3 a tank. Like the battery gauge, it seems overly conservative.


Capt. Mike, I tried to get to your web site, but can't access it. Is your reason to not run with the fridge lit a precautionary one, or with an on going problem. I recently ran with it running last weekend and seemed to be fine. I'm also concerned about having to make sure it will re-light when I reach the campsite. I can't see any notes about this in my manuals, other than to be sure to be level when parked.
Brian Waz

Capt. Mike

My pic site is on the home page. Scroll about 2/3 the way down. Inside, you'll find some folders of different subjects. Take a good long look at the RV that used to be -- the one that ran with it's fridge ON while underway.

It only makes sense and isn't mentioned in your camper supplement manual because they tell you what To Do, not what Not To Do. They just describe running them on A/C when available, LP when not and DC when underway because they never dreamed anybody would try otherwise. Remember, these were Germans, not US Ambulance chasing lawyers.

Reason: your flue must be uncovered; if the pilot or main flame gets blown out what does the loose LP do? Do you trust the automatic shut-off? See the pic!

Read the posts under the Fridge section; you'll see most of the comments about 'hard starting' on LP deal with units that have not been run for a while. Typically, once the unit is precooled, finally started on LP and run for several hours, it restarts thereafter quite easy. If not, you've got something wrong -- fix it, don't risk a fire.

[This message has been edited by Capt. Mike (edited 05-31-2001).]


New member
Capt. Mike,

I'm curious. . . I thought that running the fridge off the gas was a safe thing. So, are you saying to run it off the battery while driving? And how do I install an aux. battery (please forgive me, I'm a newby)? Will the fridge run off the aux. or the main battery while the vehicle is off???

". . . but He created the Red Sox as a metaphor for life, thus appealing to the masses. . ."


New member
i have learned from my questions that become edited by capt. mike (and rightly so) that he doesn't necessarily like to repeat himself. as i have read through this website, i will say there is one thing that capt. mike stands by 100% of the time. YES, he is saying DON'T run LP while driving. As for what to use, i'm sure i saw something on the fridge thread on how to use power or even just ice in the fridge. Drive safely, tp.