12Volt Fridge Accessories

As many of you know I was a long-time holdout, not wanting to ditch my trusted cooler and ice for a 12-volt fridge freezer.  I am stubborn and, even as the number of cooking classes we began teaching increased, did not think I needed a 12-volt fridge.  It was not until my good friend Josh stopped me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ that I really took a step back and thought about our setup.

4Runner, Dometic, ARB, Engel

While the cooler and ice setup had served us well for many years, it was becoming a real hindrance to our travels and our classes.  I was finding myself having to plan our trips around how long our ice would last and where I might be able to buy ice.  I was even making daily trips to the general store, at Overland Expo, to purchase ice and keep our cooler cold.  It was then that I realized our trusty cooler no-longer fit our travel and teaching needs and we took the plunge and purchased ARB’s 60L fridge.  I came to learn, over the following year, that there is more to owning a 12-volt fridge than the initial purchase and there were to critical accessories we purchased soon after we picked up the fridge.

I soon discovered that, if I wanted to keep the fridge constantly powered, I would need to install an auxiliary power outlet in the back of our 1998 4runner.  I could have modified the 4Runner’s factory outlet to provide constant power, but after reviewing the 60L fridge freezer’s specification I discovered the unit’s rated amperage was 7amps at 12-volts.  I know this isn’t the current draw the fridge will see, but when it is hot outside and the compressor is working to keep the contents cool, we may see a current draw close to that.  Although the factory 12-volt outlets are fused at 15 amps, it is a common fuse for both front and rear outlets, the wires used to power the rear outlet are only incredibly small and I worried about their ability to restrict the current flow to the fridge.  I chose, instead, to contact ARB and install their Fridge Freezer Wiring Kit.  The kit includes 20ft of 8ga wire and is actually designed to handle the electrical load seen by the fridge.

The 60L fridge is a beast, at 16.9in tall it was difficult to gain access to the inside with the fridge sitting on the drawers in the back of our 4Runner.  Weighing in (empty) at 54lbs meant we could not easily lift the fridge in and out of the back when full of food.  Although we operated like this for many months, lifting the fridge in and out to gain access to the contents, it was not going to work as a long-term solution and was putting a strain on my back.  Seeing that we needed a better solution, we began looking at fridge slide options.  We eventually contacted TemboTusk and installed their Jumbo Front-Pull Slide and a set of their Buffalo Straps to secure the fridge to the slide.  We opted not to hard-mount the fridge to the slide as we wanted to be able to quickly move the fridge from one vehicle to another; the Buffalo Straps easily facilitate this.  Although the fridge now sits an extra inch higher than it would have if it were just sitting on the drawers, we are able to quickly slide the fridge out and gain access to the contents.  The TemboTusk slide is made in the USA and built like a tank, with beefy Accuride locking slide tracks.

Now I know a 12-volt fridge freezer is not for everyone and we were able to use our cooler for several years of traveling around the Western United States.  When we finally realized the cooler was becoming a major hindrance to our travels and we purchased our ARB Fridge Freezer we learned there was more to it than just buying a fridge and sticking it in the back of our 4Runner.  If you are considering purchasing a 12-volt fridge, also consider the wiring you will be using to power the fridge and how you will be gaining access to the contents.  I hope you are able to learn from our experience and plan your build better than we did.  In all, I am glad we made the switch to the 60L Fridge Freezer; it has saved us from continually getting ice during our cooking classes and allows us to remain in the back country for longer periods of time.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 Issue of TCT Magazine.


Beau Johnston is the Co-Founder of Living Overland and the Editor in Chief for Toyota Cruisers and Trucks Magazine. Beau is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys exploring National Parks, fly fishing, and camping with his wife (Krista) and their two dogs.

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