How to wire a 12-volt RV refrigerator

Written by adam paul
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How to wire a 12-volt RV refrigerator
Use a tester to make sure the power is off before working with any electricity. (bio battery image by dinostock from

Having an RV is an exciting and fun way to travel. You get to see the country while bringing all the comforts of home with you. Many RVs are equipped with showers, stoves and refrigerators. Some even have a mini garage to carry a motorbike or golf cart. If you happened to not opt for the kitchen package when you originally purchased the RV, you will need to install all the appliances yourself. Fortunately it's not that difficult to do. For a refrigerator, it is only a matter of two wires needing to be hooked up and some securing to the RV to prevent it from moving.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Heat-shrink-equipped, insulated butt splice connectors rated for 12-gauge wire
  • Heat-shrink-equipped, insulated ring terminal rated for 12-gauge wire
  • Heat gun
  • Wiring multi-tool (crimper/stripper)
  • 12v voltage tester
  • 1/2-inch self-drilling, self-tapping grounding screw with a Phillips head
  • Screw gun with Phillips bit installed
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Locate the existing refrigerator wiring where the RV refrigerator is supposed to be mounted. If it is a retrofit, run one red 12-gauge wire from the RV distribution panel to the location of installation.

  2. 2

    If the wires are in place, ensure that the power is off by testing with the 12v voltage tester. If not, locate the appropriate fuse in the distribution panel and remove it. Retest until there is no power.

  3. 3

    Using the wire strippers, strip back a quarter-inch of insulation on all wire ends to expose the copper stranded wire within. Twist the wire tightly to prevent it from separating. You should have three stripped wire ends: two wires on the refrigerator -- a black wire and a red wire, plus a red wire coming from the distribution panel.

  4. 4

    Insert the heat-shrink-equipped, insulated ring terminal over the end of the black wire and crimp, using the crimping portion of the multi-tool.

  5. 5

    Insert the red wires into each end of the heat-shrink-equipped, insulated butt splice connector and crimp, using the crimping portion of the multi-tool.

  6. 6

    Ensuring that there are no flammables within six inches, use the heat gun to shrink the heat-shrink material around the wire, sealing the connection from contamination and moisture.

  7. 7

    Find a solid metal part of the RV structure. Place the black wire with the heat-shrink-equipped, insulated ring terminal on the spot and, using the screw gun, install the half-inch self-drilling, self-tapping grounding screw through it and into the metal structure. This provides the refrigerator a ground.

  1. 1

    Locate an open fuse holder on the distribution panel.

  2. 2

    Attach the red wire from the refrigerator to the open fuse holder wire receptacle. Depending on the model of fuse holder, you will secure the wire by tightening with a Phillips head screwdriver or flathead driver.

  3. 3

    Insert appropriate-size fuse into the fuse box. Refer to the refrigerator manual for proper sizing.

Tips and warnings

  • 12-volt wiring is a fire hazard if not properly fused. Ensure you use the right fuse for the application.

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