That's the Big Dog, my four wheel drive. He's a Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series and whilst he looks pretty standard he's a little more advanced than when he rolled out of the factory. You see, to do what I do, go where I need to go, factory-spec vehicle's don't cut it and so I accessorise my four wheel drives reasonably heavily.
I'm still working on this one and have a long way to go but he's already got a few items: ARB bull bar, spot lights and front recovery points, Old Man Emu off-road suspension/lift with an engineered GVM upgrade (gross vehicle mass) which allows him to carry more load. A REDARC electronic brake controller to control the brakes on my off-road camper trailer when being towed and I have a GME XRS UHF radio to go in (a Christmas present to myself) which I'll post about separately. I'll cover the fridge/freezer and auxiliary battery system today. Yeah, it's a lot of stuff, but there's more on the list...Little by little.
Why the fridge
I usually travel remotely and for periods of well over a week at a time so having the ability to refrigerate food and drinks is a very handy thing.
Sure, I could eat baked beans out of a can, and sometimes do, but it's more civilised to have the fridge on board. It means I can get further away from civilisation and can eat more interesting and fresh foods and that suits me fine. Of course, it also comes in handy when going to the market as there's no need to hurry home with the stuff, one can put it in the fridge and do other things making the trip more streamlined and efficient...Also, who doesn't like an ice-cold beverage when it's hot huh?
I have my fridge mounted on what's called a roller-floor, also from ARB and it has a sliding top (the floor) which the fridge sits on.
Underneath is a low drawer that slides open independently. You can see it below in the image. The Landcruiser is a big vehicle and mine came with a third row of seats making it a genuine seven-seater. I removed them though as it took up too much room and I rarely have anyone in my vehicle, let alone six people plus me. This leaves room for the fridge and some load still, although most of the load goes into the off-road camper.
Below are a few more images. The larger image is the roller-floor pulled out over the tailgate which makes the fridge easier to access. Keep in mind my vehicle is quite high so I can't actually see to the bottom of the fridge. Most things are in packets or tubs anyway though so it's rare I'd need to, I just reach in and go by feel.
You can also see the drawer extended and a few things I keep in there. When on a trip I load it differently, mainly recovery gear, but around town I have my rattle-gun, breaker-bar, a snatch-strap, shackles, tyre puncture-repair kit and a wooden jacking platform. This last is to allow the vehicle to be jacked to replace a tyre because the suspension lift has made the standard jack too low to lift the vehicle off the ground sufficiently.
In the images you can see me pulling the roller-floor out (lower left) and holding the fridge lid open. (Lower middle).
How does it work
A fridge like this will not work off the standard 12V power socket like the one that charges a mobile phone for instance. Besides, I need it to run when the car is not running, like at campsites - There'd be no point if the fridge cut out right?
I fitted an auxiliary battery system, sometimes called a dual battery system. This charges when the car is running and the stored power provides power to the fridge when the vehicle is off. Simple? Nope, not really simple at all.
You see, most new vehicle alternators shut off when the car is running and the cranking battery is charged back up after a start - This is done as an environmental thing although I'm not sure how effective it is. The Toyota vehicles have what's called a temperature-sensing alternator which, at a certain temperature, will severely reduce its output. That means the auxiliary battery won't get charged fully and my fridge won't run when the car is off - That is bad.
To solve this issue I've fitted a REDARC BCDC charger (battery charge DC) which takes the reduced output from the alternator and boosts it back to full output and feeds it into the auxiliary battery. Problem solved. It's an ingenious bit of kit made right here in South Australia.
I can't show you my charger as it's mounted under a panel, I'm pointing to it in the top left image and the right image shows it closer up. I have the REDARC BCDC1225D which is cool because it accepts alternator power and solar also, seamlessly. This means I could roof-mount a solar panel and it would prioritise that input until there was none, like at night, then seamlessly swap back to vehicle/alternator power. It also means I can plug my portable solar panel in when I'm at camp giving me endless power input to the auxiliary battery.
I can also plug an unregulated solar panel into the BCDC charger directly (at camp) and in the lower right image above you can see an extra anderson plug input that goes straight to the battery...This is where I'd plug a regulated solar panel in. In the former case the BCDC charger becomes the regulator for the power input. I'm a prepared dude, so wanted both options.
A word on batteries
Cranking batteries, the one's that start the car, are not designed for sustained draw on their power. They crank the starter and engine, the car starts and that's it. From there they need to charge up again - They are depleted quickly and will not keep supplying power long-term. That's why I fitted a deep-cycle battery as the auxiliary - These are designed for sustained draw.
My auxiliary battery is a 120Ah (ampere hour) battery so if fully-charged will deliver enough power to run my fridge for five to seven days depending on ambient temperature and how often it is opened. With my solar panel plugged into it and, even just overcast days, it's a virtually unending amount of power.
Above is my engine bay and at right front you can see the cranking battery. At left front is the deep-cycle auxiliary battery. You'll note some cables running to it. That's my trickle charger.
To keep a deep-cycle battery in good shape it needs to be floated. So, I have a CTEK charger mounted on a post in my garage and when I park the Big Dog I clamp it on and power the auxiliary battery from the 240V power supply in my house.
When it get's to full charge the CTEK floats it up and down keeping the battery nicely conditioned. It drops to a certain point in charge and the charger tops it up, it drops again and is topped up again and so on. I only drive the Big Dog a couple times a week so it's not an issue to plug and unplug this device - No big deal.
Lastly on the battery and BCDC device, I've had it wired through with chunky cabling to a secondary anderson plug at the back of the vehicle under the tow-ball.
This is where I plug in my off road camper trailer which also has a battery system on it - Two 80Ah deep-cycle batteries for a total of 160Ah which runs the water pumps, lights and the fridge/freezer I have on board the camper trailer. The trailer also has it's own BCDC charger to boost the power input to the batteries plus a pure sine wave inverter - This is a very smooth form of power output which will run pretty much anything including laptop computers.
Back to the fridge/freezer
My fridge is also an ARB product and is pretty cool. It's capacity is 60L (15.85 gallons) so is quite large. It will run down at -18°C to +10°C (0 to 50F) and has Bluetooth connectivity so one can see the temperature on one's phone.
Below you can see the settings which are, clockwise from top left: Temp, measurement (C or F), Bluetooth channel and cut-off. The cut-off can be set at low, medium or high. I set mine at medium. This means medium draw off the battery. So...When the battery drains to about mid-point the fridge will stop. It's designed to protect the battery from being completely drained which deep-cycle batteries do not like. Cool huh?
Here's a close up of the interior. The bottles and my hand are for perspective. Those bottles at the back are 1.5L each. There's also a compartment right to the rear which is for things that don't need to be quite as cold; butter for instance. Don't worry, I'm not drinking all those beers, they are for a BBQ I'm having for a few mates today.
It's a very cool set up and I really like it - It is just so convenient. I actually have two as I took the one out of my pickup before I sold it but that one is not currently mounted. No, I'm not loaded, I just used to work at ARB and got massive discounts and loads of stuff for free -A perk of the job I guess.
I only have one gripe with my fridge which is the lid doesn't stay open by itself. Ever-thinking though I rigged up a strap to attach it to a gas-strut on the vehicle door so I don't need to hold the lid open in one hand...Or drop that bastard thing on my head...Which I have done. It's not pretty, but it works.
So folks, that's about it for this post...I know it's long and I also know few, if any, will get through it. That's ok though, I don't mind. Having said that, if you did read it and have any questions please let me know. If you ask me a question I've covered in the post I'll just direct you back for another, or first, read. Ok?
Design and create your ideal life, don't live it by default - Tomorrow isn't promised so be humble and kind
All the images in this post are my own and it was written in response to interest in my fridge and battery system by @brandt