How to install a console fridge
The Waeco CDF-11 portable fridge represents a cost-effective and efficient way of putting cold drinks and snacks within arm’s reach.
Several modern vehicles have a console ‘fridge’ that’s cooled by the air-conditioning, while others have the real deal. For my own vehicle, and in my search for the ideal solution, I read about numerous DIY efforts, including diverting the vehicle’s air-conditioning into the existing console.
I decided that when it comes to retrofitting an onboard coolbox to sit neatly between the driver and passenger, the best bet was to buy a commercially available unit, such as the Waeco CDF-11.
MAKING ROOM for the portable fridge
The first step in fitting the CDF-11 was to remove the section of the console to be replaced by the fridge. In this case, it was a matter of removing a few screws.
Some people might make up a ply box to contain the fridge, but in this case I judged that it would be easier to simply build a platform for the fridge, which would be secured to the vehicle by the console screws and pre-existing threaded holes. Because of the rearward slope, I bolted a pre-cut piece of 90x35mm pine to the existing screw/bolt holes at the lower part of the slope.
Doing this created a level between the top of the slope and the bottom of the slope.
Next, I cut a piece of 12mm ply to slightly greater dimensions than those of the fridge (W235xH358xD540mm). I then covered the ply, using Liquid Nails as adhesive, with an automotive carpet that closely matched my vehicle’s carpet.
With the carpeted 12mm ply screwed to the vehicle (into the timber bolster towards the rear, and directly into the pre-existing threaded screw holes towards the front), I was left with one issue still to fix. You see, removing a portion of the console had left a gaping hole in the remaining console that surrounds the transfer lever and transmission selector.
But I had a cunning plan: an offcut of the same carpet was cut to shape and secured over the hole via double-sided tape.
Waeco CDF-11 FRIDGE FEATURES
With a width of 235mm, the CDF-11 should fit most 4WDs, to a greater or lesser extent. It fits the 80 Series quite well, as long as you don’t mind minimal clearance between the fridge and handbrake. It doesn’t intrude into the leg space of rear passengers to any meaningful degree.
The CDF-11 is a compressor-driven fridge/freezer. Despite its small footprint, it has a cooling capacity of up to 50°C below ambient, so it can cool your drinks or keep your ice cream frozen. The internal temperature can be set between 10°C and -18°C.
With a capacity of 10.5L, including space for an upright 1.25L bottle, it’s certainly adequate for drinks and basic snacks. We use it for cans of drink and even meat that we intend to barbecue during day-trips. The dairy compartment is proving useful, too.
Other features include battery protection, two neat cup-holders and an armrest with a non-slip surface where I keep my phone when it’s charging.
I secured the CDF-11 to the ply base using the supplied ‘seat belt’, which doubles as a shoulder strap. This means the unit can be ‘unbuckled’ from the vehicle and carried to the picnic.
WIRING THE WAECO CDF-11
The fridge operates on 12/24V DC – it plugs directly into the vehicle’s 12V point. However, on my first outing with the unit, I decided to do something about the power situation.
I only have the one 12V point up front and found myself frequently swapping between powering my GPS, the fridge, and charging my phone.
Rather than purchase an adaptor, I decided to hardwire the CDF-11. Aside from freeing up the 12V socket, hardwiring the fridge meant that I could hide the cabling permanently – nice and neat.
The fridge has its own on/off switch, so I deemed it unnecessary to wire up a separate switch in the dash. Instead, I simply removed the 12V ‘cigarette’ plug from the fridge’s cable, exposing the earth and positive wires. I tucked these wires behind the remaining console, and fed them through the firewall.
The earth was secured to the engine bay, while the positive I wired to the vehicle’s accessories circuit so there’s no danger of draining the battery should I ever forget to turn the fridge off at its switch. Naturally, I used an inline 30A fuse, soldering the connections before wrapping them in electrical tape.
How well does the fridge perform? So far, I’m very pleased. If there is very little produce inside the fridge, it takes 15-20 minutes to cool to the required temperature, which is more or less in line with other portable fridges I have used.
The insulation seems to be of a certain quality, too – drinks stay cold for hours once the fridge is switched off, provided the lid isn’t opened frequently.
The Waeco CDF-11 represents a cost-effective and efficient way of putting cold drinks and snacks within arm’s reach.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #532, December 2014. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!