Engel 12V Fridge keeping things cool for a quarter of a century

Every once in a while, a piece of equipment comes along that works so well, you immediately take it for granted and go on with your life. Next thing you know, it’s been 25 years, and it’s still an essential part of your kit.

Engel MT35 in the early 2000s

But is it an ARB?

Yes, it’s branded by ARB, but at the turn of the century, Engel was the original manufacturer. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was the ARB MT35 Freezer-Fridge. Soon thereafter, ARB switched to another supplier for their 12V fridges, which are still efficient and well-regarded, but are no longer made by Engel.

I’m highlighting the Engel MT35 because it served me so incredibly well for a quarter of a century. It’s currently in the garage, plugged into an AC outlet and set to max-freeze, keeping bags of ice frozen for margaritas.

Engel MT35 in Present Day
Jeep TJ at Paragon Adventure Park

Full-Time in the Jeep

The fridge otherwise lives in the Jeep, and for past several years, it ran on 12V full-time, drawing from a deep cycle battery that was kept topped off with a 100W solar panel. With such a setup, in ideal conditions, the fridge will run indefinitely; reliably keeping its contents cool, or even frozen depending on your needs.

In a single-battery vehicle, without solar and without the engine running, the fridge will operate on a sensible setting for one to three days, depending on vehicle interior temperature and strength of your 12V system.

What about battery protection?

My own fridge, an earlier model purchased in the year 2000, does not have a low-voltage shut-off, which protects your battery from being drained completely. However, this is now a standard feature on contemporary 12V fridges, even the more recent versions of the Engel MT35.

Yes, they still make it!

In 25 years, it might’ve developed a rattle or two. There are plenty of dents, dings, and scratches. The lid seals might have dried out and become less efficient. The thermostat might be a little touchy, but it keeps chugging away.

While there are more modern fridge designs in 2024, with multiple zones and smartphone connectivity; if my old Engel MT35 failed today, I’d probably replace it with another.

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