Moving Appliances: The 'Reefer' Dolly

The Suspension Fridge

Things you'll learn:

  • The reason for using a Reefer.
  • How to move appliances using the Reefer dolly.
  • How to strap and load balance on the Reefer dolly.

Moving major appliances, with all their bulk and weight, demands a special piece of equipment - something that will help us maintain total control over the refrigerator or washing machine in our hands.

Your typical hand truck, while normally able to support the weight of these items, will only serve to create a dangerous situation, particularly when there are steps involved, even only a few. Big appliances, heavy as they may be, will still bounce and shift on their way down those stairs. It actually may be their weight that makes these items bounce around; hand trucks have tires filled with air, lending a certain degree of bounce going down stairs. Appliance dollies have solid rubber tires, which are much more stable as they don’t bounce.

The last thing any of us wants is for a refrigerator to slip, slide or bounce off the plate of our hand truck and go crashing down a flight of stairs. This makes the reefer dolly a critical part of your moving arsenal.

You may remember us mentioning the utility of a reefer dolly here in the Hand Truck and Dolly section of our Moving Equipment Guide; here we offer the two-cent seminar on how to use one.

It's All About Control

Our first area of focus is that strap, located right there in the middle of the reefer dolly frame. This strap comprises the crux of the reefer dolly’s effectiveness. So move that appliance away from the wall and get your dolly plate under one edge. ** The back edge is usually the best place to get a lift on your appliance though one of the sides might do just as well. Just avoid avoid avoid (yes, three avoids) the front side of that fridge or washer or dryer. (We’ll leave it to you, wise and intuitive mover, to understand why.)

A reefer dolly can also be used to handle large and heavy pieces of furniture like entertainment units and armoires. Lift these items from the back or the sides as well, but before you lift do check to see what sort of bottom surface you are dealing with. Appliances generally have flat undersides; the same can not be said for pieces of (often fancy) furniture.

Strap The Appliance To The Dolly

Okay, so you've got your dolly tucked under your (padded, right?) appliance. Now take the strap, make sure you have it running through its vertical slot in the main frame of the dolly, and pull to uncoil it from its spindle. If it won't extend check the ratcheting mechanism on the spindle; it might be in the locked position. Run the strap around the appliance, keeping it flat against the item's surface (i.e. not twisted and definitely not resting against any handles) and bring it through the slot on the other side of the frame. Leave enough slack - at least twelve inches past the spindle - to get a good securing grip.

Tighten The Strap

Flip the ratcheting lever back into position. Then fold the slack you've left for yourself and tuck the crease in between the still-coiled part of the strap and the part that runs off to wrap around the appliance. Hold it in place as you begin to ratchet the strap in; the fold in the slack will get pulled in. Keep ratcheting until the strap has been pulled tight all around your appliance (or piece of hefty furniture).

Safely Move The Appliance To The Truck

Working in tandem, one guy with a firm grip on the dolly and the other with a firm eye on all the obstacles and landmines the guy holding the dolly can't see, roll your now-mobile appliance away.

When negotiating stairs it should not be necessary to lift the dolly from whatever surface it is working off of. Reefer dollies have sliders on the bottom rear part of the frame which are designed specifically to allow you to slide your appliance from step to step without lifting it and without damaging the steps. When making your way toward the staircase, give proper attention to the front corners of your appliance or piece of furniture, to avoid crashing into the walls.

Safety Tip

Always have (at least) two guys on hand when coaxing a reefer dolly up or down any stairs. And/or go one step at a time. Establish a strategy for communicating beforehand - use simple words like "clear" or "next" before moving to each new step, "hold" or "wait" for when one of you needs to rest or adjust your grip. You don’t need your fridge acting like a runaway freight train.

Don't Forget About The Reefer's Tight-Space Handles

Now, wouldn't it be great if the people who designed homes always kept in mind that the people moving into and out of these homes might have to get big heavy things up and down the staircases?

Unfortunately (and clearly) this is not the case, and we find from time to time a wall or a corner at the bottom of a set of stairs; a narrow staircase with a ninety-degree turn; a doorway even that leads to a hallway that is barely wide enough to accommodate a refrigerator let alone a refrigerator that needs to be tipped back and rolled through said doorway and turned down that hall.

To compensate for the thoughtless architects of the world, the very considerate reefer dolly makers of the world provide us movers with those extra hand holds on the sides. So in those times you need to lift, shift, rotate, shimmy or otherwise nudge your appliance one direction or another you have a way to do so without leaving skid marks on the floor, dents in the walls and blood stains on whatever.

Position Properly

Just as the guy holding the appliance dolly will always be on top while negotiating stairs, so will he be the top guy when going up or down the truck ramp. The second guy - the one steering from the bottom of the appliance or armoire - is always lower, on both the stairs and the truck ramp. (Trust us.)

When you've gotten your appliance safely to its destination grab that ratchet lever once more and unlock the spindle to loosen then remove the strap. Finish with a fist bump for a job well done.