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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Steps get replaced!

One of the repair items that had been pending on our motorhome is the replacement of the electric steps. No, they have not worn out, they simply suffered a little bending when they came into contact with part of our lawn.

OK, from the beginning. We were leaving our house on the start of the Arizona trip in February when the steps failed to retract. Why they failed to retract is not known. Failure of the switch, the ignition override, getting caught on the curb and the list goes on. Bottom line, the steps did not retract and when I pulled out they caught the edge of the lawn in the parking strip and bent. They were 3/4 of the way extended. They would not retract any more, but they would extend. So, being the person I am, I extended the steps and then backed up and caught the other section of the lawn and "straightened" the steps. Well, it worked a little as you can see in the series of photos below.

As you can see the steps just did not retract all the way. But, do I take it into the RV shop and have them work on them, or just continue on, knowing that one of the reasons we were going to Arizona was to go to 3-T's RV in Lake Havasu City and have some work done on the motorhome. Continuing on won. So off to Arizona we went with steps that looked like a Mack truck had hit them.

In Lake Havasu City, John and Tina's staff at 3-T's looked at the steps and said that they would try and straighten them, but that a new set was in the future. However, that future was $1300+. So, they did their best and got them working 100% better and looking near perfect. But, they did warn me that since the steps were still bent it was putting extra stress on the step motor and gears.

Once we got back from Arizona, I started doing some research and found that we could purchase just the steps, without the motor and gear assembly. In fact there was a Winnebago part number for it. Step frame only. So, the next thing was an email to the parts department of Lichtsinn Motors in Forest City, IA. They had the step frame in stock (OK, how many others have bent their steps?) and could ship them right out. The cost was about 1/3 of what I had found on-line or through other more popular RV stores.
Of course once they arrived, they got "parked" in the living room for a few weeks. Those stairs are heavy, about 70 pounds. How was I going to lift those into place and put nuts on bolts at the same time. Again, an RV Forum to the rescue. I found a post by a gentleman who had to remove his steps and replace them. He stated that he used a jack to left them into place. Excellent solution. I have a 3-ton floor jack. More than capable of lifting 70 pounds of steel.

So, while I was waiting for the battery cabinet to dry (that is another complete long post), I removed the steps. The first thing was to disconnect the power (I already had the batteries out, but still had to disconnect the electrical to get the steps out, there is a ground wire that attaches to the chassis that you have to disconnect, no plug), then I removed the linkage from the step motor to the steps. This turn buckle type linkage, once removed allowed me to extend the stairs and loosen the four nuts holding the stairs to the motorhome. I then put the jack under the steps, applied some lift. I could then remove the nuts and lower the steps with the jack. Once out, I turned them both over and removed the motor and light from the "bent" ones and put them on the new ones. This is what the motor assembly looks like.

I transferred the light and the control box (above and to the left of the light in picture above). I decided to install the motor unit after I had the steps mounted. This gave me just a little bit more room to work in. I turned the steps upright and put a nylon strap around the steps to keep them closed. Then placed the steps on the jack and wheeled it under the motorhome and lifted them into place. I was lucky and just needed minor "jiggling" to get them over the mounting bolts. I then put the nuts on the two back bolts snugged them up and then lowered and removed the jack.
I removed the nylon strap and let the steps come out and this allowed me to install the from two nuts and tighten them up. I then tightened the back nuts. The steps were installed. I next installed the motor/gear assembly. This is just four bolts that go into "nuts" attached to the step unit.
Once I had power, I cycled the motor a few times to get things lined up. I originally thought it would work to install the linkage turnbuckle while the steps were extended (out). This worked, but when retracted they did not go up all of the way. I then closed the door of the motorhome and got the motor into the "retracted" position and then pulled/pushed the steps closed and connected the linkage. This then allows the steps to close fully and extend fully. This is what it is supposed to look like.

So, another job done. I would definitely do this with the jacks down and the appropriate safety bocks in place to give you a little more working room under the motorhome

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