So we’re getting our RV all packed up to move to our next destination. We had been staying at my dad’s place and our Kwikee electric steps were up because my pops wanted to mow the gras right under them. I had just come back from the main house and opened the door. The motor for the steps began to churn and stairs started to swing down. Then they began to crawl. Then they stopped… a mere three inches away from being fully extended.
I close the door again, expecting them to go up.
“Baby, the steps broke!”
RV Life: Never a dull moment.
Okay, to be fair, our steps have been acting a strange for awhile. They’d occationally come out super slow and we just shrugged it off to a poorly charged battery. They squeaked and we just shrugged it off to too many dirt roads and salty air. (Okay, I shrugged it off—Mike treats our batteries very well.) Well… when your RV steps stop working entirely, it’s hard to shrug them off anymore.
We turned the steps off and made sure they couldn’t automatically retract and Mike got started spraying WD-40 into all the joints. It might not be the best as a long term lubricant, but WD-40 breaks up the rusty bits like nothing else.
I did the only other thing to do: Google.
Diagnosing Problems with Kwikee Electric RV Steps
Fortunately for us, Kwikee steps are popular for RVs. It doesn’t take long to get the general consensus on what typically breaks. Most of the useful information comes from posts over at the iRV2 Forums. You just have to read through all the “me too” replies.
The best source outside of that was a guide to diagnosing electric steps over at Bob’s Guides. It was really great. The article explained step-by-step (no pun intended) what parts to check, why, and what each result means for your problem. Very easy to follow.
What to look for when the steps don’t work:
Lucky for us, motorized steps are pretty dumb mechanics. Other than the metal frame, there are really only three parts to worry about: the controller, the motor, and the gear box. Easy right?
I asked Mike to grab me to the model number since he was already under there. While he lubricated all the joints, I cross-referenced our stairs with all the part numbers we might need to fix the problem. Libbert has an awesome chart available to help identify the part numbers.
Price Check on Aisle 3
So I then looked up the replacement parts individually. Apparently, I can get ALL the parts for less than $350! Which is awesome. It will probably cost less since it’s likely that only one thing broke.
At the moment, I would expect to pay about $500 to $700 if I took my rig into the shop. Scratch that, we can’t pull our steps up manually. That means we’d have to hire a mobile RV repairman to come to us! That’s even more. I’m glad we’re doing this on our own.
But… when it rains, it pours.
Unfortunately, we were at the part where all the connection points have been lubricated and all the wires connections have been tested as secure and clean. We just have to pull the pin and swing the steps free.
Then it starts to rain!
We had wait until the next day.
Glad we have blueprints.
At this point I’m just hoping that the problem with the steps doesn’t exist deeper in the rig. But I have to say that I really appreciate certain things about owning a Winnebago. One of those things is that they readily share their blueprints with the world. This is very useful for people like me. I’ve repaired countless problems by referencing these documents.
Here are the electrical diagrams for our 2008 Winnebago View 24H. They’re a bit hairy, but they tell you everything you need to know about how your rig was wired. I also recommend grabbing their plumbing diagrams. They totally saves the day when our pipe froze last winter.
Release the Kraken!
Once the sun dried everything out, we disconnected all the batteries (coach and cabin) and got under the rig to work on the steps. The cotter and clevis pins are what holds the metal frame to the gearbox. When you remove them, the steps should swing free. That is, IF you can remove the pins. Our clevis pin was so rusted in place there was no budging it.
We didn’t want to damage the pin, so it was onto the next easiest option. We just removed the motor. When we pulled the motor, the gear box and steps were free to move. The steps were moving smoothly and the whole mechanism wasn’t giving us any resistance. That told us that the motor probably seized up.
Piece By Piece
We love our Innova Multimeter and wouldn’t leave home without it.
Next, we plugged the batteries back in and Mike grabbed his Digital Multimeter. He then started to test all of the available electrical connections by having me open and close the door.
This Kwikee Electric Steps manual from Libbert was a fantastic resource. Not only do they outline what the color and functions of all the wires were, they also have thorough testing procedures completely spelled out for you. It’s like they’re running the diagnostic on your behalf. Just follow the instructions.
On our end, the good news is that all the electrical points checked out. So that means that the last thing to try was the motor…
The manual I mentioned above recommends that you hook the motor directly up to the battery to test it. But when we did that… we got nothing… we lost… good day, sir! So, having all those part numbers conveniently on hand, it took me about 10 seconds to order the new motor.
So it looks like we have a dead motor.
A full four days, a post office delivery snafu, and a handful of irritation later… we got the motor. It totally only took Mike minutes to disconnect the power, screw it in, and have it working again.
Now she purrs like a kitten does it only cost us $70! Dianosing dumb mechanics really is just a matter of elimination. Just be thorough, test every system, and eventually you’ll figure out the problem.