Friday, December 1, 2023


RV jacks won’t retract? Try this

By Kate Doherty
It’s time to pick up and move to a new adventure! The weather is perfect, it’s mid-week, there’s little traffic. Time to bring the slides in and raise the leveling jacks. The panel lights kept blinking and not switching to “travel mode.” I went outside. “Hey, the @#$& RV jacks aren’t coming up! They started but stopped short.”

“Honey, put ‘em down please!” Guess it’s time to crawl under and wipe ‘em down and re-lubricate ‘em again. No matter where we seem to park, it always seems to be over the roughest ground. Now we’re ready to try again, my spouse saying, “Okay, they’re clean and oiled! Bring ‘em up.” Waiting patiently, watching the panel lights blinking, saying to myself, “Come on, come on!” They still weren’t fully retracting. And we sure couldn’t drive with them down, even a little. This puts a crimp in one’s travel plans.

The RV jacks went up and down, up and down

We cycled them, wiped and oiled them again. Still no joy. They kept stopping about two inches from fully retracting. My spouse tried pushing the jacks up by hand – no avail. And, there wasn’t enough room to wedge a 2” x 4” board under them. Like a bolt of lightning, he remembered we’d stowed a 36-inch pry bar in one of our storage bays. Duh!

Remember high school science class?

We retrieved the pry bar. Remembering our high school science class where that weird science teacher taught us about levers, we decided to try the pry bar. We found a rock that was reasonably flat on one side. Next, we placed the flat tip of the pry bar under the jack with the rock (as the fulcrum) about six inches from the far end and pushed down. Voila! The jack went up smoothly. Maybe that science teacher really was smarter than a fifth grader!

This is a common occurrence with leveling jacks. They can be temperamental at times. Heat, dust, moisture, and constant weather changes wreak havoc on metal. We had replaced the retraction springs not more than six months ago during our mid-year service checkup. Even when we’re parked for a couple of months, we regularly clean, lubricate and exercise these pistons. During the cleaning/lubricating regimen, it’s important to feel for burrs or abrasions on the piston’s surface. The surface can be polished with a 1500-grit wet/dry cloth.

Lastly, we check the hydraulic oil reservoir to ensure that it has the correct amount of fluid. But remember, even when all is in order, like Forrest Gump said, “It happens.” Sometime in your traveling future, something like this just might occur.

Here’s the pry bar we used.

What to do about slow-moving leveling jacks?




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Dr. Mike (@guest_188178)
1 year ago

Would it be wise to carry a small scissors jack to jack up the jack?

Steve (@guest_188122)
1 year ago

So many RVers make blanket statements about various maintenance issues that are not backed up by facts. I have leveing jacks made by Equalizer. The company specifically recommends wiping down jack shafts with WD-40. The WD-40 website states, “WD-40 is safe to use on the following plastics and rubbers: neoprene/hard rubber, bona/nitrile, EPDM, HDPE, Viton, ABS plastic and vinyl.”

Gary (@guest_188165)
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

My Power Gear jacks manual says to use silicone spray, not WD40.

volnavy007 (@guest_188120)
1 year ago

Why are those type of jacks hydraulic instead of geared? The full mechanism could be the gear system (like on some slideouts) and a locking mechanism like on elevators. It seems simpler and easier to maintain, troubleshoot and fix (if necessary). Occam’s razor?

Dr. Mike (@guest_153531)
2 years ago

Is it possible to publish a really detailed jack maintenances article? I feel the article needs to be two parts. One for travel trailers and one for Class A coaches.

Jesse W Crouse (@guest_118759)
2 years ago

My tiffin 06 Phaeton QSH came with the Atwood self leveling system- now Lippert and what isn’t Lippert now. Ran into same problem in my driveway and had time to internet search how to fix. Involves disconnecting power to the stuck jack and reconnecting and resetting the computer pad. If I can find the directions I will post here. All jack systems have their own quirks.

Tom in PGH (@guest_117620)
2 years ago

We have electric levelers, no seals to worry about. Just wipe them down a few times a year with silicone spray.

Tim Slack (@guest_117609)
2 years ago

One of our 4 Atwood electric jacks emitted a noticeable ‘crack’ sound and then stopped retracting. Naturally, we were about to leave for another location. I called several sources and no replacement available, new or used. Most told me to put in a new system! ($$$) But I called the Atwood mechanic who’d installed our system and he came to the rescue. I described the issue, he diagnosed the likely problem and sent an assortment of probable replacement parts. I dismounted the jack, disassembled the drive assembly and replaced a short (but obviously important) snapped shear pin. It only took a dozen phone calls, FaceTime with my mechanic, a week to receive his generous parts collection, $18 to a machine shop to press the new pin into the drive shaft, and a combined total of a day to R&R the jack. Lesson learned: periodically cleaning & lubricating the shafts of electric jacks is important.

Richard Chabrajez (@guest_117581)
2 years ago

Sooo, what caused this particular issue and how was it remedied (after the pry bar)?

Impavid (@guest_117577)
2 years ago

I find the statement that “….using petroleum based products will destroy the rubber wipe seals.” to be confusing. What is used in the hydraulic system, which is full of seals, is a petroleum based product being either hydraulic fluid or automatic transmission fluid, the latter being what my RV system calls for.

WEB (@guest_117588)
2 years ago
Reply to  Impavid

 🙄  ME too.

Pablo Flaifel (@guest_117550)
2 years ago

Oils, including WD-40 will disolve/destroy the shaft seals, use silicone instead. Also, as with tire pressure and changes in temperature, if you fill the tank to full level on cold weather, as temperature rises and hydrologic fluid expand, your shafts might not be able to fully retract as the tank fills up. Check fluid levels if shafts don’t fully retract or vicevesa, after fully retracting you get a warning that they have not. Later, a sign fluid levels may be low.

Ron Lane (@guest_117596)
2 years ago
Reply to  Pablo Flaifel

Well, it’s really strange that HWH (largest manufacture of motorhome hydraulic levelers) recommends that first you never “lubricate” the shafts and secondly, you should use WD-40 to “clean” the shafts and then wipe clean with a clean rag. if you don’t have WD-40, they recommend washing with soap and water and then completely dry them with a clean rag.

Have you ever seen or heard of heavy equipment operators who “lubricate” the shafts of their hydraulic rams????

Pablo Flaifel (@guest_117723)
2 years ago
Reply to  Ron Lane

Correct, you can clean them with WD40, but make sure, you clean (remove) it when finished.

Bob M (@guest_188138)
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron Lane

These rv automatic leveling jacks sound like another cheaply made rv product. I have a small Kubota tractor with a small back hoe attachment for twenty five years and never had a problem with the hydraulic lifting arms or had to lubricate or clean them.

Ran (@guest_117532)
2 years ago

OK, what type lube are you using? You should not lube the hydraulic shafts, according to the Mfg. Keeping them clean is important, but using petroleum based products will destroy the rubber wipe seals.
I agree, the point of your article was how to safely retract in emergency. On my Tiffin, it’s a matter of flipping the hydraulic levers manually. Of course, not all rigs are the same. Always a good idea to keep a 2×4 in your rig. Even a small 10-12″ will come in handy!

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