Every now and then my spouse echoes his sentiment on an irritating subject – premature failure of electronic components, or, as he puts it, “cheap crap!” If you’re a full-timer or travel extensively, there’s a good chance you have repaired or replaced an operational component in your RV.
Since reliable parts are no longer manufactured in the states and moved to the land of cheap labor, junk and more junk, reliability has become a thing of the past. It has failed to follow the rules set forth by W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality management. After all, my spouse spent 14 years in manufacturing plants following the Deming principle in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere. He still purports today that manufacturers in the U.S. strive for high reliability, a tenet that has failed to be adopted in China. Make it fast, faster, fastest. Let the customer test for failure! Who cares if the parts per million failure percentage is high?
Frequent electronic component failures
Approximately 18 months ago, our stair motor began sticking. So, we visited Davidson RV and had it replaced. This past August, it started sticking and spuriously working. Hubby contacted Nathan Davidson yet again and queried him regarding the reliability of step motors. Nathan mentioned that step motors, made in China, incorporate nylon ball bearings (not metal as we would expect) which easily wear unevenly. Hmmm. Rather than try to locate a repair kit, it was advised to replace the motor.
So, hubby set out to find a stair motor. First, he contacted Tiffin, our coach’s parts department. They were having difficulty receiving replacement parts. Gee, who would have thought. That means we’re relegated to locate a new motor online… fun, fun!
Dismantling the motor to find a replacement
The most difficult task in locating a replacement motor is determining compatibility or an exact make/model. The defunct motor began working the exact opposite of what was expected. So, as my spouse began to dismantle the old motor, unbeknownst to me, I opened the door to tell him he had a phone call and the darn stairs extended, trapping him under the bottom stair. Thinking they would quickly retract when I closed the door, we were surprised that instead the stairs froze in place and my spouse had to wiggle out from under. It was more embarrassing than anything.
The next thing was to remove the defunct motor. If you wish to do this yourself and are in doubt, take pictures as you progress dismantling the motor. Here’s what to do:
- Remove the electrical connector. It has a release button – press and pull that apart.
- Ratchet out the three bolts.
- As you remove, ensure the spline (shaft which connects the motor to the step housing) and gear come out.
- Check the part number on the motor and reference it on Amazon or another internet store.
Grab bag buying. We won’t know until we try!
Hubby did the aforementioned. We ordered and received a replacement motor three days later. He installed it per the instructions and tested it. Didn’t work. Took it back out and applied 12v power and tested it. Deader than a doornail! Another unreliable device! Hubby arranged for a return on Amazon and off he went to drop it off at UPS.
He ordered the second replacement motor. Amazon shipped it out the same day and we received it three days later. Hubby checked it out before installing. It appeared to work. Hubby reinstalled the second motor, this time making sure he didn’t get stuck underneath. We tested it by opening and closing the door. Guess what? The motor was wired backward. I’d open the door and the stairs would retract, close the door and the stairs would extend! A twilight zone experience! Hubby removed the second replacement motor and arranged return to UPS. It was only a 30-minute drive to UPS each way on California toll roads! Fun, fun, fun.
Third time’s a charm
Hubby ordered our third stair replacement motor, this time from a different manufacturer. It was a manufacturer whose name he recognized, hoping the part was at least tested before being boxed and shipped. Hubby tested it and it worked, so he installed the third motor. This time the unit worked properly. Just think – only four hours of travel to return the junk and less than two hours experimenting with the bad. Hubby grumbles, as he should, that it appears to some that our time has no value. After all, isn’t it the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure their unit was tested and works properly? Or, as it seems, we’ve become the great testing laboratory for China!
Kate Doherty has been writing for more than 30 years in technical and general media. In her previous business, she and her spouse dealt with special projects within the military/government sector. Recently she published Masquerade: A Logan Scott Novel under the pen name Bryan Alexander, a thriller now available in eBook and paperback on Amazon. It’s a page-turner!