Saturday, December 9, 2023


What to do about slow-moving leveling jacks?

Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkI know you are not a mechanic, but we have a mechanical and mental problem combined. Our motorhome is only two years old and already we are noticing a repetitive problem with our hydraulic leveling jacks. They take forever to retract right when we are ready to leave camp.

It seems one goes out every season. It doesn’t fail completely, it’s just slow to respond. We end up having a whole pot of coffee while we wait for a single jack to retract. My husband makes a joke and says we should have the service center put coffee in the hydraulic line. I am more serious about the issue and think it is annoying, expensive and possibly a ripoff.

The service center is now a regular stop every season to have a unit replaced. Is this normal? Is a slow retracting jack a way of RV life? I want to let one go until it actually fails, but my husband insists on having it repaired each time.

Please shed some light on our annual pilgrimage to the land of levelers. —Tilted in Trenton

Dear Tilted:
I don’t want to sound like a medical doctor because we all know I am just a guy pretending to be a shrink, which pretty much makes me a quack. That said, I think your problem could be much like a person that goes to the doctor with a difficult issue to diagnose. The doctor is going to do something while you’re there so that you feel satisfied and he gets paid.

If you show up regularly at the leveler repairman shop, they will probably do the same. I have no idea what system you have, but I can tell you from experience that most need constant exercise and maintenance. Same as your body.

We experience the same issue with our system, which is hydraulic with spring assist. If your system is similar I would suggest experimenting a bit. It could save you some time and money.

Make sure your leveler shafts are kept as clean as possible. Dirt and debris can cause enough resistance to slow jack retraction. Another less expensive fix might be new springs. I usually buy a set (2) each year and replace just one at each of the two slowest acting jacks. Springs fatigue with constant stretching.

I have also designed a simple bar I carry to apply pressure to a slowpoke jack on a cold morning when I don’t have time to drink coffee while it slowly decides to put itself away.

You want to speak softly to your jacks, but carry a big stick. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink




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Ed Price (@guest_1255)
7 years ago

This year, all my springs turned 15 years old, and my jacks all retract smoothly in about one minute from command. Also, none of the cylinders leak any hydraulic oil. I think the worst thing you can do is leave the jacks extended for months at a time; this lets the exposed cylinder rods pick up a layer of grit and that damages the bottom oil seal upon retraction. The second worst thing is when you use a power spray or even a detergent and brush to clean the extended rods. This removes the protective film of oil from the cylinder rod. This makes the rod “sticky” against the oil seal and will sometimes tear chunks out of the oil seal. It also promotes corrosion and/or rust on the extended rods, and this also wears the oil seal rapidly as well as makes retraction difficult.

Gregory Illes (@guest_1253)
7 years ago

I finally got sick of all the trouble (and weight) of hydraulic jacks, and converted over to electric. Two minutes flat, hot or cold, and they’re up and stowed. No leaks either ;o)

Ernie Powell (@guest_117644)
2 years ago
Reply to  Gregory Illes

Where did you get electric jacks and what vehicle did you put them on ?

Rick (@guest_1252)
7 years ago

We have had the same problem with our jacks and over the years have learned that: 1- the springs get stretched and do not do their job. We have replaced our own by ordering them from the manufacturer. (Most probably HWH) 2: before we replaced them I carried a 2×4 that I used to “help” them up. It works! Try it.

Grumpy Old Timer (@guest_1251)
7 years ago

A liberal application of quality silicone spray keeps our jacks retracting quite nicely. I treat them whenever they get cranky and slow. Use good quality silicone and it will not attract dust and dirt.

Ed Price (@guest_1254)
7 years ago


When that “liberal coating of silicone” on the piston rod slides up into the cylinder on full retraction, what do you suppose is happening to the hydraulic oil that then washes over the silicone? Or to put it another way, would you pour silicone into the hydraulic oil reservoir? Maybe the silicone turns the hydraulic fluid sludgy, or maybe it chemically breaks down, or maybe it doesn’t do any harm at all. Point is, how do you know?

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