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Old 10-09-2015, 11:11 PM   #1
alichty
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Default Kwikee step failure

I spent most of this last week at Mt. Rainier Nat. Park photographing fall colors and testing out my new battery meter while dry camping in one of the park campgrounds. While topping off my fresh water at the campground dump station I started to jump into the coach side door to turn off the water pump but when I opened the door I looked down and realized that the steps were already down and I was hearing the motor still completing it's cycle. I closed the door again and again heard the motor but the steps were still down. Not a Good Sign(TM). I went ahead and got the water flowing into the fresh tank and went back to examine the steps and discovered that they were swinging freely as if no longer even attached to the stepper motor at all. Fortunately my campsite was nearby so I made my way back to the site being careful about the extended step and got out my tools to examine what was wrong.

What I found was a bit disturbing. There is a hinge pin (clevis pin is the actual name) that attaches the stepper motor linkage to the brackets for the step. In this case, one of the stamped metal brackets on the steps was bent out to the side and the clevis pin was hanging loose and bent at about a 90 degree angle. The linkage arm from the motor was swinging freely in the open air. The cotter pin to hold it in place was nowhere to be seen. I decided I needed to effect some sort of field repair to safely drive home so I extracted the clevis pin and hammered it on a granite boulder to being sort of straight again so I could try to attach the linkage arm again. I didn't have anything with me that could give me enough leverage to try to straighten out the bracket. I used a small nail I had in my parts kit as a temporary cotter pin to hold the linkage arm in place:

FieldRepair.jpg

This worked until I got home and could call Johnson RV to see about getting it fixed.

Kwikee as a name does not describe that company's fine kwality customer (dis)service department. It's pretty much the case that an RV service department has to jump through a lot of hoops to get them to acknowledge almost any kind of warranty repair or RMA and if an assembly from the steps is sent back as a RMA and Kwikee finds any workable parts in said assembly those are returned to the dealer at dealer cost for the parts. It was quite clear reading through the tech service manual I found online getting this replaced was going to take far more than a week and it's not even clear that we will even get an answer back from them regarding whether they will even acknowledge this is a warranty claim by next week. This sounds like a company that decided to save money by denying warranty claims unless you can prove that their device really is faulty due to manufacturing. For the record actual labor time to swap in a new series 39 step assembly would take less than an hour if you had the steps on hand. The inordinate amount of time for the replacement is entirely due to haggling to get the parts replaced.

That said I decided to see if I could do a little more about patching this so I could use my Unity in the meantime. I got the clevis pin back out and used a 16" crescent wrench to rebend the bracket so it was parallel to the other one and then spent a little more time straightening the pin out. When I went to reinstall the pieces it seemed odd that they did not line up so I could access the hole:

FieldRepair3.jpg
Misalignment.jpg

I closed the side door to retract the linkage arm but it swung wide of the bracket location at the far back position towards the front of the RV. I recalled that the stepper motor senses resistance so it can avoid slamming curbs on the likes and was guessing that it must do the same when retracting and would stop at an appropriate location.

That may be true for a properly functioning motor but as it turns out that is not what has happened here at all. Since I could not reinsert the clevis pin I tried using a piece of heavy duty coat hanger wire in it's place and was able to get it through both sides and bent the ends so it would stay in place. I tried opening and closing the door and the steps went in and out. Then I looked at the site of the repair with the steps retracted to find this:

ClosedAndCrushed.jpg

The stepper motor in this case is retracting at full force all the way back to the motor housing and at that point is exerting enough force to rebend the bracket almost like it was a piece of tin foil. You do not want to have a body part between the step and the coach when this thing retracts.

It is also clear that this was not a sudden failure - it has actually been dying a slow death for quite some time and one of the casualties is one of the bolts on the housing. It is easily visible in the first image at the top. At one point I bumped that with my bare hand when I was working underneath and it simply fell off. The bolt itself had broken quite some time ago and was barely being held in place by corrosion. The rusted stub is visible in the image above right next to the linkage arm. It appears that the linage arm has been slamming into the edge of the bolt every time the steps were retracted and was riding up against it while I was driving.

After talking with the service folks at Johnson I elected to put a slightly improved temporary fix in place so I can go back out next week as per my original plans while we wait to see how this will get resolved with Kwikee:

CoatHangerSpecial.jpg

I now have extra pieces of coat hanger wire precut to the proper length in my parts kit in case I need to fix this again while on the road.

Edit: If anybody is interested in getting the service manual for the steps here is the link:

http://www.rvtechlibrary.com/exterio...svc_manual.pdf
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Last edited by alichty; 10-10-2015 at 01:14 AM. Reason: added service manual link
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Old 10-10-2015, 01:11 AM   #2
MarkCooperstein
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

I'm not enamored with the Kwikee steps. I had two failures in the first year, the second one LTV sent me an entire step assembly. I never had to deal with Kwikee myself, I dealt with LTV since it was within the warranty period for the Unity overall. I'm sorry you had such bad experience.

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Old 10-10-2015, 04:55 AM   #3
ewdmld
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

I feel your pain. My 17 month old Kwikee steps have also failed (something wrong with the motor/controller) and this is the end of the second week of waiting for an acknowledgement from Kwikee that there is a problem. Their process, like you said, is that all warranty repairs require that the parts be sent back to the factory by the repair shop so that the factory can verify that the parts are defective (my stairs don't work correctly, so something must be defective). At least my failure happened before the end of the two year Kwikee warranty.

I will not pay for this type of repair myself if it fails again in the future, and will replace these steps with a different brand, or a set of manual steps. I hope LTV realizes what a piece of **** these steps are and finds a different supplier in the future so their customers do not have to put up with this type of "service".

End of rant.
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Old 10-10-2015, 08:59 AM   #4
hahne
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

We had 2 step failures within the first 4 months of ownership of a new 2015.5 Unity. After about 2 months a bolt sheared off leaving the step dangling. Then 2 months later the motor assembly started grinding and the step had to be pushed in manually. It was quite a racket when we set up camp. We are not impressed with the step.
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Old 10-10-2015, 02:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

I have owned an rv with Kwikee steps for almost 20 years, not meant to offend anyone but you can't over lube the steps, there are about 10 to 12 places to lube & Kwikee recommends every 30 days. I use what they recommend http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BGOI92/...l_7p2b9yu5js_e
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Old 10-10-2015, 08:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

Sounds like I am not alone with Kwikee step issues. I would have preferred that such events are uncommon since replacing the steps is a lot easier than fitting a new system into the mix given the potential for different electrical integration designs.
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Old 10-11-2015, 02:27 AM   #7
riff511
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

After reading this post from Alichty I went and checked my step which was in the extended position and low and behold the clevis pin that Alichty described was half way out and it appears the brackets are misaligned where I can't tap the pin back in. it seems the motor is putting a lot of pressure on the brackets where its bending them and breaking the cotter pin and then finally failure.
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Old 10-11-2015, 02:42 AM   #8
alichty
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by riff511 View Post
After reading this post from Alichty I went and checked my step which was in the extended position and low and behold the clevis pin that Alichty described was half way out and it appears the brackets are misaligned where I can't tap the pin back in. it seems the motor is putting a lot of pressure on the brackets where its bending them and breaking the cotter pin and then finally failure.
Please take pictures of what it looks like right now before you touch anything. I wish I had just to document the device failure before I tried to effect field repairs. The lawyer words in the Kwikee warranty replacement policy give them unbelievable room to deny almost any claim you can't prove in court. No way that would prove fruitful relative to the cost of the item ($385/ea. at Amazon). The service manuals I posted a link to describe Kwikee's mandates to service techs who wish to make a repair with warranty part replacement.

I think there is supposed to be some kind of pressure resistance switch in the motor that appears to be failing. The damage as best I can tell is actually coming from how the motor retracts the steps. Normally it would encounter resistance once the steps are all the way back and stop but once the sensor is off duty as mine (and maybe yours) seem to be the motor just plows on and the self destruction process begins. Retract yours and then take a picture and you will see the real source of the stress in the system.
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Old 10-11-2015, 05:48 AM   #9
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by alichty View Post
Please take pictures of what it looks like right now before you touch anything. I wish I had just to document the device failure before I tried to effect field repairs. The lawyer words in the Kwikee warranty replacement policy give them unbelievable room to deny almost any claim you can't prove in court. No way that would prove fruitful relative to the cost of the item ($385/ea. at Amazon). The service manuals I posted a link to describe Kwikee's mandates to service techs who wish to make a repair with warranty part replacement.

I think there is supposed to be some kind of pressure resistance switch in the motor that appears to be failing. The damage as best I can tell is actually coming from how the motor retracts the steps. Normally it would encounter resistance once the steps are all the way back and stop but once the sensor is off duty as mine (and maybe yours) seem to be the motor just plows on and the self destruction process begins. Retract yours and then take a picture and you will see the real source of the stress in the system.
Your explanation of the problem makes sense as to why there's a lot of stress on the parts and that would explain why there is a misalignment with the pin holes. It's not stopping where it should. I will take some pictures tomorrow and post them. I found the Kwikee gear linkage on amazon for $64.75. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=ATVPDKIKX0DER and the motor http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=ATVPDKIKX0DER A little better than replacing the whole unit if there's nothing else wrong with it. I don't think LTV will cover that part according to their warranty and it's not worth it for me to drive back and forth from Reno to Las Vegas to try and get it done according to what Kwikee wants them to do. I will attempt to fix it tomorrow. Thanks for posting the pictures. I think I'll try loosing the bolts holding gear box to see if I can get some play in the linkage to line up the clevis pin holes. if that don't work I think I'll just order the parts from Amazon. In this video the clevis pin comes out so easy-- not on ours.

Last edited by riff511; 10-11-2015 at 06:09 AM.
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Old 10-11-2015, 06:16 AM   #10
alichty
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Default Re: Kwikee step failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by riff511 View Post
Your explanation of the problem makes sense as to why there's a lot of stress on the parts and that would explain why there is a misalignment with the pin holes. It's not stopping where it should. I will take some pictures tomorrow and post them. I found the Kwikee gear linkage on amazon for $64.75. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=ATVPDKIKX0DER and the motor http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=ATVPDKIKX0DER A little better than replacing the whole unit if there's nothing else wrong with it. I don't think LTV will cover that part according to their warranty and it's not worth it for me to drive back and forth from Reno to Las Vegas to try and get it done according to what Kwikee wants them to do. I will attempt to fix it tomorrow. The picture where you said it was crushed, is it the control arm you were referring to? because the picture on amazon shows a slight curve on the arm, so I think that's normal. I'll have to look at your pictures again and thanks for posting them. I think I'll try loosing the bolts holding gear box to see if I can get some play in the linkage to line up the clevis pin holes.
Check the service manual I posted a link to up at the top - there are 3 variants of the linkage arm depending on the step series model. These are shown on page 8. Ours is a series 39 single step and uses the "B" series linkage. You might have seen the "A" linkage with the more pronounced curve on Amazon.

Untitled.jpg

If the problem is actually in the stepper motor a new linkage arm is going to fail in the same fashion as the one in there now. The linkage arm should not have pulled back as far as it's doing. Once it's back that far it's no longer aligned with the step brackets and pulls the bracket out to the side. If you take a picture of the linkage with the steps retracted you will see why your is bent the way it is. I don't think there is anything wrong with the linkage itself.
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