Kwikee step failure

alichty

2014 LTV Unity TB
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/exterior/kwikee_svc_manual.pdf
 
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MarkCooperstein

2014 Unity TB
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.

Mark
 

ewdmld

2014 Unity TB
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. :thumbdown:
 

hahne

2015.5 LTV Unity TB
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.
 

alichty

2014 LTV Unity TB
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.
 

riff511

2014 Unity TB
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.
 

alichty

2014 LTV Unity TB
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.
 

riff511

2014 Unity TB
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/B0...rue&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_2&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER and the motor http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...rue&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_1&smid=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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkdBVmsi_vY
 
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alichty

2014 LTV Unity TB
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/B0...rue&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_2&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER and the motor http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...rue&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_1&smid=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.
 

riff511

2014 Unity TB
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.

View attachment 70761

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.
I agree if it's the motor new linkage is not going to help. The only other thing I was thinking it could be is worn teeth on the gears which would allow it to retract more than it should, just a thought. I compared the parts on amazon with the manual so they should fit. I'll probably just get the motor and go from there, but first I'll get a better look tomorrow and take it a part and see what I can find. To be continued.
 

riff511

2014 Unity TB
Here is pictures of my Kwikee step linkage with the clevis pin sticking out. The brackets don't appear bent yet. So I caught this just in time before total failure and possible damage going down the road with a step sticking out. Thanks to alichty for posting this problem with the step. I will email Lippert Components who now owns Kwikee steps and alert them to this problem.
 

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riff511

2014 Unity TB
Kwikee step update. There was a lot of force against the bracket and clevis pin, so I couldn't pull the clevis pin out. I loosened the nuts that hold the motor/linkage assembly up so I could get some play in the linkage, and this worked. There are 3 nuts and a space for a 4th bolt and nut but none was there. After getting the clevis pin out I noticed that one bracket was slightly bent, I was able to straighten it so all the holes lined up. I reinstall the clevis pin and tested the step, it works but it does put a lot of force on the bracket on the right side. So I'm sure it will happen again over time. The motor needs to stop the linkage before hitting the bracket so not to bend it, but it does not.
 

aljimenez

'13 LTV Serenity on '12 3
Perhaps replace pin with a bolt and a safety nut or two? I plan to check mine shortly.
 

Eastbayview

2012 Unity MB
A few years ago I was checking over the steps and lubing and found the original tiny cotter pin just about broken on the pin. I removed it and installed a larger cotter pin that fit snug in the pin.
It seems the factory cotter pin is far too small for the job and if the pin comes out it causes the damage some of you have reported.
 

riff511

2014 Unity TB
A few years ago I was checking over the steps and lubing and found the original tiny cotter pin just about broken on the pin. I removed it and installed a larger cotter pin that fit snug in the pin.
It seems the factory cotter pin is far too small for the job and if the pin comes out it causes the damage some of you have reported.
You're correct the cotter pin is way to small to hold. I have various sizes but none I had would fit so I put a nail in it for now, but I think even a larger cotter pin would break eventually from the pull on it. The clevis pin is just meant to keep something from coming apart, not to have a lot of stress put on it in my opinion. So I think the problem is with the motors distance of travel.
 

ewdmld

2014 Unity TB
You're correct the cotter pin is way to small to hold. I have various sizes but none I had would fit so I put a nail in it for now, but I think even a larger cotter pin would break eventually from the pull on it. The clevis pin is just meant to keep something from coming apart, not to have a lot of stress put on it in my opinion. So I think the problem is with the motors distance of travel.

I believe you may be thinking about it backwards. The clevis pin is taking the load, the cotter pin is just holding the clevis pin in place.

I also found the cotter pin on mine just about to break. Given that many of us here are having the same problem I suspect that the cotter pin used by Kwikee is too small and is wearing away quickly. I suggest that everyone with this step check theirs and either replace the cotter pin with a larger one or switch to a nut/bolt. :2cents:
 

riff511

2014 Unity TB
I believe you may be thinking about it backwards. The clevis pin is taking the load, the cotter pin is just holding the clevis pin in place.

I also found the cotter pin on mine just about to break. Given that many of us here are having the same problem I suspect that the cotter pin used by Kwikee is too small and is wearing away quickly. I suggest that everyone with this step check theirs and either replace the cotter pin with a larger one or switch to a nut/bolt. :2cents:
I stand corrected, but I think the nut and bolt is the way to go.
 

calbiker

Well-known member
It seems to me that you guys have an alignment or an adjustment issue. After 8 years of use, my Navion Kwikee steps show no sign of stress. When the steps are fully extended, do the steps flex when you step on them? Or are they rock solid?
 

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