Hydraulic RV Jack Fail!! Four Lessons Learned… The Hard Way.

TheRVgeeks Repair 57 Comments

You’d think after full-timing for nearly 14 years, we’d know everything, right? But we’re always learning, which means making mistakes sometimes. And man oh man, was this ever a totally avoidable self-inflicted wound! We sometimes say “We learn things the hard way so that you don’t have to” and this sure was an example of that.

The problem with RVing a certain way most of the time (in this case, avoiding winter) is that it’s easy to forget about the basics of cold-weather RVing. We actually knew about this issue, but being snowbirds most of the time, we forgot about this potential cold-weather camping threat, and shot ourselves in the foot. The jack foot that is.

We don’t want to tip our hand too much as to what went wrong, but see how quickly you can figure out what happened when you start watching the video.

Your only hints are that we had an easily-avoidable jack failure related to cold weather. And you can see from the video thumbnail that the foot came off the hydraulic cylinder. We bet that if you’re an avid winter RVer, you won’t even need to watch the video to know which winter RVing basic we completely forgot about!

Leave us a comment and let us know how quickly you figured it out, or if you had to watch through to the reveal. Honor system please! LOL


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Comments 57

  1. If you are in Georgia in the next few months, I have a replacement warrantee front jack that needs to be replaced because it leaks on my Ford chassis. I will let you you do it and let you also take a video of how to do it (no charge) and include free coffee, etc.

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  2. I’m always completely impressed by the videos you guys make, however, this one wowed me.
    Thank you so much for the time and effort you put in to making these videos.

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  3. Pingback: RV Snowbird Fail! Managing Short RV Trips To Cold Climates - RVgeeks

  4. Thank you. You have such great videos and advice. I’m looking forward to seeing your new tire covers. It looks like we could actually hit the road soon. All the preparation overwhelming. I do believe the more I plan the better the experience will be. Among other things we are considering where our domicile should be. Major considerations are taxes (vehicle) and insurance since we are trying to live on our Social Security and see the country. I noticed in this video that you consulted RV Repair Club which we then joined because you like it and they were running a good special. Escapees is another club I’m looking into. Do you have an opinion about Escapees and their add on options compared to shopping the open market – say for insurance? Any suggestions/advice you have will be appreciated. You guys are the bomb.

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      Hi Elizabeth! We’ll be sure to share any info about tire covers as soon as we know more. Sounds like you’re doing lots of research, so we’re sure you’ll be prepared. By the way, it’s not RV Repair Club we mentioned (we don’t really know much about them), but rather the user forums at iRV2.com, which are free to join and post on.

      We have very little current experience with domicile issues, as the last time we were registered in the US was about 10 years ago, in Montana. We emigrated to Canada after that and things have surely changed since then. The best place we can suggest for current advice and input on that is from three very dear friends of ours:
      1) Chris & Cherie: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/
      2) Nina & Paul: http://wheelingit.us/2014/11/25/health-insurance-sd-domicile-are-there-any-options-left-for-younger-fulltime-rvers/
      3) Nikki & Jason: http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/rv-questions-residency-mail-health-insurance

      Hope this helps a bit. Safe travels!

  5. Great tip and thanks to your promise to “. . . .learn things the hard way so that you don’t have to” I hope that we (as in all of us readers) never need to use it.

    By the way – I’ve already had the RV in cold temps and got 8 pieces of 2×10 that I doubled up under the jacks to prevent this problem. Turns out I now use them all the time so that the jacks don’t have to travel the extra 3″. Perhaps it will save me replacing the hydraulic pump if I keep this RV for 50 years.

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  6. In my case, the springs broke from old age (oxidation). My RV is gas, so I used the scissor jack from my Honda to raise (2) jacks (1 spring in different sides broke). The wood stick idea would’ve been great had I known. It took me about 45 mins to extend each spring about 1″ with brute force. You guys are AWESOME!!! Keep up the great videos.

    Safe travels.

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      Thanks Ed! Unfortunately, our tire covers, made by MCD, were discontinued shortly after we bought them. Ours are nearly 12 years old now, and wearing out. We’ve been looking for replacements to no avail. But we do have a lead on a new product being introduced this year which will be different than our current ones, but still promise to be far better than the others we’ve seen. We can’t provide any details just yet, as we’re hoping to be able to debut these new covers ourselves if all works out, and we’ve been sworn to secrecy! If all goes well, we hope to have details by this spring or summer. Stay tuned!

  7. 0:35 Mud suck! That’s my guess. Going back to watch the whole video now. :)
    1:32 Frozen mud suck! You were just saying, “Fr….”

    Wow, terrific fix, guys. Thanks for passing it on. I don’t think the Class C I’m getting in a couple of months has levelers, but these things are always good to know in case I see someone with this problem.

    Jon

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      Thanks Jon! And congratulations on your upcoming new rig! We haven’t seen too many Class C rigs with jacks other than some higher end ones, but it will be good to be able to come to the rescue next time you see a Class A in the frozen tundra! :)

  8. Hope I never need to replicate your fix. That wood spacer trick is great and I will remember it. I have learned to never place the jacks on dirt or gravel etc as our 37000 lbs Monaco pushes the jacks into the ground I have even pressed through thin asphalt. We always carry 12×36″x2″ board for the jacks and also for leveling the rig before putting the jacks down, works great.

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      Hey Rich! We hope we never need to do that again either! Thanks so much for sharing your technique. We’re actually about 38,000 lbs, so about the same as you. But we actually have very little issue with sinking in, even on unpaved sites, most likely due to the fact that we most often stay in established campsites with very hard-packed surfaces. The campsite in Zion was almost perfectly level with very hard-packed soil, so there were no sinking or leveling issues at all. We only put pads down when the site is very unlevel, or soft. Now we’ll add “frozen” to that list…. or stay south! LOL

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  9. Without watching video and without experience with leveling Jacks (never used them), my guess is the metal foot froze to the icy surface after you forgot to put wood pads between the foot and ground. Now, I’m going to watch your video to see what really happened.

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      You are absolutely right, Al! We actually have a scissor jack in our Honda (the one that came with it). But we had already retracted the disabled jack cylinder by dumping the air bags when we realized that the jack would have been a perfectly viable option, too. And of course that technique would be THE choice for a gas RV (no air suspension), so looks like we might need a follow-up video. ;-)

  10. A real life problem some RVers could encounter and you show a great way to solve the problem. I figured the cause when I saw the water and your mentioning the temperature drop. I’ve had to carry a 2×4 about 6 feet long when camping in Florida years ago and one persistent jack would not retract all the way. I’ve used it since as the jack still will not retract all the way. I’ve replaced the springs (whew. . what a job) and it still will not retract completely. Talk with HWH and they think it’s a bent ram but it goes back up so easy when using the 2×4. Not that hard to retract when buttoning up. Other than that it works fine.

    I do have one question and that was your comment on retracting the jacks the night before departing. I assume your still had your slide outs extended! I was under the impression that with the slide outs extended that the leveling jacks have to be extended. This prevents the slide from racking in the opening and from hanging up when retracting. So you some times retract the jacks and leave the slides out as there is no problem?

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      Hi Rod! Sounds like you’ve been through the wringer with jack issues. One other way to retract them besides a 2×4 is a scissor jack (or a pin jack if there’s enough room underneath). As far as slides go, our Newmar slides are VERY forgiving and don’t care if we’re level or not when we extend or retract them. The same cannot be said for all brands, and we’d be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If we were in a rig that HAD to have the slides retracted while leveled, and we had the same situation we were in in Zion, we’d either spend the last night with the slides in so we could retract the jacks the afternoon before departing, or we’d pour a bucket of hot water on them just before retracting in the morning.

    2. Rod,
      HAH may have explained this to you already, but your jack will extend because there’s a LOt of hydraulic pressure pushing on the ram to lift the vehicle. The rams are not two way, they’re not retracted with high pressure by the pump, it’s only the weight of the MotorHome or the tension of the springs, (or your 2×4) that pushes the fluid back to the reservoir. Just a small bend in the ram can affect it’s ability to retract. I feel fortunate, I tried to drive off my extended knee jacks once, I dug a trench and bent one of the knees, but didn’t damage any of the rams.

      HWH may have mentioned this, but another possibility is that the hose is damaged inside, causing a restriction. The high pressure of extending pushes past it, but with the low pressure of retracting, it doesn’t allow for proper fluid return. It’s possible to check for this by loosening the line at the jack. Do NOT try this with the weight of the vehicle on it, only using the spring pressure. Safety first! Wear a face shield, long sleeves and gloves and anything else you feel is needed. If the hose is restricting flow, fluid comes out and the ram will return on it’s own. If it’s still sticking, your ram is bent.

      The good news is that using the 2×4 is cheap and relatively easy. If the ram is bent, and it gets annoying enough, HWH should be able to rebuild your jack with a new ram.

      1. Hi David,

        Good idea on removing the hose on the affected jack. I’ll try that here soon when I have someone to help. Hopefully it’s just a restricted hose! Thanks again for the great suggestion.

  11. You really probably only need to stretch one spring. The other spring can be installed and just let the jack foot hang from it. Hold the jack foot up against the ram and then hook the lengthened spring onto the foot.

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      Thanks, Sandy! It certainly wasn’t a fun experience hearing the “BANG!” of that jack foot catapulting into the bottom of the RV (no damage to either, thankfully), but to see Zion in the winter? It was worth it! ;) Hope you’re staying where it’s warm!

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  12. Hey Guys – Thanks for the great ingenious tips! I wonder if you had used some pads under your jack feet if that would have prevented the initial problem. You may have had to drive off and leave one stuck in the frozen tundra but that might have been a better option. Yikes, I never would have made it in the cold. Kudos to you!! Will put this in my memory bank for sure.

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      Hi Julia! If we’d had a Utility Block under there, we surely wouldn’t have gotten stuck, although we’d be prying the block up pronto rather than leaving it behind ;-) The site was very level and hard packed, so no blocks were needed (other than the freezing issue, of course).

  13. A great reminder for those of us that live in warmer climates and don’t regularly camp in freezing temperatures. I will make sure I place Utility Blocks under my jack pads. I bought a set after you recommended them…guess you should have too, LOL!

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      If not for the fact that the site we were in was very level and hard-packed, we would have had our Utility Blocks in place, so the video would have been a boring shot of us prying them up. LOL Thanks Craig. :)

  14. Hi Guys. Will, all I could do was laugh. Not at you, but rather the situations we get into and our resolve. The RV forums do come to our rescue. Thanks for the paint stick concept. I had never thought of such a solution.

    Allow me to add, I try never to put my jacks in direct contact with the ground (dirt or gravel), by always using a wood block. And yes, I have had the blocks stick to the jacks, so this too is not a perfect solution, but one that can be resolved as you said with hot water or even a electric hair dryer.

    On another topic. Thanks again on the WeBoost video and parts list. You made Amazon so happy. Your antenna foot for the roof was genius. Not sure who to credit for that idea, but my thanks. I am rather concerned of the height, but time will tell. Single strength increased from 1-2 bar to a strong 4 bar or from a -111 dBm to about -80 with the WeBoost. I think this will be useful as we head to Big Bend National Park next week.

    re, mike

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      Hi Mike!

      We know lots of people who do the same thing with using something under their jackpads all the time… but we’re usually on the move too much to bother if we don’t need the extra lift or added surface to prevent sinking in soft ground (although our jack feet are almost 1 foot square on their own, so they have a pretty good amount of surface distributing the weight already). We think we’ll just stick to warm-weather camping to avoid this problem in the future! ;)

      Glad the WeBoost video was a help. Having a booster has been a HUGE help in keeping us connected while on the road. It can’t make a signal out of nothing, but it seems like it’s doing just that, sometimes! Have a blast in Big Bend… LOVE it there… the stars are just incredible at night, since it’s so dark.

  15. Having done cold weather maneuvers with the military, I knew what it was by the time I was done reading. We had lectures about that before going out. Something else that can happen in dirt is pulling the tread off the tire, although I never saw it happen. Plus, our Campers aren’t likely to be in the mud as deep as a military vehicle can be.

    Really glad it worked out for you guys, and that it was a cheap fix with no damage. Ingenious using the paint sticks, which you can usually get for free. BTW, I take it you don’t carry a bottle jack? That would have easily pushed the piston back in.

    Love that shot with the snow and your MotorHome. Didn’t even know it would get that cold there.

    Thanks for another great story of life on the road, wishing I was there.

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      “Pulling the tread off a tire”…. Yikes! We’re heading back to the Desert Southwest! LOL We actually do have a scissor jack in our Honda that would have done the trick, but we though of it after we’d already used the airbag dumping technique. That will have to be a follow-up video, a perfect solution for those without air bags (gas rigs). Thanks David!

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  16. That’s some great information and great video on taking care of the issue at hand. As always, thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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      Thanks, Allan! You gotta do what you gotta do, right?!?! We were just glad that the repair ended up being relatively easy! Happy to share our experience if it helps someone else prevent this somewhere down the road!

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      Thanks Terry! Sorry, but we’re not actually sure whether all HWH jacks are like this, as we’ve only had this one RV for the past 12 years. Our only other experience was with our first RV (a Fleetwood Bounder Diesel) and it’s been so long that we can’t even remember what they looked like!

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      1. 40 below zero can be a real eye opener! I was in construction and so I had to deal with ice and snow on a regular basis!!!

      2. Almost 2 yrs ago, we were headed to Disney World and stopped overnight in northern FL before completing the trip. The next morning one of our rear jacks wouldn’t retract. We call our roadside service & waited 3 hrs for them to come and repair it, but they couldn’t get it to release so pried it into place with a 2×4. Needless to say, we spent our week at Disney without leveling our RV. We got back home and called to have it repaired. A couple days before our appt. Hubby was doing battery maintenance and other things to ready the RV. He bumped the leveling switch in the battery compartment and the jacks came down. Oh MY! That rear jack didn’t go back up. He called roadside service again and the guy worked 2 hrs and could get it to release or pry it back with the 2×4 so he removed it. We took the RV in for it’s repair. Of course this was a warranty repair and while they repair shop was waiting on approval, The guys took the jack out of our RV, it was stowed on the kitchen floor since we were headed straight to the repair shop. When the guy laid it down on the shop floor, the jack released and hydraulic fluid sprayed all over the shop. The manager told us it was a good thing it didn’t release while it was on the kitchen floor. We were happy to have a new jack put into place and haven’t had any more trouble with that jack. KNOCK ON WOOD!

        Would those rubber Snap Pads keep it from freezing to the ground?

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          Wow! You went through the ringer on that jack problem. Glad you got it fixed. Those rubber snap pads would likely pop off the jacks before the jacks pull off the RV, but it does depend on how firmly they snap into place. Regular jack pads, like ours, would definitely have prevented our problem. Only the pad would have frozen into the ground, which would of course have been a very minor issue. If we hadn’t been on such level ground, we would probably have been using them, too!

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