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Hydraulic Jacks Stuck Out? How to Manually Retract Them!

Hydraulic Jacks Stuck Out? How to Manually Retract Them!

Hydraulic jacks are great for leveling your RV on sloped sites. But what if you have a jack (or jacks) that won’t retract? Your rig is going nowhere if that happens. In this post, we tell you how to manually retract hydraulic jacks.

If your RV has hydraulic jacks, bookmark this post right now to keep the information handy in case you need it.

How Does a Hydraulic RV Leveling Jack Work?

A fully operational jack system is important to your comfort and convenience when using and living in your RV. However, a level RV can also be crucial for the proper functioning of some of your rig’s appliances (absorption-style refrigerators, in particular). If you’ve got a large, heavy RV, it may have hydraulic jacks to level and stabilize the rig.

All hydraulic jack systems use pressurized hydraulic fluid to extend the jack cylinders to lift, level, and stabilize the RV. An electric pump draws hydraulic fluid from a reservoir and pushes it through hoses and cylinders, creating the necessary pressure to extend the jack cylinders. But, when it comes to retracting hydraulic jacks, the various system manufacturers (and even models within a manufacturer’s line of hydraulic leveling systems) can have different mechanisms for retraction.

The two most popular are “Spring Return” and “Power Retract,” so the methods for how to manually retract them are different. Following are the general instructions for manually retracting the two types of hydraulic RV jacks.

Power Down, Spring Return

“Power Down, Spring Return” hydraulic jack systems use hydraulic pressure to extend the jacks (and lift/level the RV), but they use springs to supply the pressure to return the jacks to their retracted position. When the system calls for retracting the jack(s) it opens the hydraulic valve(s) to allow the fluid to return. Once open, the pressure the springs are putting on the jack causes the fluid to flow back to the reservoir, allowing the jack to compress/retract. On some systems, the springs are easily visible alongside the hydraulic jack cylinder, while others have the spring(s) hidden internally.

Power extend, spring retract jacks shown in the retracted position

These are the HWH power extend, spring retract jacks that came on our 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher

To manually retract this type of hydraulic jack system, you typically need to locate the hydraulic power unit so that you can manually open the valves to allow the springs to retract the jacks. This unit (which includes the hydraulic pump, reservoir, and solenoid valves) can be located just about anywhere on your RV. On motorhomes, it may be located under the hood. But it may also be mounted inside a basement compartment or behind a maintenance access panel.

Power Up & Down / Power Retract

Instead of using springs to supply the pressure to return the jacks to the retracted position, these systems use a reversible hydraulic system to both extend and retract the jacks. A system of valves and hoses directs the hydraulic pressure to one or the other end of the hydraulic cylinder. Pressure on one side causes the jack to extend (lifting/leveling the RV), while pressure supplied to the other end causes the jack to retract (lowering the RV). Electronics control the opening/closing of the appropriate valves to move the jack(s) in the correct direction.

You can usually tell that you have Power Up & Down hydraulic jacks if, when you press the retract button, you hear the same (or similar) whining sound from the hydraulic pump motor as it pressurizes the jack cylinders to force them back to the retracted position.

A Lippert hydraulic extend & retract RV leveling jack.

This is an example of what a Power Up & Down hydraulic jack cylinder looks like.

To manually retract a Power Up & Down/Power Retract hydraulic jack system, you’ll first need to release the affected valve(s), and then you’ll need to take another step. You’ll either need to use a 2×4 (or some other long, strong object) to pry the jacks back to the retracted position, or you’ll use a cordless drill to separately/manually operate the pump to return the jacks to the retracted position.

NEVER crawl under an RV (or any vehicle) on jacks unless the frame of the vehicle is properly supported. When the hydraulic fluid is released from a jack, the RV/vehicle could drop or move forward or backward suddenly, causing serious injury.

How to Manually Retract Hydraulic Jacks On an RV

The functioning of hydraulic RV leveling jacks can be affected by time, use, exposure to the elements, and in some cases lack of maintenance. If you’re at home preparing to head out on a camping trip, or if you’re at an RV park preparing to break camp and leave, but your hydraulic RV jack(s) won’t retract… you’ll need to know how to manually retract them before you can move your rig.

Because there are so many different makes & models of hydraulic jack systems, each will have a slightly different manual retraction procedure. We certainly can’t cover them ALL in one post, but there are many similarities between them. So, we’re going to share the procedures for some of the most common RV hydraulic jack systems in use today. Just be aware that before attempting to manually retract the hydraulic jacks on your RV, you should consult the owner’s manual for the make/model of your hydraulic system for specific step-by-step instructions.

Following are the most common brands of RV hydraulic jacks with instructions for manual retraction:

HWH Jacks

If you have hydraulic jacks made by HWH, the following are the general steps you’ll need to take to manually retract your jacks.

HWH hydraulic power unit

One of the first things you’ll need to do to manually retract your HWH jacks is to locate the hydraulic power unit. Above is an example of what it will look like.

  1. Locate the hydraulic power unit. If the pump runs, you can use the sound of the pump to locate the control unit, but be sure to set the parking brake (if applicable) before using the pump. To locate the hydraulic power unit:
    1. Make sure power (either the ignition for a motorized RV or the master power switch for a towable) is on.
    2. Locate the HWH Leveling System control panel (usually located inside the RV, often near the driver’s seat) and power it on:
      1. If the top left button has an “I” or “HYD” on it, push the button one time. When the light above the button is on, the manual arrows on the right side of the panel will function.
      2. If the top left button has a symbol instead of an “I” or “HYD”, the manual arrows will function with the ignition or master power switch on.
    3. To locate the hydraulic power unit, push any of the “UP” arrow buttons to extend a jack (this will cause the pump to run). Have a second person locate the source of the pump noise on the RV (note that the hydraulic power unit may be located in a compartment, mounted to the frame of the vehicle, or it could be located behind the front grill).
  2. Locate the solenoid valves on the hydraulic power unit that control the flow of fluid to the jacks. These will be the aluminum or black-colored cylinders mounted to the hydraulic fluid distribution manifold (an aluminum-colored block of metal with hoses attached).
    1. NOTE: You can find the specific instructions for each HWH leveling system, along with photos to help with the identification and operation of valves, in this document from HWH.
  3. Make sure people and objects are out of the way and that there’s sufficient clearance for the rig to lower before opening the valves.
  4. Slowly open the solenoid valves so the vehicle doesn’t lower to the ground too quickly as the fluid is released. Note that there may be different instructions for motorized RVs vs. towables.

You may also want to have a look at the following short YouTube video from Tiffin Motorhomes:

Note: the white solenoid release tabs shown in the video aren’t present on all HWH systems. For example, our 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire Diesel Pusher had “T-bar” handles that looked like the letter “T” sticking out of the end of each solenoid. Your rig may have some variation of the white tabs or the “T” handles that need to be manually turned. Either way, the effect is the same.

For more information about this particular system, see our post on the HWH Leveling System.

Lippert Power Gear Jacks

Lippert makes several different models of hydraulic RV jacks, each of which has a different manual retraction process.

Spring Retract Model

To manually override a power down spring return jack on Lippert’s Spring Retract model, you’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Open the dump valve by removing the cap and then turning the valve counterclockwise to open it all the way.
  2. Press one or all of the buttons on top of the leg valves to retract the jack(s) you wish to operate. They can be retracted individually or all together. The jacks with which each leg valve corresponds are marked on the manifold. You’ll have a front jack, a roadside rear jack, and a curbside rear jack.
  3. Close the dump valve by turning it clockwise.
  4. Replace the cap.

Here’s a video from Lippert demonstrating these steps;

Power Down/Power Up Model

Now let’s run through the steps required to manually override a power down/power up model of a Lippert hydraulic jack. For this process, you’ll need a few tools.

  • Cordless electric drill
  • Socket adapter bit
  • 7/16″ socket

With these tools on hand, use the following steps to manually override the jacks:

  1. Set the directional switch to retract.
  2. Locate the manual override nut on the top of the motor.
  3. While pressing one of the leg valves, use your drill with a 7/16″ socket to turn the nut in a clockwise direction. This will retract the jack. Note that you can press all of the buttons at once and all of the jacks will retract as you use your drill to turn the manual override nut.

Lippert Level Up Jacks

Next, we’ll look at how to manually override the Lippert Level-Up hydraulic leveling system. For this process, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Cordless drill
  • 1/4″ hex bit
  • 1/2″ socket
  • 5/32″ hex wrench

With these tools on hand, use the following steps to manually override the jacks:

  1. Make sure the rig is supported by the tow vehicle or jacks.
  2. Unhook the power unit motor from the power source using a 1/2” manual socket on the nuts on both sides of the power unit motor.
  3. Use a 5/32″ hex wrench to open the fluid return valve by turning the manual override set screw clockwise.
  4. Use a 5/32″ hex wrench to open the leveling jack valve(s) by turning the manual override set screw clockwise.
  5. Remove the protective label from the power unit to reveal the manual override coupler.
  6. Using an electric drill with a 1/4″ hex bit in the manual override coupler, drill clockwise to retract and counter-clockwise to extend the jack.
  7. Turn the manual override set screw on both the fluid return valve and the jack valve(s) back to the counter-clockwise position after extending or retracting the landing gear or leveling jacks.
  8. Reconnect the power source to the power unit motor.

For more troubleshooting of Lippert systems, see our full post on the Lippert Leveling System.

EQ Systems Hydraulic Jacks

In this section, we’ll look at how to manually retract your EQ Systems hydraulic jacks using a uni pump. To do this, you’ll need the following tools:

  • 1/8″ Allen wrench
  • Cordless drill
  • 1/4″ or 6mm Allen bit

With these tools on hand, use the following steps to manually override the jacks:

  1. Locate your pump – you’ll notice that it has four valves on one side. Using your 1/8″ Allen wrench turn the 1/8″ set screw inside the first valve clockwise until it’s snug. Then repeat the process for the remaining three valves.
  2. Locate the fifth valve on the back side of the pump. This is the DB2 valve. Using your Allen wrench, turn the set screw inside the valve until it’s snug. You should now have all five valves open.
  3. Locate the directional valve. It will have a silver or red knob on the end with which to open the valve. To do so, pull the knob straight out 1/4 of an inch, and then turn the knob 1/4 turn. This will hold open the valve.
  4. Move to the end of the pump with a silver sticker. Remove the sticker.
  5. Use your cordless drill with a 1/4″ (6mm) Allen bit and drill in a counterclockwise direction until your jacks are fully retracted.
  6. When your jacks are fully retracted, return to the valves and close each one by turning the set screws in a counterclockwise direction until they’re snug. Don’t forget the fifth valve on the backside of the pump. Note: It’s important to make sure you tighten the set screws snuggly so the jacks won’t drift when the rig is underway.
  7. With all five valves closed, return to the directional valve that you previously pulled out and turned. Turn the valve back until it snaps, and pop it back down into place.

Those are the four most common brands of hydraulic jacks typically found on RVs, however, there are others as well. As we noted at the beginning of this post, we can’t cover all brands and models, but we’ve given you a good overview of how to manually override/retract jacks that are stuck.

If your rig has a different brand/model of hydraulic jack, refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to manually retract your rig’s hydraulic jacks.

If you can’t retract your jacks because they’re “Power Down, Spring Retract” style and you’ve got a bad spring that doesn’t have enough power to pull the hydraulically-extended jack back to the retracted position, please refer to our post on how to replace RV jack springs.

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John S.

Tuesday 28th of May 2024

Good article. Very good.

It would be even better if it had photos of the new Fifth Wheel and its leveling system. (Do you have 6 jacks?)

Pat

Tuesday 28th of May 2024

I've been paranoid about this happening to me so I often just get 'level enough' and not use the jacks. This was so timely and gives me a bit more confidence to utilize them for their intended use.

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 28th of May 2024

That’s great, Pat! Motorhomes/RVs are like any piece of equipment… they’re better off being used regularly to keep everything working. Sitting around not being used does a lot of damage over time. Enjoy being level! 😉

Joe C

Tuesday 28th of May 2024

Gentlemen, this is a phenomenal subject. I found myself in this situation and was able to figure out how to retract the jacks but I worry about the hydraulic slide-out that uses the same hydraulic system. This of course, is not "Spring Return" so I need to learn how to manually retract it as well! Thank you.

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 28th of May 2024

Hi Joe! Sorry you had to experience a hydraulic jack failure! The retraction procedure for your hydraulic slides should be similar to how power up & down jacks work, since hydraulic slides are powered for extension and retraction. But here’s hoping you NEVER have to figure that out! 🤞🤞

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