One annoying thing that happened while I was in Europe was that my electric step quit working. A quick peek underneath revealed that the actuator, the shock absorber shaped electrically powered thing that extends and retracts to move the step, had come loose at one end because the hole the bolt goes through had broken. The actuator itself still worked fine, so I suspect mechanical damage from road debris or bumping into something, not parts failure. Supporting this hypothesis were some dings and bending at the actuator attachment point. This is 1/8 inch steel, so apparently it took a healthy whack somehow. Photo on left is the old actuator.
I had no way to get this part locally, so I got a piece of rope and tied the step to the frame with about six inches of slack, allowing me to pull the step out and slide it back in as necessary. The actuator is the only connection between the moveable step and your Roadtrek, so you have to have something to attach it, or else the step can keep sliding right past its normal stopping point and fall out on the road, which would be a MAJOR parts headache. Especially in France, where we were – I was about 3500 miles from the nearest Roadtrek dealer. We got along without the electric part of the step for our last month or so in Europe, and my buddies at the Roadtrek parts department shipped me a new actuator once I got home, so now I had to install it. Y’all don’t have to do that with your fancy six year warranties, but for older models and just general information about how this gadget works, here’s the procedure.
Taking the rope loose, I removed the step completely and took advantage of this opportunity to grease the square step supports which slide into channels on the step’s assembly attached to the frame. You really can’t get to these with the step installed, and can only grease the exposed section when the step is extended, so I did it while I had the chance. Mine gets balky with all the road dirt and rough treatment the step gets, and I grease it every few months to keep the actuator from having to do extra work.
Reattaching the two bolts at the ends of the actuator were pretty straightforward – if you need to replace these, make sure to use hardened bolts with Nylock fastener nuts. They take a lot of strain. I wasted ten minutes trying to get it to fit exactly between the two attachment points before I realized that the extending end of the actuator is actually a screw – you turn it to lengthen or shorten the actuator, like a tie rod end. Pretty slick.
There are two wires going into the actuator – red and yellow on the wire coming from the chassis, red and yellow on the new actuator. The boy genius here confidently hooks red to red, yellow to yellow, and… it’s backwards. The actuator retracts when you open the side door, and extends when you shut it. Swapping the wires fixed the problem. DC motors are all the same – reverse the current flow and they move in the opposite direction. This is how your van’s window motors work. What is probably going on here is that on most giant RVs the step is really two or three steps with a scissors mechanism, and the actuator retracts to lower the step – Roadtreks need to do it backwards, and rather than rewire the complex ignition/door switch/manual override switch setup, the smart way to do it is just wire the actuator backwards. Hey, it works for me.
Now we are all fixed up, and Fiona and Sharon can confidently step out of the side door, knowing the step will be there when they need it, just like it always was before. It was quite an adjustment to have to remember to look down and see if the step is out before you exit the vehicle – now we can go back to automatic and not worry about it.