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There are very few issues more frustrating than your RV steps not working. It’s not only a problem of inconvenience but also of safety when entering and exiting your camper or travel trailer. This guide will simplify the job of fixing RV steps.
Why are your RV steps not working? These easy checks will help you troubleshoot why your RV steps are not working:
- Check to see if any wires or debris are in the way
- Check for power at the motor
- Check for power at the control board
- Check for power at the switches
Here, we’ll be showing you how to fix your RV steps, as well as discuss the parts and other things related to them that every RV owner should know.
Electric RV Steps: Automatic and Manual
Automatic RV Steps
Automatic RV steps automatically extend when the door opens and immediately retract on their own as soon as the door closes. This is made possible thanks to the magnetic switch located at the bottom part of the frame and door.
They also automatically retract when you start the ignition. This is a safety precaution so that you don’t begin to drive with your steps down.
Manual Electric RV Steps
Meanwhile, manual electric RV steps feature a switch that you need to toggle to either extend or retract them. You won’t find any door switch because its movement happens manually.
There’s also no ignition switch that prevents you from driving with your steps extended, in case you forget.
CAUTION: Never work under an RV automatic electric step. Serious injury can occur if the steps extend or retract unintentionally. Always remove power from the steps of your motorhome or travel trailer before working on them.
RV Electric Step Problems
The most common issues electric RV steps face are not retracting and not extending properly. Here’s an in-depth explanation on that:
RV steps will not retract.
Your automatic electric RV step should immediately retract as soon as the magnet on the door and door frame align with each other. Sometimes, the steps will not retract if the door and door frame magnet switches aren’t perfectly aligned.
There is often an override switch that allows the steps to stay extended when parked. Make sure the switch is in the auto position or the steps will not function automatically from the door switch.
If the electric steps on your camper are not automatic the only control for them is the rocker switch. Make sure that the rocker switch is working properly and that power is making it to and from your switch when it is pressed. See more details below
RV steps will not extend.
The RV steps should fully extend when the door is opened or the extend button is held. but if the ignition is on then the override switch may be preventing them from extending for safety.
Another reason your RV steps will not extend is that the battery power may not be reaching the motor or control board.
RV Steps Making Noise But Not Moving
Doing a careful visual inspection is the first thing to do when looking for a solution if your RV steps make noise but aren’t moving. Check the underside of the steps and look for any debris that might be caught in between the linkage.
It’s possible that the steps make noise because the motor is trying to move them but something is stopping it.
Listen closely to where the noise is coming from. The most usual places where the sound might come from are the step frame and the gear and motor linkage. If the sound is too loud, then it’s most likely due to a malfunctioning gear and motor linkage. Remove and inspect each part to see what is really malfunctioning.
Check For Damaged Wiring
The wiring carries the power from the battery to the switches, motor and motor controller of the RV steps. The wiring should be securely tied to the steps and frame to prevent them from catching on road debris.
Make sure that the wires are properly secured without hanging loops and that they aren’t entangled with each other or stretched.
They should also be connected to their respective ports and must be clean from debris such as dirt, and corrosion. Using contact cleaner on the connectors can help extend the life of the electric steps on your camper or travel trailer.
All grounding wires should be making a solid connection to the chassis of the motorhome or trailer and should not have rust between the connections.
Check for power at the motor.
The motor is located under the top step and actuates a mechanical linkage to extend and retract the steps. The motor is robust and reliable but can fail due to age or if operated with debris preventing the step from moving.
Electric RV Step Motor Voltage Check
Make sure that the electric RV step motor is operating when it receives 12VDC. To check this, you need to disconnect the motor from the controller.
Check the DC voltage reading using a multimeter. Activate it and make sure that it has a reading of 12 volts. If it shows a positive or negative 12 volts, then there’s possibly something wrong with your motor.
Check For Power at The Control Board.
The motor controller board is the brains of your RV steps. This ensures that you can control the RV steps with a push of a button or by flicking a toggle switch. It features a motherboard that is weather resistant but can fail over time due to a life in harsh environments.
Motor Controller Board
The control board takes the incoming signals from the switches and decides whether the steps should extend or retract. to control the extension and retraction voltage is sent in different directions through the motor.
Electric RV Step Motor Control Board Checks
Your electric RV step might not be working due to a bad motor control board. Check to make sure all the plugs from the motor, switches, and grounds are securely connected to the module and devices.
Disconnect the input power cable that provides voltage from the battery to the motor control board. The controller is a black box mounted beneath the top step.
Use a voltmeter to check for 12VDC on the power wire which is typically red. Also, verify the green ground wire is properly secured to the chassis of the motorhome or trailer.
There’s also a power cable that extends from the step motor to the controller. Check for loose cables and ensure they’re dry and free from corrosion and dust as these can stop it from functioning.
Check for power at the switches.
The switches have to be activated for the voltage to reach the motor and extend or retract the electric steps of your motorhome. Make sure there is no corrosion on the switch connections and that the wires are making good connections.
Extend Retract Rocker Switch
This is the switch that you use to either extend or retract the electric RV steps manually. This comes in different shapes and styles, but the usual ones are toggle or rocker switches to move the electric steps up and down.
On Automatic RV steps, the magnetic switch is the one that makes your steps extend when the door opens and ensures that your RV steps retract when the door closes. There is a magnetic switch found on the sides of the door and the door frame. These should be aligned perfectly for the electric steps to automatically retract.
Ensure that the rocker switch is working properly by using a voltmeter to check for the 12 volts DC located at the back of the switch.
Check the DC voltage by measuring with a voltmeter between the contacts of the switch. The voltmeter should read 12VDC if the button is not pressed and 0VDC when the button is pressed.
If the switch is removed it can be checked with the meter on the resistance setting Ω. The meter should read OL with the switch not pressed and 0Ω with the button pressed. The resistance check can only be done with the switch disconnected from power.
RV Step Maintenance
Electric RV steps are mostly maintenance-free. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to take care of them. Make it a habit to clean them regularly. Use a brush to clean its sides and hinges and remove any debris that may get caught in them.
Also, lubricate the steps at least once every month. Use a lithium-based grease when lubricating. You can also spray some lubricant to every point. Inspect the wires regularly to make sure they are secured properly and ensure that all connections are tight and secure.
By simply following the tips mentioned in this article, you should have all the knowledge to correct the problem of your RV steps not working. You should be able to save money by fixing your RV steps and get more familiar with their operation and regular maintenance.