Our problem began when we noticed the electric slideouts seemed to be struggling when we were setting up camp or breaking down camp. We called Technical Support and were told that our batteries must be weak. We thought that was odd because we plug in our electrical connection BEFORE we do the slideouts, so that the load would not be pulling from the batteries. What we learned is that the slides pull from the batteries whether we are plugged in or not. The electrical connection feeds the batteries, but if the batteries are already low (due to us driving during that day), then the slides and jacks will pull from the batteries faster than the electrical connection can recharge them. Our solution is to run the generator during the final hour of any drive, so that the batteries are fully charged when we arrive. ….but alas, our problems proved to be more than a battery issue.
When we went to break camp at Crooked River State Park in Georgia, we were confident that our batteries were fully charged. After pulling in the first of our four slides, we saw smoke billowing out of the front of the RV where the hydraulic pump motor is located. Ohhhhhh, NOT good! We spent the next couple of hours with our manuals figuring out how to do the manual override procedure. We finally got the slides in and the jacks up and planned to look for an RV repair shop. But the second that we started the engine and put the Bear in gear, the jacks went down! What??!! Another call to technical support walked us through the process of disconnecting another wire, and we were able to get the jacks up … but the fault alarm wouldn’t stop. Another call walked us through the final disconnect which stopped the screaming alarm.
Realizing that this would most likely be a costly repair, we pulled out the paperwork for the overpriced Extended Warrantee that we paid for when we bought the Bear last year. I wanted to be sure that we followed their procedure to the letter. (Thank you to “Wheeling It” for their excellent blog post on Extended Warrantees) I knew they would need to pre-approve any repair/replacement before the work was done. But first we needed to find a facility that would look at us … and everywhere we called was booked up weeks in advance! We were able to get Camping World to agree to squeeze us in for an analysis if we were there at the crack of dawn, before their scheduled appointments started. So we drove there and spent the night in their parking lot in North Charleston, SC.
The mechanic determined that the coupler was leaking ATF fluid in the hydraulic pump motor which caused it to overheat and cooked it. The whole thing needed to be replaced. This is not a component that is kept in stock and they scared us with the warning that ordering parts could take from one to six weeks. (6 weeks!!! Nooooo!!) After obtaining approval from the Extended Warrantee bandits, Camping World ordered the components from Lippert. We paid extra for 2-day shipping and 3 days later we were good as new and on the road again. Our warrantee covered about 2/3 of the total cost.
–Check the ATF fluid in the hydraulic pump often. We always checked for any leaking from the jacks, but there was never any visible signs of ATF fluid on the ground. I’m not sure we could have prevented this, and we were told that it was a very unusual breakdown. But we will check the ATF fluid everytime now to insure it’s not disappearing!
–We now have hands-on skills in the connect/disconnect/manual override procedures for the jacks and slideouts. We know the correct size of the allen wrench needed and where to use it. We know the locations of the isolator valve, pressure switch, circuit breakers and each manual override valve. And I just hope we never have to use this knowledge again because those places are NOT easy to reach!