Troubleshooting Hydraulic Issues

My last post ended with Lindsey trying to bring the living room slide in to test my repairs on the electrical issues we were having. Unfortunately, when Lindsey pushed the button to retract the slide, nothing happened.

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but we’ve been super busy getting things ready for our departure and I haven’t had time to write the followup from my last post. If you have not read it yet or need a refresher, go check it out.

My last post ended with Lindsey trying to bring the living room slide in to test my repairs on the electrical issues we were having. Unfortunately, when Lindsey pushed the button to retract the slide, nothing happened. After investigating the pump, I found that most of the hydraulic fluid (actually, our hydraulic pump uses transmission fluid) had leaked out of the reservoir and into the drip pan. When Lindsey would push the button, I would hear a click, but nothing would happen.

This was obviously a huge issue. For starters, I knew nothing about hydraulics other than the fact that their pumps are expensive to replace. To make things worse, the RV was sitting in our driveway with the jacks and slide outs fully extended. These systems depend on the hydraulics to function and the RV cannot be driven when they are in use. This meant that if we could not get the hydraulics to work, we wouldn’t even be able to drive the RV to a repair shop.

So, at this point, the most important thing to us was to get the hydraulic pump working so we could retract the jacks and slides. My first thoughts were that there is a safety mechanism in the pump to prevent it from burning out and that it must engage if there is no fluid in the reservoir. I went to the Advanced Auto Parts across the street to get some hydraulic fluid and a funnel. Then, we filled the reservoir. I was hoping that the pump would start working and we would be able to find the leak. Unfortunately, the pump did not magically start working and the reservoir was leaking steadily. I could not figure out where the leak was coming from, though.

After several hours of scratching my head and doing research, I learned that this particular model of hydraulic pump is notorious for having leaky o-rings in the gasket that connects the reservoir to the pump. There was, at one point, a recall that is no longer honored by the manufacturer.

After a few more fruitless attempts to get the pump running, I was getting seriously discouraged. I took a shower and got ready for bed. With my last flicker of hope, before crawling into bed, I decided to do a little more research. I found a forum post at least four pages deep in Google search results dealing with a similar issue. On the fifth page of this forum I found a comment that mentioned something about a separate breaker that is tied directly into the wire from the batteries to the hydraulic pump. I immediately went searching for this breaker in the battery compartment beneath our stairs, and sure enough, I found it! After flipping a little switch, I heard the pump kick on. My heart skipped a beat. While holding my breath, I pressed the button to bring in the slide outs. They retracted flawlessly. The jacks did as well. I gave out a huge sigh of relief knowing that the hydraulic pump works, even though it leaks.

Now that the slide outs had been retracted, I could test to make sure I fixed the short in the wire that kept causing the fuse to blow. Success! With that, I was able to put the first notch in my RV repair belt.

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Since this experience, I have been dealing with a handful of other maintenance issues with the RV. The hydraulic pump is still leaking, our automatic steps broke while we were in the UP, some of our outlets stopped working, and I installed a cell phone antenna on the roof. Though this may sound like a lot of work, and it is, I think it is completely worth it. I am by no means, at this point, regretting our decision to purchase a twelve year old RV. To be honest, I have actually enjoyed working on the RV. I have always loved to learn how things work, take things apart, put them back together, and fix things. I really do enjoy being (or learning to be) a handyman. Ultimately, the payoff for all this hard work will be getting to explore amazing places, do amazing things, and spend as much time as possible with my beautiful wife and puppies. 🙂

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