Today was one of those days where Google couldn’t save me and deliver to me a tidy, step-by-step solution to our problem. Fortunately I did figure it out, so if you’ve have problems with your hydraulic Power Gear jack leveling system, jump to the end of this article for my solution plus a BONUS tip.
Automated jack and leveling systems are becoming pretty commonplace in today’s RVs. When we bought our RV and wrote a fat check, the salesman whisked us out into the golf cart and over the the staging area. There we were greeted by a specialist who walked us through the final stage – orientation.
But to be fair, our orientation was more like a fire drill as the guy said to us, “Look, I’m here to show you some of the basics so that you can get out on the road and into a campsite. I’m not going to overwhelm you with too much that frankly, you can read in the book.” And then he began. If anything, he underwhelmed us.
He showed us how to park it, how to use the jacks to level the unit, how to roll out the slides and how to connect water, tanks and electric. Purely the basics. And we were okay with that. I like to read manuals and figure things out. It was less than a week later that we had the unit in for service on several small items and during our conversation with the support specialist, he answered a concern with “Well, those manuals aren’t always accurate and sometimes aren’t even the correct one for your coach.” Well, then.
So we learned much on our own over our first trip, a 10,000 mile loop north from Florida and out West and back. And sure enough, we learned several times, that the manuals are inaccurate and leave too much to the imagination.
Such was the case today.
While it is a great relief to have an automated jack and leveling system onboard our RV, it will wreck your nerves if, when you raise the jacks, pull in the slides then pull the parking brake to pull away from a campsite – alarms go off. “What the hell is THAT?” I asked as everybody looked around – up, down, left, right – trying to isolate where the noise was originating. “It’s in the control panel I think”, someone said.
So we opened it up and sure enough, our jack leveling system is throwing a fit. Every single light is flashing on and off and it’s buzzing like it has a cold. Holy shit, that sounds (and looks) bad. Back in went the parking break and I jumped up to start pressing buttons. I silenced it by pressing the OFF/ON button like a master. We jumped out and visually inspected the four jacks; they were all up and ready for travel. Check.
Jumping into the driver’s seat, I started again, releasing the air brakes. Another fire drill. Not knowing what else do to and assured that everything was safe, we drove to our next stop which was just a simple move from a campground to a wild camping location twenty minutes away. The entire way we listened to the wailing of the alarm.
When we arrived at our wild camping site with our parents in the Arizona desert and parked, the jack leveling system worked as expected so we chalked it up to an oddity. Six days later when we left, we were struck again with the alarms. We spent 20 minutes, taking the jacks down, then up. Back down, wiping the shafts with silicone spray, checking for any obstructions and back up again they went – but only manually now.
While Jonathan was checking the jacks, I was Googling, looking for a reset solution as I was sure there was a limit switch somewhere that was faulty or pinched. Nothing. I tried pressing the buttons as I read on a few websites. Still nothing. Julie had contacted service/support during the past week and she was instructed to unplug the panel.
So we gave up, with visual assurance that the jacks were up then drove to our next campsite about an hour away for a quick overnight stay. The next morning, the same thing.
Today, we were heading to Freightliner for a schedule appointment for an oil change, front tire alignment, maintenance checkup and inspection of the radiator which was low a few weeks ago so we added coolant but have noticed some leaking recently.
I was excited to handover the jacks to Freightliner today so when we checked in, we asked to add it to our list. But the rep rejected our request as the jacks are not part of their chassis assembly but added by Fleetwood RV.
Well that’s a pickle. Challenge accepted.
Since we had to arrive by 2pm the previous day of our appointment in the Freightliner overnight RV parking space (very nice by the way), we were just sitting here most of the day in an asphalt campsite. I don’t “sit” well. I started digging around Google more and found a zero-set/calibration procedure which I hoped would reset any limit switches. It didn’t but it DOES re-calibrate the leveling system which for us, was off a little, both left to right and front to back.
- Turn on the unit.
- Press FRONT 5 times in a row.
- Press REAR 5 times in a row.
- Wait until all the lights turn on and blink, this is calibration mode.
- Using a level that you trust on a surface that you trust, align the RV using left, right, front and rear as needed.
- Once the unit is leveled, complete the calibration by pressing RETRACT ALL JACKS button 3 times in a row.
The system should return to normal and is now calibrated.
Having done this, I was at a loss. I saw chatter on the internet about hydraulic vs electric jacks and frankly, I didn’t know which type of system we had. A look through the manuals offered suggestions that our jacks were hydraulic but given my previous experience with our manuals, I didn’t trust that. Online discussions referenced low fluid being a possibility and the manual suggested what type of fluid to use. However, I had NO idea where the tank/reservoir is located. Then it hit me.
“What if that mysterious fluid leak was hydraulic fluid rather than coolant?” I thought. “What if our low coolant level was unrelated?” So I ran back to the fluid leak which is near the radiator. In fact, the hose to the coolant overflow runs down and under the chassis. It’s wet again. So I open the back corner door – the least opened door on the RV. “I’ll be damned.” There is a fluid reservoir – and it’s a mess. I can barely make out the Power Gear/Power Level logo and now I know.
I peaked in, looked around and sure enough, there is a leak in one of the four valves just above the tank. Following that line down, it overlaps the coolant overflow hose which is wrapped in split corrugated conduit tube. And damned if that split isn’t on the top – perfect enough for the hydraulic fluid to pour into, allowing it to fill up and flow up near the radiator.
At that point, we went into attack mode. We wiped it all clean, then Julie went over to Freightliner service to pick up a quart of power steering fluid (used as the hydraulic fluid). I was able to find the leak, one of the valves was simply loose. A loose nut caused all of this. The second loose nut I’ve found in as many weeks. (The last was a loose wiper I tripped upon seeking to level it.)
After raising the jacks (filling up the hydraulic tank as much as possible), adding fluid above the float level (a little over ½ quart), we fired up the engine, ran a few tests and voilà – all back to normal. And as a bonus, the auto leveling is newly calibrated and worked like a charm. So the internet was right, it was simply low fluid that was not filling up to reset the “jacks down” float which then triggered the alarm when the air brakes were released.
Now, if only the internet (or our own manuals) could have told me where the hydraulic tank was located.