RVs are big machines with plenty of moving components. One of the simplest and most convenient of these components are the steps. RVs have steps that extend and retract, to make boarding and getting off easy. However, sometimes RV steps won’t retract properly, but why does this happen?
If you have manual RV steps, the issue is probably going to be with the rocker switch or a broken component. If you have fully electric and automatic RV steps, the issue is likely with the magnet switches, the wiring, the motor, or the motor control board.
Let’s figure out exactly why your RV steps aren’t retracting and most importantly how to fix them the right way.
Automatic And Manual Electric RV Steps Explained
There are two different kinds of RV steps that you need to be familiar with. This includes manual RV steps and automatic RV steps. Let’s quickly figure out how both of these work.
How Do Manual RV Steps Work?
Manual RV steps work very simply. First, they are bolted to the frame of the RV, right under the door. As the name implies, they are manual, which means that you need to manually extend and retract them. You usually just have to grab them and pull them out, then push them back in. It’s as easy as that.
Some may come complete with some sort of lever or toggle that you can operate to make this process easier. However, the defining feature here is of course that they have no electric components whatsoever.
How Do Electric RV Steps Work?
Electric RV steps are also welded or bolted to the frame of the RV. However, as the name implies, there is nothing manual about them. Electric RV steps come complete with a small motor that allows them to retract and extend without any effort required on your behalf.
With electric steps, the motor is activated with the flip of a switch or the push of a button. When you push the button, the steps retract, and vice versa.
Now, there are actually also automatic electric RV steps. These are a bit more complicated. Here, there will be a magnetic sensor present. You’ll have one magnet on the door of the RV and another on the door frame.
Then, when the door is opened, the steps automatically extend, and then retract when the door is closed. These also tend to have an extra safety feature. They will usually automatically retract when the ignition is turned on, and also usually won’t extend if the ignition is turned on.
How To Fix RV Steps That Will Not Retract
Ok, so how to fix RV steps that won’t retract depends on the type of steps that you have. If you have manual RV steps that have no electric components, the only thing that can be broken is one of the moving parts on the steps.
In other words, the hinges where the steps move to fold or unfold may be broken, damaged, rusted, or just stuck. If you have manual RV steps that won’t work, the only thing to be done is to inspect them for damaged components. If something is damaged, you may be able to repair it or replace a certain part.
If you see that the steps are really rusty, which has effectively rusted them shut, you may be able to remove the rust with rust removal chemicals.
Although, generally speaking, if this is the case, if the rust is too severe, you will need to replace them. However, things do of course look different for electric steps, especially for automatic electric steps.
3 Common Issues With Electric or Automatic RV Steps + Fixes
If your electric RV steps won’t retract, particularly if they are automatic RV steps, there are three common issues that you may be dealing with.
- Misaligned Magnet Sensors – If your RV has automatic steps, the most common issue as to why they may not retract is if the magnet sensors are not aligned properly. Automatic RV steps use magnet sensors, one on the frame of the door and the other on the door. When the door opens and the magnet sensors disconnect, the steps unfold. When the sensors come back together, the steps fold back up. If these sensors are not aligned properly, the steps will not work. Therefore, make sure that these sensors are properly aligned. If the sensors are aligned properly, but not working, they will need to be repaired or replaced.
- Override Switch in the Wrong Position – RVs with automatic steps usually always have a safety override switch. This switch is designed so that the RV steps stay extended when the RV is parked. In other words, it’s a switch that turns the automatic closing function off so that the steps don’t close when you park the RV. However, if this switch is not in the auto position, but has been engaged, then the steps will not retract on their own. Simply put, make sure that the override switch is in the auto position.
- Issues with the Rocker Switch – If your RV steps are electric, but not automatic, the issue may very well be with the rocker switch or button. This is the switch or button that you press to extend and retract the steps. The rocker switch may have faulty or damaged wiring. You may need to open things up to ensure that the rocker switch is working properly and that it is getting power. The issue of damaged or faulty wiring is something that we will take a closer look at below. We’re also going to look at some other common issues with both electric and automatic electric RV steps, such as issues with the motor or control circuit.
Can You Manually Retract RV Steps?
Yes, you can manually retract RV steps, even electric ones. Now, let’s keep in mind that if something with the electric steps is broken, manually retracting them and forcing them to shut may not be good for them.
You may damage physical and electrical components even more by forcing the steps shut. However, if the steps won’t close and you need to get going, you may not have any other option but to close them manually, something we are about to cover below.
How To Manually Retract RV Steps
Follow the steps listed below to manually retract your RV steps. Remember that this should really be a last resort if all else fails.
- Park your RV somewhere that is perfectly flat and has enough light for you to see. If you want to ensure maximum safety, put some kind of rocks or blocks in front of the wheels so the RV cannot roll around.
- You now need to locate the retraction mechanism of the RV steps. This is probably something that you are going to need to consult the owner’s manual for. Once you have found the retraction mechanism you need to identify a few vital components. These components include the linkage pin or linkage bolt, the step linkage, and the step frame. The step linkage is the mechanism that automatically retracts the steps.
- In order to retract those steps manually, you will need to remove the linkage bolt or linkage pin. If it is a bolt, you will need to unscrew it. If it is a pin, you will need to undo the lock and then remove the pin.
- You are now going to need to remove the step linkage from the step frame. the step frame is just the steps themselves. Once you have removed the linkage bolt or pin, you can then unlink the step linkage from the frame of the steps. Remember, the step linkage is the mechanism that retracts and extends the steps. You may need to pull the linkage out of the link slot with a bit of force. Once the step frame and the step linkage have been disconnected, move on to the next step.
- With everything unlinked, you can now just push the steps back into place. If something is a bit rusty or stuck, this may take a bit of force. If you need to keep the steps in place, and you don’t know how or don’t want to reattach the step frame to the step linkage, use a rope to tie the steps in place. However, whenever possible, you should re-attach the linkage. This will allow the steps to stay retracted while you drive.
5 Other Reasons Why Your RV Steps Aren’t Working + Fixes
Let’s now take a look at some other common issues that those RV steps might be having, and what you can do to take care of them.
Do keep in mind that RV steps not extending will be caused by the same issues that are causing them to not extend.
Whether they aren’t retracting or extending, the root cause is probably going to be the same thing. Chances are that if they don’t extend, they also don’t retract, and vice versa.
1. The Steps Make Noise But Won’t Move
One common issue is that the steps are making noise, but won’t move. If this is the case, you know that the motor is still working. It’s trying to move the steps, but something is stopping them. If this is the case, the first thing you need to do is to look for any kind of obstruction.
Your steps could be really dirty and something is stopping the hinges from moving. Maybe the hinges or other moving parts are rusted shut. Whatever the case may be, you need to remove or fix the obstruction.
If you can’t see any obstruction, the motor linkage and gear may be broken or misaligned. If the motor is not properly connected to the gear on the steps, or if the gear is broken, it’s going to make noise but not move. If you suspect this is the case, you will need to open things up to inspect the linkage and gear.
Unfortunately, this is going to require some mechanical skills, and it may be something that you cannot fix on your own. That said, if you know your motors, you are welcome to attempt a repair.
2. The Wiring Is Damaged
If the RV steps aren’t moving at all, and moreover, if there is no noise happening, the issue could very well be the wiring. If there is no power at all, it could be the wiring that is damaged. So, you need to inspect the wiring to see whether or not it is in good condition. If any wires are damaged, you will need to fix or replace them.
If all of the wiring looks to be in good condition, you next want to make sure that they are clean. Dirt, debris, and corrosion can all play roles here. Make sure that everything is clean.
If everything is clean and in good condition, the other thing to do is to make sure that everything is properly plugged into the appropriate ports. If the wiring looks good, move on to the next section, as you may have an issue with the motor itself.
3. Issues With The Motor
If the wiring is fine, the override switch is in the right position, and the magnet sensors are aligned, but the steps still won’t extend or retract, it could be the motor that is to blame.
Here, the motor may turn on and make noise, although it is likely that the motor isn’t doing anything at all. What you want to do here is to use a multimeter to see if the motor is working.
It may depend on the model, but the motor should be showing a reading of 12 volts of power. Check the owner’s manual to see how much power it has or is producing. If the voltage reading on the multimeter is anything other than the exact number it should be, then you likely have an issue with the motor.
Unless you really know motors, you will probably need a professional to look at them for you. Motors have many components, so you do need to be intimately familiar with them. If you don’t know what you are looking for, this is going to be more or less impossible to handle on your own.
4. Issues With The Control Circuit Board
There may also be an issue with the control circuit, the electronics that control the RV step. The control board is what takes in the signals from the rocker switch or magnetic switch and then determines whether or not to retract or extend the steps.
You need to inspect for any kind of physical damage. If there is physical damage, you will likely need to replace the circuit board.
You then also want to make sure that the circuit board is getting power, so get that multimeter out again. If the circuit board isn’t getting power, make sure that all of the wires are in good condition and are properly connected to their respective ports.
5. Physical Damage To The Steps Themselves
It may also be the case that the steps themselves are bent or warped to the point where they can no longer function. If this is the case, you will need to replace the steps themselves.
How Do You Test Electric RV steps?
We did just go over this in detail, but let’s just sum up all of the checks you need to do on your RV steps to see why they aren’t working properly.
Follow the steps listed below in the order that they are listed. This should allow you to determine what the problem is, or at least what the problem isn’t.
- Inspect the steps for rust, obstructions, or any other sort of physical damage.
- Make sure that the override switch is in the automatic position.
- Check to see that the magnetic sensors on the door and door frame are properly lined up.
- Make sure that all wiring is plugged into the appropriate ports and well supported.
- Make sure that there is no corrosion present, specifically on the wires.
- If the steps and the wires themselves look good, make sure that everything is getting power.
- Check all switches, the motor, and the control circuit board to ensure that they are getting power.
- If everything is getting power, inspect the motor itself. Look for damaged components, especially with the gear and gear linkage.
- Inspect the control circuit board for physical damage. If the motor or control board is physically damaged, the broken components will require repair or replacement.
With all of the provided information, you should now be able to determine exactly why your RV steps are working properly. Remember, if you aren’t familiar with motors or electronics, you may need professional assistance.