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How To Repair An Automatic RV Step

Automatic steps on an RV certainly add convenience and even a cool factor. But automatic RV steps have many moving parts and take a lot of abuse from us constantly stepping on them. Those moving parts eventually wear out and need replacing. I'll show you how easy it is to save money and repair your broken automatic RV steps yourself. I'll explain how automatic RV steps work, how to troubleshoot a problem, and how to replace a broken step motor, gear linkage or controller.

I've also included how-to videos, step-by-step repair instructions, and links to replacement parts.

How does the automatic step work?

Automatic steps are triggered by the opening and closing of your entry door (or screen door). There are two switches that control the expanding and retracting of the step.

Switch #1 (step trigger) is magnetic. It triggers the step to open when the door is opened and it closes the step when the door closes. The magnetic switch is located in the lower portion of the door frame and is triggered when a magnet in the door passes in front of it. If the magnet in the door is not perfectly aligned with the switch in the door frame when the door is closed the step won't activate.

Switch #2 (override switch). This toggle switch is typically located near the door and is used to keep the step extended when parked. If the switch is on, the step should stay out.

NOTE: If you have Class A or Class C motorhome, the steps will typically retract when the engine is running (regardless of the override switch position).

The rest of the switching for the step occurs in the step controller board which you can see in the upper left of this photo.

Kwikee RV Step Components - RVWITHTITO

Step Controller

Follow the black wire bundle from the connector to the black box mounted to the step. That's the Step Controller.

You'll find several colored wires going into the controller. There should also be a power cable from the controller to the step motor.

Refer to the Lippert manuals for your specific Kwikee step model for the correct wiring. You can find the manual for your Kwikee step model here.

Step Motor

The motor is mounted on top of the gear linkage with three bolts. It drives the gear linkage in forward or reverse when activated by the controller. It will stop turning when it can't move anymore (i.e. step is fully extended or retracted).

Step Gear Linkage

The gear linkage has a metal arm that moves the step in and out. When the motor moves the gear, the gear moves the metal arm either in or out which, in turn, moves the step. There is no power connected to the gear linkage. It's just a gear, an arm and some grease. It's secured to the step frame with four nuts and lock washers. The metal arm is connected to the metal bar with a pin and lock wire.

Troubleshooting the step?

Let me start by sharing my approach to troubleshooting a step problem. Then I'll point you to a troubleshooting guide that Lippert published for the Kwikee RV Step.

I think you'll find Lippert's troubleshooting instructions to be pretty good. It should take you the rest of the way towards diagnosing your step problem.

In my experience the most common symptoms of a broken Kwikee step are either nothing happens when the door opens and closes, or the wrong thing happens (usually accompanied by an unwanted noise).

So continuing down that path, here is the approach I took to troubleshooting my step problems.

Symptom: Step does not move when triggered

Start by listening for any noise when the door opens and closes.

If you heard anything trying to move, you've got power to the step

The switches and cable connections are probably working. The problem is likely the step motor, gear linkage or step frame getting stuck.

If you don't hear anything, determine if the step is getting power

First verify that the magnet in the door and door frame switch are aligned. They should line up when the door is closed. Then check if power is getting to the step motor.

Here's a quick test for a bad motor

Disconnect the power cable from the motor. Then use a multi-meter to check for a DC voltage reading of around 12 volts when the door switch is activated.

Disconnecting Power from Kwikee RV Step Motor - RVWITHTITO

NOTE: It's not important whether the voltage is positive or negative. The motor rotates in the reverse direction when the polarity is reversed (negative voltage).

If a positive or negative voltage is present when the door switch is activated, then the step motor is getting power, but not working. The step motor is likely bad and needs to be replaced.

WARNING: Be careful where you place your hands and arms when reconnecting plugs on the step. Make sure you're not in the way of the step mechanism. The step may activate and cause serious injury.

Symptom: Step tries to move, makes noises or doesn't stop

The cause of this problem is likely a moving part. Start by listening closely to figure out where the sound is coming from. You should be able to tell whether the sound is coming from the step frame, or from either the motor or gear linkage.

If it's a loud noise or doesn't stop, it's likely a bad gear linkage or motor. You'll have to remove and inspect both to figure out which needs to be replaced.

Still Can't Figure Out The problem?

I've simply shared some common problems I've encountered. If you're still not able figure out the cause of your step problem, follow the troubleshooting procedures in the Kwikee Testing Procedures for your Kwikee step model to isolate the bad component.

You can find the Lippert Kwikee Step manuals here

Where to find replacement parts?

Here are the parts I've used to repair my steps. Before ordering, be sure to check your model to see if it's compatible.

You can find most these replacement parts on Amazon. If these are not the parts you need, try an Amazon search for "Kwikee RV Step Parts".

Replacing Step Motor, Gear Linkage and Controller

Replacing Kwikee RV Step Gear Linkage - RVWITHTITO

How to Replace the Step Motor?

Here are the general steps to replace the motor assembly

  1. Disconnect power to the step
  2. Disconnect the power plug from the motor assembly
  3. Using a 10mm socket, remove the 3 screws holding the motor assembly
  4. Lower it straight down being certain not to drop the gear, washers and pin on the gear assembly side of the motor
  5. Move the washers, gear and pin to the new motor
  6. Apply new grease to the gear if needed
  7. Insert motor assembly into gear box and insert the three screws
  8. Tighten the screws down with a 10mm socket
  9. Reconnect power plug to the motor assembly
  10. Reconnect main step power (four way connector) while staying clear of moving parts
  11. Test Step operation

Here is a video I created that walks you through how I tested and replaced the step motor on my RV.

How to Replace the Gear Linkage?

Since the gear linkage is located under the step motor, you'll also have to remove and replace the motor as part of this process.

Here are the general steps to replace the gear linkage

  1. Disconnect power from the step
  2. Disconnect the power plug from the motor assembly
  3. Using a 10mm socket, remove the 3 screws holding the motor assembly
  4. Lower it straight down being certain not to drop the gear, washers and pin on the gear assembly side of the motor
  5. Remove the four nuts and lock washers on each corner of the gear assembly
  6. Remove the lock wire and pin from the arm connecting the step to the gear assembly
  7. Remove the gear assembly and replace it with a new one (it should already be pre-greased)
  8. Reinstall the motor using the new inner gear (the small one) from the gear assembly
  9. Insert the three bolts securing the motor
  10. Reconnect main step power (four way connector) while staying clear of moving parts
  11. Test Step operation

Here is a video I created that walks you through the gear linkage replacement process.

How to Replace The Controller Board?

Replacing the controller board is pretty straight forward and mostly involves reconnecting wires. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Disconnect the main connector to step and controller unit
  2. Remove the bolts securing the controller board (leave wires connected)
  3. Replace the controller board with the new one and secure it with the bolts
  4. Move each wire from the old controller to the new controller
  5. Reconnect the main plug to the step
  6. Verify proper step operation

Conclusion

If you have an automatic step then eventually one of these components will probably wear out and need replacing. I hope I gave you enough information here to inspire you to repair it yourself. I've done it twice on my RV and am starting to collect spare parts. It really is a quick job if you're able to crawl under the step.

Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave them below and I'll try to give you an answer or point you towards one.

Have questions or something to add?

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