Til Further Notice
Our Defective RV Hydraulic Jacks are a Serious Safety Concern
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
We’ve been living in our 2021 Vanleigh Vilano 320GK full time for four months and the list of defects continues to grow but none have been more concerning than travelling across the country with Lippert Hydraulic Jacks that deploy while driving down the road. It never even occurred to us that this was a possibility. In our case three out of six jacks were defective and unlike with many drivable RV’s, there is no alarm system to warn the driver that there is a problem. Hopefully this post will help raise an awareness of a significant safety problem that any trailer with a hydraulic leveling system can have.
This was not a good way to begin our long journey from Colorado to our winter destination in Florida. Along the way, we planned on seeing some interesting sights and visiting friends in Austin and in South Texas and suddenly we had an issue that could change our entire itinerary. We were making good time through northern Texas as the weather was optimal the highway was straight and smooth. Then as we slowed to enter the Dalhart city limits a passenger in the car next to us rolled down his window and pointed to our rear before pinching his thumb and index finger to indicate that our jack was down. We pulled into the nearest parking lot to find that it was the drivers side rear jack that had dropped to within one inch of the ground. I retracted the gear and we nervously proceeded to find a place to spend the night. About a mile down the road we crossed railroad tracks that would have likely caused extensive damage if it weren’t for that good samaritan .
Quick searches of the regular forums and Google that night didn’t yield as much information as I expected to find. Our Vanleigh warranty rep. guessed that we had a bad jack and he made arrangements to ship a new rear jack to the KOA in Austin where we had planned to be the following week. It was up to us to find a mechanic who could do the installation and the only one we could find near our intended route was over 700 miles away in Tivoli, Texas. In order to make it to our next reserved campsite at Palo Duro Canyon State Park and ultimately to Tivoli I was told I would need to strap the jack in the up position to keep it from coming down while driving. Unfortunately, the following day we made it only about 60 miles before discovering that the strap was barely holding and now the mid jack was in the process of dropping to the ground. Again I retracted the gear and we were forced to stop, check and retract a number of times before reaching Palo Duro.
At Palo Duro we had a chance to get telephone tech support from Lippert. With them on the phone, we worked our way through the somewhat confusing process of performing a “Hydraulic Cylinder Test”(Link at bottom of post). After all six jacks were tested it was determined that three of them were defective. It was explained to us the internal seals in these jacks had failed which caused not only the failed jack to drop but also the next jack in line. Lippert, Vanleigh and the RV Tech in Tivoli all concurred that there was no way to simply turn off the system without disconnecting and capping all of the hydraulic lines. In order to make it the rest of the way to Tivoli without any of the jacks falling, we had to ratchet all six jacks up with two 3000psi straps on each one.
Vanleigh managed to rush the remaining replacement jacks to us and we made it to Tivoli without incident although we did not have the use of levelers and slide outs and we continued to stop every 100 miles or so to check the jacks and hit the retract button for good measure. Bill at Statewide Mobile RV Repair gets 5 stars from us. His wife provided us with a full hookup site for the night in front of their shop and the following morning they had all the new jacks installed and working properly in just a couple of hours. Bill told us that he had another new unit sitting on his lot with the exact same issue and he had been unable to get replacement jacks as they are back ordered. According to conversations he had with Lippert, they had released a bad batch of jacks and he warned us that we might have problems with any or all of the remaining jacks that came on our unit. As of the time of this post we have travelled over 1000 miles and so far the jacks are staying up while driving but we may never again travel very far without stopping just to make sure.