My Temporary Fifth Wheel Power Jack Repair

Details of my MacGyver-like Fifth Wheel Power Jack Repair

A few weeks ago we were all setup camped at Zion National Park when we notice a strange clunking noise as we moved about the fifth wheel. Along with the clunking, it also seemed to be wiggling around a lot in the front end. I headed out and tracked the noise and excess movement to the front power landing jacks. Hmm, weird they had never done that before. I opened up the front storage area and scoped out the mechanics of them. Everything appeared to be OK so I tried to lower them a bit. BAM! Clunk Clunk BAM! Anne and I quickly looked at each other. Crap! That wasn’t a good sound!

I opened up the front storage area and scoped out the mechanics of them. Everything appeared to be OK so I tried to lower them a bit. BAM! Clunk Clunk BAM! Anne and I quickly looked at each other. Crap! That wasn’t a good sound!

I had heard stories of stripped gears and sheared off pins and all sorts of other horrors that can befall the power jacks leaving you stranded. On closer inspection, it looked like the power motor bracket has somehow come loose and this enabled the motor to spin right around the shaft. This made me feel a little better as it was unlikely I would be dealing with damaged gears. The cause turned out to be a molded plastic stop had cracked and sheared off the gearbox housing. See the photo below for a better understanding.

Atwood Gear Box

Atwood Gear Box

So the next task was how to fix it? We were a fair distance from any major RV parts source that would just happen to stock this part and changing out the gear box is not something I was going to tackle at the RV Resort, so it was time to improvise. Being a full-timer I always pack along a good selection of tools, odds and ends for possible repairs, things like nuts and bolts, screws, tape, bailing wire, all sorts of stuff like that. Having these things allowed me to cobble together a Macgyver-like solution. With my cordless drill, I made a hole through the corner of the gearbox housing and used a nut, bolt, and a ¾ inch socket to fashion a temporary fix. Whaalaa we were back in business and the power jacks were working smooth again without any wiggle or play.

Gearbox Fix   Gearbox Fix 2

Gearbox Fix 3

Video Detailing the Gearbox Temporary Fix

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I was pretty lucky that when the motor was doing the funky chicken dance it didn’t damage any nearby wiring. Once I get situated at our summer RV Park I will be changing out the gearbox. This will give me a chance also to take things apart and examine the state of the gearing and mechanisms in greater detail. While apart I will be able to clean out the old grease and re-lube everything. Of course, I will document everything and post it on the blog, so be on the lookout for that.

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  • Dave’n’Kim

    Looking forward to your blog on what you find and how it all works when you take that apart Ray! That area has always been a worry of mine.. Hearing the odd ‘skip’ clunk when operating ours sometimes, I know I SHOULD take it apart and look at it, while at the same time being scared how hard it all is, and just hoping it will keep going… (and carrying blocks of wood and bottle jacks if it were to fail in the boonies!)

    • I’ve had thoughts about it failing out in the boonies too, my plan is to use the truck spare and trailer spare, stack them and on top use my hydraulic floor jack I carry. Figure the tires would make a pretty good wide platform. I have a bunch of wood blocks too if need be, also have a bottle jack. Hopefully it never comes to that. 🙂

  • Frank Kipps

    If it was me I would remove both your temp. fix and the screw on the other side and replace both with a double headed machine bolt. That would be stronger in the long run. It almost sounds like Atwood has a built in (come back to a parts store and buy a new gear reducer) and that’s why the nubs were made of plastic. Don’t forget, the inline fuse is there to protect the motor if when lowering or raising the jacks there is a problem. Just my 2 cts…..

    • Not a bad idea Frank, I could do the mod with machine bolts to the existing one and buy a replacement to have on had just in case I needed it down the line. Thanks!