POWERGEAR TIPS

Following is an article submitted by Lyn Garland which includes several interesting tips....

Testing procedure, Power Gear, Incorporated (PGI) levelers on 1997 Discovery Motorhome.

The levelers stopped working in 1999.  The initial problem was that the front jack would not retract smoothly.  The problem then progressed to where the front jack would not retract fully.  At that point I stopped using the levelers fearing that I could get them down but not retract them.  

For many reasons there were only sporadic efforts to repair the levelers until November, 2001.  Initially we checked for voltage at the battery terminal on the solenoid attached to the leveler pump motor.  There was 12VDC present but efforts to engage the solenoid from the control panel were unsuccessful.  We then made a jumper cable out of an extra battery cable, eliminating the solenoid from the circuit, but the motor still would not operate.  

We then removed the motor/pump/tank housing from its mount, leaving the hydraulic hoses connected.  The motor, which is a common - but unidentified - auto starter motor was removed from the pump housing.  It is attached by two long bolts which are easily removed.  A plastic hammer was needed to separate the motor from the pump.  When the motor was removed the armature was slightly rusted and the stators (field coils?) were heavily rusted.  At the end of the armature is a clevis device that engages a fitting on the pump and drives the pump.  The pump could be turned by hand after the armature was removed from the motor housing and inserted into its receptacle on the pump.

I called PGI technical assistance and was advised that they purchased the motor and pump as an assembly and that the cost for a replacement item was $700.  The Tech Rep with whom I spoke said that he did not know what kind of starter was used on the unit.  When advised that there were no gaskets on either end of the starter motor and that the unit was badly rusted he laid the blame on Fleetwood and their location of the assembly.  It should be noted that even if the Tech Rep could have identified the make of the starter, it is extremely unlikely that you could find a replacement motor because of the peculiar device welded to the end of the armature to drive the pump.  

The motor was repaired in one day by Arrowhead Alternator, Incorporated (AAI), Lovejoy, GA (770) 477-1990, for $80.  AAI is a large company that rebuilds automotive starters, alternators and generators for the auto parts industry.  They do accept jobs from individuals and I presume that they will handle work via UPS, etc, but do not know for sure about that.  They are located about 25 miles from our house.  

We installed the repaired motor and a new starter solenoid and reattached the assembly to the motorhome frame.  The initial test, using the control panel in the drivers compartment, extended the right rear leveler jack only.  The motor turned when the left rear and front buttons were pushed, but there was no movement of the jack.

We then tested each of the four valve control solenoids.  There are solenoids for the front, left and right rear jacks and the retract valve.  The solenoids were tested by grounding the control side of the solenoid.  There are two wires for each solenoid, 12VDC and control, or ground.  The power leads are a parallel circuit, all tied together in a wire loop.  The control wires are all single leads.  We got a spark and could hear the solenoid work when the terminal was grounded.  

We then removed the control wire from the right rear valve solenoid and connected it to the left rear and then to the front valve solenoids.  By pushing the right rear button on the control panel we extended those jacks in sequence.  

To retract the jacks we connected a three lead ground wire to the retract valve solenoid negative terminal, to the negative of one of the other valve solenoids and to ground.  In this way we retracted each jack in turn.  

We checked the solenoid to control panel wire by grounding the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th terminals in the eight pin strip that connects to the back of the control panel.  We tested one terminal at a time and got an electrical spark each time.  This verified that the wiring was not damaged.  

I then called PGI Technical Assistance and discussed our test procedure.  This conversation revealed that we should have used a multi-meter and checked for the presence of 12VDC on each pin, but the end result was the same.  This Tech Rep offered me, free of charge, a new control panel which we received four days later.  The new control panel was installed and the levelers work properly.  

This repair was fairly easy.  The motor/pump/tank unit is rather heavy and we supported it on blocks to keep the strain off the hydraulic hoses.  When reinstalling the unit we used a floor jack so we could align the unit and install the bolts that hold it to the frame.  This is not absolutely necessary, but if you don't have some sort of materials handling aid you will need two people and the task would be quite difficult.  

Lyn Garland
36 RM