You know already. How stuff just sometimes happens — all matter tends toward disorder, things you wish tight become looser, things you wish looser become tight, and things you wish permanent become broken.
Two principles are in play in the repair we did this time: we didn’t want to spend $100 to replace our steps, and we didn’t want to throw away perfectly good steps we might be able to fix — why fill the landfill?
It is in this spirit, we looked at our folding steps for our rolling house. At less than nine years after manufacture, they are broken, listing to the right until someone steps onto them. Put weight onto them and the steps sag at the right side five or six inches. No, not because any certain someone has gained any weight. The steps are broken.
See the 3/8″ rod sticking through the side of the step? This rod projects through both side plates and serves as the pivot for the steps. It also keeps the steps aligned so they hit the correct points to stop level and support our weight.
You might be able to visualize from this picture how the rod doesn’t come through the hole. This 3/8″ steel rod sheared off cleanly short of the hole. We are surprised this failed so young — everything else on the trailer seems to hold up so well. But we’ve read the manufacturers don’t intend their RVs for full-time use.
This failure was probably an anomaly. We’re neither one very heavy although Jim does tend to goof around an bounce on the steps sometimes. Though we think the product was designed more with an emphasis on economy than durable service — we’ll get back to this point.
We bought a $5 length of 3/8″ steel rod at the building supply store. Jim removed the four bolts attaching the steps under the trailer. The steps fit easily onto the truck’s tailgate, Jim’s workbench. Jim sawed off the rod from both inside brackets and ground the remaining weld material to clean the holes.
The new 3/8″ rod slipped through snugly with less than 12″ excess, and Jim placed two 3/8″ washers in between the step pivot brackets. Jim sawed the rod off with 1/2″ projecting through each end of the side brackets, and smoothed the cut end so it won’t catch our hands or trailer washing cloths. The excess could be greater but doesn’t need to be — the rod will be held centered in the next step.
Jim drilled a 3/32″ hole through the new rod just inside each pivot bracket. Holding the washer against the pivot bracket, Jim put a cotter pin (really a #6 finishing nail bent in place) to keep the washer in place and prevent the rod from slipping out.
This might work better than the original design, which was quicker to assemble and fasten than this is. The original fabrication had the 3/8″ rod welded in place at each pivot bracket. The 3/8″ rod wore in exactly the same place every time the step was folded out, folded in, and stepped upon. Now, the 3/8″ rod is free to spin and less likely to wear in one place. If our guess is correct, this new plan will outlast the old original.
The step will be sort of fixing itself, as it were.
The repair cost us less than $6 including the 3/8″ rod, a pair of flat washers, and two #6 finishing nails. We also added a lock washer for each of the four bolts attaching the step to the trailer.
See you down the road!