Trying to troubleshoot and repair a broken fifth wheel landing gear leg is no fun. So the best way to fix fifth wheel legs is to remain calm, and do it with a smile. This is especially important if your fifth wheel legs won’t retract, when camped out in the middle of nowhere. Then there is a big storm coming. And you need to get to your winter destination soon. That’s what happened to us.
We were boondocking in the Eastern Sierras on our way back to the Fountain of Youth for the winter. It was already cold and a big storm was headed our way. With winds picking up, we needed to bug out, and quick. That’s when I discovered our seized landing gear leg. So I extended the legs to hitch up, and the landing gear motor ground to a groaning stop. I had flashbacks to the first time I replaced our broken landing leg gearbox. That was ten years ago, in our first fifth wheel.
First you have to figure out what is causing the broken fifth wheel landing leg not working. When I pushed the switch again, nothing happened. So I figured it may an electrical issue. It was, kind of…
How to Troubleshoot Stuck Fifth Wheel Legs
I checked the inline fuse nearest to our fifth wheel landing gear legs. It was blown. Simple fix! Right? Wrong. Not quite, not this time. I replaced the fuse, and checked around the legs and gearbox for any obstructions. So I flipped the switch and retracted the legs a bit. Then I raised them again, and the motor groaned again. The fifth wheel legs stopped moving. Then the switch stopped working, again. I checked the new fuse and sure enough, it was blown. No need to waste any more fuses. I replaced the fuse one last time and went into manual mode.
I dug up the manual wrench for our fifth wheel landing gear legs, and started cranking. (Yes, every fifth wheel owner needs to have a manual landing gear wrench. We’ve used ours twice in 15 years. But when you need it, you’ll be sorry without one!) there I go digressing again. I was able to lower the trailer a few inches using the manual crank. So I tried cranking it back up. And I didn’t get very far. Did I mention the cool wind that was kicking up and getting colder?
I quickly discovered why the fuse was blowing. First I panicked, remembering my gearbox repair job. Then I took a breath, stepped back, and continued troubleshooting from the easiest solution first. No, it wasn’t the fuse. We had a seized landing gear leg. That had to be it. But which one!? So, I checked the Follow leg. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to remove that gearbox from the Lead leg. I removed the crank shaft tube connecting the Follow leg to the Lead leg. I inserted a small screwdriver into the drive shaft and turned. It didn’t take long to bend my screwdriver.
I got lucky this time…we had a seized landing gear leg. It wasn’t the Lead leg, and not a broken gearbox either. No problem! I just needed to add fix fifth wheel leg to my Honey Do list. But, there was only one
problem challenge. We still needed to hitch up, get back to civilization, unhitch the trailer, order the right part, and then replace fifth wheel landing gear leg. Challenges, never problems!
How To Fix Fifth Wheel Legs Not Lifting
Hitching up the trailer when fifth wheel legs won’t raise is a delicate operation. We needed to raise the kingpin enough with only one leg working. With the crank shaft tube disconnected, the Lead leg was working fine. So I placed our bottle jack on some blocks under the frame next to the Follow leg. I had our friend slowly turn the jack as I operated the gearbox switch. Working together we lifted the trailer until I could back the truck under the kingpin.
This is where I had to be gentle. The trailer weight supported by a jack on blocks was rather precarious. It took some fine tuning of the pin height, and a couple tries, but I finally hitched up. The trick was to get everything lined up just right, then quickly back up ever so slightly to catch the pin. Phew!
Half the hard work was done. With our trailer safely hitched up, we hit the road jut in time before the storm hit. All we had to do now was unhitch fifth wheel trailer with no working landing gear. Easy enough, right!? We had a few good hours to
worry ponder about exactly how to do that. Simple solution: repeat the previous steps, only in reverse. To make a long story a bit shorter, we did it on the first try. Rene operated the switch while I cranked the jack. Working together, we raised the trailer to the perfect height. I was able to pull the truck away without dragging the trailer off the jack.
TIP: Disengage the hitch and pull away only enough to clear the catch. Then stop immediately. That way, if the trailer falls of the jack, you’ll catch all the weight on the hitch and not your truck bed. At least that’s what I figured, and that’s how it worked. I love it when a plan comes together!
Replace or Repair Fifth Wheel Landing Gear Leg
With our trailer supported by the jack, I was able to pull the leg extension all the way down to its maximum length. With a couple blocks, I could level out and support the weight on the seized landing gear leg. I left the jack in place, since I’d need that for my fix fifth wheel leg project. First, I needed to order the right part. But which leg is the correct replacement for our Lippert landing gear leg?
How to determine correct landing gear leg replacement?
Is it the Lead or Follow Leg? (Attached to gearbox, or crank shaft tube.)
Our seized fifth wheel landing gear was the Follow leg.
Measure the distance between the stop tabs on the leg shaft.
Ours measure 33.5″. Another common length is 29.5″.
Confirm interchangeability with other parts manufacturer.
We purchased this Stromberg Carlson LG-177201 Venture Follow Leg to replace our Lippert fifth wheel leg.
Helpful Landing Gear Documentation
Use the following documents to identify fifth wheel leg parts and confirm correct replacement to fix fifth wheel leg that won’t lift.
After replacing multiple parts during my RV furnace repair project, I decided to best approach to this project was to replace the landing gear leg. Yes, there are landing gear rebuild kits you can get to fix fifth wheel legs. But they only include drive gears for the top of the leg. If the worm drive shaft is seized, you’ll need to replace the leg anyway. I’ll address how to rebuild the landing gear leg in my next post.
With the right replacement part and trailer supported I was ready to fix fifth wheel legs! To be safe, I backed the truck up so the hitch was under the fifth wheel kingpin. But I did not hitch up. Therefore, if the trailer fell the truck would catch the weight.
Optional Step: Remove Stabilizer Braces
Long time Live Work Dream readers may remember my review videos for the Winfield fifth wheel stabilizer braces we installed long ago. These help greatly reduce rocking and motion inside the rig, especially in high winds. The retractable crossbars connect to the top and bottom of each landing gear leg.
First Step to Fix Fifth Wheel Leg: Once you have the weight of your fifth wheel safely supported, raise the trailer a few inches. Next, you can remove the cage pin and retract the inner leg shaft. This allows you to remove the foot from the leg. In our case, I next had to remove the stabilizer braces from the bottom and top of the seized fifth wheel leg.
With the brace removed, I could slide out the lower leg extension. Next, I removed the top crossbar. If you don’t have stabilizer braces, you can skip these steps. Then check out my Winfield review videos to see how much they help, and how easy they are to install.
Quick Steps to Replace Fifth Wheel Landing Gear Legs
With the crank shaft tube and lower leg extension removed, you’re now ready to remove the seized landing gear leg. This is as simple as removing two bolts. You can start with either the top or bottom. Use an open ended wrench to remove the locking nut from the bolt securing the leg to the mounting bracket.
With the nut removed, you may need to tap on the bracket to loosen the bolt. Pry under head until you can remove the bolt from the mounting bracket.
Repeat these steps to remove the bolt from the other mounting bracket. Once pressure is relieved from both brackets, the broken landing gear leg will easily fall out. Be careful so it doesn’t fall on your foot! You can then insert the new landing gear leg into the brackets. Be sure to align the tab stops in the same position of the broken landing gear leg you removed. TIP: On the opposite leg, measure the distance from the top bracket to the top of the leg cap. Position the replacement leg in the same way and tighten the mounting brackets by replacing the bolts.
IMPORTANT: Be sure both leg lengths match before attaching the crank shaft tube. Your replacement landing gear will be retracted all the way when it arrives. The opposite leg will likely be extended. Before you attach the crank shaft tube, measure the length of the good leg. Measure from the leg housing to the bottom of the outer leg shaft.
You may want to insert the lower leg extension into the landing gear now while you still have room to do so.* Make sure the new leg is extended this same distance. As a result, both legs will move in sync and the feet will hit the ground together. Therefore, the trailer will be level when extending the legs. Are both legs the same length, and the mounting brackets tight? Good. Then you’re ready to attach the crank shaft tube.
Fix Fifth Wheel Legs Project Almost Done!
You’ve now attached the replacement landing gear leg and connected the shaft to the gearbox. Great, you’re almost done!
*Hopefully you already inserted the lower leg extension into the top of the new landing gear. I just thought I’d throw this reminder in here again because I forgot to do that. Therefore, I had to remove the crank shaft tube and manually raise the leg again. 😕 Now you can replace the foot on your your new landing gear leg, and call the job done. Personally, I had to also reattach our stabilizer braces.
Still questioning whether you should replace or repair fifth wheel legs? Stay tuned for my next article about how to rebuild landing gear to fix fifth wheel leg. As I mentioned, you can get a landing gear rebuild kit. I decided to replace the whole leg. To confirm I made the right decision, I took apart our seized leg. And I discovered how easy it may be to replace the gears. I’ll tell you all about it next week.