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Old 11-26-2005, 10:41 PM   #1
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1984 31' Airstream310
Dunsmuir , California
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Vacuum Step Woes

My 1984 310 Limited MH has a vacuum step. The first trouble I had with it was related to the switch in the door frame. Once I got a replacement, the step functioned normally.

Then the step began to partially extend and then retract while underway. It always retracted when at a stop with the engine running. I then began to notice low vacuum on the vacuum gauge, correlated with the step being partially extended/retracted while underway. I disconnected the step switch and the low vacuum condition stopped. I inspected all of the hoses and lubricated the step. I found no leaks and the step seemed to operate normally. Then I took it on a trip and ended up disconnecting the switch part way through the trip because of the intermittent low vacuum. I noticed that if while driving on the highway I had the problem I could put it in neutral, turn off the ignition, then turn the ignition back on and put it in gear and the step would fully retract and stay that way until the next time. Seemed that climbing hills or heavy acceleration (low ) would cause the step to extend and that releasing the throttle would either cause the step to retract and vacuum to return to normal or the step would "hang" and vacuum would remain low until the step retracted.

Seems likely that I have a vacuum leak in either the electrically operated vacuum valve, the vacuum lines, or the actuator.

Can anyone suggest how to pinpoint the problem?

Any ideas on where to get parts if I figure out what I need?
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Old 11-27-2005, 07:48 AM   #2
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Messy, but effective

There are two ways to find your vacuum leak. The first you can do yourself, but may be a tad messy, and will require a helper.
Start the engine, and with the engine running and the step rettracted, spray WD40 on everything that is involved with the step actuator. Have your assistant watch and listen for changes in the engine's idle. When you find the vacuum leak, the engine will momentarily rev up slightly, as you are adding a little more fuel to the mix.
The second alternative is to take the motor home to a garage that has a smoke machine, and have them check the system for leaks with it.
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Old 11-27-2005, 10:16 AM   #3
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There is a device used to drain brake lines at the auto stores (about $35). It also allows you to pull a vacume. You could use this device to create a vacume to test the entire line from the carb back.
You may also have a round bulb type reservor about the size of a softball in the system that keeps the vacume steady while the engine is under load. It also could be the problem, most likely place for this device is in the engine compartment and not at the steps.

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Old 11-27-2005, 11:04 AM   #4
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a less messy way to find leaks is to use an UNLIT propane torch.

start the engine, let the propane flow from the torch, then place the unlit propane torch near any device or line that is suspect.

when you find the leak the engine rpm's will increase due to the added fuel the propane provides.

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Old 11-27-2005, 11:13 AM   #5
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Thanks for the good suggestions. I'll be trying one or more when it warms up around here (25 degreees).

Has anyone worked on one of the vacuum steps before? I can't tell if mine leaks only when it is 'stuck' between extended and retracted or if it leaks all the time and is worse when it is 'stuck'. Anyone have any theoretical insights?

Any suggestion for sourcing parts (if I'm lucky enough to get that far)?

Also, anyone have an idea of the installed cost of a new electric step? Might be cheaper in the long run?
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Old 11-27-2005, 03:00 PM   #6
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Vacuum Steps

Yes. I have worked on them. Mine extended on the road in a constrution zone and clipped some traffic marker barrels. That was the end of that. I went to Camping World and bought electric steps which fit right in and am very happy with them. The vacuum steps never did function right.
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Old 11-27-2005, 04:26 PM   #7
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Hello guy99, wascobob here---Guy, I have not had any personal experience with the vacumn step system, but have heard that they are problematic.

My 1988 29 footer came from the factory ( I think) with an electric two step system that works correctly every time (no problems at all).---Might be worth looking into.

I will look thru my manual and see if their is any info. on the unit installed, if their is, I will post it.

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Old 11-27-2005, 07:49 PM   #8
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I've looked at electric steps a little. Over $500 if I have it installed. Installing it myself would mean laying on the ground in 30 degree weather, maybe in snow or rain.
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Old 11-29-2005, 09:17 AM   #9
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vacuum steps

My '79 excella has problems with the vacuum steps too, Am gonna replace with electric ones. Does the Kwickie steps fit right in??
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Old 11-29-2005, 10:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cooperhawk
Yes. I have worked on them. Mine extended on the road in a constrution zone and clipped some traffic marker barrels. That was the end of that. I went to Camping World and bought electric steps which fit right in and am very happy with them. The vacuum steps never did function right.
another member of our Orange Barrel Club! Welcome. Brett was the President, but I am an active member too.
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Old 11-29-2005, 10:44 AM   #11
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Orange Barrel Club??

I hadn't heard of the club, but I surely am a member. The real problem is the danger involved with those steps sticking out. If a highway worker had been hit by the steps or a barrel, it could have been serious.

I bought the Kwickie steps and they fit in fine. You need two power leads. One is always hot and one is ignition switchable.
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Old 11-29-2005, 01:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cooperhawk
I hadn't heard of the club, but I surely am a member. The real problem is the danger involved with those steps sticking out. If a highway worker had been hit by the steps or a barrel, it could have been serious.
Brett (thenewkid64) is the president of the club because his original Argosy motorhome flattened several orange-painted drums in a construction zone. I still have the mangled awning arm from the incident in my garage.
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Old 12-08-2005, 09:43 AM   #13
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Update

I had a shop take a look at the step (I didn't want to lay in the snow to work on it). They found a bad check valve. Replaced it and the step seems to be working correctly now. When I was driving home last night the warning light came on a few times but I couldn't see the step extended and the vacuum was normal. When I get to Mexico, I'll lay in the sand and adjust the switch which controls the warning light.
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1984 310 Limited Motorhome
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Old 12-08-2005, 10:00 AM   #14
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Just don't join the orange barrel club!!
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