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Old 09-17-2006, 07:50 PM   #1
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Electric Hitch Jack Fire

I want to alert owners of newer Airstreams to a potential problem with the factory-installed electric motor for the hitch jack. Camping this week in our 2005 16' Bambi, while using the power jack, smoke appeared out of the top of the unit, followed by flames. The motor runs directly off the battery, so the only way to shut off power is by disconnecting the in-line fuse...which I did. Since the tongue can be raised and lowered manually, the loss of the motor wasn't staggering; what is of concern, however, is the proximity to the unit of the two propane tanks and hoses.

It had rained fairly heavily the night before, and it's possible moisture entered the connection box, causing a short. If so, then there's a problem with the factory weather proofing, since I had never messed with the top access cover prior to the fire.

The good news is that my wife had the fire extinguisher out and ready in about five seconds!
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Old 09-17-2006, 07:56 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forums.
That's a pretty disquieting event to have to let us know about for your first post. Maybe an "all-weather" on-off switch can be added near the jack, so it can be cut off from power easily and quickly. I would hate to think what could have happened if you were driving down the road when the motor caught fire.
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Old 09-17-2006, 07:58 PM   #3
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Thanx a bunch for the tip; we have an '05 with the electric jack.
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Old 09-17-2006, 08:17 PM   #4
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Jglabrown,

Sorry to hear about your tongue jack fire but glad that you had the presence of mind to pull the fuse and all is OK. One suggestion that I have is to coat all of the interior contacts under the plastic cover with dielectric grease. This will limit the possibility of a short between the connections, as the grease is essentially an electrical insulator.......or if you are so inclined, apply heat shrink tape to all of the connnections to achieve the same result.
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Old 09-17-2006, 09:09 PM   #5
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Could you tell us the model & manufactures of the powered jack?
Did H&H Engineering Division of Barker Mfg. CO. make it?
Is it still under the original two-year warranty?

If you send it back for repair, some of us readers would appreciate knowing exactly what component (or watertight fitting) failed that caused the fire. And why didn’t the fuse blow?

I had a problem with my power jack getting stuck. I sent it back and they fix it at no charge. But I had to call and ask to learn what cause the failure, what components were replaced, what they did to fix it and what it might have cost me if it wasn’t under warranty.

Good luck & let us know just what cause it and what can be done to prevent it happening again.
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Old 09-18-2006, 10:35 AM   #6
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Lew, thanks for the tip about dielectric grease. JStanley, it's made by Barker and is still under warranty (I hope!). Knowing that water can get in, I could probably also use a flexible caulk around the cap. In Washington, there's now only one dealer and their service dept is booked until late October; when I do get it in, I'll ask their advice. (Interestingly, the night before, we were wilderness camping with no shore power and I had noticed that the battery seemed to be discharging more quickly than normal. I mentioned to my wife that when we got home we probably should have the electrical system checked for a short or drain. Perhaps we now know where that was - hard to tell now; the jack head is just a glob of melted stuff)
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Old 09-18-2006, 02:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JStanley
I had a problem with my power jack getting stuck. I sent it back and they fix it at no charge. But I had to call and ask to learn what cause the failure, what components were replaced, what they did to fix it and what it might have cost me if it wasn’t under warranty.
I had an issue with my hitch jack getting stuck while I was at JC. I hooked up to the Airstream and raised the tongue to set my spring bars and forgot to lower the tongue and hopped in the truck and attempted to pull forward. Needless to say I realized quickly what I had forgotten when the wheels began to spin! When I attempted to raise the now slightly (inperceivably) bent jack post, it stuck and burned out the motor. The service manager came out with a floor jack and raised the tongue enough to get the hitch bell off and then replaced the bent jack post and motor and charged me for both. I realize this was my fault, but it seems to me the fuse should have burned out before the motor was damaged.

I didn't think about that until just now when I read your post, JStanley. I know it is too late now, but it does seem like the fuse didn't do its job to protect the motor from overheating or whatever it did that caused it to burn out and that cost me nearly $350 for the motor, excluding the cost of the jack post and installation.
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Old 09-18-2006, 03:01 PM   #8
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Add an Inline Switch for Safety

Quote:
Originally Posted by moosetags
Thanx a bunch for the tip; we have an '05 with the electric jack.
This is the only time I have felt good about having a manual jack on my trailer.

When I do add my power jack I will add an inline isolation switch to prevent this type of accident when the jack is unattended.


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Old 09-18-2006, 04:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Clark


When I do add my power jack I will add an inline isolation switch to prevent this type of accident when the jack is unattended.


Jim
I returned from an evening dinner out to discover that my hitch jack had been raised to it highest position off the ground. Most likely, it had been raised by some kids and mischief play. Having a switch to disconnect the power will prevent this from happening and also perhaps, save a refrigerator from being ruined by off-level operation.
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Old 09-18-2006, 04:07 PM   #10
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That is an interesting mode of failure for the following reson: The fire occured while the unit was in use, but did not draw enough current to blow the in-line fuse. Ergo, there wasn't a direct short initially, but rather a high resistance connection that converted your electrical energy to heat. Houses, which have circuit breakers or fuses, often burn down anyway because the fuse cannot distinguish a "legiitimate" power consumption from one that is producing waste heat.

The newer motors (70's>) have molded ceramic magnets for the stator and these are usually glued into the motor case. Water contamination can cause rust to build under the magnets and pry them loose. Sometimes this will stop the motor, sometimes it will cause overheating. My experience is that these units are not always adequately sealed against the weather and the owner needs to take extra steps to insure watertightness. For what its worth...
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