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Motorised steadies for leveling

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    Dan PerkinsParticipant

    I’m getting a little older an I find I longer enjoy cranking the corner steadies up and down the way I used to. And I’m sure  I’m not alone in this.

    Is there anyone that produces motorised steadies or that motorises existing steadies?

    I see there’s a phone app to drive them, and level the caravan at the same time, but nothing (in this country at least) to drive it with.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    Hi Dan,

    You’ve probably been looking at my website?

    I added this capability recently at the request of a valued friend who asked for it since he, like yourself, was getting creaky in the knees, and in fact could find nothing suitable locally so he built his own.

    The problem seems to be with sourcing suitable 12VDC gearmotors that are not hideously expensive, since any cost there is immediately multiplied by 4. He eventually imported something which didn’t work out that much cheaper once he paid the import and the carriage costs.

    From the research I’ve done on the subject I can tell you that it’s possible for the averagely skilled workman to motorise his own steadies but it will cost between R30,000 and R35,000. using locally available motors. That includes the remote control electronics.

    I’ve taken this as far as the proving stage but I don’t plan to get into the manufacturing business, but I can certainly advise you on what we’ve learned about the process so far.

    If you want to ask some more questions, this forum would be a good place to answer them. Otherwise if you want to do it privately you can find my email address on my website.

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    Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins on

    I’d like to have a go at this. Where do I start?

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    Hi Dan,

    You already have 4 corner steadies with a proven ability to lift and level the caravan under almost any conditions. They need little maintenance and will last the life of the caravan if not abused. The problem is you don’t want to bend down and crank the 17mm AF hex head on the end of the leadscrew with a manual crank handle. You want to motorise it.

    (There are all sorts of other esoteric solutions such as hydraulics etc, but let’s stay with what is reasonably attainable and within our practical reach. We want a finish able project and not pie in the sky.)

    To do this you need a machine with an output RPM of 30 – 60 (1 to 2 seconds per turn) and an output torque of 20Nm (the same as a 20Kg force applied to a crank with a 100mm arm length). The gearmotor should be securely mounted on the chassis, couple readily to the hex end of the leadscrew, and not extend too far forward or backward from the end of the screw.

    The best way to accomplish this is to use a worm drive gearmotor (the output shaft is perpendicular to the axis of the motor) with a hollow output shaft that can accommodate the hex end of the screw without too much modification. The hollow output shaft will have a keyway cut into it. The gearmotor must be mounted on the front or rear transverse chassis member and then covered with a suitable enclosure.

    If you plan to operate the motors directly with switches you’ll want to place limit switches to detect the UP and DOWN ends-of-travel so as not to damage anything when the motor runs out of road. My control takes care of this problem by electronically detecting the current spike that happens at this point and shuts off the power to the motor.

    The only real difficulty we have encountered so far is that the gearmotors that fit the above format are of industrial quality and capable of continuous operation, whereas we could use something a lot less robust since we will use it for less than an hour per year. So the cost of these machines when multiplied by four becomes outrageous.

    On the other hand motors of a different format are either totally suitable (such as too long), or require such extensive engineering to adapt them to the task that they become unviable.

    So at this stage it is a fairly simple project but requires deep pockets. The most generally available motor that fits our specification is made by Transtecno in Italy and is sold here by several different dealers for between R5000 and R6000 each. Domestic quality motors such as those used on garage doors would come in at half or less that price but the search for such a motor/gearbox combination has so far been unsuccessful.

    This is the format of gearmotor you need:

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    Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins on

    I did what you suggested – I had a look around. You simply cannot get gearmotors in the format you described for less than R5000 each. That means a total project cost of more than R25,000 all in. But less than R30,000.

    Is that about right would you say??

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    That’s about exactly right. Think R25K to R30K.

    Looking at the cost/benefit ratio compared to say locally made movers, which you get for about half the price, you would obviously give the movers a higher priority.

    And out of any 100 people that you ask about this 99 will tell your there’s a cheaper way – do it by hand. But it’s the hundredth guy – the true one-percenter – who will say “I don’t want cheaper, I want better”. And this guy will look at American catalogues and see the equivalent equipment selling there for upwards of $3300, and he knows to almost double that price tag to get it in his hands here.

    So now he can buy something for about R70K in the US and be totally unsupported, or he can spend less than half that here, and be 100% supported locally.

    The choice is yours. If in doubt buy an electric drill for R2000 and do it ‘cheaper’. That’s what 99% do.

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    Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins on

    Can you supply this as a DIY kit?

    I’d like to draw on your experience and not make the same mistakes you did.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    This is very much intended as a DIY project in the sense that I know of nobody that does such a fitment, but I won’t be supplying any kits for the simple reason that 80% of the costs are the gearmotors, which you can easily source yourself without me adding handling and transport charges. I’ll give you the part numbers and the suppliers so you can go to them direct.

    I’m currently working on a video that takes you through the entire process – from dismounting the steady, cleaning and painting it, preparing the coupling of the shafts, mounting the gearmotor on the steady, mounting the steady back on the caravan, and lastly getting the whole system working. The tools needed don’t go beyond a hand-held grinder, an arc welder, and a drill press, which most guys capable of doing this kind of work will already possess.

    The only thing that I have to supply and that you can get nowhere else is the electronic units. When it’s ready I’ll publish the video on my website since this platform doesn’t allow large files to be attached.

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    Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins on

    I see AL-KO have a motorised steady. They call it UP4.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    Yes I’ve seen pictures of it, but no technical info and not a review to be found. They seem to only sell it in Europe and the local yokels have no information at all. In fact they’ve never heard of it. The price in the UK is quoted as about 1100 euros but nobody seems to sell it, and nobody knows anyone that’s bought it. I imagine from previous experience that 1100 euros would translate to R25 -R30K retail in this country, but there would be no support from AL-KO in Vereeniging.

    From the picture it doesn’t look any too powerful so I don’t imagine it can actually lift a caravan. Most likely it just winds down the steadies until they touch the ground.

    They also have a hydraulic system (HY4) that is a lot more powerful and sells in the UK for 6000 pounds which becomes most of R100,000 retail here. Once again I can’t find anyone that knows anything about it.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    There’s a 3 minute video on my website which shows a motorised corner steady working. URL linking doesn’t appear to work on this forum but you can find the video at dactyltech.co.za. There’s a Menu Item named Videos on the Caravan Mover page, and you can download it there.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    This is what the corner steady looks like. A fairly uncomplicated DIY adaption by someone with moderate hand skills.

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    Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins on

    On another thread there’s someone that says you cannot lift a caravan on it’s steadies. What do you say to that?

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    I completely agree – there’s no way a steady should be used to lift a caravan. For one thing there’s no lateral support, one push from the side and the leadscrew bends into a banana and the thing is totally ruined. There’s nothing new in that – it has always been that way, you absolutely don’t lift the wheels with the steadies, or the jockey wheel for that matter.

    We don’t lift a caravan with a powered steady – we just re-orient it on it’s suspension. When one corner goes up the opposite one goes down. In fact when you level the caravan you raise to lowest corner first, which rocks it on its suspension, and when it’s level you lower the opposite corner to where it firmly touches the ground. Always the lowest corner first.

    We current limit the motors so that the torque on the leadscrew never exceeds 40Nm for that very reason. That’s enough power to tilt the van on its suspension without appreciably lifting it.

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    Fyko
    Fyko on

    Hi Dan,

    If published an implementation guide for motorising your corner steadies.

    This forum doesn’t allow URL links in the text so you’ll have to punch it in yourself:

    dactyltech.co.za/tutorial.html

    It’s brand new so please do report the typos.

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    Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins on

    I checked it out. Very interesting indeed. Looks doable, even for me.

    One question though. How do you drive the steady without a motor attached?

    Say I want to sell the caravan and the new owner doesn’t want to pay the extra money for the motors? What does he do?

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