The difinitive Bonair / L'extra / Lionel lift system thread

Discussion in 'Lift Systems' started by Tattoosleeve, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    I recentlly purchased a 1977 Bonair 700 and my brother in law has a 1978 L'extra 700. For all intensive purposes these two unit are identical and while researching for information on them I also discovered that Bonair also manufactured "Lionel" units with the same lift system on them. There is very little info about the lift systems on these units available online (even here on PUP!!!) but that is about to change!

    I'm 90% through a complete overhaul of the lift system on my Bonair and I've documented most of the process with pictures and will go from start to finish as best I can. I'm by no means a mechanic and there are a few things I would have done differently or will go back and adjust at some point but I figured some information is better than none for anybody else looking to make adjustments or repairs on their similar units. You'll likely get it right the first time if you take note of my mistakes!

    I also welcome any contributions / input / questions that anybody might have for this thread/system as well. I want this thread to be a sort of gathering point for information on the Bonair lift system so that it can be accessed in a central locaiton. This is my first PUP so I'm by no means an expert and there are likely others that will gave gainful insight that I have overlooked. In fact I must thank those who answered on my other threads I started before/during this process for their help.

    I'll try and go through things in a logical order but I did a little bit of jumping back and forth between things as I discovered how they worked and or affected other parts of the system so there may or may not be a couple funny jumps in how I explain things
     
  2. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    System Overview

    1. System Overview

    The nice thing about this lift system is that it is beautifully simple in design. If not for a few slightly under engineered components I'd consider it the perfect system. I would guess that in the later years some of these issues were eliminated but I haven't seen any of the later model units in person to know for sure. If you have a newer model unit feel free to share!

    The System:
    [​IMG]

    Consists of:
    4 x extending posts (3 sections nested within each other). Each post has a cable that connects to right side of the inside base of the bottom post and goes up and over a pulley and attaches to the base of the top post via a threaded bolt on the left side wall. Each of these posts are set in each corner of the trailer box. The inner workings of the posts is demonstrated via this diagram I located online (sorry no credit to the author included as I can no longer find the link where I tracked them down, if it was you let me know and I'll toss your name in).

    [​IMG]

    The 4 cables that attach to the lower left base of each middle section of the lift posts travel down under the trailer floor. Under the trailer floor the front lift post cables feed through a vertically oriented pulley directly under the post, through the c channel frame sides, through another pulley (oriented horizontally this time) and then attaches to another cable that wraps around the crank axle that sits in the center rear of the trailer. The rear lift post cables travel through the floor, across a single vertical pulley and then connect to another cable which are attatched to the crank axle.

    The crank axle is attached to a gearbox located on the inner side of the c channel at the center rear part of the frame.

    [​IMG]

    The gearbox has two posts that stick through the rear of the trailer frame. The post on the right is where the crank handle attaches and the post on the left with the long pin is the locking mechanism.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    The problems

    2. The Problems

    Between my brother in-laws trailer and my own these are the issues we had (lift system specific. There are a lot of other issues with these trailers too [LOL])

    - Lift posts raising/lowering at different rates
    - Lift Posts not lifting or lowering
    - Stuck (raised) lift posts suddenly releasing and dropping quickly during lowering
    - Movement is jittery when trailer is lowering
    - roof tilting to one side (forward/aft) and/or sitting unlevel on one or more corners when raised
    - One or more corners of roof not sitting flush with lower portion of trailer when in lowered position.
    - Stiff cranking
    - Locking mechanism post missing pin (had to use vice grips to turn)

    During the disassembly process I was able to identify numerous causes for the problems listed above. Below I've listed the causes, probability of each cause being a contributing factor on your system if you're having issues and ease of repair. As you'll see I've listed many of these issue on the higher end of the likely scale. Being that I have two of these units in my driveway, neither of which are in pristine condition but also not in atrocious condition and they both have most of the issues listed above, I'm assuming that many of these trailers will be in a similar state as the ones I have here. There will be a few units that will not have all of these issues but I do suspect that a large number of the older trailers will have most of them.

    Stretched and/or too much slack in the system
    - Very likely. Many cables on both of our units had extra play. Difficulty of repair will vary depending on condition of cables and how they are attached to the crank axle. Might be a simple adjustment or it could require entire replacement of one or more cables per post. This repair could involve complete tear down of the lift system and I'll cover it in more detail after I get through the rest of the issues below.

    Debris jamming cable path and or pulley movement - Almost guaranteed. This is one of the design flaws of this system in that the cable travels under the trailer through the bottom section of the C channel frame. Not only does the cable travel in this channel but there are 6 pulleys that also sit in these channels too. I fried the motor on my little Costco shop vac trying to suck out all the gravel/dirt/sand that was stuck in the lower portions of the channels and had to go get the big shop vacuum from work to finish the job. Lots of the smaller debris had been in the frame for so long that it had become hard packed and I had to use my fingers/screwdriver to loosen it up so the vacuum would grab it. Unless you've vacuumed your frame recently odds are there is CONSIDERABLE debris impeeding the front lift post cables and possibly all six pulleys on the underside of the trailer. Obviously this is a pretty easy task (tell that to my dead shop vac, amiright). Note the rock to the left of the pulley in this picture

    [​IMG]

    Bent bolt post on bottom of middle lift post section - Almost guaranteed. All four posts on both of the trailers in my driveway had this issue to varying degrees. This bolt and nut assembly is on the left side of the bottom middle section of the lift post. When the trailer is in the up position you will see this bend at or just above the top of of the trailer wall. This is a fairly involved repair and requires complete removal and dissasembly of each post to repair properly.

    [​IMG]

    Here you can see the bend from the bottom of removed post.

    [​IMG]

    What happens is that this inward bend under the bolt causes an outward bulge above the nut and this bulge presses against the lower section of the track jamming the two pieces together. You can see the wear marks in the bottom section of the post here.

    [​IMG]

    So why are all they all bent? My guess is 1. Cranking the roof up with one or more roof latches in the closed position 2. over cranking the roof at the top. In both of these situations the post can't extend further so all the force is then transferred to the bolts at the end of the cable pulling them upward and inward.

    The fix is to disassemble the post sections and hammer the middle post back down to as close to flat as possible. You won't be able to remove the middle section from the bottom section until you've flattened it past a certain point so the bolt can pass under the pulley at the top of the bottom section

    [​IMG]

    Hammer the section as flat as possible and reassemble. Yes believe it or not this as flat as I could get it but the jam was relieved and all three pieces of the post moved freely within each other. As long as I keep the system lubed and don't overcrank the posts I don't anticipate having to do this repair again. All four posts required this repair.

    [​IMG]

    Dry gearbox I have no idea how frequent this problem might be. I only disassembled one of the two gearboxes I have so far. The one I did had a tiny bit of some sort of lube on the gears still. The only other person I've talked to with the same gearbox "CamperJenn" said hers was "bone dry" when she opened it. In order to remove the gearbox you'll need to remove the roll pins in the crank handle connection post and the locking post to the left of it. I purchased a punch set with a variety of sized punches and a set of a variety of roll pins at Princess Auto. Drive the roll pins out with
    proper sized punch. There is one more roll pin to remove that connects the crank axle under the trailer to the gearbox. Note in the picture that I removed the four nut and bolts holding the gearbox to the frame before I tried to punch out this piece. DO NOT DO THAT. Remove all the roll pins FIRST before you remove the four bolts holding the gearbox to the frame. I had to reinstall the bolts to push this pin out. I also sprayed it with a healthy amount WD40 Rust buster stuff before I tried to punch it out as it looked like it had been in there for quite some time and was quite rusted. I kept all these roll pins handy so I could find the matching sized ones from the kit I had purchased when it was time to connect everything back together.

    [​IMG]

    Once you have the gearbox off the trailer frame you can open it up by removing the two bolts on the crank side of the box

    [​IMG]

    This is what my gearbox looked like when I opened it.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I took careful note of how the gears interacted AND TOOK PICTURES FOR REFERENCE!!!! before I took them apart for cleaning.

    [​IMG]

    The locking mechanism

    [​IMG]

    Taken apart and cleaned

    [​IMG]

    reassembled and ready for lube.

    [​IMG]

    So I never really figured out what I was supposed to lube the gearbox with as I'm new to most of this. I found some gearbox information online but it was mostly for motorized gearboxes. I found a couple references to "Type 2" grease being an option so I used the tube of axle grease I had purchased for repacking my bearings. It said something along the lines of "Type 2" or "Grade 2" grease and I figured that since the gearbox would only see super low RPM's from manual human turning that the grease was better than nothing even if it's not the best option. I also wanted to make sure that I sealed the box as best I could to protect from loss of lube due to seepage and/or penetration from dirt/dust/etc. so I used some silicone gasket maker that I found at CT.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Follow the instructions on the gasket maker to mate the two sides of the gearbox back together and once it's ready, reinstall the gearbox to frame and use the punch and roll pin kits to reinstall all pins to the gearbox posts and their mating parts.

    Lift posts tilting due to rotten floor and/or single screw pivot point
    Maybe an issue in some trailers - The problem is that the bottom of the post doesn't have a plate to distribute the weight of the roof and downward forces when the cables are being pulled and over 35 years the posts have worked themselves through the linoleum and partially into the wooden floor. The posts are only connected to the sidewall of the trailer via two bolts at the roof and ONE WOOD SCREW! at the bottom right of the base. The single screw creates a pivot point for for the post if the roof is unbalanced and the posts can shift forward or backward (depending on your level) on this screw.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    My solution to this is to put a shim in the hole where the post passes through the aluminum cap on the trailers sidewall to prevent forward and aft pivoting of the post. I haven't done this yet so no pics.

    Time for bed. More to follow
     
  4. Chrismtl

    Chrismtl Member

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    Thanks for the info. My 88 ba-700 has the same system.

    Subscribed for future reference.

    Where are you located?
     
  5. Chrismtl

    Chrismtl Member

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    Nevermind, on the computer I can see that you're in BC... a bit far to compare lift systems lol.
     
  6. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn New Member

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    This is a great tutorial - the kind of community spirit that makes this a wonderful site!
     
    Bluejay likes this.
  7. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    No Canada wide road trip planned for this year [:D] but if you have any questions or input please throw them on this thread!
     
  8. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    Does the 88 have a C - Channel frame? and do you happen to know if the lift posts have a plate on the bottom to distribute the pressure a bit better?
     
  9. Chrismtl

    Chrismtl Member

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    Yes it does have a c channel frame. I will check for the plates tomorrow evening when I have her popped up, but I don't think it does.
     
  10. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

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    Outstanding thread, Tattoosleeve! Well done!

    Regarding plates at the bottom of the posts, I'm thinking that some 4"x4" electrical junction box covers would work perfectly. You might also want to look for something suitable among the galvanized joist hangers in the fence and deck section at Revy, Lowe's or Home Depot.
     
  11. Nedula

    Nedula New Member

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    Does anyone know what the length of the cables need to be to replace the runs? I have one of the farther runs that is needing to be replaced. Also in between the crank axle the horizontal pulleys it has some eye bolt too eye bolt connections (not sure the real name of them) and the are actually are preventing it from lifting properly because they run into the lift axle. Now I'm thinking this wasn't stock and that the last owner added this in hope to make an easy way of tightening or lengthening the cables.
    Anyways any help with any of this will be appreciated!
     
  12. Dubbya

    Dubbya Wherever you go, there you are...

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    Please add your camper's year, make and model to your user profile so that those of use who are so inclined don't have to ask. It's really hard to find information for these old Bonair campers but hopefully, someone can help you figure out the lengths.

    Also, some photos of the eye bolt problem would be helpful. You can post them to Photobucket.com and link to them here so that we can take a look.
     
  13. ac1oz

    ac1oz New Member

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    how much side to side movement do your posts have?

    we just got a 1978 Lexair but the post seem to have a lot of movement.
     
  14. StageLover

    StageLover Member

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    An awesome writeup. This should be a sticky. I could have used this when we had our BA-1200 and had to figure out the lift system in a hurry because a cable broke. One thing I did when fixing it was to put a turnbuckle in each cable between the shaft and the first pulley. The wire connection at the shaft is dodgy at best and it is almost impossible get a good adjustment to even the roof out. With a turnbuckle, the table can be pulled as tight as possible before locking it down then the turnbuckle can be used to adjust the roof.

    I have had many of the problems that you listed. A PO had replaced the roll pin for the crank with something that disappeared one trip. I went through a number of soft bolts before I was able to get a new roll pin in there. I didn't have a missing lock mechanism handle; instead, when visiting relatives, my nephews managed to get the crank on the lock instead of the crank shaft. Sheared the handle right off. Like you, thank goodness for vicegrips.

    We finally got ourselves a Palomino Fold-a-wall and gave the Bonair to my stepdaughter's mother-in-law. It is, last I heard, still in her backyard although she still talks about taking it on a trip.

    Anyway, as I said, a great writeup and bound to be of enormous help for Bonair owners.

    Maybe we'll see you at a CG sometime. We are in Vancouver and tend to stay near the lower mainland but with the occasional longer trip.
     
  15. DrJones

    DrJones New Member

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    Hello Everyone. Great thread. It's been so hard to find information on this lift system!

    I've got a 80's Lionel 800 i bought for cheap for the wife and I to camp in, and to drag to the Michigan NASCAR race with the guys. I noticed in the second post it's mentioned that a common problem is one corner doesn't sit all the way down once the roof is in the closed position. I had to replace a cable after the last owner "fixed" it, and i'm having that problem in that corner now. My working theory right now is that I cut the short cable (from bottom post to top post) a little too short and it's not allowing it to go all the way down. "luckily" the turnbuckle on the other rear post is about to snap, and the cable is in rough shape so my plan is to disassemble that side and rebuild it. I hope to get some measurements of the cable lengths off the working side to share with everyone while testing my theory.
     
  16. DrJones

    DrJones New Member

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    Finally got a chance this long weekend to get to work on it. To correct my last post it was a model 500 not 800. The cable lengths from the existing cables were as follows: Crankshaft to turnbuckle 33" ( i think, I forgot to write this one down), turnbuckle to lift system 102" (for the rear, front was 100"), and the static cable inside the lift arms was 53". I measured the total working length of the cables, so from the farthest point in each end loop, if that makes any sense. I found it very helpful to mark the length on the cable with a sharpie, cut the cable with about 3 extra inches on it, run it through all pulleys, then use the sharpie mark to identify where the loop would make the correct length. I should point out that my trailers crank shaft ran parallel and just in front of the axle, not like the diagram in the OP

    A few helpful hints for anyone else working on these lifts:

    If you replace the adjuster with a longer one and want to compensate in the cable lengths, do not remove any from the short cable to the crankshaft, as this will not allow the roof to fully lower or raise. You have a lot more cable to work with on the longer run to the lift arm, as the turnbuckle/adjuster does not go completely to the end of the trailer when in the closed position.

    If you have difficulty threading the cables through the pulleys, leave a few extra inches in the length of cable you are running, and with a pair of pliers bend a 90 degree angle in the cable. This will allow you to manipulate the cable around the pulley much easier. I worked from the ground up and found this much easier than starting from the lift system.

    I sprayed a lubricant into the lift arms where the larger section slides over the smaller sections, and found that it made it 100% smoother. It was also necessary to remove any bends in the lift arms as suggested in the OP where the cables bolt on with a hammer and punch. Roof slides up and down like butter now.

    I defiantly did something to fix my one corner not coming completely closed, but I worked on it for 8 hours and about that many beers so it's not coming back to me now. So other than that, I hope this at least helps one person like this thread helped me!
     
  17. nolimit

    nolimit New Member

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    Hi, Can not thank you enough on this post, it has helped us so much. Do you happen to know what thickness the cable was. :)
     
  18. Haha75

    Haha75 New Member

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    Does anyone know if the lifting gear is the same on a bonair 850 as a 1200?

    Does anyone know ifdthe lifting system is the same on a bonair 850 as a 1200 model?
     
  19. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    Remember when I went to bed three years ago and then never finished my thread!!!!! I'll post a few more pictures here that I have from when I did this lift overhaul. I'll try and give as much detail as I can but it's been some time so I don't remember everything.......hopefully this adds a bit of additional help regardless. So glad to see that what is here already has helped some other people out.

    The picture below is where the cables terminate on the axles. There is a stopper crimped on the end of the cables using an aircraft cable crimping tool (pic of this tool included further down the thread).
    [​IMG]

    This is on the other side of the circular plate where the cables terminate. There is a clip that helps to keep the cable snug and started to wrap in the proper direction. These seem like specialty hardware so be sure to store them in a safe place when you remove them.
    [​IMG]

    Clip assembly off the trailer.
    [​IMG]

    Be sure to take note of which direction each cable is wound as they do change from post to post. This is a pic of the new cable stopped and clipped in place.
    [​IMG]

    Old Wires at axle in lowered roof position
    [​IMG]

    Old Wires and turnbuckles at pulley/frame side in lowered position. This was after I replaced the first cable. I used the ubolt/nut style crimps as a test to kinda figure out where I needed to place my proper aluminium sleeve crimp before I fully committed.
    [​IMG]

    Old wires and turnbuckles at axle with roof in raised position.
    [​IMG]

    PVC roof supports. I made these based off a suggestion from another thread. these were VERY unstable as the only thing holding these posts in place was the weight of the roof itself. I would recommend finding some other way of securing the roof when you are ready to remove the cables and lift posts. You do need something to support the roof. Once you remove the the cables from the posts they will free fall and if you don't have any support there the roof will collapse on you.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    When I went to reinstall the posts I realized why there was only one screw on the right side of each post bases. The cables travel down through the opposite side of the post (left side). If you put a screw on that side it would interfere with the path of the lift system. I put a 2nd screw through the same side as the first to hopefully help with the post stability.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I found trying to create the loops on the cable around the post bolt themselves kind of tricky. I put a screw in my workbench to give me something I could pull the loop around that wouldn't move as cinched the hole tighter. It was much easier
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The top of the lift post had a seized bolt/t-nut combo that I couldn't release. I used a cutting wheel to cut some of the bolts free and others were too tight to access with the wheel. I have to tear the t-nuts right out of the roof wall. Keep in mind if you are doing this you will need to sort out another method off re-attatching the top of the post to the roof wall as it is quite a disaster.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The aftermath in the roof (t-nut torn out of roof wall, right hole)
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Bolt on left side I was able to cut off with grinding wheel (bolt was seized in T-Nut). I don't recommend using the cutting wheel if you can avoid it. It was a very tight space as I had the PVC supports holding roof only partially lifted (also quite unstable). I also had to remove the guard from the cutting wheel in order to get the proper angle on the bolt head. In hindsight it was very unsafe and I was working alone, very easily could have seriously injured myself via collapsing roof or contact with cutting wheel.
    [​IMG]

    This is the cable I used to replace the old rusty and frayed wire. Someone up above posted required measurements
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  20. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    Re: Does anyone know if the lifting gear is the same on a bonair 850 as a 1200?

    Based on a previous commenters post I believe it is.
     

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