RV Leveling Systems: What You Need To Know

rv-leveling-systemsEvery RV requires a leveling system for 2 reasons:

  1. To meet the requirements of the refrigerator. If it’s not level, it will not function very well.
  2. For the comfort of the occupants. Sleeping with your head in a downward slope can be uncomfortable. Likewise, rolling out of bed is a real possibility if you’re parked with one side higher than the other.

The key question for the new RVer is, “What type of leveling system do you have for your RV?”

Here’s what you need to know about RV leveling systems…

 

Simplest RV Leveling Option

wood-planks-for-rv-leveling

Slide-in pickup campers, some soft-sided tent trailers, teardrop trailers, and other lightweight RVs aren’t likely to have factory-mounted RV leveling jacks of any sort.

Usually, 2×6 planks are used to accommodate the relatively minor adjustments required to level out such a unit.

As a precaution, at least one wheel that isn’t on a leveling plank should be blocked in order to prevent the RV from rolling off the leveling block.

Many RVers upgrade to a  stackable set of plastic RV leveling blocks that are cleaner and much lighter in weight. Designed to snap together, you can build a ramp of sorts from your block kit to gain the proper height for leveling your RV.

 

RV Leveling Jacks

Most mid-sized RV trailers (travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers) come with stabilizer jacks attached at the corners of the RV. You crank them down by hand until you have some of the weight of the trailer applied to the jack.

NOTE: These jacks are only designed to level out an RV, not to lift the trailer off the ground as would be required to change a tire.

rv-stabilizer-jacks

Stabilizer jacks require both care and maintenance. If you accidentally  attempt to pull away while your RV is leveled with these jacks they will very easily fold over and be destroyed. They must be retracted completely, because even very light impact will tear them clean off your RV.

Crank-up jacks must be kept clean and greased. Hanging down below your RV, they will quickly collect dirt and grit when you travel on gravel roads. That will ultimately hamper the ability to turn the long threaded rod that makes the jack raise and lower.

A common accessory to assist in raising and lowering screw type jacks is a cordless electric drill. Used to quickly raise or lower the jack, a drill with a socket can save both time and effort!

 

Hydraulic RV Leveling Systems

Many motorhomes come equipped with hydraulic leveling systems.

With a group of 4 buttons near the driver’s seat, you can level up your RV in total comfort.

hydraulic-rv-leveling-system  rv-leveling-system

Even these seemingly foolproof RV leveling systems require some attention though. Maintenance is usually limited to making sure the hydraulic reservoir has sufficient fluid, but there are some concerns to be aware of when using hydraulic stabilizer jacks:

  • Hydraulic jacks are much stronger than manual screw jacks. Using them together, you can easily raise the entire motorhome off the ground. This is very helpful when the time comes to change a tire — because crawling under a motorhome can be difficult with a flat tire.
  • When using the hydraulic levelers, always lift either one complete side or one complete end of the RV. This will help you avoid twisting the unit which may cause damage to the structure.
  • Where you use your hydraulic levelers is also a concern. A concrete surface is best, but blacktop can be used with caution. If ambient temperatures are high, you will likely create a depression in the blacktop with the weight of your motorhome concentrated on the relatively small pads of your leveling jacks.
  • Attempting to use a hydraulic leveling system on a soft dirt surface will prove futile, as the jack will just sink into the ground. Be sure you have a solid footing when you use this type of RV leveling system.

 

Here are some small RV levels that adhere to the 4 corners of your RV and enable you to see how level your RV really is.

Here are some tips for leveling and stabilizing your RV.

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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Fun From Around the Web

  • not a happy camper!

    We purchased a 2005 Rockwood, 31 ft with two slide outs travel trailer. We used it for the second time this week-end. Everything has worked great until we got ready to pack up to leave. Our son was bringing in the bunkhouse slideout, when 1/2 way in, it stopped. We then tried to bring in the sofa/dining area, and it wouldn’t budge. We have tested all fuses, battery connections, power, etc. and everything else is working and showing proper voltage and charge. We were told that you could manually put the slideouts in, but nothing in the manual explains that, nor do we see any type of mechanism that indicates you can do that. Needless to say, we had to leave our camper at the campsite. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • Curtis

      Not a Happy Camper, I’m guessing this is your first RV with slideouts. I say that because sometimes when one is unfamiliar with things they get a bit frazzled when it doesn’t work and might over look something simple in their confusion. Manual systems usually consist of a hand crank that you install through a hole in the sidewall that will let you crank in the slideout. Other setups include using a socket wrench at the electric motor inside the RV to retract them. It’s unlikely that both slideouts have experienced a mechanical problem so I’d recheck that you haven’t missed a circuit breaker of fuse.

      • larry couch

        I have a problem with my jacks not getting back to the up position they go half way and stop . I bought and changed the return springs but no dif. I have to lift up with a board to get them in place . its only two of the four jacks

        • Curtis

          Larry, it may be a limit switch our of adjustment. I’m not familiar with the system myself, but it may be sensing that they are up when they haven’t finished rising. Call it a semi educated guess because that is one system I have never worked on and there are a variety of different systems.

          • larry couch

            thank you Curtis but the only switch is for the alarm and warning light on the control panel. the y wont go off until I lift the jacks manually but thanks anyway

          • Curtis

            Larry, I was thinking along the line of a sensor, switch on the jacks themself that tell the computer what position the jack is in. It may be out of adjustment.

  • irv kodimer

    Thanks for your previous help on partially extending slide outs and the warning about rain. Now, can help in another area ?
    I Park my class A Tiffin Phaeton, 2009 year, in the street next to my home. Even with the step button turned off, and the engine off, if I open my entry door, the step will deploy and partly extend about 4-5 inches & stops, hitting the street curb. The step motor stops, is not warm to touch, no sound is heard that would warn me that the motor is binding up. When I do engage the ignition key, even without starting the engine, the step comes to full retract, no problem. I can’t position the coach to allow full step extension since I would endanger a traffic collision to my coach by so doing. I was told by at least 7-8 repair facilities that this causes no harm to the gears or motor. However, Kwikee Step contends that this could damage the motor. They have had lawsuits about step deployment so I believe their answer is to cover their rear ends. Again, the step button will not lock up the step into full retraction. Opening the entry door automatically causes the step to extend. Curtis, do you have any advise on this problem ?

    • Curtis

      irv kodimer, Most motorhomes that I’m familiar with will leave the steps fully retracted if you turn off the house and chassis batteries before you open the door. That way you can jump down and leave as a last step after closing things up for a period of storage. It also helps to remind you to shut off all the batteries as the last step before you walk away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/louis.s.andrew Louis St Andrew

    very green just got ggb2 cant find out where water is coming from millde floor just 4 jns from tiotit if water or pump on if off dosen t sorry rv ggb 85 both have to be off it just keeps on coming like something is off and pushing it out but it just mets in middle then goes in to carpet tks leslie

    • Curtis

      Louis St Andrew, Sorry but I can’t decipher your short hand. Please resend with complete words and sentences and maybe I can be of assistance.

  • jpfx

    hello Curtis, can I ask if it might damage a hydraulic leveling system to use it when the vehicle sits in the drive for a few months? thanks

    • Curtis

      jpfx, It won’t hurt a thing to leave your RV on the jacks for a few months. Over time only 2 things can happen. The hydraulic cylinder may leak down some. Usually this amounts to the cylinder just settling a bit as the oil is seeping around the piston inside the cylinder so you don’t see any leakage. Run the cylinder back out if it settles and your good to leave it again. If you’re set up ocean side you may get some rusting on the chrome cylinder rods. Coat them with a light film of grease if you think this might be an issue. Under normal circumstances you shouldn’t have to do anything.

      • jpfx

        many thanks

  • dick hunter

    hello Curtis i have a 34ft class it has a supper slide will the hydraulics for the slide run hydraulic lifts

    • Curtis

      Dick, Possibly but without seeing it I hesitate to say. Some slideouts have a complete 12v hydraulic pump with built in reservoir that would allow you to plump additional functions. The key is the size of the reservoir. You can easily run into a situation where it won’t hold enough oil causing cavitation of the pump. That’s where it tries to pump air because you ran out of oil. That will give you spongy and erratic operation, plus cause undue wear on the pump.

  • Nancy Thomas

    I bought a 30′ 1999 Winnebago that did not come with any leveling equipment. As a single senior citizen on a budget, I need something affordable and simple enough for a woman to operate. What do you recommend ?

    • Curtis

      Nancy, Simple and affordable..About the only thing affordable for one on a fixed and modest budget is leveling blocks. Either plastic store bought, or sections of 2×6 wood that you can make from lumber at the nearest home center. Hydraulic leveling systems, when purchased aftermarket, are both expensive to buy and to have installed. Multiple thousands of dollars would be invested for what a few pieces of 2×6 can do for less than 5 dollars. Myself, I just park in the most level spot I can find and throw a piece of plank under which ever tire needs it to be close enough.

      • Nancy Thomas

        Thanks for the advice Curtis. Sounds easy enough .? (lol) Okay, just head to the lumber store and buy some 2×6 pieces of wood (I’m assuming 6 pieces, one for each tire ) and drive up onto them ? Right now, the only place I have to park my motorhome, is quite unlevel, especially when I have the one small slide out. I don’t dare use the fridge. Here in New Mexico we have extremely high winds (sometimes 60mph gusts) and my Winnie lists like a ship in rough seas. Good thing I went for heavy duty instead of an ultra light. Will the blocks of wood help the listing problem at all ?

        • Curtis

          Nancy, everything within reason. I hope you understand the lengths of 2×6 should be laying flat on the ground so that each layer raises the wheel only 1-1/2″ higher. I wouldn’t recommend stacking the blocks any more than 2 or 3 at the most high and have then different lengths so they form a ramp of sorts. There’s a limit to how much you should try to raise one side with this type of setup. I’d recommend having the home center cutting you a series of blocks from one long 2×6 as likely they will make the cuts for little or no charge. As to the wind affecting sway when parked, this method of leveling will make no improvement for you on that issue. If you want a solid feeling the only choice is hydraulic leveling systems that will do a nice job for you but will cost you. You get what you pay for.