Just like your home, your RV needs to be level. Can you imagine trying to get a good night’s rest with your head tipped slightly downhill? An unlevel RV is not just uncomfortable; it can also be dangerous. So, every RVer needs to know how to level an RV before heading out.
Read on to find a list of equipment and techniques you’ll need, plus some tips to put in your back pocket.
Table of Contents
- Why Do You Need to Level Your RV?
- Equipment Needed to Level Your RV
- How to Manually Level an RV
- What Is an RV Auto-Leveling System?
- Can You Use Stabilizer Jacks to Level Your RV?
Why Do You Need to Level Your RV?
Does your RV need to be level? Yes, it certainly does. Some reasons are more obvious than others.
For example, some of the equipment in your RV must be perfectly level to function. For example, the coolant in your RV refrigerator needs to be flat (from the fridge’s perspective) to cool appropriately. If your RV is dramatically unlevel, the coolant will pool to one end and prevent it from cooling properly.
If you have slide-outs, it’s even more crucial that your RV is level. Being unlevel from front to back creates an angular pressure that tweaks the slides and can cause them to bind. It can even break the motors. Similarly, it can put more strain on the engines to move the slides uphill in one direction.
Practical reasons to level your RV are not as obvious but still significant. Sleeping on an uneven mattress is uncomfortable and can give you headaches if your head is lower than your feet. Also, cooking in an unlevel kitchen is more difficult because liquids and semi-liquids like eggs will fall to the downhill side of the pan.
Equipment Needed to Level Your RV
Now that we’ve told you why let’s explain how to level your RV starting with the equipment you need, like bubble level gauges, leveling blocks, wheel chocks, and even a good shovel. And most of all, don’t forget to pack your patience because backing into a site and getting level after a long travel day can be stressful.
No matter how good your equilibrium and balance are, you’ll need some mechanical means to ensure your rig is level.
A carpenter’s level is overkill for travel, but a simple torpedo level won’t take up much space and works great!
- Unlike traditional levels that fade due to UV exposure this will...
- Markings indicate number of inch required to raise or lower...
- Optional screw holes or self-adhesive back for easy mounting
A pair of weighted ball levels or graduated bubble levels are perfect for towable RVs. Attach a large level on the front of your trailer where you can see it from your truck to tell whether you’re level side to side. Place the second one next to the control for your jack to view the level from front to back while you operate the jack. It can either be on the tongue of your travel trailer or the side of your fifth wheel.
RV Leveling Blocks
You can choose from many sizes and varieties, but the concepts are all the same. If your site isn’t level, you’ll need graduated leveling blocks to raise the low side.
These leveling blocks can be pieces of lumber that you cut yourself, stackable “Lego” type blocks, or curved pieces like the Andersen Levelers.
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As you pick out your leveling blocks or levelers, remember you’ll need something for each wheel on one side. So either one for single axles, two for tandems, or three for triples. Also, measure the space between your tires to ensure your levelers will fit in between.
If you skipped the measurements in the previous step, go back because you’ll need to know the size of that gap before you can pick out wheel chocks.
Chocking your wheels is a crucial safety step that ensures your trailer won’t roll away once you unhitch. Regardless of how flat your site looks, you must stabilize the wheels in case it’s unlevel enough for the trailer to roll. This is especially critical once the wheels are on blocks because it’s natural for the trailer to want to roll off.
Remember the value of a good shovel. Don’t try this in a campground, but it works if you’re boondocking. It’s easier and safer to dig out in front of the tires on the high side than to put down blocks on the low side. Once you’ve dug your hole(s), you can pull forward and watch the high side drop into the holes to even out.
If the site is exceptionally uneven, you might need to use blocks on the low side and holes on the high side. Just fill your holes when you leave.
Tensions may rise when you finally get to camp and haven’t yet opened the doors, but be patient with yourself, your partner, and your kids while you level up. Even if you get it wrong and have to start all over, take your time and don’t lose your cool.
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How to Manually Level an RV
The process is simple, and it gets easier with experience. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll learn that leveling side to side can be a little tricky, but front to back is a piece of cake. The degree of difficulty for leveling depends on how uneven your site is. Let’s look at how to level an RV the right way.
Start with Side to Side
Remember that bubble level you installed on the front of your trailer? Now it’s time to shine.
As you pull into your site, keep an eye on that level to see if you can find a naturally level spot from side to side. If so, stop, get out, and look around to see if that lucky spot is workable.
Are you close enough to the power/water pedestal and sewer? Are you far enough into the space to leave room for your truck? If so, then you’re done with this part.
Assuming you weren’t that lucky, get your trailer to the spot you want (near the pedestals, etc.) and stop for a moment to reassess. Pulling forward onto your leveling blocks is easier than reversing, so if you have enough clearance behind you, back up another foot and stop. Get out and set your leveling blocks right in front of all of your tires on the low side. Push them with your hands or boot to make sure they sit firmly against the tires.
Now slowly pull forward and watch the bubble again. Keep advancing slowly until the bubble shows level, but pull ahead another inch or two to allow for settling.
With your previously low wheels now just a hair higher than level, get out and chock your wheels for safety before you unhitch. With this minor settling, you’re safe and ready to unhitch. Once done, your trailer will try to sit back down a little, but your chocks will prevent any real movement.
Finish with Front to Back
Before you can level up from front to back, you need to unhitch. Go ahead and lower your landing gear (fifth-wheel) or tongue jack (travel trailer) so the nose is high enough to separate from the hitch. If the site is very uneven, you might need to add some blocks beneath the jacks first. Don’t worry about being level yet, though.
Once you’ve decoupled from the hitch, pull your truck far enough forward to create some working room. Now you’re ready to level.
Remember that you’re already level side to side because of your blocks. Now you only need to raise or lower your front gear or jack to fine-tune that height until your second bubble shows that you’re level from front to back. This is the easiest part of the process.
What Is an RV Auto-Leveling System?
Auto-levelers are a whole different ball game. Remember Judy Jetson and all of her futuristic household gadgetry from the Saturday morning cartoons? Well, thanks to auto-levelers, the future is now. Let’s take a look.
With four- or six-point levelers, you simply push one button, and your hydraulic jacks each automatically deploy to find the perfect level for your rig. It looks and feels like magic.
You push the button, and the controller deploys each of the jacks one at a time and adjusts their levels until your rig is perfect. Do this before you deploy your sides, and make sure nobody in your family goes inside the trailer yet, because bouncing around could confuse the controller.
When you’re ready to pack up and leave, push the memory feature, and the nose will rise to the same level where it was when you pushed auto-level. This means it’s at the right height for you to back right in and hitch up.
Keep the following auto-leveler tips in mind. First, always pack a gallon of automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and some zip ties. If roadside debris or an erratic tire blowout severs your hydraulic lines, your jacks won’t operate, and you won’t be able to unhitch from your trailer. Use the zip ties to kink the severed line and then replace the lost fluid with ATF as a stopgap until you can get proper repairs.
Other helpful tips for auto-levelers:
Try to avoid drastically unlevel campsites where your trailer is pointing uphill. Your front leveling jacks won’t retract far enough for the auto-level function to work, and you’ll have to override the system and attempt to level manually.
When you initially unhitch, raise the front of the trailer, so the nose is above level and not pointing downhill. The auto-levelers don’t work well when the initial state is pointing downhill. Use blocks under the jacks if necessary. The memory function also only works if the nose is higher than the horizon.
If your bubble levels frustrate you, or if you just love technology, try the LevelMatePRO system. It’ll display your rig’s orientation on your mobile device and/or Apple Watch, so you don’t have to look over your shoulder at the bubble to see when you’re level.
Although this isn’t the same as auto-levelers, the LevelMatePRO system will replace your bubble levels.
- On/off switch provides complete control over battery life
- Micro-USB port for externally powering device (not for...
- 3x larger battery than the original LevelMatePRO
Can You Use Stabilizer Jacks to Level Your RV?
Your stabilizer jacks only stop movement created by people walking inside your RV. They aren’t designed to bear the weight of the trailer. Using your stabilizer jacks to level your trailer will damage the jacks and twist your frame.
If you doubt this, try to open one of your cargo doors near a jack that you put too much weight on. If the door is hard to open or won’t open at all, you put too much weight on the stabilizers, and you’re twisting your frame.
Remember that your wheels and suspension can bear the weight of your RV, but your stabilizer jacks cannot.
With the right equipment, some patience, and just a little experience, leveling your RV will become second nature to you. Once you find the routine that’s right for your RV, you’ll level up and unhitch without much stress at all.
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