We all like to take a level-headed approach to things and the “beast” is no different. All RVs like to be level as do the people, furry and otherwise, inside. A level Motorhome not only feels better, but appliances (such as the refrigerator) work better on a level surface, you prevent excessive twist to the frame (and windshield) and, as a practical safety bonus, your wine glass and won’t slide off the table.
Being level is thus important on so many different levels (hehe). Thankfully there are lots of ways to make this happen. We always start by trying to find the flattest site we can, but since we go to alot of “out there” campgrounds we sometimes have to use a few extra tricks to get the beast completely flat:
1/ Automatic Leveling Systems: Most modern Motorhomes come with powered jacks (either air, hydraulic or electric), or you can buy and install them after market (e.g. Big Foot has a very good reputation).
These not only level the home but stabilize it so you don’t get sway when moving around or in high winds. Usually the systems are either 4 jacks (2 located in the front and 2 in rear corners of the RV), or 3 jacks (one in front middle and 2 in rear corners), together with a sensor and a controller panel. When you park, you just dump the air (lowers the RV suspension), turn-on the auto-system and it does the rest. Wonderful! But the systems are not infallible and you still need to apply some common sense when using them “in the field”. Here’s the three biggest “gotcha’s” where your auto system might fail:
- Very uneven surfaces – The jacks only have a certain amount they can extend which may not be enough to level the home on a more uneven surface. Also you never want to dangle the back wheels off the ground (since these are the parking brakes for your home). So, on a more uneven surface you need to use blocks on either the wheels or the jacks (or both) so the back wheels are physically down on supports. We always aim to support our home so that all 6 wheels are down, no matter where we park.
- Left to right slants - Depending on where the level sensor is in your home it may not be able to figure out left-to-right or diagonal slants. In our home, our sensor is near the front so the automatic levellers twist the home excessively when they try to level on a slant, especially if the slope is on the back. The system simply can’t “figure it out” and will keep pushing up one of the back ends to try to get the front-side level. On big slants like this we level the home using the manual controls.
- Soft Surfaces - Given the “beast” has a bit of bulk on her (~33,000 lbs) we have to be very careful of parking on soft surfaces or surfaces that can become soft with rain (e.g. sand, earth or hot asphalt). If the jacks sink into the ground not only will they not support the home, but they can get “stuck” and suck the home deeper into the ground when you try to retract them (a true story we heard from another camper). So, on softer ground you need physical support on both wheels and jacks before you try to level. Of course it goes without saying, if the ground is too soft, don’t park there.
2/ Physical Leveling & Support - For uneven surfaces or in cases where we need to support the back wheels or keep the motorhome from sinking into softish ground we have several physical supports we use. RVers without jacks uses these tricks exclusively to level their homes:
- Treated Wood Planks - Simple wood planks can be a great way to spread out weight and support wheels and jacks. For wheels a 2×10 board, cut into long pieces can support the wheels. If the pieces are layered, one ontop of the other (like a staircase), they can add height as well as support. For jacks you can use the same, or thicker 4×6 pieces. We have 8 pieces of pressure-treated 4×6 lumber that we use under the jacks.
- Lynx Levelers – These nifty little plastic blocks can be layered and built up like Lego pieces to provide support for wheels. We have 2 packs that we use for softer surfaces and adding height.
3/ Visual aids - Once you’ve tinkered with the blocks, wood pieces and jacks how do you know if you’re actually level? Of course there’s the simple wine-glass test (pour the wine, see if the top surface is level in the glass and drink to your leveling genius), or there’s cheap stick-on level indicators that you can buy at camping stores or Walmart. We also do a triple-easy-check using the bathroom door in the middle of our home. It swings quite easily and will stay in position on a level surface (we can test both front-back and side-to-side level this way).
There’s lots of other systems including manual jacks (the old-fashioned hand-cranking types), plastic ramps and other nick-nacks, but the Lynx blocks, our 4×6 wood pieces and the powered jacks have worked well for us. So, may your RV always be flat and your wine glass well supported. Cheers!
Where Are We Today?Sam's Spa, Desert Hot Springs, CA
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