How to Level a Motorhome… Plus an Awesome Giveaway!

TheRVgeeks Miscellaneous 31 Comments

Sloped campsites are a fact of life for RVers. Most of us have to deal with un-level sites fairly often, especially when we’re camping in remote, unimproved locations. Even though leveling a motorhome isn’t particularly complicated, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Here’s how we do it, plus we’re giving away some great prizes in our latest RVgeeks Contest!

Even if you own a 5th wheel or travel trailer vs a motorhome, some of these steps still apply. Plus, the prizes we’re giving away are something that every RVer will want to win. So don’t tune out just because your RV doesn’t have a built-in jack system!

Your RV’s leveling procedures may be different than ours, but many of the concepts are the same. Even though we have a computerized system, we demonstrate how to level using the manual controls, just in case your rig does’t have an automatic mode.

We shot this video on a mostly-level concrete site, so jack pads weren’t needed. But when the slope gets too far off-level and/or the ground is soft, you’ll need a good quality set of leveling blocks. We happen to own the best ones on the market. wink


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On Sunday, November 16th, 2014 at 5:00PM Pacific Time, five lucky RVgeeks viewers will each win a set of four Utility Blocks, with a total retail value of nearly $350! Use the form below to enter for your chance to win a set of these awesome jack pads.  We’ve been using ours for about a year and a half and know you’ll love them as much as we do!

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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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Comments 31

  1. Pingback: How to Level a Motorhome | DutchEagle.com/RV

  2. I have a 34′ ford 2004 f53 chasis. My system has 4 jacks but the front two are connected to one hydraulic valve. It is a 2004 that is only manual. I learned the hard way that if not done right it can cost you ($700 to reset the windshield). I finally figured out to make sure during any side to side only movement (this is controlled by only my two rear jacks) to make sure I activate my front valve at the same time so the front jacks don’t tweek the rig.Don’t know if it’s right but I have not damaged anything since following this procedure. You’re thoughts? Have you ever heard of a system hooked up this way?

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      Hi Eric. The only systems that we’ve heard of that sound similar to this are the old Monaco 3-jack systems, which had a single jack in the center up front. They went to the three-point system because their windshields were popping out like crazy with four jacks. Can you tell us the make and model of the jack system so we can research a little further?

  3. It seems silly to raise one side of the RV to match the other side to then have to raise the side that was supposed to be higher in the first place, why not lower the side you raised up to begin with? in our short experience the auto leveling ends up raising the jacks too much unnecessarily. I saw a lot of posts about this in the RV blogs and from now on we are going to try leveling the RV completely manually and they recommend to do front to back then side to side – to be tested. BTW we bought those blocks and were parked on grass slightly downhill in the front of the RV, using the auto level we placed the blocks under the jacks, on the side that needed to be raised the block slipped out when the jack touched down, by the time we managed to stop the auto level process the jack was bent we have been using the cheap blocks since and no slipping issues. I would not waste money on those expensive ones.

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      Hi Dayami. I think you may be misunderstanding something about the leveling process that we demonstrated. For all intents and purposes, there’s no raising of the high side after raising the low side. The 4th jack only touches the ground and presses in until firmly planted, not lifting any more than the tiniest amount. The only exception to that is for any slight adjustment that is sometimes needed to compensate for any minor change in the side-to-side level that occasionally occurs during front-to-rear jacking, which was the situation we demonstrated. Sorry if we weren’t clear enough on that.

      With a diesel pusher, you start by dropping the air bags, thereby lowering the suspension at all four corners as far as it will go. Of course with gas rigs, there’s no way to lower the suspension, since there are no air bags to dump. So either way, the RV starts off as low as possible at all four corners, which prevents jacking any side or end more than needed.

      The first step in jacking raises the low side to exactly match the higher side and that’s the end of the side-to-side leveling. Same goes for the front-to-rear jacking… raise the low end to exactly match the high end… no more. The RV is as low as it can be, since the high side and high end aren’t raised at all. The low side and end were simply brought up to match the high side and high end. If your jacks are raising the RV so that the low side or low end are lifted further than the high side or end, then your jacks are not working properly, or you could be doing something wrong.

      Regarding whether to level front-to-rear first, or side-to-side first, that can be a matter of preference, as long as you don’t contradict your manufacturer’s instructions. Our rig, and others we have seen, level side to side first when using the computer control, so that’s the way we do it when leveling manually. If you have a computerized system that’s working correctly, you should see it exactly mimic the steps that we performed manually in the video.

      If you jacked up the front, and the jacks slid on the grass or on the pads, either your pads weren’t centered under the jacks, and/or you failed to set your parking brake correctly and/or failed to chock the rear wheels. In our 12 years of full-timing, we’ve never once had a pad slide out or have the RV slide when jacking, even on a substantial hill, even on wet grass, because the brakes/tires/chocks hold the rear in place when raising the front, and the chocks hold the front in place when raising the rear (although we never lift the rear wheels into the air, to avoid lifting the only parking brake-equipped tires off the ground). And we’re careful to place the jack pads centered directly under the jacks, no matter what kind of pad/block we’re using, expensive or cheap.

  4. I am new to your site and the videos I have watched are very instructive. The one thing that I do differntly when leveling our coach, is lower the opposite jacks after doing the first side adjustment. I do this to stabilize the coach before adjusting the front to back. My reasoning is to eliminate any twisting on the frame. It might not be necessary but I feel better doing it. Just food for thought.

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      Welcome, and thanks for the comment! A few years ago, we tried using the exact method you described for a while, and it works very well, too. But we ended up going back to the way we demonstrated here because that’s the way that the computer does it when automatic mode is used, and it has never caused us any problem. There’s nothing wrong with an abundance of caution though!

  5. We have had our motorhome for 2 yrs, but my husband will retire from the miltary on Nove 30th after 40 yrs of service. We are hoping to get out more and for longer stays than the weekend jaunts we have done so far. I haven’t really paid attention to the leveling system on our coach. I know it is automatic, but not sure if it has the red & yellow lights. I have noticed after it is supposed to be leveled that it is still shakey. I can feel my husband turn over in bed, if I am reading on the sofa. Is that normal?

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      Hi Donna! What you’re describing may not be that unusual, depending on the circumstances. What size and type of RV do you have? The larger the motorhome and the more robust the leveling jacks, the less you’re likely to feel movement. That said, even on our 43′ rig, we can sometimes feel each other walking or moving around. It tends to be more noticeable if the movement is coming from a slide-out, since sticking out the side of the RV puts the weight change further out from the jacks. It also tends to be worse on very unlevel sites that required jacking one side or end of the RV very high up. Also, the more weight, the more we notice it (one of us weighs more than the other, so when the heavier person walks around, it’s more noticeable than when the lighter one is doing it). Our bed is in a slide, so if one of us is in bed and moves around too much, the other can feel it up in the living room if they’re sitting still, and if the RV is jacked up pretty high. It’s not enough to make us seasick, but it’s detectable. lol We used to notice it more in our previous motorhome, which was smaller and had smaller jacks. This is just our experience. Hope this info helps a little.

      1. Sorry! I should have said that we have a 37 ft., Class A. Our bed and the sofa are on slides on the same side of the coach. Most places we have been have had concrete parking pads, so I felt we were pretty level to start out. This gives me some info to discuss with my husband. I was delegated the task of research to the in’s and out’s of the RVing until my husband is retired and ready to take on the task himself. He has worked in another state for the last 4 yrs, only home for the weekends, outside of leave time. Thakes to your site & videos, I have learned a lot. Now it’s time to teach him. LOL

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          Author

          It sounds like you’re not experiencing anything unusual, Donna. We have the same setup, with the bed and the sofa in slides on the same side of the RV. You have the disadvantage of being a shorter rig (we’re guessing gas, not diesel) so lighter than ours with lighter-duty jacks, and a shorter wheelbase, all of which conspire to make things more sensitive to shifts in weight on board. Without actually seeing it, we’re guessing you have nothing to worry about, and you have the added comfort of knowing you’re husband’s alive back there while you’re up front reading on the sofa. ;-)

  6. Hi. Love your videos. It appears we have the same coach. Sure helps when the controls are the same as ours in the videos. We have a 2005 Mountain Aire. Keep up the great work.

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      Thanks Rick! Our rig is indeed an ’05. I’ll let you in on a little secret. We originally started making videos to help friends of ours on the other side of the country learn how to use the systems on their new (to them) RV… a 2005 Newmar Kountry Star. So Newmar owners do indeed seem to have a bit of an advantage here. ;-)

  7. Great video as usual! You always fascinate me with your wealth of information and great products that are available! Always look forward to your next video and review. Thanks!!!

  8. An important point is that if you choose to place blocks under your tires when leveling, it is most important that the blocks are both wider and longer than the tire-print to avoid damaging the tire. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen coaches, 5th wheels, and trailers with tires overhanging the blocks.

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  9. We just purchased our first rv an older one , but we are looking forward to sone great family time. Your videos are awesone and i have learned alot. I want to thank you and keep up the great job. O and good luck to all the entries. .

    Thanks Rick B.

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  10. Do all the leveling systems have the lights for level? I don’t think the 2000ish HWH hydraulics in my coach have level lights. Would be really convenient, and for me, it makes this video rather useless.

    I was really hoping for a review of one of the electronic levels like the “RV EZ Level”, before I spend money on it.

    Fear not, I’m still subscribed, and still like your videos. I could really use a set of those pads! :-)

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      1. I didn’t know there were leveling jack controllers with level lights built in. :-)

        Ours isn’t auto leveling, and the only lights are operational, and Don’t seem to relate to level. I have to go by the seat of my pants, which doesn’t work well, or a level on the floor of the coach, the reason for the interest in the RV Easy Level.

        It was helpful to know what to level first.

        I’m not sure why campgrounds don’t level the pads better. Ours is a 30′ Class A, and in one campground the front wheels were completely off the ground when level. Seems kinda crazy.

  11. Can you put blocks under the wheels before you start to level the coach. We just bought a 2003 Dutch Star and we are in the process of cleaning it and packing for trip south. I leveled the coach in my driveway and the left front wheel is off the ground?

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      Hi Barry. The “official” word is that you’re not supposed to raise a tire off the ground, but…. and I know there are those out there who will slam me for saying this out loud, so I’m already bracing myself… in nearly 12 years of full-time RVing, we’ve had a tire or two off the ground more times than we can count, with zero ill effect. That said, if you want to keep all tires supported, the easiest way to do it is probably the way you’ve described… drive the low side or end up onto blocks before leveling.

      The reason we’ve never done that is because you’d have to level first to know that a tire or two came off the ground in the first place. Then you’d have to retract the jacks, drive the RV onto the blocks, and re-level, hoping that the block was thick enough. And of course you have to carry around a couple of blocks, which for us full-timers is just more gear and weight using up limited space. I know that some consider it the equivalent of RV heresy to say it, so I won’t officially endorse lifting tires off the ground, but we simply don’t worry about it, especially if it’s the front tires, which have no parking brakes holding them in place anyway (as shown in the video, we chock a front tire if the rear will be jacked up).

      As far as any concern about harming the suspension or air bags by leaving a wheel hanging from it… I’m no chassis expert, but all these years of hanging hasn’t seemed to bother our coach one bit, and we have the chassis inspected every year as part of our routine maintenance. Maybe some air bags are different than ours, so please don’t take this as gospel that anyone can do it just because we do. You might want to contact your chassis manufacturer (Freightliner or Spartan) to get their official opinion. I suppose they might tell us that we’re doing something dire to our air bags, but our Mountain Aire will be 10 years old this spring, and no problem so far.

      In our world, tires simply hang when we’re leveled in very off-level campsites. Of course everything I just said was totally off the record. ;-)

  12. Great video as usual! Is it necessary to chock the wheels on both sides of the coach, or is one side good enough?
    BTW My Tough Top slide topper just arrived. Thanks for making that slide topper video, as you’ve given me the courage to take on this task!

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      Hi Gary! I’ve been a pilot far longer than I’ve been an RVer, so maybe I’m in the habit of chocking one wheel (one chock in front and one behind it) because I was so used to chocking the nose wheel that way. lol We usually do just one wheel, the way we demonstrated (we only own two chocks), but you could also chock just the downhill side of two different tires instead, one on each side of the RV.

      So happy to hear that you’re doing your own slide topper! It’s just about our very favorite DIY RV project, due to the high cost of paying a shop to do it, and the better quality fabric from Tough Top Awnings. Hope you have a real easy time of it. We replaced one for a friend just a few weeks ago, and it was as easy as we’d remembered.

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      Hi Art. The “official” and “approved” response to that question is that you aren’t supposed to jack your rig up so high that the tires come off the ground. But let’s speak off the record for a second. ;-) If you’re raising the front of the coach, chock the rear wheels. If you’re raising the rear of the coach, chock the front wheels. That way, the chocked wheels never even have the opportunity to lift off the ground. Now, back on the record, don’t jack your tires off the ground. lol

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