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It would be pretty weird if your house was built at an angle, right? It would be equally weird if your travel trailer was parked unleveled on the camping grounds.
You may spend several days and even weeks camping in your travel trailer. So why not make it feel as close to your home as possible?
And besides, there is a certain safety issue with unleveled trailers that you need to know about.
But how to level a travel trailer in the best way? That’s the question we are going to give an answer to today.
RV leveling is a pretty deep subject, so we’ve made sure to include all the info that you, as an owner of a travel trailer, would need.
But first of all, let’s understand why you need to level your travel trailer in the first place.
Why level your travel trailer?
There are several reasons why you should keep your travel trailer level.
The very first reason is your RV refrigerator. The refrigeration mechanism requires an absolutely level ground to function properly.
Why so though? The refrigeration process is pretty complex, but we’ll make it simpler to understand.
To ensure proper temperatures, refrigerators rely on coolants like Freon. A compressor in the refrigerator constricts the coolant vapor, raising its pressure and temperature. This pushes the vapors into the coils located outside and closer to the top of the refrigerator.
Due to the lower temperature of air in the kitchen, the vapors in the coils cool down and liquefy. In liquid form, the coolant flows down into evaporator coils within the fridge.
Lastly, the coolant evaporates back into gas and flows back to the compressor, which starts the cycle over.
This refrigeration mechanism is based on gravity. Without proper leveling, the liquefied coolant may be unable to properly flow down to the evaporator coils and back into the compressor.
Some refrigerators use a heat source instead of a compressor to drive the cooling process. These units are called absorption refrigerators. While their methods of driving the cooling process are different, they work in pretty much the same way.
In the end, what do you think, how would a refrigerator work on an unleveled surface? Certainly not as good as on level ground. The flow of the coolant in the refrigerator may get restricted, which would make it pretty much useless. And any device that relies on similar mechanisms will operate more or less inefficiently on unleveled ground.
The second reason for leveling your travel trailer is for comfort. This one is subjective, but we think that anyone would want to live, rest, and do other activities in conditions they are used to.
Watching films on a laptop that is on an unleveled surface would be pretty weird, right? And besides, sleeping on a slanted bed could be quite inconvenient as well. Why expose yourself to these inconveniences if you can avoid them by leveling your travel trailer?
Does the travel trailer need to be level when not in use?
A pretty important question to consider as well is whether a travel trailer needs to be level when parked in your yard or not. And strangely enough, the answer will again depend on your refrigerator, if there is one in your trailer.
If the refrigerator is going to be on – which it probably should not – then you will definitely need to level your travel trailer due to the reasons described above.
On the other hand, if the refrigerator will be standing off, nothing bad should happen to it. There are some other things that you’ll need to do to keep your refrigerator safe, like keeping its door open to prevent mold growth. But that’s a whole another subject.
So as long as the refrigerator in your travel trailer is off, nothing should go bad in it. However, you may level your travel trailer just in case if you feel like it.
Campground parking considerations
Some people may not realize this, but where you park your travel trailer can significantly affect how easy the leveling will be. That being said, there are a couple of points you need to keep in mind when parking.
First of all, you need to choose an appropriate campground. There should be plenty of level parking spots in the campground for you to park at. The less level the ground is, the more effort and materials you will need to get your travel trailer leveled. So why not make your task easier from the get-go?
Besides, the parking spot needs to have plenty of room for driving back and forth because you will need it when leveling. You simply won’t be able to level your travel trailer while stationary.
And lastly, the parking spot needs to be clear of debris like branches or rocks. So before starting the leveling, make sure to remove everything that could get in the way.
Of course, when picking a parking spot, you would also want to make sure that it satisfies your personal needs. But when looking for a spot with the best views or whatnot, remember about the points we mentioned above.
How to level a travel trailer
After you’ve parked your travel trailer in a proper parking spot, it is high time to start the leveling. Don’t unhitch the travel trailer just yet because you will need to drive the trailer back and forth for the leveling.
You will need to have several instruments on you to start the leveling.
Tire chocks will secure the wheels in position after you are done with the leveling.
There are specially made chocks available in general stores, as well as camping supply stores. However, you could use any item like large rocks or wood pieces as a tire chock as long as it is large enough to hold the wheel in place.
But don’t rely on your campground having rocks lying around. There may be nothing suitable in the camping grounds, so make sure to get tire chocks with you.
Leveling blocks will be placed under the wheels for leveling. There are several types of leveling blocks available on the market. As this is a pretty big subject, we’ll examine it in-depth a bit later.
A leveling device (commonly known as a level) allows you to check how level your travel trailer is. Your travel trailer may have leveling devices built in it, so you may not need to buy them separately.
There are two main types of levels: bubble levels – which are sometimes integrated into travel trailers – and optical levels. The former is the cheaper and less accurate option, while the latter is the pricier and more precise option.
If your travel trailer doesn’t have inbuilt levels, we’d recommend you to go for bubble levels. They are cheaper and easier to use. And, most importantly, they will allow you to level your travel trailer pretty accurately.
Wooden blocks will be placed under the travel trailer’s stabilizers and the tongue jack to secure the position of the trailer after you are done leveling. Generally, 4 – 8 2 x 10-inch blocks should be enough for a travel trailer.
Once you have all these instruments, you should be good to go to start leveling your travel trailer.
Side to side
The very first step of leveling a travel trailer is leveling it from side to side, i.e. from left to right. This is done first because it is the more difficult leveling task. In addition, side-to-side leveling is done while the trailer is still hitched: that’s because you may need to drive the trailer back and forth to adjust its position while leveling.
Now, let’s have a look at the step-by-step process of side-to-side leveling.
Measure the camper with your level
First of all, you’ll need to measure the level of camper. You can do this with either the trailer’s onboard levels – if it has them – or your own level.
For side-to-side leveling, use the level that is installed on the front or back of the trailer. If you’ll be using your own level, lay it down in the camper’s doorway from left to right.
Measure the camper with your level. The side that is lower is the side that you will need to raise.
Place leveling blocks near the low side’s tires
Assemble your leveling blocks as per manufacturer’s instructions. Then, place them in front of or behind the tire on the side that needs to be raised.
If you’ll be driving forward to adjust the travel trailer, place the leveling blocks in the front of the tire. And if you’ll be doing it in reverse, place the blocks behind the tire.
Drive your trailer onto the blocks
Slowly drive your travel trailer forward/backward onto the leveling blocks. The wheels should be firmly positioned on the blocks without hanging over them. If necessary, ask someone to guide you while you are positioning the trailer.
Measure the travel trailer’s levelness once again. If you see that it is level, then you are done with side-to-side leveling. Otherwise, do adjustments to the trailer’s position accordingly until you get it leveled.
Place wheel chocks under the tires
Wheel chocks are designed as a safety measure to keep your camper still. You should use them even if it seems that you don’t really need them.
Place the chocks under the wheel either from behind or from the front. If the ground slopes towards the back end of the trailer, place the chocks behind the wheels, and vice versa.
Once you’ve done all this, you should be good to proceed to front-to-back leveling, which is the easier part of travel trailer leveling.
Front to back
Front-to-back leveling is done via the tongue jack, the part of your trailer that connects to a vehicle. Most of the time, tongue jacks need manual adjusting, which can be quite cumbersome. If your budget allows it, you could opt for an electric tongue jack that can be adjusted with a push of a button.
Adjusting the tongue jack is pretty much the only thing you need to do while leveling the trailer front-to-back. This is why it is so much easier to do than side-to-side leveling.
Let’s now see how to adjust your travel trailer from front to back.
Make a resting spot for the tongue jack
You need to place firm pieces of wood under the tongue jack to make a resting place for it. This will ensure that the jack stays in the position you adjust it into. Stacking a few 2 x 10-inch wood boards should be sufficient to provide the tongue jack with a secure resting position.
Unhitch the trailer
Once you’ve set up a resting place for the tongue jack, unhitch the trailer from your vehicle. Then, set the base of the tongue jack’s shaft onto the wooden platform you’ve made.
You should also move your vehicle away to make leveling the trailer easier.
Measure the trailer’s levelness
Like it was with side-to-side leveling, you need to measure the front-to-back level of your travel trailer to determine what adjustments need to be made.
To measure your trailer’s front-to-back leveling, use the onboard level that is installed on one of its sides. If you’ll be using your own level, lay it from front to back in the trailer’s doorway.
In the end, determine which end of the travel trailer’s is lower.
Adjust the tongue jack
Now that you know which end of your trailer needs to be raised, you need to adjust the tongue jack to level it. Read your trailer’s manual to find out how to adjust the jack. If you are using a third-party tongue jack, consult the manual that comes with it.
If it is the rear end of your travel trailer that is low, you need to lower the tongue jack to bring the rear end up, and vice versa. In addition, you could add or remove boards from under the tongue jack to help with the leveling.
After each adjustment, check the leveling device to see how level the trailer is. Continue to adjust the tongue jack until the travel trailer is level enough for you.
Stabilization is the last step in leveling your travel trailer. It won’t make your travel trailer more level, but it will make its position more stable and secure. Stabilization is done via the stabilizing jacks on the trailer’s 4 corners.
Some people may think that leveling can be done via the stabilizing jacks, but doing so would be a huge mistake.
If you try to raise the lower side of your travel trailer with its stabilizing jack, you may cause severe damage to the trailer’s frame. Stabilizing jacks aren’t designed to hold the weight of the trailer. They are there to help you merely increase the trailer’s stability and prevent rocking.
So don’t make a rookie mistake trying to level your travel trailer with its stabilizing jacks.
Some travel trailers may have no stabilizing jacks. In this case, you would need to have a professional install them onto your RV. Or you could use portable jack stands to stabilize the trailer’s corners.
Place wood planks under the stabilizer jacks
Just like it was with the tongue jack, you need to set up a resting spot for the stabilizer jacks. Place a couple of wooden planks under each of the jacks to make a resting place.
Lower the stabilizers onto the planks
Lastly, bring the stabilizer jacks down onto the wood planks. Make sure that they are placed on the planks firmly. Check your user manual to see how to adjust the stabilizer jacks.
Getting leveling blocks for your travel trailer
Leveling blocks are the staple of travel trailer leveling. Most of the time, a travel trailer is going to have everything necessary on board, like levels or tongue jacks. As for leveling blocks, you will have to get them separately.
And with that in mind, we thought that we should give some more info on leveling blocks.
We’ve already said what leveling blocks are for. If you remember, they are designed to be put under the wheels of an RV for leveling.
While all leveling blocks perform the same function, how the leveling is actually done can vary. Based on this, there are two kinds of levelers – building block levelers and sloped levelers.
Building block RV levelers
Building block RV levers are very commonly used among campers. A set of building block levelers comes with several Lego-like building blocks. These blocks can be stacked with each other to make a platform which needs to be installed under the wheels for leveling.
Adjusting building block levelers is pretty easy. You just stack together as many pieces as necessary to get your travel trailer leveled side-to-side.
In addition, the stackability of these levelers allows you to compensate for very uneven surfaces. You may need to get several sets for such cases though since building block kits usually come with up to 10 blocks.
Sloped levelers are shaped like a wedge. These levelers come just in one piece, which implies several advantages and disadvantages.
Sloped levelers are very easy to use, first of all. Unlike building block levelers, there is no assembly required for them. You just put them in front/behind the wheel and do the leveling.
In addition, you don’t need to add any blocks to change the height of the leveler. It is sloped, so the further up you go, the higher the wheel will be above the ground.
On the other hand, what sloped levelers lack is adjustability. You can’t stack a couple of them together to compensate for very uneven surfaces. You are stuck with whatever you have out of the box.
A subtype of the sloped leveler is the so-called Andersen leveler. This isn’t really a subtype, to be honest. Rather, it is a separate product. But it has made quite a fuss due to its uniqueness, so we thought we should mention it.
The Andersen leveler basically is a sloped leveler that has a curve to it. While it operates in the same way as regular sloped levelers, it is used a bit differently.
You drive up on this leveler the same way you would with a regular sloped leveler. However, because the Andersen leveler is curved, the thin edge of the leveler rises above the ground as the wheel goes forward. Again, the further you go, the higher the wheel will be above the ground.
In the end, you stuck the supplied wheel chock under the leveler’s thin edge and call it a day.
Such a design seems to make the wheel of the RV more stable. And besides, you get everything necessary out of the box.
Other things to look for in RV levelers
Aside from leveler types, there are two other things that should be taken into account in RV levelers. The one thing is the leveler’s width, while the other is its weight capacity.
Let’s start with the width.
The leveler needs to be at least as wide as the wheels of your travel trailer. If the leveler is too narrow, the sides of the wheel will hang over its edge. And this can be very damaging to the tires.
You should go for a leveler that is wider than your trailer’s wheels. This, on one hand, will make sure that the tires are safe. And on the other, it will be much easier to place the wheels in a proper position on a wide leveler.
The leveler’s weight capacity is also an important thing to consider. Needless to say, if the leveler is too weak for your travel trailer, it is just going to shatter under the weight of your travel trailer.
Not only weak levelers are a waste of money, but they also can be dangerous because they won’t be able to ensure the stability of your travel trailer.
So when looking for a leveler kit for your travel trailer, make sure that it has sufficient weight capacity to support your travel trailer.