So, just how do you use those hydraulic jacks to level your motorhome? Hydraulic jacks make for an easy leveling procedure, but there are some things to know before you set off. I have consulted various online manuals and tutorials to ensure I have covered all of my bases. Today, I bring you our comprehensive guide to leveling a motorhome with hydraulic jacks.
To level your motorhome using hydraulic jacks, you first need to prepare your RV, both inside and out. Next, to manually level your motorhome, follow these steps:
- Raise the low side first
- Level the RV front or rear
- Check your sides
- Put down the fourth jack
- Check your lights
The process is even easier if you have an automatic-leveling system. In that case, simply turn the system on, push your "auto-level" button, and let the system do its thing. Once it finishes, you can turn the system off again.
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As you can see, this is not a complicated process. Indeed, once you get the hang of it, this will just be another one of those second-nature things you do while setting up. At this point, however, it is worth learning all of the details behind each step, so keep reading.
Before we begin leveling the RV, it is important to make sure that your motorhome and its surroundings are in order. Failing to perform these steps could result in mechanical failure or worse, so don't skip them!
- Keep all pets and children away from the area during the leveling procedure.
- Park in the most level area you can find.
- The parking brake should be on and the transmission should be in neutral or park.
- RVs that use airbags will need to be "dumped," or lowered all the way down, prior to leveling.
- Because there is some variation between RVs in this regard, look in your owner's manual to verify if your slide-outs should be in or out while leveling.
- Clear any debris away from jack landing areas.
- Use load distribution pads if the ground is soft to keep the jacks from sinking into the earth.
- Verify that the front wheels are straight if you are leveling a diesel pusher motorhome.
Time to Level!
There are two main types of hydraulic leveling systems you will find on most motorhomes: manual and automatic. Follow along as we detail the steps involved with both systems. That way, even if you own an automatic system, you will know how to level it yourself should the system fail or need re-calibration.
Locate your level control panel. Find the diagram depicting your motorhome when viewed from directly overhead. Lights situated on each side of the RV will light up on the sides that need to lift up. Throughout this process, keep in mind that all of the motorhome tires should never be lifted all the way off of the ground - this creates a dangerous and unstable condition.
There is a great RVgeeks ">youtube video that details the manual leveling process. This isn't rocket science, but there is a process that you need to learn and follow every time:
- Raise the low side first: push the "up" arrow on the side that is lit up. New lights will now come on, showing that the jacks are extended.
- Next, level the motorhome front to rear: Raise the jacks on the low end of the motorhome until the light goes off.
- Check your sides: After leveling the front and rear of the motorhome, you will often find that one of the sides has become too low. So, at this point, you will need to repeat the first step to level the sides once more.
- Put down the fourth jack. At this point, you have likely only used 4 jacks to get the RV level. While you do not need the last jack to level the RV, you still need to lower it to the ground to create a stable platform. Lower that last jack until it touches the ground and ever so slightly begins to lift the RV.
- Check your lights. And... that's it! You are now finished, but one last check to make sure everything looks good should be in order. At this point, all of the jack lights should be on, and none of the "low side" lights should be illuminated.
Some motorhomes come equipped with a computer-controlled automatic leveling system. The manual steps are all followed during this process, but now the system does most of the work for you - not too shabby!
Naturally, automatic leveling systems are much easier to use than manual leveling systems. This instruction manual from Level Up shows how a typical leveling system operates.
- Turn the system on. Push the power button and check that the screen turns on.
- Press the "Auto Level" button to begin the cycle.
- Once the system has finished the leveling process, turn the system off.
Retract the Jacks
Okay, so at this point, your motorhome is comfortably and safely level. But what happens when you are ready to pack up and leave? Luckily, the jack retraction process couldn't be simpler.
Simply turn on your leveling system control panel once more and find the "retract" button. It might be labeled something like "Auto Retract," and it is often an option you find by scrolling through your screen options.
Once you have initiated the process, the hydraulic jacks will retreat back into their stored positions all by themselves. It is always a good idea to hop out and conduct an inspection to make sure it all looks good. Now, all you have to do at this point is turn off the system and you are good to go!
Motorhome Leveling Jacks Troubleshooting
Inevitably, you will end up experiencing some sort of issue with your leveling system. Fear not, for there are many great resources out there that show how to fix most of these problems on your own. The first place to look should be your owner's manual. Every system should come with a manual that shows how to remedy common problems.
Here is a brief rundown of some common problems and their likely solutions:
- Leveling System will Not Turn On:
This is likely either caused by the parking brake not being set or by not having your ignition turned to the "On" position.
- "Excess Angle" Error
This means that the ground your RV is parked on is not level enough. Simply move to a more level spot and begin the process again.
- Auto-Level Not Working:
The system attempts to level itself, but never quite makes it all the way level. This problem is usually fixed by calibrating your system. Each system uses a slightly different calibration technique, so refer to your owner's manual to follow the procedure that will work for you.
If the system will not even begin to level, however, you will want to check your hydraulic fluid level. Top it off if it is too low, and you should be good to go.
- "Unable to Finish Leveling" Message
Most systems will display this error message when excessive movement inside of the coach prevents the jacks from working properly. When you see this message, stop all movement within the RV while the system finishes its job.
- All Level Lights are Blinking
This usually occurs when your hydraulic fluid is low or there is a problem with your connections. So, check your fluid and hen your electrical connections first. Then, turn the system off and on again to reset it.
- Growling Noise:
A low, rumbling sound that emanates whenever the jacks are extending could mean you have a bad cylinder or bad springs.
A cylinder kit can be installed by yourself or a certified repair shop. If the problem is a rusty or worn out spring, a spring kit can be purchased fairly inexpensively on Amazon.
Keep it Horizontal
Okay, so now we all know the basics of how hydraulic RV leveling systems work. These are truly a wonderful upgrade over those clunky leveling blocks that you have to drive up on when your RV doesn't have such a system. By following the proper steps, including the preparation, your RV will stay safe and secure while you are using it. Now, the only thing you need to do is get out there and have a blast!