If you need to hook up a travel camper to a tow vehicle, you may be wondering - just how important is it to keep the trailer level? It's something that's on the mind of anyone who has ever towed or is planning to tow - and if it's not on yours then it should be.
In a nutshell:
It's very important to get your trailer level when towing. While it is not the most important factor for safety, it is important enough that steps should be taken to level an unlevel trailer before using it. From wear and tear on your trailer to poor handling and trailer sway, an unlevel trailer can create an expensive and dangerous situation for yourself and everyone else on the road.
We have all likely seen rigs with drastically unlevel trailers barreling down the highway. It does not look very good, but there are plenty of more important reasons to level your trailer. In this post, we'll take an in-depth look into the tilt or grade of the travel trailer, what an unlevel trailer could cause and, most importantly, how to keep yours as level as possible.
Why should a travel trailer be level when towing?
Now, there are many factors at play here, so it will depend on your setup, but no matter what type of truck and trailer you have, it is always best to get it perfectly level. The technical term for your trailer's tilt is "attitude."
Here are the reasons why you should keep any travel trailer level -
While an unlevel trailer will likely not cause dangerous instability all on its own, it can greatly exacerbate any other issues you are experiencing.
That means, if your trailer is improperly loaded or has a mechanical issue, a bad attitude can make the resulting instability even worse. Trailer sway is actually the most common cause of trailer accidents, so finding a level trailer setup is vital to ensuring a safe and secure towing experience.
If you're worried about trailer sway - and you should be - read our detailed guide on how to prevent trailer sway when towing.
2. Ground Clearance
For anyone who might venture offroad with their trailer or even those of us who frequently encounter large dips in the road, good ground clearance is important.
An unlevel trailer will be compromised in regard to its ground clearance. If a trailer is too high up front, the rear of the trailer will be more likely to drag or scrape on the uneven ground.
Contrarily, a low tongue can cause the trailer to ground out on its jack when traversing dips or bumps in the road. A level trailer will provide you with the best setup to avoid scraping and damaging your trailer on both ends.
In addition to being stable and having plenty of clearance, a level trailer will also be more aerodynamic than an unlevel trailer.
After all, trailer manufacturers design their trailers with level towing in mind. They ensure that the profile and everything attached to the top and side of the trailer is aerodynamically stable when the trailer is level.
Towing your trailer unlevel can cause these elements to become much less aerodynamic. Not only is the front of the trailer hitting the wind wrong, but the air moving over the top of the trailer becomes unsettled and turbulent.
This will affect your gas mileage and vehicle performance, but it can also cause the trailer to become unstable. A level trailer will allow the air to smoothly glide over the top of it.
So, to conclude: Yes, it is very important to achieve a level trailer. Next up, we will discuss the difference between trailer types and also how to make your trailer level.
How Different Trailer Types Are Affected
With a single-axle trailer, it will not matter as much that your trailer is level. That does not mean you shouldn't try your best to level it, but if you are slightly off one way or the other, it simply will not matter as much as if you had a double-or triple-axle trailer.
That's because there is no second axle being affected by the unlevel trailer.
Most sources suggest that, if you cannot achieve a perfectly level ride, you should try to make your trailer slightly higher at the tongue side. This is because it is easier and safer to add weight to the front of the trailer in order to compensate and lower it back down to level. Adding weight to the rear in order to fix a low tongue can cause your tongue weight to become too light, which can lead to trailer sway.
There are some sources who actually recommend a lower front end for a more stable ride. Because there are so many factors at play, the exact recommendation will change depending on your trailer setup. That's why it is always recommended to aim for a perfectly level trailer. That way you do not have to worry about calculating your perfect attitude.
Double - or Triple - Axle Trailers
A multi-axle trailer will be more sensitive to being unlevel.
As you have probably inferred from the previous paragraph, this is because an unlevel trailer will place extra weight on one axle, while lightening the load on the other.
This means that either your front or rear tires will bear more weight than the others. Adding too much weight to one axle will cause its tires to wear out prematurely, but it can also lead to more serious problems.
Too little weight on the rear axle can seriously impede your handling and braking performance. Meanwhile, too little weight on the front axle can lead to trailer sway. These are all serious problems that can cause you to have an accident on the road.
How to Make Your Trailer Level
Most experts agree that if your trailer is more than 1 inch off of level, you need to take steps to level it out. Further down, we will show you exactly how to take this measurement so you know just how un-level your trailer is. The good news is, there are easy and inexpensive ways to make an unlevel trailer level.
To make your trailer level when hooked up to your vehicle, you will need to find the right hitch drop or rise. After finding your perfect rise or drop number, you will need to purchase a hitch that corresponds to your needs.
It seems like there are countless items like this that you have to buy for a trailer, but remember: this is an important piece in making your trailer safe and stable. Follow these three easy steps to find the right hitch for your rig:
- Measure your receiver height: Find the measurement from the ground to the top of the receiver tube.
- Measure your coupler height. First, level your trailer on the hand jack. Then, measure from the ground to the top of the coupler.
- Subtract your receiver height from your coupler height.
So, did you find your numbers?
A negative number shows how much drop is needed, while a positive number gives you your rise number. If your vehicle experiences a significant drop after hooking up to your trailer, you will also need to factor in that amount of squat into your equation. Say your hitch drops down 2 inches after hooking up; you will need to subtract 2 inches from your measurement in #1. Self-leveling vehicles, such as those with airbags, will not have to account for much, if any, squat.
Buying the Right Hitch
Once you know how much drop or rise is needed to level your trailer, you can find the right hitch at most stores that carry trailer equipment. A drop hitch will provide a lower mounting point, while a riser hitch will raise your mounting point.
But what if you tow multiple trailers with different rises and drops? Well, there is a handy solution to this situation. An adjustable hitch will give you the flexibility to raise and lower it to match your needs. There are many options for adjustable hitches, from simple $30 units to heavy-duty $300 hitches that can also measure your tongue weight for you.
Pay attention to your attitude - and by that we mean just how level your travel trailer is. Know your rig and invest time in figuring out the best solution for your needs. It's going to pay off in the long-run, as you'll be towing safely and efficiently.