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RV Leveling Magic

RV Leveling Magic


avatar   Scott
Trip Date 08/28/2021
Posted On 09/06/2021 09:09:09

Camping | Hacks | RV | Travel Trailer | Level | Leveling an RV | Why Level Your RV | Wooden Ramps | Leveling Blocks | Curved Leveling Ramps | Leveling Procedures | Wheel Chocks | Tips and Tricks | Slideout Leaks



When we purchased our RV a few years back, we planned to travel all around the country in our effort to see "everywhere" in the United States. We have loved seeing the many wonderful natural sites around our home country. We actually thought that we would boondock more than we have. We've ended up gravitating to state parks, Corp of Engineer parks and, more recently, RV parks and resorts. After over four years and countless hours inside our RV, we've learned a thing or two about leveling.

The most surprising thing that we've learned is that most sites are not very level! You would think that, especially in RV parks, the sites would be level. Well, we've been through lots of places in the midwest, southwest and southeast. Some sites are definitely better than others, but you can't rely on arriving to a level site.

We've taken the lazy route on many occasions and decided not to level the RV, but we've also learned (the hard way), what the consequences can be. (Can you say water pouring inside?). In this article, I'll share everything that I've learned about leveling a travel trailer - including why it should be level. Hopefully, you'll find some information that will help you to level your RV hassle-free so that you can enjoy your RVing experience even more.

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Why Level Your RV?

We traveled with our bumper pull trailer for almost 4 years and rarely took the time to completely level the trailer when camped. Here's why we don't do this any longer and don't recommend that others take this shortcut either:

  1. Appliances such as refrigerators or furnaces work correctly and more efficiently when level.
  2. The fresh water tank level sensors will register a more accurate reading when your RV is level. (From my experience, sensors in the water tanks are not always evenly spaced out. If the tank is not level, the sensor may read "full" when in fact it is not, or "empty" when it is near full.) Additionally, your water pump may not properly pump water out.
  3. When showering in a level RV, water drains out of the shower pan without leaving pools of standing water opposite the drain hole.
  4. Black and grey water tanks may not drain well if your RV is tilted away from the sewer dump.
  5. RVs with slide-outs can leak (sometimes badly) when sitting in an unlevel position. Tree debris on an unlevel slide roof or worn rubber gaskets may sometimes impact the size of the leak as well.
  6. RV slides move properly in a level RV. When not level, the slide motor can become over-stressed and may cause a slide to come off of its track. If this happens, the slide will no longer close properly and can lead to a leak.
  7. A level bed helps you feel more comfortable and avoids the feeling that either blood is rushing to your head or the possibility of rolling off of the bed and onto the floor.

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How Do You Know If Your RV is Level?

First things first - remember these leveling pitfalls dependent on whether you have a motorhome or travel trailer:
  • The tongue of a trailer may not be parallel with the frame and floor of the trailer. Because of this, the tongue may not be a good place to check your level.
  • Due to differences in cargo load and shocks, even when motorhomes are parked on a level concrete pad, the floor may not actually be level. (Motorhomes are also more difficult to level without power leveling jacks.)

One option is to use a construction leveling tool to determine whether your RV is level. The downside is the extra work created to get the level out and find a spot to place it. When using a manual level such as this, the best place to adjust the level is on the inside floor. Unfortunately, you probably can't see the inside floor when adjusting the tongue jack, wheels or other leveling jacks, so this can be a hassle.

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Using a phone app can seem convenient. The disadvantage is that it can be difficult to know that the surface that your phone is sitting on is level. For example, the tongue of the RV may not be level or your phone case may not be sitting perfectly flat on the back of your phone.


Phone App Level

Phone App Level

We have had the most success with mounting two stick-on bubble levels on the outside of our RV - each in a place that is visible from where we stand to adjust the tongue jack or other height adjustments. Prior to installing levels, make sure that you are parked on the most level surface possible. Then, use the manual leveling techniques mentioned above to get the floor as level as possible. Once level, you can mount your exterior stick-on bubble levels with confidence.


Side to Side Stick-on Bubble Level

Side to Side Stick-on Bubble Level

Front to Back Leveling

The most important level is the lengthwise or front to back level. The good news is that this is the easiest to achieve once you have a visible exterior bubble level. Just keep an eye on the bubble and adjust your trailer or motorhome up or down as needed.


Stick-on Bubble Level - Front to Back

Stick-on Bubble Level - Front to Back

Side to Side Leveling

Leveling a motorhome with an auto-leveling system is usually quite easy - just make sure to read your owner's manual to understand how your leveling system works. The majority of RVs, however, are Class B, Class C or trailers which usually do not have adjustable shocks or power leveling jacks. There are a variety of options for manual leveling including:

Whichever option you choose, you still need to determine how much you need to raise the "low" side of your RV, position your blocks and then roll on to them. As you know, when backing into an RV site, it is sometimes hard enough to just get into a good position - let alone trying to back on top of leveling blocks. Sometimes you are blocking the road and have other vehicles waiting on you. If you are at all like me, you may feel rushed and often don't want to spend valuable time to fiddle with leveling.

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Our Experience with Leveling Ramps/Blocks

I made two DIY wooden ramps (one for both wheels on the same side). My ramps were intended to be dual purpose - to level the RV or to tilt the RV in order to get a good angle for dumping the black/grey tanks. To make the ramps, I used 3 levels of 2x6 boards, gluing the boards to prevent them from separating. While I made the ramps to fit between the two wheels on the side of the trailer, unfortunately the slope is too steep on the lowest level. This sometimes causes the wheel to push the ramp rather than rolling on top of it, especially when parking on gravel. (A low angle is best for the leading edge of the ramp.) I have also found that, when using the wooden ramps for leveling, they are often too tall.

If I make a new pair of DIY wooden ramps in the future, I will make the levels adjustable (rather than a fixed height). My thought is to drill a pair of holes through the lower board and secure 2 large screws into the upper board (the same distance apart as the holes), leaving about 1/2" of the screw remaining outside of the board. When I need two levels, I can place the "hanging screws" into the holes making the two boards interlock. This will allow for the height to be adjustable and eliminate the possibility of slipping.


DIY Wooden Ramps

DIY Wooden Ramps

Because of the issues we encountered with our DIY wooden ramps, we purchased a pair of curved leveling ramps. They are quite easy to roll onto and also to adjust (fine-tune) the leveling height. The downside is that the maximum raise height is 4 inches - which is not always enough. The curved ramps can be stacked on top of a 2x6 board, but you must plan ahead to prevent the board from sliding out of position.


Curved Leveling Ramps

Curved Leveling Ramps

Step-by-Step Leveling Procedure

Here is my recommended procedure for positioning and leveling your RV:

NOTE: Keep your level and leveling blocks in a very convenient place - just having them at hand will tremendously reduce your stress level! (We often keep ours in the back seat of our tow vehicle.)

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  1. Before backing or pulling into your parking spot, take a few moments to get a good look (eyeball) at the spot. Determine whether it is sloped from side to side and, if so, determine which is the low-side. If the site is wider than your RV, determine whether one side is more level than the other. Look for tire ruts left from previous campers causing the site to not be level. Determine whether the site has a crown or dome designed to allow water to run-off.
  2. Your answers to the above questions will help you to figure out the best positioning for your RV as well as how to maneuver into your desired position. Begin moving your RV towards your optimal position, however, don't back or pull-thru all the way - stop about 2 feet before the ideal position.
  3. Once pre-positioned, either use your level or judge how much the low-side needs to be raised. (After a few times of using a long manual level, you will gain experience and will likely be able to use the much faster eyeball approach.). Determine how many leveling blocks you need to stack for each wheel. (If you need more than one block, you'll need to stack them like a pyramid so that the tires can roll up on top of them.)
  4. Place your leveling blocks or ramp on the ground - either in front of or behind your wheels, depending on which direction you will be rolling.
  5. Roll very slowly backward or forward over your leveling blocks or ramp. (If you have a trailer, and the low-side is in your blind spot, this can be challenging.) It's best to have someone who can watch your wheels roll and let you know when you reach the precise balancing spot on top of the blocks/ramp.

    One trick that I use in order to move a specific distance up the ramp requires me to open the driver's door on my tow vehicle. I find something on the ground that is the same distance that I am trying to roll. While eyeing the spot on the ground, I can hit the gas and immediately brake once I've rolled the needed distance.

    Be Careful: Anytime you lift your RV tires off the ground, you should always be very careful. It goes without saying that your RV is heavy. Always make sure that your tires are centered well on the leveling blocks/ramp.

  6. Once positioned, re-inspect the side-to-side level to ensure that it is adequate.
  7. Finally, adjust the stabilizer jacks to keep your RV supported and secure.


    Adjusting Stabilizer Jack

    Adjusting Stabilizer Jack

Wheel Chocks

IMPORTANT: Always use wheel chocks to ensure that your RV won't roll. Ideally, wheel chocks should be placed on both sides of a wheel on each side of your RV. If you've raised one side of your RV with ramps/blocks (particularly stacked blocks), it can be difficult to place wheel chocks on that side. At minimum, use wheel chocks on the high-side which is still securely on the ground. (Some leveling systems feature wheel chocks that can be connected to the blocks.)

Wheel chocks work best by having a curved upper surface. When the tire rolls on top of the chock, it exerts pressure on the bottom of the chock and therefore keeps both the chock and tire securely in place. This pressure makes it very difficult for the wheel to roll up and over a secure wheel chock. Always verify that the wheel doesn't push the chock out of the way.

Camco Wheel Chocks are lightweight and do the job well. Although this product photo does not show a handle or rope strap on the chock, many do have them. This handle makes it much easier to both remove the chock and to carry it.


Wheel Chock

Wheel Chock

Be Practical with These Tips and Tricks

You never know when you'll need to use this leveling procedure, so it's always best to be prepared for a sideways sloped parking spot. Having a procedure figured out in advance (with the necessary level and blocks easily accessible) before arriving at your parking spot helps reduce leveling anxiety. But, it's also good to be practical since leveling does take extra thought and work:

  • Near Level Parking: If you're spot is close to level, then perhaps you don't want to spend the effort to make a minor adjustment - it's your judgment call. (For me, it is definitely worth the time to level front to back. I make my decision on whether to level side to side based on the degree of the slope, anticipated weather conditions, how long I'm going to be parked in the space ... and whatever else is going through my mind at the time!)


    Level Front to Back with Stabilizer Jack

    Level Front to Back with Stabilizer Jack

  • Slides: If you are contemplating skipping the step of leveling side to side, use a small level inside your slide-out ceiling to verify that your slides won't leak in a heavy rainstorm. (Trust us on this one! If your slide-out ceiling slopes inward, you may end up with a leak. And, it may be a big one!)
  • Mattress Topper: If your only annoyance about a spot that slopes to one side or the other is the feeling of rolling out of your bed, try a memory foam mattress topper. These toppers allow you to sink in to the mattress a little more, you'll be more comfortable and you won't feel like you are going to roll out of bed.

Lesson Learned from a Costly Mistake of Fellow RVers

When RVing with some friends a few years ago, they raised their trailer with a jack and placed several levels of 2x6 wood boards under the wheels for support. (This was likely done because the RV was already positioned and set-up before they decided to level it.) The wood boards were stacked in an inverted pyramid (a longer piece of board was placed on top of a shorter piece). After the wheels were centered, the jacks were removed and the trailer was stable while it was parked.

When breaking camp, they hitched their trailer while it was still supported on the inverted stacked pyramid of 2x6 wood boards. As the tow vehicle rolled forward to pull the RV off of the boards, the weight of the trailer caused the top board (with minimal support underneath) to act like a see-saw. This resulted in the opposite end of the top board slamming upwards and striking the RV. Unfortunately the fiberglass grey water tank and dump tubes broke, resulting in a costly and problematic fix.

Reminder: Anytime you lift your RV off of the ground, be extremely careful. You can easily break an important part of your RV ... or even worse, injure yourself.

What a Difference a Power Drill Makes

Using a power drill to raise and lower the stabilizer jacks on my RV has positively impacted my set-up and break-down enjoyment factor. Check out my article, Using Power to Improve your Stabilizer Jack Experience, to read about how the dreaded chore of cranking is now so quick that it a takes less than a minute ... and all without getting sweaty!

RV Chores

What tips have you found to ease the burden of your least favorite RV chores?
RV Leveling Magic





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