What Do They Do?
Motorhome leveling jacks provide stability for both you and your appliances. Once you are parked and settled, putting down jacks creates a normal and level environment to live in. It’s unsettling not to have a level floor. Having a sense of being uneven either left to right or front to back will quickly make your search for a solution. Among other problems, being unlevel can make doors swing wildly and cause objects to roll off tables and countertops.
Today’s slide-outs (up to 4 on some RVs) make it even more important to have an interior that is level. The slide-outs extend out from the central frame of the RV. The motorhome leveling jacks provide support and reduce rocking as you move and rest on furniture in the slides. Jacks also provide stability in areas of high winds which would rock the motorhome.
One of the more delicate (and expensive) pieces of equipment in an RV is the refrigerator. Some refrigerators are more sensitive than others and having them operate in an out-of-balance condition can cause problems and require expensive repairs.
How Do They Work?
Most modern units have 2 motorhome leveling jacks in the front, generally behind the front wheels, and 2 jacks in the back behind the rear wheels. They operate on hydraulics via a push button control on the dashboard. This is very convenient and a great advantage over trailer-type RVs which may require jack stands and manual labor.
Procedure on Arrival
These instructions work for gas motorhome. Diesel with air suspension will need to release all air from those systems first. Check your owners manual.
- Try to park in a relatively level area. You will make the job of leveling more difficult, and in some cases impossible, if you start in a very unlevel area.
- Put on the parking brake. There is an interconnect switch and our jacks will not go down unless the parking brake is engaged.
- Insert the ignition key and turn it to Accessories.
- Turn on your levelers and view the indicators to see the current state of levelness. Ours will show if we are low on the front, back, left or right.
- Our system recommends leveling left to right first. Start with the side showing as being “low” on the indicator lights. Press and hold the button for that side until the light goes out or until you feel that side lift slightly.
- Continue by pressing and holding the button to raise the other side until you feel a slight lift on that side. Try not to make the low indicator go on for the first side you raised. You may need to do a little readjusting.
- You may now be unlevel front to back and need to raise the motorhome leveling jacks on one end by holding and pressing this button. Leveling is not an exact science. After doing it a few times, you will become more skilled and it will become easier.
- Check your work. Open up the refrigerator door. Does it stay in place or try to swing wildly open or wildly close? We also use a carpenter level on the floor and make a final check front to back and side to side. Make any final adjustments with the jacks.
- We carry leveling pads that we use in places where the ground is soft or muddy or on asphalt that may be soft due to the heat. The pads are plastic and larger than the bottom of the jacks. They help distribute the weight over a larger area. It’s also easier to clean mud off the pads than the bottoms of the motorhome leveling jacks which are hard to reach.
- We also carry square blocks of wood, 2″ x 10″ x 10″, to put under the jacks when we judge that one or more jacks are on very low areas. There is only so much unevenness that the motorhome leveling jacks can correct by themselves. Often, these blocks are a big help and make it possible to be level when it wouldn’t be possible otherwise. It’s important to have blocks at least as wide as the jacks and to center them under the jacks.
- One last thing is that it’s best not to have the motorhome wheels in the air. You don’t want them lifted so high that they turn freely.
- If you are parked in a campground for over a month, HWH recommends cycling the system by storing then re-deploying the motorhome leveling jacks.
Procedure When Leaving
- Bring the slides back in.
- If your partner is outside working around the motorhome, give a warning that you are about to lower the RV. (Make sure they are not UNDER the RV).
- Insert the ignition key and turn it to Accessories.
- Push the “Store” button on the dashboard. Expect a slight jolt as the motorhome leveling jacks begin to retract. There will probably be a dinging sound until the last jack has retracted.
- Remember to release the parking brake before driving.
- Remember to remove and store any leveling pads or blocks of wood you used.
Who Makes Them?
Our motorhome leveling jacks are made by HWH and we have been very pleased with the support we’ve received from the company. When we’ve called and left questions, the calls were promptly returned and we received the information we needed. One of our jacks needed replacing under warranty and HWH worked directly with the dealer.
Atwood is another company that makes leveling systems, based on an electric vs. a hydraulic design.
What Parts Do They Have?
- The dashboard control unit. Ours has 8 lights (1 “down” indicator for each jack and 1 low indicator for the front, back, left, and right) and 11 push buttons (up and down for front, back, left, right, and level, store and off). Also, in the dashboard area is the interconnect with the parking brake.
- The 4 individual motorhome leveling jacks work on hydraulic pressure. Each jack also has 2 springs that retract the jack when stored.
- The central unit contains the pump and 4 solenoids valves for the jacks. Ours is stored under the RV and requires crawling under the motorhome to reach it. The system works on the same basic principle as brakes in a car. Our central unit has a clear cover so you can see the pumps and related equipment.
- Hydraulic hoses carry the fluid from the central unit to the jacks.
What Can Go Wrong?
Refusing to go down. There can be problems with the parking brake switch. If that switch is not engaged, the jacks will not go down. When we first received the motorhome, we had to push down on the parking brake very, very hard to engage the switch and have the motorhome leveling jacks go down. Later it got worse and would not engage no matter how hard we pushed. A couple of trips to the dealer resolved the problem.
Dinging down the road. The first time the leveling system started dinging as we were driving down the road, we almost had a heart attack. We envisioned one or more jacks being dragged along the ground with sparks flying. We soon learned that as you go down the road little bumps or burps within the system can cause a jack to drop a small amount (less than 1″) and make the “down” alarm come on. The solution is simple to press the “Store” button and in a matter of seconds the dinging stops. HWH recommends that you drive with the “Store” button on.
Refusing to retract. We did have problems at a campground when we were preparing to leave. We hit the Store button and watched as 3 jacks went up but one delinquent went mostly up but refused to go fully up and store. This caused that jack’s alarm to continue to ding (which is maddening after a while). The short-term solution is to use a hammer to tap the jack from the bottom up into place. The permanent solution is to replace the 2 springs which pull the jack back into place. They can become fatigued over time. We will have occasional problems with this one jack even after replacing the springs. We’ve found that spraying silicon spray on the shiny “piston” of the jack (while extended) will solve the problem.
(HWH also has a Manual Jack Retraction procedure involving turning the valve release nuts, but the system will require servicing before being able to be used again.)