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What You Need to Know About Auto Leveling System for RVs

You don’t have to be in an uneven RV for long before you’ll wish for an RV self-leveling system. Thankfully, modern technology makes it easier and less stressful for owners to level their motorhomes and trailers. However, there are some crucial things you need to know about auto leveling system for RVs. There are many different types of leveling and If you think an auto level system for an RV will always magically level your rig at the press of a button, you might be in for a surprise. There’s typically more to it than that.

Today, we’ll share all you need to know about auto-leveling systems for RVs. Let’s get started!

RV Auto Level Tips!

How Are RV’s Leveled

Leveling an RV significantly depends on the type of camper and the campsite. Generally, some manual leveling must take place in almost every instance. This includes using blocks under tires or even digging out the ground to lower a tire. Since campsites can be unpredictable, preparing for both situations is a good idea.

Older campers may require more manual work to level. However, many modern rigs have RV self-leveling systems that make it easier to level. You could have an electric, hydraulic, or air leveling system, depending on your rig. 

There are pros and cons for each system that we will discuss later. However, these enhanced features allow you to quickly and conveniently level your RV. In most cases, you can safely level your camper in minutes.

Manually level truck camper
Some campers don’t have any leveling assistance at all and you need to manually use blocks to level. Its not impossible, but much more work than auto leveling

What Is an Auto Leveling System for an RV?

As its name indicates, an auto-leveling system or self-leveling systems for an RV does most of the hard work to level a camper. These systems utilize powerful jacks that extend and retract as needed to level the RV. These jacks are commonly called landing gear on an RV.

At the press of a button, these systems adjust the landing gear to get an RV as level as possible. The system has sensors in the RV that detect levels and will adjust the jacks as needed. Many times the system has a specific order in which it will lower and raise jacks. This is usually done to prevent twisting the frame.

Pro Tip: Keep your camper from rocking. Learn more about What Are RV Stabilizer Jacks and why you should invest in some!

What Are The Types Of RV Leveling Systems

There are many different manufacturers of leveling systems but they all generally fall into three categories, Electric jacks, hydraulic jacks and air leveling. Some lighter RVs will have manual stabilizing jacks but these are never auto-leveling systems. Lets take a look at the different types.

Electric Jack Auto Leveling

Electric jack auto leveling utilizes electrically operated jacks that are usually motor-driven screws to lower the jack. These systems work well on lighter travel trailers and fifth wheels. You will also find them on truck campers.

The systems are the least complicated and tend to be very cost-effective. The drawbacks of electric jacks are that they tend to be slow to operate and have much less capacity than their hydraulic counterpart.

electric RV leveling Jacks
Most truck campers use electric leveling jacks

Hydraulic Jack Leveling

Hydraulic jack leveling is one of the most common leveling systems on medium to large RV’s. These systems operate with an electric hydraulic pump and a hydraulic fluid reservoir that pumps fluid into the jacks to move them. Hydraulics are one of the most powerful ways to create linear movement, and why you see them on heavy construction equipment.

Hydraulic systems are more complicated and expensive than electric jacks and also can be challenging and messy to repair. These systems, however, are very powerful and operate quickly.

Air Leveling Systems

Air leveling systems are only found on coaches that use air suspension. These are generally the large diesel class A motorhomes. Air leveling systems use compressed air from the engine or an auxiliary pump to inflate or deflate the airbags that the RV rides on to level the RV.

Air leveling systems tend to be relatively simple because they use the existing airbags but work best with chassis designed specifically for the RV. This makes them relatively rare. The benefit of air leveling is very quick leveling that can happen anywhere because there are no jacks. The drawback to air leveling is that the coach might be slightly less stable and sway a little more with people moving around inside.

air leveling for fuel fill
Air leveling can provide some unique benefits like getting level quickly at lunch stops, raising or lowering the whole coach to clear obstacles, or in this picture, intentionally slanting to one side to get additional fuel capacity in the tank.

Do All RVs Have Self Leveling Systems?

Unfortunately, not all RVs have auto-leveling systems. They’re most common on larger, more expensive RVs like fifth wheels, toy haulers, and motorhomes. Some manufacturers install auto-leveling systems on travel trailers. However, they’re not nearly as typical and may be an optional upgrade.

If an auto-leveling system is crucial when shopping for a rig, always check the specifications and features before purchasing. This is one essential feature you don’t want to overlook while shopping.

Pro Tip: A rocking camper can sure be annoying! Keep your camper from rocking with these 7 Ways to Stabilize Your Camper Trailer.

Can You Add a Self-Leveling System to Your RV?

If you’ve already purchased an RV and want to add a self-leveling system, it’s sometimes possible. There are self-leveling systems like The Big Foot Leveler and a couple from Lippert that you can add as after-market purchases. These are highly effective at leveling campers of various sizes.

Unfortunately, adding a self-leveling system to your RV isn’t cheap. The systems typically cost between $3,000 to $4,000. Remember, this is only the cost of the parts and not labor. Installation of these systems typically requires a professional, so you can expect to pay a pretty penny for work.

RV leveling system
This is the pump unit and one leveling jack of the bigfoot leveling system

A few recognizable RV auto leveling system brands stand out from the rest. Lippert is among the most popular brands, offering electric and hydraulic jacks compatible with motorized and towable RVs. They do an excellent job and have a strong reputation in the community.

Other popular brands include Valid and HWH. While these are leveling systems for motor coaches, Valid uses air leveling, and HWH relies on hydraulics. Like Lippert, these are two proven companies that do an incredible job.

While some of the more prominent brands get most of the attention, there are some lesser-known brands like Equalizer, Bigfoot, and Rieco Titan. Equalizer and Bigfoot are compatible with various RVs, but Rico Titan make for an excellent option for truck campers.

hydraulic leveling control panel
This is an HWH hydraulic leveling control panel

How to Use Your RV’s Auto Leveling System

Don’t expect your auto-leveling system to do all the work for you. While it will do most of the labor, there will still be a thing or two you’ll have to do or monitor during the process. Let’s look at how to use your RV’s auto-leveling system to level your rig.

Park Your Rig as Level as Possible

The first thing you need to do is get your rig as level as possible. If you’re camping in a campground, you may not have much choice in how you park or position your rig. However, if you’re lot docking or boondocking, you may have more freedom for where you park.

You want to look for the most level spot possible. This reduces the amount of effort your leveling system requires. You may need to use Andersen Leveler Blocks, stackable RV blocks, or long pieces of wood to raise the low side of your rig.

Sale
Camco FasTen Camper / RV Leveling Blocks -...
  • AMERICA’S RV LEVELING BLOCKS: Choose FasTen interlocking...
  • PREMIUM INTEGRATED HANDLE: Easily carry and transport these...
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Chock Your Wheels

Once you have your rig as level as possible, you need to chock the wheels. This is one essential step that you should never skip. Chocking the wheels helps ensure your rig stays in place and doesn’t move or roll away from you. Trust us; it can happen!

Don’t waste money on cheap plastic chocks when shopping for wheel chocks. These typically won’t put up much of a fight against an RV that weighs thousands of pounds. They’ll likely become flat as a pancake when you put them to the test.

Do yourself a favor and get a set of heavy-duty rubber wheel chocks. They’ll keep your rig in place and withstand you tossing them onto the ground or into storage during your adventures.

Pro Tip: These 7 Best RV Wheel Chocks will help keep your RV level.

HOXWELL Solid Heavy Duty Rubber Wheel Chocks 4...
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Dump Air If Air Suspension Coach Or Activate Air Leveling

With your wheels chocked, those driving coaches with air suspension will want to dump the air from their airbags. These systems may require you to leave the engine running during this process. This is the time to activate the air leveling for your system. This process will deflate or inflate airbags as needed to level your rig.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much these systems can do. Setting your system up for success is crucial to getting your rig as level as possible. If your system isn’t level, try starting over and raising the low side.

RV wheels with leveling chocks
Its still a good idea to use chocks on your wheels even if you have auto leveling.

Use Leveling Blocks Under Jacks

You want as little space as possible between your landing gear and the ground. Using plastic leveling blocks is one of the most effective methods. While this might not always be necessary, it will be essential in some extreme situations. Without them, your landing gear may not extend enough to do the job.

Placing these blocks under your jacks reduces the movement you’ll feel in your rig. You know the feeling if you’ve ever had kids running about inside your camper. If you overextend your jacks, it can feel like an earthquake anytime someone walks across the room.

Pro Tip: Need new leveling blocks? These 7 Best RV Leveling Blocks Will Simplify Your Life.

Sale
Camco FasTen Camper / RV Leveling Blocks -...
  • AMERICA’S RV LEVELING BLOCKS: Choose FasTen interlocking...
  • PREMIUM INTEGRATED HANDLE: Easily carry and transport these...
  • QUAD-GRID EXTREME LOAD BEARING DESIGN: Experience superior...
jack blocks
Limit the space between your landing gear and the ground by using leveling blocks under your jacks.

Activate Auto Leveling

Now it’s time to hit the auto-level button and let the system work. However, it’s not time to sit in your comfy camping chair and enjoy a cold beverage. During this process, you want to watch to confirm that the leveling blocks are squarely under the landing gear and that everything is going to plan.

Be alert for potential issues and listen for sounds indicating a problem. Don’t be in a hurry during this process. You’re rounding the final turn to get your rig level, and you’ll enjoy it before you know it.

Note If System Indicated Excessive Slope

After your RV leveling system does its job, look for any error messages. Auto-leveling systems are excellent but not magical. They can’t work miracles, and they have limitations.

Some systems will flash “EXCESS SLOPE” or an error code to inform you of the issue. One of the most common reasons a leveling system fails to be level is because the site is too uneven. This is why it’s crucial to have leveling blocks and other aids to allow your leveling system to do its job.

Check Levelness Occasionally During Extended Stays

It’s a good idea to check your level status occasionally and make adjustments. After a few days, weeks, or months, you may notice that your rig appears to have come slightly unlevel. This is likely due to weight shifting in your rig or the ground under the landing gear settling. Since your camper is mostly level, it should only require a slight adjustment and take a few seconds.

If you find that your RV is becoming drastically unlevel, you’ll want to do some investigating. If you don’t know what to look for, hire a mobile technician to come to your rig and help diagnose the issue.

Be Careful Manually Adjusting Jacks

Many auto-level systems will let you manually override the controls and level one jack at a time. Be careful doing this, however, as there is the possibility of twisting the RV frame. Its generally advised to raise and lower jacks in pairs. Once they are touching the ground, raising jacks on the same side will prevent twisting, same with front to back.

Many times the control panel will warn you of a problem and say “twist” or some other warning if you are raising one jack too much. Don’t trust the control panel to warn you, however, and try not to twist your frame.

The one time this is not a problem is when operating a system with only three jacks. These are not common anymore but older leveling systems used two jacks in the back and one up front.

Should You Auto Level with Slides In or Out?

When leveling your RV, you will almost always want to have your slides in and not out. The slide mechanisms are sensitive and can easily break. The weight distribution of your rig changes as you raise and lower your camper to level it. Extending your slides could result in severe damage and binding to the gears and components that help extend and retract your slides.

Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule. Some RV manufacturers state in their owner’s documentation that it’s acceptable to extend slides before leveling an RV. As a result, we suggest you check your owner’s manual or with your manufacturer.

RV leveled
Most of the time, you will want to level the RV with the slides in. This makes sure the pressure equalized on the frame, and the slide mechanisms don’t have to fight an extra slope.

Should Your Wheels Be Off the Ground When Auto Leveled?

Leveling systems can raise and lower your rig with ease. They’re so strong that they can lift your rig off the ground. However, most manufacturers strongly discourage this as it could cause a host of issues for your RV.

If you’ve followed the previous steps, you used beefy chocks to hold your wheels in place. However, these only work because the wheels are pressing against the ground. The second your tires lift off the floor, you lose any benefits of the chocks. The wheels also provide some additional stabilization in all directions and if they are lifted, this adds stress to the hydraulic system, especially if on a hill.

We have seen some cases where RVers lifted their wheels off the ground and placed tremendous forward pressure on their leveling jacks. This could cause a hazardous situation. If the metal in the leveling jacks bends, it could send your precious RV crashing onto the ground. It happens and we have seen it.

RV Leveling Systems

Auto Leveling Systems for RVs Are Gamechangers

Once you experience the benefits of an auto-leveling system for your RV, it’s hard to return. While there is still some work for you, the system will handle the most complex parts. Ensure you take the proper precautions to maintain and use your system correctly. If you do, you and your RV will likely enjoy years of camping adventures without being unlevel.

Do you have all the tools necessary to level your RV? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Mark

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

I am so glad I added the Big Foot hydraulic auto leveling system to my Mercedes-Benz Sprinter based Class C rig (a Tiffin Wayfarer). I did the job myself over a couple of weekends. Ranks right up there with my Battle Born Lithium batteries upgrade. Thanks again for the blog posts.