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RV Hydraulic Leveling Jacks: What You Need to Know

RV Hydraulic Leveling Jacks: What You Need to Know

When it comes to RV leveling hydraulic leveling rams are one of the most common forms. Hydraulics are massively strong and literally move the world in almost every earth-moving machine. Most of the time these jacks are more than powerful enough to lift your entire RV but there is a lot to know about them.

RV hydraulic leveling jacks are easy to use but require some maintenance to ensure longevity and durability. Let’s learn more about this system, its pros, and cons, and why it’s important to keep your RV level.

How to use RV Levelers - Automatic and Manual

What Are RV Hydraulic Leveling Jacks?

A hydraulic system uses tanks, pumps, and hoses to raise and lower an RV to get it level. The RV has a control panel with sensors to indicate when your RV is level. You can manually lower the hydraulic leveling jacks through a series of buttons or sometimes use the auto-level function.

Some RV’s have hydraulic jacks that do not auto level just lift and stabilize. These systems are slightly simpler but require manual side-to-side leveling and are usually found only on older fifth wheels.

How Do You Use Hydraulic Leveling Jacks?

Once you arrive at your campsite, find the control panel for the leveling system. If you have an auto-level option, simply push the button and watch the system work. If you don’t, you can control the individual jacks to lower them. 

Always operate the jacks on one side at a time to avoid twisting the frame. You can also choose to operate the two in the front first and then the jacks in the back. Either method will prevent unnecessary stress on the frame. Just remember to lean side to side or front to back only, never lift one corner alone.

It’s a simple process. It just requires proper attention. The control panel will alert you when RV hydraulic leveling jacks have finished.

Pro Tip: Learn more about the ins and outs of What Are RV Stabilizer Jacks?

Close up of RV leveling jack
There are many ways to level your RV, but a hydraulic system makes the process easier.

What Are Other RV Leveling Methods

If you don’t have RV hydraulic leveling jacks, don’t worry. You can use other methods to level your RV to ensure your camping experience is safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. There are five primary methods of RV leveling including hydraulic jacks.

Manual Wheel Leveling 

The simplest form of leveling an RV is wheel leveling. This entails using blocks of some sort to raise the wheels of the RV where needed to get level. This technique can be used on all RVs and is fairly easy once you get it figured out.

Manual leveling will require you to bring along blocks or ramps of some sort. Many choose to use wooden blocks as they are cheap and easy, but plastic blocks or premade leveling ramps exist as well.

To level, your wheels simply determine which side needs to go up and put blocks under those tires. Drive onto the blocks and check the level. It may take a few tries to get it to where you are comfortable.

camper wheel leveling
Note our camper here is lifting the wheels with ramps

Manual Jack Leveling 

Smaller RVs won’t have RV hydraulic leveling jacks. Older RVs might not have this system, either. Instead, you’ll need to crank the jacks manually. 

Although these jacks require more effort, they’re easier to maintain without the fluids and electrical components of hydraulic jacks. 

You can use a hand crank, which comes with the RV. You can typically find it in the outside compartment. Or you can also use a drill for a faster process. Rotating clockwise will cause the jacks to come down.

manual rv jack
these stabilizers are operated by hand

Electric Leveling Jacks

Electric jacks are very similar to manual jacks in their operation but they have an electric motor attached directly to them. These jacks usually have a screw gear that extends a ram or feet of some sort. While electric levelers are much less complicated and easy to install they typically don’t have the power or speed of hydraulic jacks. Their cost and simplicity are their main advantage.

Air Leveling 

On large diesel pusher motorhomes, you’ll find air leveling systems. These rigs have an air suspension system with airbags that raise and lower the RV to make it level. Thus, it has no jacks that extend to the ground. 

Although these air suspension systems provide a smoother ride on the road, they also function to level the motorhome at your campsite. These systems tend to be expensive however and are only found on high-end coaches. The benefit of air leveling is that the coach can level quickly and easily anywhere (say a gas station or rest stop). The drawback is that air is a little less stiff because the coach is on its airbags and moves around a little more than with solid jacks.

motorhome air leveling
our motorhome levels with air and has no jacks

Is It Important to Keep Your RV Level?

If you’re stopping overnight in a parking lot, you may not think it’s too important to level your rig. There may be very little you can do anyway, depending on the rules of the store manager. 

However, it’s important to keep your RV level if you can. One major reason is to run a propane refrigerator properly. Due to the absorption process of this type of fridge, the components won’t run smoothly if it’s unlevel.

Another important factor is protecting the chassis and frame. An unlevel RV will stress different parts of the unit, possibly damaging it. 

Also, only extend your slide-outs when the RV is level. If you don’t, premature wear and serious damage can occur.

Other annoyances come from cabinets, the microwave door, and the refrigerator door swinging out or swinging shut due to the unlevel nature of the RV. Although you can deal with drawers that won’t stay open, it’s a nuisance you can easily fix by leveling the rig.

RV parked with leveling jacks installed
Leveling your camper is crucial for your comfort and keeping your RV in quality condition.

How Do I Maintain My RV Hydraulic Leveling Jacks?

While hydraulic levelers are fantastic when they work, they can be a real pain when they break. Regular operation or maintenance is one of the best things you can do to maintain working order.

You need to operate your RV hydraulic leveling jacks regularly. So if you have your RV in storage at your house, run the system a few times during the year to help lubricate all the components.

If you cannot operate your levelers regularly it’s a good idea to keep the rams retracted as far as possible, or oil them to prevent corrosion. The exposed metal hydraulic rams can corrode and leak if not run occasionally and a simple way to prevent this is to smear them with heavy grease. Any wheel-bearing grease is a great choice. If the rams will be exposed to splashing and water, wrapping the grease in a plastic bag will further help keep it from washing off.

hydraulic leveling rams

You also want to change the fluid occasionally and keep the rams clean. Hydraulic fluid should be red in most jacks. If it changes colors, you need to change the fluid. Fluid changes don’t need to be often, but usually around 10 years with light use.

Lastly just make a visual inspection of the hoses, hydraulic pump, and reservoir regularly. Leaks or hydraulic line bubbles can be early signs of problems you should address right away.

Pro Tip: We uncovered The 7 Best RV Leveling Blocks that we think will simplify your life.

Pros and Cons of RV Leveling Jacks 

RV hydraulic leveling jacks make leveling your rig easy and fast. You don’t have to work as hard as you do when you use a crank. Simply push a button and watch. However, there are a couple of cons of RV hydraulic leveling jacks.

You don’t have to worry too much about them damaging the ground at a campsite. However, when you take your RV home, the leveling jacks can damage your lawn or driveway. They can leave spots of dead grass or tear up the concrete. 

This is one reason why places like Walmart or Cracker Barrel may ask you to avoid using leveling jacks when staying overnight in their parking lots. They don’t want their pavements damaged.

Hydraulic jacks are also complicated systems that can be expensive to fix. In addition, a hydraulic line leak can make a huge mess. Usually, these lines run in the underside of the RV and are hard to repair.

Leveling jack under RV
Not all campsites are created equal, and most won’t be completely level.

Tips for Leveling Your RV

Leveling your RV can feel daunting the first time. But it’s not too bad. Here are some tips to help you make the process even easier.

Pick a Level Site

One of the simplest ways to help level your RV without using a lot of equipment is to choose a level site. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but if you can find one, you’ll reduce the work you must do when setting up.

If you choose a site online when you make the reservation, pay attention to any special notes or reviews that may indicate how level it is. You’ll be glad you don’t have to use your RV hydraulic leveling jacks when you arrive.

Use Wheel Levelers When Necessary to Keep Tires Touching the Ground

Wheel levelers go underneath the tires when you need to do a lot of leveling. You don’t want your tires off the ground because one side is two inches higher than the other. 

Instead, drive up on wheel levelers to raise the lower side and provide an even starting place to level your RV. This also provides more stability.

Use Bubble or Bluetooth Leveler 

When leveling your RV, don’t just eyeball it. Have a level in the RV to check out the front-to-back and side-to-side status when you arrive at a campsite. You can even purchase a Bluetooth leveler if you want to spend some money to make the process easier. But a simple bubble level will suffice.

Your weekend camping trip will be much more enjoyable and comfortable when cabinet doors stay put, and you don’t have to sleep on a slope. Also, remember that propane refrigerators must be level to function properly. So grab a cheap bubble leveler from the hardware store.

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Chock Wheels Before Leveling 

Although this isn’t a tip in the actual leveling, it’s very important in the setup process. Don’t unhook your tow vehicle or start leveling until you have chocked your wheels. 

The movement of the RV while leveling jacks go up and down can cause your RV to start to roll. Always ensure your rig is secure with wheel chocks before starting this process.

Fixing our Leaking Sinking Hydraulic Landing Gear on our Fifthwheel in a Walmart parking lot!

Are RV Hydraulic Leveling Jacks Worth It?

Not every RV has hydraulic leveling jacks. If you want to upgrade, it might be worth it for the speed and ease of use. And proper maintenance is essential with so many working parts in a hydraulic system. However, you can use manual levelers too.

But if you don’t mind getting dirty a few times a year, check out the RV hydraulic level jacks available. You’ll enjoy being able to press a button, watch your rig level itself in less than two minutes, and then get started making family memories.

Is a hydraulic leveling system in the future for your camping adventures? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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