Sunday, June 3

Fun With 5th Wheel Leveling And Intellijacks

When we first decided to live full time in an RV, a fifth wheel type of trailer wasn't really an option. We would have had to buy a bigger truck to pull it with, and we wanted to keep what we had and spend the money on the trailer, not a new truck. Of course, after we traded our Ward travel trailer for a motorhome, the pulling problem was moot. But in our travels, we have observed all the varieties of RVs that are out there, and the peculiarities of each. And it seems that 5th wheels are the most peculiar of the bunch, especially when it comes to leveling and stabilizing.
The big advantage of a 5th wheel over a pull-type trailer is stability - once the trailer is hitched to the truck it doesn't move much, and pulling it is much easier. You don't need a stabilizing hitch, and you can drive with a pretty strong crosswind and not worry about it. This is also why 5th wheel units can be so tall - they are very stable and safe while being pulled. All of this explains their popularity, but the big 5th wheels have a disadvantage - parking and setting up can be a chore.
One night we were in a campground in Wisconsin, traveling back to Montana from Illinois. We pulled in a little early that day, and we had no neighbors on either side. We were making something to eat outside when 2 big diesel pickups pulling 5th wheel trailers pulled into the park. They must have been traveling together, and decided to stop for the night. By then the only 2 spaces open were the ones on both sides of us in our little motorhome. So while our solitude was ruined, we got a ringside seat to see how to park and set up a 5th wheel RV.
We later met the brothers Josh and Joe who were the respective drivers of the rigs, and they were nice guys. Josh backed in to our left, and Joe on our right, and the fun began. Josh got the trailer where he wanted it, and started the process of unhitching. In order to do that, he had to get the RV to the right height for disconnecting the truck. This is not the same as being level, but it entails using the jacks to raise the trailer. It needs to be just right or the hitch or the trailer or both can be damaged, and it took Josh a while to crank the unit up, going around the truck and back and forth. He then pulled away, and started the leveling and stabilizing process.
First he had to set up his tripod leveler in the hitch receptacle on the trailer. Then he had to try to adjust both side jacks, cranking each one and checking the bubble every time, until he had achieved levelness. Then he had to go to the back and put down the stabilizers, then back to the tripod to get it steady in the front.
While I had been watching Josh, I also kept an eye on Joe's progress. He had backed in to his slot, then got out and opened a storage compartment that had a control panel of some kind in it. He pushed a button, and automatic jacks raised the unit to the right height to disconnect. After unhitching, he pushed another button and the trailer was leveled. He stabilized the front and back and was sitting in his lawn chair drinking a beer while poor Josh was still in the first stage of checking the bubble. It turned out that Joe had the Intellijacks Level Ease system installed that used electronic jacks and a computerized control center to do the raising, lowering, and leveling - automatically. I asked Josh if he was jealous, and he said not for much longer - he had the same thing ordered, it just hadn't come in yet.

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