Saturday, August 3

How automatic motorhome levelers really work

I've seen lots of rv rigs getting leveled in my time, and every one is slightly different, and often amusing to watch. Not so much the rigs themselves – there are only a few different kinds – but the way the owners approach the whole process. Some of them use the let it all hang out method, in which one or both of the rvers can be seen very publicly walking around, yelling questions like “how does that look,” getting into arguments and generally making fools of themselves. Others use the stealth approach – after parking in their slot, you'll see them slinking around, doing mysterious adjustments, and behaving like secret agents who don't want to blow their cover as average elderly rv owners. But the most fun of all to watch are the motorhome levelers.

For a long time when we first started out as full-timers, motorhomes were a mystery to me. It seemed like they had to do none of the things that 5th wheelers or pull-camper rvers were forced to do. None of the cranking jacks, checking bubbles, and raising and lowering, none of the backing onto blocks of various sizes and shapes, and very little of the cursing and yelling that seems to accompany the usual leveling process. Then my older brother and his wife retired, sold their house, and bought a huge class A motorhome. It had all the latest bells and whistles, including such niceties as the 2-door fridge and the macerator (it's a machine under the toilet that does WHAT?). But the neatest little touch of modern convenience was the so-called automatic hydraulic leveling system.

My brother showed me how it worked. You drive into your site, keeping in mind that you can't back up with a toad attached, and hope that you are at least kind of centered between the edges. You depart the rig and open a storage compartment where the jack pads are kept. Having prior experience and a good eye (not to mention a powerful flashlight when it's dark) you place the little pads directly (you hope) under the hydraulic jack feet, still snugly nestled in their launch tubes like torpedoes.

Then you have to go back inside and lower them down, but not all the way at first. Next you go back outside (hope it's not raining yet) and make sure the pads are in the right places – if not, of course you move them. Then you return once more to the space-age control panel, push the button that says “level,” and sit back to enjoy the brief whirring sound. And that's how the automatic motorhome levelers work, as long as everything is functioning correctly and you're not straddling a mudhole!

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