Saturday, May 2, 2015

Trailer Life: Leveling Your Trailer

If you've followed my blog for long, you know that I have several recurring subjects, such as "Hike Reports," "On the Road" entries, "Good Eats" reviews, and "Trip Reports." I'm starting a new subject today called "Trailer Life" in which I'll deal with issues regarding travel trailers. Now, I'm no expert on travel trailers by any stretch of the imagination, but I seem to get by. And if you enjoy the RV lifestyle and can pick up a tip or two from these entries, then I'm satisfied.

For the first entry on this subject, let's look at how we level our trailer, which is one of the first things we do upon arriving at a campsite. I have attached levels to the front and side of the trailer so that I can see at a glance whether or not the trailer is level. If it isn't, then I get out my boards and back the trailer on these boards. I use 2"x10" boards with beveled ends for this purpose. These boards are wide enough for the trailer tires to fit upon.

Level on front of trailer. This level indicates how level the trailer is from side-to-side.
Level on side of trailer. This level indicates how level the trailer is front-to-back.

Close up of level. Bubble is dead center, right where it should be.

Leveling boards, wide enough to accommodate the tires.

I've used these levels enough over the years -- on this and other trailers -- to know at a glance just how unlevel the trailer is and how many boards might be needed. So, with Donna's help, I place the trailer in the site exactly where we want it. At that point, I check the level on the front of the trailer to see how level it is from side-to-side. If it is level, then we can disconnect and get on with our other chores. If, however, it is not level, then I estimate how many boards are necessary to make it level. I get these out, place them right beside the trailer tires, then have Donna pull up or drive back -- whichever is the most practical. I then slide a board (or more, if I think necessary) over and line it (them) up with the tires. Donna then pulls the trailer on the board(s), and I recheck the level. If it is level -- or very close to it -- we are then ready to disconnect. If it is still not level, then we repeat the previous step and add another board.

Once the trailer is level from side-to-side, we can then place chocks under the tires and disconnect the trailer. Once the trailer is disconnected, I then work on leveling the trailer from front-to-back. To do this, I check the level on the side. I then raise or lower the front of the trailer using the electric hitch I have. This is a simple process, much more so than leveling from side-to-side.

Once the trailer is level from front-to-back, I then check the side-to-side level again. If it is not perfectly centered, I then use my stabilizing jacks to finish leveling. Let me point out that the purpose of stabilizing jacks is to stabilize the trailer, not level it. Ideally, they should just make snug contact with the ground, enough so that there isn't much or any movement when you walk through the trailer. But I do use them to fine tune the side-to-side leveling. I'll discuss the stabilizing jacks more in another entry.

Let me say a final word or two about the boards. They offer the advantage of ease of use. It is easy to pull a trailer on them, and it is safer than other methods of leveling. I watched a couple at Huntsville State Park recently as they used a collection of wood blocks of various sizes and shapes. The process lasted no less than 20 or 30 minutes as the husband would move some blocks under the tires and the wife would pull or back up an inch or two. Not only did it take a great deal of time and effort, but I thought it was dangerous.

But using boards like mine has the disadvantage of weight and space. My boards are about 5 feet in length, so they weigh quite a few pounds; when you are towing, you want to avoid adding pounds. And then there is the issue of storing them. I carry mine in the bed of the truck. When we return home, I park the trailer on the boards to keep the tires off the bare ground.

I'm happy with this process. The boards provide a firm and stable surface for leveling the trailer, and the ease of using them is a big plus.

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