It’s officially camping season and many of us are hitting the roads this year with brand new (or new to us) RVs! While this is an exciting time – you may be finding yourself overwhelmed with information on how to use your RV properly, including leveling it!
If you’re finding yourself asking “Why do RVs have to be level” and scratching your head about what a big deal people make out of this – here’s your answer: Your RVs appliances and systems will not work properly if your RV is not level.
And on top of that, have you ever slept on an incline or unlevel surface? Not fun. Or tried to cook while the tomatoes are rolling off the counter? Annoying to say the least.
RV refrigerators are different than regular refrigerators—you may have realized that when you found out they can run on propane! RV refrigerators use gravity to feed chemicals through the coils on the backside of the unit.
RV refrigerators work by using heat. The heating element heats up chemicals in the coils that then circulate throughout the refrigerator, absorbing the hot air inside the fridge and ultimately, cooling it.
Most RV refrigerators use an electric heating element when plugged into shore power and have a backup propane heating element for when you’re not connected to electricity. This keeps the chemicals hot and moving throughout the coils.
Since these coils are gravity-fed, it is incredibly important that the RV remains level when the fridge is in operation.
Most RV refrigerators are unable to tell whether or not they are level. What this means is that they will continue to heat the chemicals even if the fridge is not level enough for them to circulate.
This can cause permanent damage from the chemicals getting trapped and overheated in one section of the coils, and RV refrigerators can be really expensive to replace!
More dangerous than this, though, is the real risk of fire. An RV refrigerator that is running for longer than 30 minutes while it is not level creates a huge fire risk. In fact, the number 2 cause of RV fires is from the RV fridge!
As well as making sure you are level at a campsite, it is a good idea to turn the RV refrigerator off if you are going to be climbing and descending mountains or hills.
It’s important to be level for your fridge and your safety, but being level for your slideouts is more for your sanity and your wallet.
Whether your slideouts are powered by hydraulics, a motor, or even operated manually, ensuring that your RV is level is one of the most important ways of making sure they will work properly for years to come.
When you try to put out or pull in slideouts when your RV is off level, you are causing the motor to work too hard and running the risk of gears slipping, depending on what kind of slideout system you have.
This is because the slideouts are independent of the RV. When the RV is tilted, the cut-out in the side for the slideout is slightly warped, but the slideout size and dimensions stay the same! It’s like that toddler’s game with the shapes that fit into the same shaped hole on a ball or cube—it just doesn’t work well if the RV isn’t level.
Slideout mechanisms are difficult to repair and nearly as expensive (if not more) than having to replace an RV refrigerator. If you ever have problems putting your slides out or pulling them back in, one of the first steps when troubleshooting is to make sure your RV is level. It can make all the difference!
How to Know if You Are Level
For the most part – you will be able to feel when you are level. If you have a long RV, walking from the front to the back should tell you whether or not you’re level lengthwise! Try rolling a ball on the counter or placing it on a fridge shelf.
Of course, eyeballing it and using toys isn’t a precise measurement, but if you have nothing else, it’ll work in a pinch.
Some RVs have bubble levels in them near your leveling equipment (if you have any), and if you don’t have one pre-installed, using any bubble level you can buy at a store should suffice.
When you park, place your bubble level on your RV fridge or freezer shelf and measure it both front to back and side to side. As long as your bubble is in the center, you’re level enough to operate your fridge. If your bubble is slightly out of the center (half or less) you should also be good, but any more than that is a risk.
Alternatively, you can buy sticky levels to put on the side of your RV or inside the refrigerator. Be sure to measure both ways though: front to back and side to side.
Leveling Tips, Techniques and Accessories
There are many different ways of leveling an RV, even on the most unlevel of surfaces! Here are the best ways to level your RV:
- Find a Flat Spot. This is easier said than done! It’s not uncommon to roll up to your campsite and find that no matter which way you park it, you’re off-level. This is totally fine, this moves us to option 2!
- Use your RV Leveling System. Most RVs these days have leveling jacks – manual, hydraulic or automatic. Your leveling jacks will move independently front to back and side to side, so you can get the perfect amount of level! Some jack systems are just for stabilizing and some RVs don’t have jacks at all, so that brings us to option 3.
- Use Leveling Accessories. There are many different kinds of accessories you can use to level your RV.
- Leveling Blocks. Leveling blocks are lego-like blocks that can be stacked in different heights to put under your stabilizing jacks to help you get level, or under the tires to drive up on with whatever corner of your RV needs leveling. These blocks can be used in many different ways and you can get really creative about leveling your RV – 4 under this tire, 2 under this tire… You get the picture. What’s great about these is they stack together conveniently for storage and don’t take up a lot of space. Check out our leveling blocks here.
- Leveling Ramps. These are ramps that you place under the tires on whatever side of your RV needs raised up, and you just drive to whatever tier puts you at a good height. These can be cumbersome to carry and store and not as precise as leveling blocks but are a good addition to your RV leveling arsenal. Check out our leveling ramps here.
- Leveling Chocks. These are like a leveling ramp and a chock all in one! If you don’t know what a chock is: it’s a piece of equipment (like a wooden block) that you place under your tires to keep your RV or trailer from rolling forward or backward once you’re parked. (You should always use chocks, no matter what) Leveling chocks help you get level and stay in place, it’s a two-for-one! We have leveling chocks in our store here.
- Wood. The most cost-effective option is to get some wood planks cut at your local hardware store. They’re cheap, they last a while and they’re versatile. You can use wood blocks or planks the same way that you would use leveling blocks – either under your jacks or your tires.
No matter your RV type or your situation, it’s a good idea to have multiple choices on board. If your leveling jacks decide to take a vacation – you still want to enjoy yours! Having backups on board, even if it’s just planks of wood, will help you get and stay level even in the most unlevel of campsites.
An unlevel RV is annoying to sleep in, cook in, or do anything in, not to mention the hazards of an off-kilter RV refrigerator.
Keep your RV fridge and slideouts working properly by following these leveling techniques and using leveling blocks, ramps, chocks or pieces of wood and enjoy a happy, tilt-free camping trip.