One of the questions I had after buying our first RV was about how to level them. I also wanted to know if they even had to be leveled. Obviously, a level RV would be more comfortable, but was it necessary? And what happens I couldn’t get it done right on a hillside?
How level does an RV need to be? An RV should be level within 1 – 2 degrees from the plum. Visually, this would be about half a bubble on a bubble level. It should be leveled from side to side and then from front to back.
Let’s look at some of the implications with leveling your RV and why it is important.
5 Reasons To Level An RV
- If you don’t, your refrigerator may not work.
- A refrigerator that is not level can be damaged.
- A level RV is a more comfortable RV.
- Level RVs are safer.
- The plumbing will work better when the RV is level.
Propane refrigerators will not work when they’re not level. Also, running them when they’re not level can actually destroy the refrigerator.
Standard mini-fridges also need to be level. This is because the refrigerant in them will not circulate properly if the fridge is at an angle. As a result, your fridge will not work as efficiently and it may even stop working prematurely.
The plumbing will also work better in an RV that has been leveled properly. Not only will the water flow more efficiently, but the tank readings will be more accurate.
Even if you’re not concerned about the potential damage that can be done to an un-level RV, you should be concerned about safety. An RV that is sitting at an angle can lead to a dangerous kitchen area. Do you really want your hot coffee falling over on you because your dining table is sitting at an angle?
In addition to all of this, a level RV is more comfortable to live in. Level RVs are easier to move around in and they are even more comfortable to sleep in.
Everything You Need to Know About Propane RV Refrigerators
A propane RV fridge does not pump coolant like a standard electric refrigerator.
Instead, it uses gravity to move ammonia which is used to cool the unit. Run a propane fridge when it isn’t level and gravity may not be able to do its job properly. When the fridge isn’t running properly, it obviously isn’t cooling properly. Imagine coming back from a day of hiking to find that all of the food you packed is now ruined.
Not only this, but your propane refrigerator can actually be damaged when operated at an un-level position.
The reason for this is that it will overheat and the pipes can burst at the seams.
How Soon Before An Un-level Fridge Becomes Damaged
Some people say that you can go up to thirty minutes before any damage can occur.
However, I wouldn’t put much faith in this statement. An unlevel propane RV refrigerator can be damaged quickly so you should get it leveled properly as soon as you arrive on location.
It really depends on how un-level it is and how hard it is working. To be on the safe side it is best to just turn it off when you’re stopped in an un-level position.
Will A Propane Fridge Be Ruined If It Is Not Running?
As long as you’ve turned your propane refrigerator off, it won’t matter whether it’s on level ground or not.
This being said, never leave a standard mini-fridge left in an un-level position. Reason being, a mini-fridge runs off of freon and this can pool up and damage the coil even when it’s not running.
Can I Run My Propane RV Refrigerator While I’m Driving?
Yes, you won’t do any damage to the fridge if you run it while your traveling. The reason for this is that your RV will constantly be moving at different angles and it will never sit at the wrong angle for any great length of time.
If you decide to stop and eat, make sure you either level your RV or turn your refrigerator off. The same holds true for any other stops that will last more than a minute or so.
If you’re stopping to quickly refuel, you’ll probably be OK.
Just don’t linger too long at the rest stop or you might come back to a hot fridge.
Can I Buy A Self-Leveling Propane RV Refrigerator?
The short answer to this question is no.
It’s not possible to create a refrigerator like this because the fridge itself needs to be mostly stable inside of the RV. The reason is that the fridge is hooked up to the RV in a manner that allows it to be properly vented.
As a result, the RV itself needs to be leveled so that the fridge is then in turn leveled as well.
How Do I Level An RV?
The easiest way to level an RV is to buy one that levels itself.
Many modern RVs have electric jacks and stabilizers that work in tandem with sensors to do everything automatically for you. In this case, you’ll just need to park in a relatively flat area and your RV will do the rest.
Examples of Self-Leveling RVs
The Forest River SIERRA 345RLOK
The Forest River Sierra is a large fifth wheel camper with a 6 point auto-leveling system. It is 34 feet long and sleeps up to four people comfortably. Expect to pay close to $50,000.00 for this RV.
The Palomino Columbus 298RL
The Palomino Columbus is another large fifth wheel RV featuring a 6 point hydraulic leveling system. It is 29 feet long and sleeps 4 people as well. The space inside is augmented by 3 separate slide-outs. It also runs in the neighborhood of $50,000.00.
Can I Retrofit My Camper To Be Self-Leveling
Yes, you can retrofit almost any RV to be self-leveling. An electronic self-leveling system with electric jacks will cost about $2,000. You can install this system yourself or you can pay your local dealer to install it for you.
Installation prices will vary based off your local market.
Manually Leveling Your RV
For those of you with RVs that do not level themselves, you’ll find that the process of leveling the RV yourself isn’t very difficult.
Here is what you’ll need to properly level your RV yourself.
- A relatively level parking space.
- A bubble level.
- Leveling blocks.
Before attempting to level your RV, you should park in a fairly level parking spot.
No matter how great your jacks are or how many leveling blocks you take with you, you won’t be able to make up for a terrible parking spot.
If you’re on the side of a hill or halfway up a mountain, you’ll need to keep going until you find a plateau.
If you’re at a campground make sure you position your RV so that you can reach all of the electric and plumbing connections while still being able to open out your slides.
Once you’ve found a suitable parking space, you can get out your tools and begin the leveling process.
The bubble level will be used to tell you if and when the RV is actually in a level position. Remember that you need to be within one or two degrees of level, so while the bubble will not have to be at the exact center, it will need to be close.
While your RV fridge should be leveled from front to back first, your actual RV should first be leveled from side to side. This means you’ll start by running the bubble level from side to side of your RV.
Place leveling blocks under your tires until the bubble sits in the center of your level.
Alternatively, you can use stackers and jack pads to make the process easier for you. Once everything is in place, you should chock the wheels with chocking blocks.
Next, un-hitch your RV, re-align your bubble level and adjust the tongue jack until the RV is level from front to back.
Leveling vs Stabilizing
- Leveling ensures that your trailer is on a level surface when parked. Leveling jacks and leveling blocks support the weight of the trailer.
- Stabilizing helps keep the RV from moving when you walk around inside or when strong gusts of wind blow through your area.
You’ll stabilize your RV with stabilizing jacks. These jacks will help prevent movement, but should not be used to support the weight of the trailer.
How Difficult Is It To Level An RV?
For first-timers, leveling an RV can be frustrating and a bit nerve-wracking.
Once you’ve gone through the process, however, leveling an RV becomes much easier. A veteran RVer can get their RV leveled in just a matter of minutes.
It usually takes me 5-10 minutes to do it with our RV. Maria goes into the RV while I adjust the jacks. We don’t have an automatic leveling system, so I do it manually, and it’s really easy. Our RV is a few decades old, so the jacks need to get some oil before we leave, and then everything is fine.
I use these tools to help me get the jacks up and down:
Of course, the difficulty of leveling an RV will change based off of the parking spot you choose, the weather, your equipment, and your level of physical fitness.
It’s important that you level and stabilize your RV each and every time you set up camp. Doing so will keep you safe and will keep your equipment running at maximum efficiency. It may even help you avoid causing damage to your appliances and plumbing systems.
It won’t take you very long to level your RV and you’ll get faster each time you do it.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.