Part 1: NEVER Buy New - and Other RV Choices

Part 2: Converting the Back Bedroom into Our Workroom

Part 3: Hydraulic Jacks - Sleeping and Working on the Level

Part 4: Electricity on the Go - Charging our Batteries

Part 5: Computing, Staying Connected, Entertainment, and Junk Mail

Part 6: Making our RV a Home

Part 7: Water and Sewage and Germs - Oh My!

Part 8: Solar Power - Expanded

Google Places and Platypie

Building Our Ark

Part 3:
Hydraulic Jacks - Sleeping and Working on the Level

One's bed should not be tilted….. however, the world is not level. Street or rest stop or parking lot camping is usually sloped steeply for rain drainage. We've found that sleeping with your head lower than your feet, even for a nap, will cause tremendous headaches - and walking around tilted is awkward when you keep falling into things….. Also, water in the sinks and shower works much better if it actually runs down the drains..…

Our previous camper (shown with Peg demonstrating), was designed with our heads to the curb side, and we had to carry stacks of boards or special plastic lego-looking squares to build a little ramp under one or more tires and then drive onto them (a good trick) to get acceptably level in the coach. Try this in the mud or rain…

This time however, thanks to the money we saved by buying used, we went ahead and had a hydraulic leveling system installed. You stop, put on the brake, hit the auto button and in about a minute the RV is level. It also has a Manual setting for odd situations (as you'll see below). This little-thought-of feature has contributed mightily to our life on the road feeling like we are at home.

Now, you don't get a jack to just change a tire when you have a heavy vehicle like our RV. So, one added benefit we've enjoyed is that our leveling jacks make it easier for tire people to work on us - both out on the road with a flat or outside a tire shop. When we have had flats (read more in the upcoming Nightmares and Solutions section), the service trucks have usually carried a compressor and portable air jack stand that can lift regular vehicles OR just lift our axle. By having the ability to lift the weight of the RV off the axle with our leveling jacks, we have saved the expense of a big truck tow a number of times - so the system has paid for itself right there.

One benefit we discovered is adjusting water runoff on the slide outs. One time, when were camped in a big, freak rainstorm, the water was blowing under the automatic awnings covering the top of the slide outs and running into the camper! A quick side-to side adjustment with the levelers and the water just flowed away from the inside - whew! THAT would have been an endless cleanup mess. And, when you live in an RV, you can never postpone cleanups or repairs because you have to live in the middle of them.

Anyway, the control pad is mounted on our driver door and, as long as the parking brake is on and the engine is running, it works like a charm. When you are ready to move on, you turn it on, hit the 'Retract All Jacks' button, and, after some lurching as the jacks release pressure, in a few seconds you can drive away. If you forget about the jacks being down and release the brake, an emergency alarm sounds and the system retracts all jacks by itself. Nice failsafe. Not proud that I've been surprised several times as I went to drive off with the levelers down…

There are four jacks, each with a wide foot that lowers to the ground. Seldom have we needed to put anything under these feet to keep them from sinking into the surface.

They are attached by hydraulic lines to a fluid reservoir and pump under the chassis. It is a cleanly engineered system that has given us no trouble. (Knock wood)

Original condition of back bedroom with slideout closed The finished T with drop leaves opened and slide-out out.

We mounted big levels on the walls around the middle door to show how level we are, and we use them as a guide to giving us a 'level playing field'.

The most challenging spot for staying level so far is on the sloping hillside in front of our daughter's home. In this case, I use the manual mode so only the rear jacks are extended to their full height, and the front ones are unused. The front brakes keep us from sliding down the hill… Works pretty well - a lot better than a pile of boards!!!

One important note - it is electricity from the engine alternator that powers the jacks lifting the camper and turns the gears to open and close the slide-outs. When an RV is almost empty, as most quick vacationing ones are, the stock alternator that came with the vehicle is powerful enough to handle the load. However, when you fill every square inch with your life, and then slide and lift all of it, it is prudent to get the super heavy duty alternator. A Ford dealer did the upgrade for about $750 - yes, really - but it has been worth it in peace of mind alone. The one thing we don't need is either of those systems straining constantly or failing.

Life is better when you can stay on the level!

Questions? Feeedback?