There are several types of leveling/stabilizing systems available for RVs starting with very inexpensive, manual scissor jacks all the way up to the cream of the crop automatic hydraulic levelers. These jacks level the rig which is important for comfort while sleeping but also to ensure the refrigerator is level and the solution of hydrogen, water, ammonia, and sodium chromate in the cooling unit can make its way back to the boiler vessel. Both Norcold and Dometic require the cooling unit to be level 6 degrees side to side and 3 degrees front to back otherwise it will pool in a corner and start to heat up and eventually block the flow. A bubble level can be used to ensure the unit is in an acceptable level position.
Manual Jack Maintenance
The jacks are also used to stabilize a rig which keeps it from rocking back and forth while walking through the unit. The constant banging of mini blinds can be very annoying!
Maintenance on jacks is minor, especially the manual jacks as there are no motors, electronics, or hydraulic fluid to check. These jacks simply require an occasional inspection and lubrication of the pivot points.
Most manufacturers recommend using a silicone spray, however, Fluid Film is one of the best lubricants and rust inhibitors available. Look for twisted or binding arms, stripped threads, and loose bolts at the connection.
Electric Jack Maintenance
Another model of leveling and stabilizing jack is the electric such as the Lippert Components Inc (LCI) shown here. The only maintenance required on the mechanical components is inspection and cleaning if the legs and pivot points get dirty or rusted. They do not recommend any lubrication as this may cause additional damage due to dust and dirt collecting on the lubricant! For electrical maintenance, they require a fully charged house battery, visual inspection of the motor and wiring to ensure nothing is hanging below the rig subject to getting caught while driving, and inspection and cleaning of any connections. This can be done with emery cloth and electrical contact cleaner available at most parts stores.
Hydraulic jacks do require a little more maintenance and inspection as they have electrical connections, hydraulic motor and lines, and mechanical components. HWH has been used for many years on larger rigs with manual lever operation and automatic. They recommend cleaning the leveler cylinder with soap and water and then spray with WD 40 and wiping off the excess. This is not recommended by any other hydraulic jack manufacturer! They also recommend checking the hydraulic fluid level in the reservoir periodically and adding Dexron III ATF if needed. The fluid should be red and changed if it is murky, milky white, or pink.
All electrical connections should be inspected and cleaned if necessary, and loose wires secured. All hydraulic hoses should be inspected periodically for leaks, wear, and tear, as well as all swagged fittings. The manifold of the motor should also be inspected for leaks. Also, inspect the springs for proper fit and to ensure they are still connected.
Other hydraulic leveling systems such as Kwikee and the LCI Ground Control have a similar maintenance recommendation. Check the system twice a year for leaks, fluid level with the jacks retracted, and all electrical connections checked and cleaned if necessary. If the cylinder is corroded or dirty, clean with soap and water and lubricate with silicone lubrication and wipe off any excess. DO NOT USE WD 40! Also, check all mounting bolts to make sure they are secure as well as any damage to the cylinder or mounting hardware!
If the jacks are extended in an extreme unlevel situation, the weight of the rig can apply undue pressure on the jacks and mounting brackets and cause damage. Visually inspect all components and contact a certified service center if you encounter such damage!
When using the jacks in extremely cold temperatures, the hydraulic system may run slow. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the fluid with a synthetic brand or winter weight. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations for your rig.
It may be necessary to use an assist such as a block of wood or after-market jack block to prevent the jack from being extended to far. This also helps to stabilize the rig better as the cylinder is now supported more by the jack housing.
When storing the vehicle, most manufacturers indicate it is ok to leave the jacks extended during the storage period. However, since they will be exposed to the elements, it is recommended to clean and lubricate them when bringing the rig out of storage. As mentioned earlier, check with your owner’s manual for the proper lubricant.
About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
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Above article says refrigerator needs to be within 6 degrees sideways and 3 degrees front to back. Refrig is typically mounted on the side of an RV. So does the “sideways … and front to back” for the level tolerance refer to the axis of the refrigerator itself or the coach?
Terry / Coach-Net Technician said:
Both. Since we can assume that the cabinet mounted refrigerator is closely level to the floor of the coach, it would be at or near the same level as the coach itself.
the electric jacks and scissors jacks are not leveling jacks they only stabilize. Do not use them for leveling.
Chuck Boyer said:
I disagree the electrical jacks are for leveling with the automatic leveling system
electric jacks and levelers are 2 different items.