On the Level - Tips for Levelling Your Caravan
Ensuring your caravan is sitting securely on a level surface is ideal for a number of reasons:
- Evenly distributes weight to prevent excess loads on one side of the vehicle and potentially damaging components
- Allows appliances to work properly, i.e. fridges need to be on a level surface for optimal operation
- Allows plumbing to operate effectively, i.e. showers and sinks can drain correctly
- Makes setting up privacy screens and annexes easier and well presented
- Prevent objects from rolling away
- Makes things more comfortable without having to do everything on a slant, i.e. walking, standing, sitting, sleeping
To begin, an inexpensive spirit level like a 2-way/tee level or bullseye level will help give you an idea of how level your caravan is and how much you may need to correct any slanting. Most people will usually attach a tee level to their draw bar as a permanent reference point. It is also a good idea to get a second, non-fixed spirit level and use that to check inside the caravan. Some people suggest not using a spirit level on cabinetry as these surfaces may not necessarily be very level depending on the workmanship. However, you will eventually get a feel for the areas that will give you the best reading, with many just placing their second spirit level on the floor in the doorway. Checking the areas around the shower and fridge can also be handy.
Levelling for your shower and fridge
When your shower is level, it should drain properly and not pool in any corners. In some instances the design of the shower floor has prevented water from draining because the floor has been too flat. As a result, some people will level their caravan to create a slight slope for the water to direct itself into the drain. However, don’t level it so dramatically as to make everyday living uncomfortable. An absorbent cloth or sponge will usually do the job of removing excess water.
Also of particular importance is ensuring your fridge is absolutely level. Recreational vehicles mostly use absorption fridges — these use a heat source to create the energy to generate the cooling process. If an absorption fridge is off-balance the liquid refrigerant, which runs through its cooling tubes may not be able to flow as easily, which in turn will critically reduce your fridge’s performance. Simply use a bullseye spirit level on top of your fridge to ensure a level position.
If you’re parked on a reasonably flat surface, you will probably just want a good set of chocks to keep your caravan in place. Parking on uneven ground will require some strategy in relation to positioning and what equipment to use for levelling.
If you happen to have to park on a slope, it is generally recommended, if you’re able to, to park your van sideways across the slope rather than up and down the slope, so as to prevent the van from rolling. When levelling your van, specially designed levelling ramps are ideal, rather than just blocks of wood. If space allows, always drive your caravan up on to your levelling ramp (two ramps for a double axle) rather than trying to back up on to them. Your brakes will be properly engaged and you won’t be placing any strain on the coupling. Once you are parked, place some chocks behind each wheel to further secure your caravan (Tip: Use chocks that are specified to match the ramp i.e. same brand, as they are designed to fit into each other more effectively).
Before unhitching, use the tee level to check that the caravan is level from side to side in case you need to make adjustments. Alternatively, there is equipment that you can use if you prefer to level your caravan after you have parked. You can simply jack the side of your caravan and slip a ramp under the wheel to keep it propped up. Or a KoJack Leveller is designed to both lift and support your wheels to keep your caravan level.
After unhitching everything, and moving the vehicle as necessary, you can begin levelling your caravan from front to back. With the help of your tee level, you can adjust levels using your jockey wheel or hydraulic jack. Once you have achieved the desired level, then you can lower your corner steadies, and only then. Remember that your corner steadies are not designed for levelling your caravan, just for stabilising. If the steadies are wound too tight this can damage the flooring or bend the legs. Only drop your legs to keep your caravan steady after you have adjusted your front to rear level using ramps and jockey wheel.
Another option for keeping your van stable is using stabiliser stands instead of corner steadies. They usually come in a set of two or four and have a wide foot for extra stability and can be height adjusted. Sometimes these are also used to prop up the drawbar when making adjustments to or changing the jockey wheel. Jack pads are also available to be placed under each stand for extra stability.
If your caravan is pointing up a hill, then you may require ramps for both sides of your caravan. In this instance, backing up on to your ramps would be permissible and the safer option because of the slope and direction of your van. Lower your corner steadies to support the rear and prevent your caravan from rocking as you move about inside. The foot on a corner steady can be quite small, not covering a lot of ground surface area. For extra stability you may want to employ the use of a “big foot”/support plate/anti-sink plate under each leg to create a flat load bearing surface. This is especially good if the ground is soft to prevent your steadies from sinking and unbalancing your van.
- Equip caravan with tee level and second spirit level for interior
- Pull up on to ramps and check side to side level
- Insert chocks
- Unhitch from car by disconnecting electrics and uncoupling tow ball
- Only remove safety chain after unhitching everything else
- Move vehicle if required
- Adjust front to rear level with jockey wheel or hydraulic jack
- Lower corner steadies/drop down legs to stabilise