Leveling Your Travel Trailer: A Bumpy Ride Made Smooth

So you’re heading out on the open road to explore new places. Before hitching up and riding off into the sunset, there’s an important step that can make or break your camping experience: leveling the trailer.

Getting your trailer properly leveled may sound boring, believe me, it’s one of the most critical things you can do. A unleveled trailer can cause all sorts of annoying and even dangerous problems. But with the right gear and techniques, you’ll be a leveling pro in no time.

So grab your morning coffee, put on your spiffiest RV socks, and let’s get ready to tackle the uneven ground ahead!

Why Leveling Matters

You may be tempted to just skip leveling and get straight to the camping fun. But hold your horses! Getting your trailer properly stabilized is critical for several reasons:

Safety First

Driving with an unleveled trailer can be downright dangerous. If one side is too low, it puts extra strain on the hitch and tires. This can cause swaying at high speeds, making the rig hard to control. An extremely unleveled trailer may even detach completely from the tow vehicle – yikes!

Prevent Damage

Besides safety issues, an unleveled trailer can cause all sorts of problems:

  • Appliance problems: Refrigerators, stoves and other appliances rely on being close to level to operate safely and efficiently. Tilting can cause leaks, burning, or even explosions in extreme cases!
  • Plumbing issues: Water may not drain properly from sinks or showers, and tanks could overflow. Sewer lines may clog if waste can’t flow downhill.
  • Slide-out jamming: If the trailer isn’t level, slide-outs may fail to extend or retract fully. This can damage the slide mechanism over time.
  • Tire wear: Unbalanced weight distribution due to tilting puts extra stress on certain tires. They wear out much faster than normal.
  • Sleeping discomfort: Trying to sleep in an angled bed is no fun. Without leveling, you’ll keep sliding to the low end!

Maximize Comfort

Making your trailer as level as possible simply provides a more comfortable living experience. You won’t have to put up with annoying drips or leaks, struggling appliances, or feeling like you’re sleeping on a slide.

Leveling lets you fully enjoy the wonderful home-away-from-home that your trailer provides. It’s worth taking the extra time to do it right!

Types of Leveling Systems

The basic goal of any leveling system is to stabilize and balance the trailer by raising the low side(s). There are two main approaches:

Block and Chock Leveling

This old-fashioned manual method involves placing solid objects under the low side(s) of the trailer. Wood blocks, plastic or metal chocks, even heavy rocks can serve the purpose.


  • Very inexpensive (or free if you use natural materials)
  • Simple, no specialty tools required


  • Time consuming to place multiple blocks/chocks
  • Less accurate, hard to gauge perfectly level
  • Can shift and settle over time
  • No built-in stabilization, trailer may rock back and forth

Block and chock leveling works fine for quick campground stopovers. But for extended stays, most RVers prefer some type of jack system.

Jack Leveling Systems

These use hydraulic or electric jacks to raise the trailer and stabilize it. Jacks provide faster, more precise leveling than chocks. There are two types:

Manual/Crank Jacks

As the name suggests, these are operated manually by turning a crank or handle. Most trailers come with basic crank jacks installed.


  • Inexpensive, starting around $30 per jack
  • Simple to understand and install
  • Reliable mechanical operation


  • Raising/lowering by hand is slow and tiring
  • Hard to make fine adjustments to get perfectly level
  • No automatic stabilization features

Power Leveling Systems

These use electric motors to operate the jacks, controlled by a central panel or remote. They deliver fast, automated leveling at the touch of a button.

There are two sub-types:

Power tongue jacks: These are mounted on the hitch to raise the front of the trailer. They work together with the manual jacks in the back.

Full power leveling: Hydraulic jacks on all 4 corners are remotely controlled. At the push of a button, the system checks slope and automatically levels the entire trailer.


  • Super fast and convenient leveling
  • Increased leveling accuracy
  • Push-button operation from inside the trailer
  • Built-in stabilization features


  • More expensive than manual options
  • Requires electrical hookup
  • Moving parts can fail over time

Power systems vary widely in features, performance, and cost. But their ease of use makes them popular with frequent RVers.

Choosing the Right Leveling System

The leveling system you choose depends mainly on your budget and camping style. Here are some things to consider:

Type of Trailer

Larger fifth wheel and travel trailers need more robust leveling systems. A good rule of thumb:

  • Popups and very small trailers: Manual jacks or blocks
  • Mid-size trailers (<30 feet): Power tongue jack plus manual jacks
  • Larger trailers: Look for full power leveling

Frequency of Use

For occasional weekend trips, basic manual jacks should suffice. If you full-time RV or take frequent long trips, invest in a power system to make setup much easier.


Crank jacks start around $30, power tongue jacks around $250, and full power systems $2000+. Factor in long-term costs too – power systems need maintenance but last longer than cheaper manual options.

Site Conditions

Rocky, sloped sites are tougher to level and require larger stabilizer jacks. Make sure your jacks can handle the worst terrain you expect to encounter.

Take stock of your personal needs. If budget allows, go for the convenience of power leveling. Or start simple with manual jacks and upgrade later once you know your camping style.

Operating and Troubleshooting Tips

Here are some top tips to master leveling like a pro:

Find a Solid Base

Park on ground that’s as flat and firm as possible – this makes leveling easier. Avoid soft ground that could shift under the weight. Check that you won’t block traffic when extending jacks.

Use Leveling Blocks

Thick pads like Lynx Levelers provide a stable base if the ground is slightly uneven. Place them under jacks to prevent sinking.

Level Side-to-Side First

Correct the most obvious tilt first. Use a small spirit level on the floor to identify which side needs raising.

Use a Bubble Level

Double check for any front-to-back tilt using a bubble level placed along the trailer length. Adjust the tongue jack to fine tune.

Extend Slide-outs

If equipped, extend slide-out rooms before final leveling. This shows you the trailer’s fully expanded “footprint”.

Use Jacks Near the Problem

Lifting the corner diagonally opposite a low spot can worsen tilting. Focus jacks right near the low area.

Adjust in Small Increments

Make changes slowly and check again for level frequently. Don’t crank jacks up high all at once.

Wiggle the Trailer

After leveling, push or shake the corners to check for instability. Stabilizer jacks should eliminate rocking.

Allow the Trailer to Settle

Wait 5-10 minutes after leveling, then re-check. Let the trailer fully settle into position before calling it good.

Use Wheel Chocks

For extra stability, chock the wheels so the trailer can’t shift while camping.

Be attentive and patient, and your trailer will be stable and comfy all trip long. With practice, you’ll get your personal leveling routine down quickly.

My Favorite Leveling Products

Over my years of trailer travels, I’ve tested out a bunch of different jacks and leveling aids. Here are my top picks:

Best Budget Manual Jacks: Andersen Hitches – Simple, sturdy crank jacks under $35. Lift smoothly and the wide bases grip well.

Top Power Tongue Jack: Husky Brute – An excellent midrange electric model. Lifts up to 3,000 pounds for about $250. Super easy to use.

Best Value Power Leveling: Lippert Ground Control 3.0 – For around $1,600 you get fast push-button operation for the whole trailer. Their tech support has been really helpful too.

Best Premium Leveling: Bigfoot Hydraulic Leveling – The Cadillac of trailer levelers at $2,500+. Their hydraulic system is almost perfectly automatic – just push a button and walk away while it levels.

Best Leveling Block: Camco Leveling Blocks – These interlocking plastic pads are inexpensive but don’t compress much under weight. I use them at every site.

Those are my tried-and-true picks after years on the road. I hope they provide a helpful starting point for your search. The right leveling gear lets you focus on the fun parts of RVing, not struggling with a tilted trailer!

Smooth Sailing Ahead

Leveling your trailer may not seem exciting, but it pays huge dividends in safety, comfort, and avoiding damage down the road. The goal is finding the right balance (pun intended) between cost and convenience. Manual jacks work for casual camping. For frequent trips, power leveling is a game changer.

Use the right accessories, and level carefully based on terrain. It will quickly become a key part of your pre-camping routine.

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