Saving Battery Power When Leveling Your RV

Leveling systems provide a huge convenience for RVers by stabilizing and leveling your coach with the push of a button. But these motors draw heavily on your RV house battery, and can leave you stranded with a dead battery if not used wisely. Follow these tips to keep your battery bank charged and prevent excessive drain while enjoying simplified leveling.

Understand Your Leveling System’s Power Needs

The power-hungry components of an RV leveling system are the electric motors that extend and retract the jacks. These motors can draw 10-25 amps each when operating. With 4-6 jacks on most systems, that’s 40-150 amps total during leveling.

So if you have a 100 amp-hour battery bank, running your jacks from fully retracted to extended could use 40% or more of your available power. For systems that level side-to-side as well, power demand is even higher. Know your system’s amp draw, and monitor voltage drop when leveling.

Level in Manual Mode When Possible

Most leveling systems have an “auto” mode that extends all jacks and levels the RV simultaneously. This is convenient, but maximizes power usage. Save your battery by using manual leveling mode instead.

In manual mode, you extend each jack individually and level the RV in stages. This avoids having 4-6 motors pull maximum power at the same time. Level side-to-side first, then front-to-back. Your battery will still drain somewhat, but much more slowly.

Adjust Air Pressure First

Before extending your leveling jacks, try adjusting air pressure in your coach’s air bags first. This allows you to partially level and stabilize just by adding or releasing air, saving initial battery draw.

Air bags let you lift one side of the RV 3-6 inches to compensate for unlevel sites. Get the vehicle as close as possible using air pressure, then use the jacks for final level tweaking. Having an onboard air compressor makes this much more convenient.

Use Manual Stabilizing When Appropriate

For minor leveling needs or quick overnight stops, consider using scissor jacks or Lynx levelers for manual stabilizing. This avoids any battery drain from motors.

Place stabilizing jacks under the frame near each wheel to add stability and security on a slightly unlevel site. Individual scissor jacks can lift wheels ~6 inches for spot-leveling as needed. It takes more physical effort, but maximizes remaining battery capacity.

Balance Jacks Usage Front-to-Back

When powered leveling, try to avoid running only your front or rear jacks. Running all jacks on one end to achieve leveling can over-drain the battery.

Instead, alternate between front and rear jacks to spread the amp draw over time. Get the front halfway level, then do the rear. Go back and forth until level. This pulsed usage reduces peak battery load.

Extend Only the Minimum Needed

Avoid extending leveling jacks 100% when possible. If you can achieve an acceptable level with only half or 3/4 extension, your battery usage will be significantly reduced.

Most RVs become reasonably level by getting the wheels ~3-5 inches off the ground. Try your best to only extend jacks far enough to lift wheels and stabilize the rig. Overextending can lead to excess sway or instability. Go slow and extend the minimum jack height necessary.

Let The Vehicle’s Weight Help

Depending on how unlevel the site is, you may be able to partially self-level the RV using gravity before extending jacks.

Analyze which corners of the RV are higher when you first pull in. Then park so the low side wheels are turned into the downhill side. As the vehicle leans slightly, it will correct some of the leveling for you. Now the jacks don’t have to work as hard.

Use Blocks and Ramps Under Wheels

In challenging leveling scenarios, solid plastic, wood or metal blocks can help raise wheels and reduce jack extension needs. Place blocks under the low side wheels before deploying jacks.

Carry leveling blocks like Lynx Levelers, or sturdy 2×10 boards. When encountering a truly sloped site, ramps under the low wheels may prevent jacks from needing full extension. But use care not to overload your jacks.

Monitor Voltage Closely When Leveling

Keep an eye on your battery bank voltage before, during and after leveling operations. Watch for significant drops while the jacks run that don’t recover afterwards.

Voltage should stay above 12V, ideally 12.5V or higher. If it drops below 12V during leveling, your battery bank may need servicing or replacement. Make sure chargers and alternators are properly maintaining voltage between uses.

Charge Batteries Before Extended Leveling

Try not to operate leveling jacks with your batteries in a low state of charge. The high current draw can damage batteries or drop voltage to critical levels.

Ideally your batteries should be near full before leveling, via shore power, solar, generator, or driving time. Batteries below 50% charge may struggle to run jacks without excessive voltage drop. Recharge them before tackling a challenging site.

Use 30A Shore Power at Campsites

When staying at a powered campsite, always connect to 30 amp shore power if it’s available. This gives your battery charger the maximum current to restore your batteries quickly.

Leave shore power hooked up overnight while leveling jacks are still extended to ensure batteries are topped off for the next day’s usage. Consider running appliances like the microwave off shore power instead of inverter battery power while leveling is needed.

Add a Second House Battery

Insufficient battery capacity is one of the most common causes of jacks draining batteries excessively. Beef up your bank by wiring two batteries in parallel.

Doubling your amp hour rating provides twice the runtime for leveling and stabilizing. It also reduces voltage drop by providing more surge current when the jacks initially engage. If space permits, upgrade to dual 6V batteries for even more capacity.

Supplement With a Generator

Keep a portable generator available for recharging batteries after prolonged leveling. Levelers can be hard on batteries that are drawn down too low.

Recharge partially depleted batteries within a day or two to avoid damage. Get voltage back to 100% charge before disconnecting the generator – floating at 13.6V for an hour or more. Consider wiring the generator into an automatic start system.

Use Solar Panels for Ongoing Charging

Solar panels are perfect for keeping batteries topped off when leveling over multiple days. 100-200 watts of solar can easily replace the power consumed by most RV leveling systems.

Deploy portable panels when stationary, and use flexible panels on the roof while driving between destinations. Solar charges during the day while jacks are extended, then use shore power or a generator at night for fuller charging.

Disconnect Batteries When Not in Use

To avoid passive power draw when your RV is parked between trips, disconnect each battery bank using an isolation switch or removing the main fuse. This prevents any loads like propane detectors from draining the battery over weeks or months while not leveling.

And remember to reconnect batteries when ready to travel again! Running your house battery totally dead by leaving it connected too long can permanently damage its capacity.

Use a Battery Monitor for Usage Alerts

Installing a shunt-based battery monitor like the Victron BMV-712 provides real-time amp draw and voltage info. Program it with your battery’s rating so it can estimate state of charge and time remaining.

When the leveling jacks start running, the monitor will show the high amp spike. And when the battery gets low, it will alert you so you can stop leveling before over-discharging. Take the guesswork out of monitoring battery levels.

Select Jacks Carefully When Replacing

If shopping for a new RV leveling system, pay close attention to power usage. Look for jacks with lower amp draws, or a system with centralized hydraulics using lower voltage motors.

Labor Saving Devices (LSD) and Bigfoot are well-known leveling brands. Compare specs and talk to owners about real-world power consumption. Choose jacks adequate for your RV’s weight, but not oversized. And make sure your battery bank can comfortably power the system.

By carefully monitoring voltage, limiting jack extension height, recharging frequently, and preventing excessive drain, your RV batteries and leveling system can co-exist happily. A sufficiently large battery bank and some periodic maintenance are key to keeping your RV stable and level for off-grid camping.

Additional Ways to Conserve Battery Power

Beyond smart leveling techniques, here are more ways to reduce load on your RV batteries:

  • Use LED lighting and minimize usage when relying on battery bank.
  • Cook with propane and avoid microwave, induction cooktop, or electric appliances.
  • Shut off all unnecessary appliances and electronics when not driving or on shore power.
  • Cover windows to keep interior cooler and use fans instead of air conditioning.
  • Limit use of residential-style appliances like TVs, gaming consoles, instapots, etc.
  • Use ethyl alcohol or propane camping fridges specifically designed for energy efficiency.

Carefully Plan Your RV Site Parking

As you scout your campsite, keep the leveling challenge in mind:

  • Inspect grade, slope and potential for leveling needs before pulling in.
  • Position rig to use natural advantages like slight sideways tilting.
  • Place high wheels on downhill slope side when parking, allowing gravity to self-level.
  • Look for sites with naturally flat pads to avoid extensive jack extension.
  • Know which jacks will need to do the most lifting based on parking angle.

Weigh Your RV Properly

Confirm your RV’s weight ratings and stay within legal limits:

  • Weigh each axle and gross vehicle weight fully loaded.
  • Distribute weight evenly side-to-side to minimize leveling tilt.
  • Don’t exceed your GVWR, GAWR, hitch ratings, or tire load ratings.
  • Balance weight front-to-back as well. Around 10-15% tongue weight is ideal.
  • Remove any unnecessary cargo to decrease weight before each trip.

An RV that’s overloaded or out of balance will be much harder to level and stabilize.

Install Larger House Batteries

Upgrading to higher capacity batteries directly reduces the strain of running RV leveling systems.

  • Use dual 6V golf cart batteries instead of single 12V units for 200-400 amp-hour capacity.
  • Switch from lead-acid to lithium iron phosphate batteries for longer lifespan and higher usable capacity.
  • Install highest capacity batteries that fit your space like Battle Born 100Ah LiFePO4 or Odyssey PC2150 AGM batteries.
  • Carefully calculate your electrical load and how many amp-hours are needed. Don’t skimp on batteries.

Keep an Eye on Tire Pressure

Proper inflation of your RV tires makes leveling easier and extends jack stroke:

  • Check tire pressures with an accurate stand-alone gauge before each trip.
  • Look up and follow the manufacturer’s pressure specifications for your tires. Don’t eyeball it.
  • Make sure the tires are cold when checking, not warm from driving for accuracy.
  • Adjust in small increments of 2-3 PSI to hone in on optimum pressure.
  • Remember to also check the spare tire pressure as well!

Use Jack Pads for Stability

Placement of solid pads under jacks improves stabilization:

  • Carry levels like Lynx Levelers to create a firm base under jacks.
  • Use stacked plywood sheets or wood boards to prevent sinking into soft ground.
  • Install commercial jack pads like Bal’s jack base plates for multi-terrain stability.
  • Ensure pads are large enough to disperse jack weight without shifting or sinking.
  • A 6×6 inch minimum pad area per jack is recommended to prevent tipping.

This distributes force and reduces shaking from loose or uneven terrain.

Park Smartly to Minimize Leveling

Some basic parking strategies can make getting level much simpler:

  • Pull up on sites slowly and gradually to avoid the need for deep jack extension.
  • Keep an eye on your RV’s level indicators as you park and stop as soon as reasonably level.
  • Use a spotter outside the vehicle to help guide you into a properly aligned position.
  • Avoid parking on obviously unleveled sites during site selection if possible. Scope it out first.
  • Turn wheels towards any downhill slope to utilize gravity ahead of time when applicable.

Adjust Air Bags First When Possible

  • Install supplemental air bags on your RV if available for your model.
  • Partially level by inflating air bags first before deploying jacks.
  • Release air slowly from overinflated bags to lower that side a few inches as needed.
  • Monitor overall RV level on indicators while making air pressure adjustments.

This can eliminate the need for full jack extension just to achieve leveling.

Use Manual Scissor Jacks When Appropriate

For quick overnight stops or slight leveling needs, scissor jacks are an option:

  • Carry several scissor jacks to place under the frame near wheels as needed.
  • Extend manually to lift each side or end 2-6 inches for basic stabilization.
  • Use stackable blocks under scissor jacks if you need more lift on a given corner.
  • Combine with air pressure adjustments for minimal leveling without draining house battery.

The tradeoff is more physical effort, of course!

Research Leveling System Power Draw

When shopping for components, research power consumption:

  • Check leveling jack motor amp draw ratings before purchase.
  • Look for centralized hydraulic or low voltage DC motors to reduce load.
  • Avoid overly powerful jacks with excess lifting capacity beyond your needs.
  • Install a multi-stage smart charger that can rapidly charge batteries between uses.
  • Pick lithium batteries able to supply high surge current for jacks without voltage drop.

Doing homework on the electrical system pays off in efficient operation.

Use a Soft-Start Generator

When running a generator for recharging after leveling, choose an inverter model with power management features:

  • Select a “soft start” generator like the Honda EU2200i to gradually ramp up to operating power.
  • This reduces starting current surge that drains batteries.
  • Set the generator to charge mode to safely deliver 30-50 amps of current for 1-2 hours to replenish batteries after heavy leveling usage.
  • Shut down the generator once batteries are adequately recharged to save fuel.

Connect Shore Power at Campsites

When hooked up at an RV park, maximize shore power amperage:

  • Request a 30 amp site instead of 20 amp for faster battery charging.
  • Use a digital voltmeter to verify shore voltage is 114-125V for proper battery charger operation.
  • Plug in the shore power cord whenever parked to allow constant charging.
  • Set fridge, microwave, AC and other large loads to run off shore power instead of inverter.
  • Use a power management tool like the SurgeGuard to monitor current draw.

This minimizes battery usage whenever suitable power is available.

Have a Backup Plan for Leveling

Be prepared if your automated leveling equipment fails:

  • Carry and know how to use manual scissor jacks as a fallback option.
  • Bring wood blocks, planks, or lxner’ levelers to create a stable base.
  • Use a portable cordless impact wrench with the right socket to retract or extend jacks if motors fail.
  • Know where to access and manually operate electric valves for hydraulic leveling systems.
  • Keep fulll electronic system troubleshooting tips handy.

Carefully Maintain Batteries

Your battery bank bears the brunt of repeated leveling operations:

  • Thoroughly clean terminals and connections to prevent resistance and voltage drop.
  • Check electrolyte levels in flooded lead acid batteries regularly.
  • Charge fully after each trip and avoid prolonged discharges below 50%.
  • Keep batteries secured in a ventilated enclosure away from extreme heat or cold.
  • Follow all manufacturer charging and maintenance recommendations.

Healthy batteries withstand heavy leveling usage much better.

Balance Your Electrical Loads

Reduce strain on batteries through efficient usage when boondocking:

  • Distribute loads over two or more circuits to prevent overload.
  • Limit use of heat and A/C by utilizing insulation, windows, ventilation strategically.
  • Use LP appliances instead of electricity where possible.
  • Stagger usage of large loads so everything doesn’t turn on at once.
  • Shed non-essential loads by turning equipment off when not needed.

Add a Satellite Leveling System

Satellite-based leveling uses GPS data for automatic site analysis and leveling:

  • Systems like LevelMatePRO guide you into position, then level your RV with minimal jack extension.
  • They measure terrain angles and coach pitch/roll right at the site to level more efficiently.
  • Taking site topography into account ahead of time decreases battery consumption.
  • One-touch automatic leveling reduces manual jack over-extension.

Though pricier, satellite levelers use smart tech to optimize power usage.

Use a Multi-Stage Smart Battery Charger

Choose an advanced battery charger for faster recharging:

  • Look for a 3 or 4 stage smart charger to most efficiently replenish batteries after leveling.
  • Multi-stage regulators allow faster bulk charging then taper current to prevent overcharging once full.
  • Temperature compensation adjusts voltage based on battery temp.
  • Specific lithium, gel, AGM, and lead acid charging modes further maximize charge acceptance.
  • Brands like Redarc, Victron, and Xantrex make quality smart chargers.

Carefully Plan Camping Spot Selection

  • Research campsite terrain thoroughly using maps, GPS data, satellite views.
  • Drive through all potential sites first before committing and unhitching.
  • Avoid obviously unleveled or sloped sites whenever alternatives exist.
  • Enlist a second person to help identify best parking position within a site.

Use a Battery Isolator

A battery isolator allows both your vehicle alternator and RV house batteries to charge simultaneously:

  • It routes alternator power to both battery banks while preventing cross-discharge.
  • This gives you maximum charging while driving between campsites.
  • Look for high output 100+ amp isolators like the ProStar 30 or Sterling Pro Charge.
  • Monitor both battery voltages with a dual circuit meter when installing an isolator.
  • This ensures both batteries get adequately charged while driving.

Take Advantage of Shore Power

When hooked up to shore power, maximize the opportunity to charge batteries:

  • Use a digital voltmeter to verify shore voltage is between 110-125 volts.
  • Plug in immediately upon parking and leave connected whenever possible.
  • Set battery charger mode to “Equalize” periodically to fully balance battery cells.
  • If 30A power is available, use it instead of 20A for faster charging.
  • Manage your electrical loads to avoid tripping breakers.

Install Portable Solar Panels

Adding solar power can offset battery drain from leveling:

  • Mountable flexible panels from Renogy, HQST, Rich Solar provide 100-200 watts.
  • Portable briefcase style panels fold up easily when not needed.
  • Larger rigid panels can be installed on the roof permanently.
  • Use a charge controller like a Victron MPPT 150/70 to optimize solar charging.
  • Even 50-100 watts helps reduce usage of house battery bank.

Learn Proper Battery Maintenance

Keep batteries in top shape through proper care and maintenance:

  • Clean all connections every 6 months or as needed to avoid resistance.
  • Check water levels in flooded lead acid batteries monthly.
  • Perform equalization charges quarterly to prevent sulfation and stratification.
  • Store batteries indoors disconnected from loads when RV is not in use.
  • Avoid discharging batteries below 50% state of charge whenever possible.
  • Follow all manufacturer guidelines for charging and maintenance.

Install Dual House Batteries

For heavy leveling needs, consider wiring two 6 volt batteries together:

  • Series connection doubles voltage, parallel doubles capacity.
  • 6V batteries offer greater capacity in a given space versus 12V.
  • Use heavy wiring up to 2/0 gauge for minimum voltage drop.
  • Install an isolation switch to disconnect batteries when parked.
  • Equalization charges will balance dual batteries over time.

This expands your battery bank to handle repeated leveling cycles.

Use a Battery Desulfator

As batteries discharge deeply, sulfation can coat the lead plates and permanently reduce capacity. A desulfator can reverse this process:

  • Pulse desulfators from PulseTech andothers apply a modulated frequency to remove sulfation.
  • Can be installed inline on the battery leads.
  • Works best on partially sulfated batteries before they lose too much capacity.
  • Improves charge acceptance and life of lead acid batteries.
  • Allows periodic deep cycling if required.

Add More Substantial Jack Pads

For maximum stability, invest in heavy-duty jack pads:

  • Use stacked 4×4 wood beams under jacks to prevent shifting on dirt.
  • Try interlocking plastic or metal lynx levelers to distribution load.
  • Commercial products like Bal Jack Base Plates sit flat on uneven ground.
  • Consider attaching pads to jacks permanently if frequent boondocking over soft surfaces.
  • Check that pad sits flush on ground without rocking before extending jack.

Proper jack pads prevent both sinking and tipping in difficult terrain.

Adjust Driving Habits and Speeds

Your driving and towing practices impact battery charging:

  • Drive smoothly without excessive acceleration/deceleration to promote charging.
  • Trailer sway and surge braking interrupts charging by load variation.
  • Shift to lower gears on long grades to maintain alternator output.
  • Limit highway speeds to improve air flow for engine cooling and consistent RPMs.
  • Check battery voltage after driving – should be 13.6V or greater for proper charging.

Research Smart Alternator Regulators

Upgrading your alternator regulator improves battery charging while driving:

  • Look for adjustable, multistage units like the Balmar ARS-5.
  • Smart regulators provide bulk charging than absorb and float stages.
  • Alternator field voltage is optimized based on battery state and temperature.
  • This allows 100+ amps output at ideal voltages while driving.
  • Brands like Balmar, Sterling Power make quality smart regulators.

Carry Spare Parts and Tools

Be equipped for minor repairs and troubleshooting:

  • Bring fuses, electrical connectors, terminal grease, wire, crimpers, etc.
  • Pack a cordless impact wrench and sockets for manual jack operation if needed.
  • Carry hydraulic fluid and spare filters for hydraulic systems.
  • Know how to manually open/close valves in case of hydraulic failure.
  • Bring a multimeter for testing voltages and amp draws.

Have Backups for Leveling System

Be prepared with redundancy in leveling capability:

  • Always have manual scissor jacks and solid base blocks as a fallback.
  • Know the proper manual operation procedures for your leveling system if electronics fail.
  • Carry spare fuses, circuit breakers, and relays that commonly fail.
  • Keep emergency extend/retract instructions handy for hydraulic systems.
  • Have tools like bungee cords, duct tape, zip ties and plywood available for quick fixes.

Watch Out for Overheating Motors

Keep an eye out for excessive motor heat:

  • Touch each jack after operation to check for high temperatures.
  • Monitor amperage draw – over 20 amps per motor risks overheating.
  • Allow time between extending and retracting for motors to cool down.
  • Ensure jacks are rated for the weight and extension height needed.
  • Replace under-sized or damaged jacks and wiring.

This will help prevent burned out motors and electrical failures while leveling.

Use a Battery Cycler Periodically

To maintain maximum battery capacity:

  • Using a battery cycler like the Battery Minder periodically provides conditioning cycles.
  • It discharges batteries fully then recharges them to prevent sulfation from occurring over time.
  • Can optimize both lead acid and lithium batteries.
  • Adjust discharge threshold carefully to avoid over-discharge damage.
  • Can help calibrate state of charge measurements on more complex battery monitors.

Carefully Secure Components

Prevent damage to jacks and wiring:

  • Visually inspect wiring harnesses regularly for deterioration.
  • Use convoluted split loom tubing to protect cables from abrasion.
  • Seal all connections thoroughly with heat shrink tubing or silicone sealant.
  • Allow sufficient wire slack for motion without pulling or pinching.
  • Use retaining clips and anchors to avoid wires dragging.

This helps avoid shorts, opens, and loose connections from vibration.

Select Suitable Tires and Wheels

Running proper tires improves stability when leveling:

  • Ensure your tires meet the weight rating and inflation pressures needed.
  • Pick tires rated for RV use, not passenger vehicle tires.
  • Balance the tire and wheel assembly periodically to prevent vibration.
  • Check lug nut torque regularly before travel.
  • Evaluate tire age and replace any over 5-7 years old.

Calculate Electrical Loads

Know your typical amp draw to size electrical system appropriately:

  • Measure voltage and current for each major appliance or system.
  • Estimate your typical hourly usage time for each item.
  • Add up the amp-hour loads to determine total capacity needed from batteries.
  • Leave a 20% safety margin minimum on your load calculation.
  • This will ensure your house battery bank is sufficiently sized.

Keep the RV Interior Dark

When boondocking and relying on battery power:

  • Use minimal lighting at night to preserve battery charge.
  • Turn off all unnecessary lights when not needed.
  • Use small battery powered LED lanterns instead of overhead lighting.
  • Close all window blinds and curtains to block out sunlight and keep the interior cooler during the day.

This reduces air conditioner runtime and limits lighting usage over multi-day stays.

Park on Level Ground When Possible

When setting up camp, try to select already flat spaces:

  • Scope out potential sites in daylight for grade and slope.
  • Maneuver your RV carefully into a spot that is naturally level side-to-side and front-to-back.
  • Take your time parking to minimize the need for substantial leveling adjustments.
  • Use a spotter outside the RV to provide guidance on alignment.

Starting on level terrain avoids excessive jack extension.

Use Manual Stabilizing Jacks

For simple stabilization needs, manual scissor jacks are an option to conserve battery capacity:

  • Place scissor jacks under frame near wheels to lift an edge 2-6 inches.
  • Stack solid base blocks if you need a taller lift on one side or corner.
  • Combine with air pressure adjustments to fine-tune level for minimal jacking.
  • It takes more physical effort but maximizes remaining battery energy.

Save powered leveling for when it’s truly needed.

And that covers an extensive set of tips for conserving battery capacity when operating RV power leveling systems! Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

About Author