Troubleshooting Your RV Leveling System

One of the most common problems RVers face is getting their leveling system to work properly. Nothing takes the fun out of camping quite like pulling into your site and realizing your RV is tilting like the Titanic post-iceberg!

Not to worry, with a few troubleshooting tips you can get your leveling system ship-shape in no time. Now I don’t claim to be an expert, but as someone who’s owned my fair share of RVs over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about finicky leveling systems. Hopefully these pointers can help you out on your adventures!

Start With The Basics

Before you go tearing things apart, start with some basic checks. Make sure your RV is parked on fairly level, stable ground. If one tire is sunk into a hole or perched on a rock, no leveling system is gonna help! Also check that your battery is charged and connected properly. Leveling systems are power hogs, so they need plenty of juice. While you’re poking around under the rig, inspect the leveling jacks and fluid reservoirs. Look for any obvious leaks, cracks, stuck jacks, or missing parts. Low hydraulic fluid levels can also prevent the jacks from operating correctly.

If all that looks good, head inside and try cycling the levelers on and off. Most systems have a manual override function, so don’t rely solely on the automatic feature. Watch the jacks as you extend and retract them – do they lower smoothly and raise all the way? Listen for odd grinding or squealing sounds too. Any hiccups likely point to hydraulic problems or stuck valves.

Electrical Gremlins

More often than not, leveling issues stem from electrical malfunctions. Which makes sense when you think about it – those jacks are essentially giant electric motors. Start by checking the connections at your control panel and battery. Wiggling wires and terminals can knock loose accumulated corrosion. While you’re there, inspect the fuses too. Burned out fuses are an easy thing to replace that can get you rolling again.

If the connections seem fine, take a voltmeter to the motor terminals on the jacks themselves. You should see 12+ volts when you hit the extend/retract buttons. No voltage means you’ve got a wiring problem somewhere. Check every wire and junction between the control panel and jacks for breaks. Rodents are notorious for chewing through RV harness wires too!

One helpful trick is to listen for the leveling system relay clicking as you hit the buttons. No click likely indicates a failed relay or control board. Swap out the relays first, since they’re cheaper to replace. If that doesn’t do the trick, the circuit board is probably shot. Time to call a mobile RV tech or tow it in to the shop.

Low Hydraulic Pressure

Those hydraulic jacks require high fluid pressure to operate – up to 3000 psi! Over time,leaky fittings, stuck valves, and worn pumps can cause pressure drops. The jacks will slowly creep down or fail to retract all the way. Or you might hear the electric motor running nonstop without the jacks moving.

Start by examining all the hydraulic lines and cylinders. Look for fluid leaks and bulging/cracked hoses. Tighten any loose fittings with the proper sized wrench – don’t force it! Sticking solenoid valves can sometimes be knocked loose by tapping them with a hammer (with the pump off of course!). Just be gentle.

If the pump is suspect, check the fluid level first. Top it off with the manufacturer’s recommended hydraulic fluid if needed. Low fluid levels can burn out pump motors. Next, inspect the pump intake filter for debris clogs. Clean or replace it if dirty. Operating the pump without fluid can ruin the internal bearings and gears too. You may need a rebuilt or new pump assembly at that point.

Replacing hydraulic fuses is another easy fix for low pressure issues. Near the pump you should find a thin, nail-shaped fuse that blows if pressures get too high. When those fuses fail, it stops all fluid flow. Simply swap in a new fuse of the same amp rating and you should be back in business.

Controller Calibration Problems

The automatic leveling on most modern RVs relies on electronic sensors to function. Things like inclinometers and limit switches tell the controller circuit board when to stop extending the jacks. If those get knocked out of whack, the coach can tilt excessively to one side before the jacks stop.

Inclinometers are little fluid-filled tubes that measure side-to-side tilt. Over time they can stick or become uncalibrated. Look for an adjuster knob on the inclinometer housing. Turn it slightly to re-zero the bubble level inside. Just go slow – small turns make a big difference! If that doesn’t help, replacing the inclinometer may be needed. Make sure to calibrate the new one.

The jacks also have limit switches that stop them at the fully extended or retracted position. Bent jacks can definitely throw off their adjustment. Use a carpenter’s level on the jack tube to see if it’s angled or bent. You can try loosening the limit switch brackets and resetting them in the correct position. Just be careful not to damage the plastic switch actuators.

Controller boards have calibration routines too, usually initiated by holding down button combos on the panel. Run through that process per the manufacturer’s instructions if available. Then do a test cycle to confirm the coach reaches level properly. Watch it closely and be ready to hit the emergency stop if needed! Resetting the controllers is trickier, so calling a service tech may be wise if you’re unsure.

Manual Override

If all else fails, most leveling systems have some sort of manual operation mode. That lets you extend and retract the jacks individually using hand cranks or a power drill. While tedious, it’ll get you leveled well enough in a pinch. Definitely pack those manualoverride tools in your RV!

The override access points will be somewhere on each jack assembly. Sometimes it’s a simple hex fitting to attach a crank handle. Other systems use a plastic cover that pops off to reveal the jack motor shaft. Take care not to damage the motor if using a drill – smooth slow speeds only!

Focus on getting the low corner jacks extended to lift the tires slightly off the ground. That should stabilize things enough to cook dinner and sleep until repairs can be made. Just take it slow and easy – no need to risk crushing jacks or gearboxes by cranking too hard! Proper ground prep helps too, so your jacks don’t sink into soft soil and bind up.

With a few basic troubleshooting tips, you can tackle most common RV leveling problems yourself. But if anything seems beyond your skill set, don’t hesitate to call the experts! RV techs and mobile repair services have seen it all when it comes to cranky leveling systems. Stay safe out there on your adventures – happy camping!

Common Leveling System Issues:

  • Dead battery
  • Burnt out fuses
  • Broken wires or loose connections
  • Failed control board or pump motor
  • Low hydraulic fluid level
  • Leaky hoses and fittings
  • Stuck jack valves
  • Bent/misaligned jacks
  • Uncalibrated sensors
  • Damaged limit switches

Handy Tips for DIY Troubleshooting:

  • Inspect jacks, wires and fluid levels
  • Check battery charge and connections
  • Listen/look for problems during operation
  • Test voltage at jacks during extend/retract
  • Examine hoses and fittings for leaks
  • Tap valves and tighten fittings
  • Check/replace hydraulic fluid and filter
  • Verify proper jack angles with level
  • Reset inclinometers and limit switches
  • Run controller calibration procedure
  • Use manual cranks/power drill if needed

When to Call the Pros:

  • HVAC, plumbing or slide issues
  • Major hydraulic leaks
  • Electrical shorts/burned wires
  • Replacing/rebuilding pump assembly
  • Adjusting bent jack mounts
  • Programming control boards
  • Major body damage from tilting

Hopefully these troubleshooting tips will keep your RV’s leveling system going strong!

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