If you’ve never had to level a caravan or camper trailer before, it can take a bit of practice and seem a bit daunting. However, like everything in life once you’ve done it a few times it becomes second nature, and you’ll do it without even thinking about it.
Whilst its a good idea to have a level setup when towing, this post covers when you arrive at camp, and want to set your trailer up so its nice and comfortable to use for the duration of your stay.
Why level your caravan or camper trailer?
A lot of camp sites (including caravan parks) are not perfectly level, and that means when you pull in, your caravan or camper trailer is going to be sloping in one, or more than one direction.
In theory, you could choose not to bother levelling your camper trailer, and you could sleep and live on an angle if you wanted.
However, if you’ve ever slept on something that’s on a bad angle, chances are it affected your sleep. You’ll either roll one way too much, or if your head is lower than the rest of your body you can wake up with a huge headache, and that’s not much fun.
Beyond this, some caravans and camper trailers need to be level for the fridges to work. This is the case if you run a 3 way fridge, and you have it running on gas. The fridge will not operate properly if your caravan or camper trailer is sloping or tilting one way.
Levelling your setup is the norm, and taking a few extra minutes to get it right each time you pull up is usually worth it!
How do you level your caravan?
The first part of the process is to work out where you are going to park your setup. In caravan parks generally you have limited options, but if you are camping in the bush you can choose a myriad of places.
We’ll often pick a place that is as level as possible to start with, as this eliminates the need to spend time getting it right.
However, you wont always have this luxury, and the actual levelling process is really easy.
To start off with, position your trailer where you want it to end up. From there, you’ll be able to visually see which way the van needs to go in order to be level.
Its important to note that at this point in time you only really care about the trailer being level from side to side, as you can adjust the back to front level with the jockey wheel later on.
If its not level, you either need to remove some dirt from the high side (which is easy on a beach, but not something you should do on a nice, grassy caravan park site!) or add some height on the low side.
Using levelling ramps is the most common way of doing this, but we got away with using rocks and lumps of timber for many years. Simply back (or drive forward) onto the ramps, and when its level, stop.
Apply your hand brake, chock the wheels and disconnect the trailer. From there, level the trailer up and down in the other direction using the jockey wheel, and you should end up with a perfectly level trailer.
Put the stabiliser legs down and you are good to go!
Make sure its chocked and the brakes are on
Before you disconnect your trailer, you need to ensure the hand brake is on, and the trailer is chocked. I’ve seen people disconnect their trailer and had it take off on them as it wasn’t chocked in place.
You don’t need anything substantial to do this; a proper level ramp with a chock works the best, but you can use a chunk of wood, a rock, or even a bit of dirt; it just needs to be enough to stop your van or camper trailer from moving at all!
If you don’t want to detach
If we have no need to detach the trailer, we’ll often leave it hooked to the car. It just saves mucking around the next morning hooking it all back up again.
The process is essentially the same, and hopefully your towing setup is level anyway, and all you have to do is drive the trailer onto a levelling ramp and put a chock on.
You can still use your jockey wheel to pick the front of the trailer up, but if its still connected be aware of the extra weight that you can be applying.
How do you know its level?
Use your phone
Most smart phones today have the ability to work as a spirit level. Whilst they might not be perfectly accurate, they are generally more than enough to check your trailer is level. Put the phone flat on the floor of the trailer, or on the drawbar and you’ll soon find out which way the trailer needs to go.
Use a spirit level
Most trailers come with spirit levels siliconed onto the front. However, you need to be aware that if they have been siliconed onto the drawbar in a way that isn’t level (like ours has) its basically useless and you should ignore it and visually look at the trailer.
We’ll eventually peel the spirit level off and put it on flat, so it actually reads correctly. Until then, we just do it visually.
Use a can, or plate of water
If you want to get technical, you can get a can or other round drink and stick it on the floor of your van (or kitchen), and it shouldn’t roll. Turn it 90 degrees, and do the same and you’ll see if its level.
A plate with some water on it will also tell you how level you are, or we can tell very quickly the moment we start cooking or washing dishes, as the fluid will end up in one corner.
We’ve always visually looked to see if its level, and as long as its close we leave it alone. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and if we aren’t detaching we tend to be a bit more flexible.
Using your stabiliser legs
Most camper trailers and caravans have stabiliser legs, and you can get a small amount of adjustment out of them to correct a leaning van. However, they are stabiliser legs, and are not designed to take huge amounts of weight, so use them carefully and with a bit of mechanical sympathy.
I would certainly not recommend them be used with an impact driver; a drill with the right torque settings is fine, but putting ugga duggas into your stabiliser legs will eventually end in tears.
Air bags and jacks
A lot of campers and caravans come out today with air suspension, and that means you can deflate the side that is too high, and pump the side up that is too low. Our Reconn R2 does not have this option, so we do it manually.
Some stabiliser legs are replaced with hydraulic jacks as well, which means you can comfortably use them to level the van without fear of breaking something.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Inevitably, you will set up camp and realise your trailer isn’t quite level. It’s not the end of the world, and sometimes its actually impossible to get it perfect, but you just need it close enough to be comfortable, and not feel like you are sliding down the seat or bed!