So this post is for those who are new to caravanning and are looking to learn how to set up a caravan. It’s going to cover not only how to level a caravan but also the reasons why you need to level your caravan. First off, before I start going into the detail lets just cover the highlights:
How To Level A Caravan
- Get the Caravan into a Good Position
Before you start to level the caravan you want to make sure the van is in a position that you will be happy with for your stay. If its a fully serviced pitch you want to make sure the position of the caravan means you can make full use of all the facilities.
- Level the Caravan Axel (Right to Left)
First, you will need to level the caravan axel, this will probably involve using a ramp on one side. Though other options are available.
- Level the Caravan Front to Back
Now using the jockey wheel you can level the caravan front to back. Once complete its time to lower the corner steadies to hold the caravan into position.
So now we have covered the highlights lets go into a bit more detail on how to level a caravan and the various steps involved.
1. Get the Caravan into a Good Position
So as stated above, this obviously depends on what sort of site you are visiting. It may be a grass only site where the owners haven’t set out specific pitches. If that’s the case make sure you are far enough away from any caravans or tents nearby for fire regulations, which are usually 6m. Also, if you want to set up an awning make sure there is enough distance between units once that’s been put up.
At Horton Common, we provide hard standing fully serviced pitches, with a number for each pitch. Therefore the position of the caravan is set to provide each of our visitors with a good view and access to a 16A electrical hook up, fresh mains water and our caravan wastewater disposal system. The pitches, however, are not perfectly level. In fact, the slight slope is why the wastewater drainage system works so well. Therefore you will need to level your caravan when you arrive.
2. Level the Caravan Axel (Right to Left)
Now that you have the caravan in a good position, we need to focus upon levelling the axel. This is also known as levelling the caravan right to left. But before we do that, we better talk about tools to help you level up and where to place them.
Levelling Up Tools
So obviously as you might have guessed, a spirit level is the go-to tool here. Now you can purchase a very cheap short spirit level for just a few pounds, however, you might consider other options. For instance, a long spirit level may provide a better reading. There are also cross spirit levels so you can check both directions at the same time.
I probably wouldn’t advise purchasing the cheapest spirit level you can find. As strange as this sounds some spirit levels don’t actually show level properly. I’ve had some very cheap ones in the past which give inaccurate results. Furthermore, the plastic was so brittle it got damaged pretty easily.
Now, you can get applications for your smartphone which will tell you where level is. They will even shout it out to you! They work using the gyroscope which is within most smartphones. You could use this option, however always think of the downsides. For instance, if the app stopped working or you need to charge your phone. Therefore I think its always a good idea to have the low-tech option available as well. However, if you are on your own levelling a caravan, having that audible feedback can be handy.
Where Should You Place The Spirit Level?
Right, there is not a simple one fits all answer to this question, as it depends on the caravan in question. Ideally, you want to place it on the floor of the caravan. But don’t place it upon the carpet or on any lumps and bumps such as floor trims. You want it to have full contact with the floor and be stable. When you come to level front to back you can place the spirit level on the bottom of the door sill.
What about putting the spirit level on top of the kitchen worktop? This would seem an obvious option, as it’s nice and flat, and at a height which is easier to see. However, sometimes the kitchen worktop is not actually perfectly level to the floor of the caravan. Therefore, don’t presume that it is. Once you have finished levelling the caravan for the first time you can put the spirit level on the worktop again to check. If it also produces a level result in left-right and back-front you can use the kitchen worktop to level the caravan in the future.
Using Ramps to Level the Caravan Right to Left
One of the simplest options to level a caravan axel is to purchase plastic levelling ramps. There are various different options on the market. So as normal, read some reviews to see which are the easiest to use and most durable. Also, ideally you don’t want to reverse onto the ramps due to the over-run brake system fitted to caravans. You would position the ramp in front of the wheel, and pull the caravan up onto the ramp. Or you could use a motormover.
Wheel Jacks for Levelling
Instead of using a ramp there are wheel jacks available which fit around the wheel. As you turn the handle the wheel will slowly lift up. Again, read reviews before making a purchase. The downsides to these systems are corrosion on the threads can make the jack difficult to use. Also, build quality on some of these products is not the best.
Lock’n’Level Inflatable Bag
There is also the Lock’n’Level inflatable bag system, again also with pros and cons. If you have an Alko wheel lock, getting your caravan level and inline to fit the wheel lock can be a bit of a chick and egg scenario. You often have to use a caravan jack. However, with a Lock’n’Level inflatable bag system that’s not the case. You drive the caravan onto the bag either using the car or motormover, fit the Alko lock and then inflate the bag until level. The video below provides some good tips on using this product:
3. Level the Caravan Front to Back
Now that the caravan is level across its axel, that’s half the job done. We now need to level the caravan from front to back. We do this by using the caravan jockey wheel. First place the spirit level on the bottom of the door sill, or a suitable location of your choice. Now lift whichever edge of the spirit level gets the bubble into the centre. That will then tell you if you need to go down or up with the jockey wheel.
Lowering The Corner Steadies
Once you have the bubble in the centre we now have a caravan that’s level right to left and front to back! Now, before you jump inside the caravan with joy, a final important set needs to be completed. You will need to lower each of the four corner steadies to the ground to make the caravan stable. You’ll probably also want to place blocks of wood/bricks underneath the corner steadies feet to stop them sinking. Lowering the corner steadies can be done manually with the included tool, or you can use a battery drill with attachment. However, don’t over tighten the steadies, just make sure they have good firm contact with the ground.
Important! Never Use Corner Steadies To Level a Caravan!
It may seem tempting to try and use the corner steadies to level the caravan, however, doing so could lead to regrets. Often the corner steadies are fitted to the floor of the caravan, and not the chassis. Therefore trying the lift the caravan to level the unit could bend the floor itself, leading to serious damage. It can also create flex in the caravan body which later leads to water leaks!
Automated Caravan Levelling Systems?
So, over the last couple of decades, caravan motor movers have completely changed how many people position their caravan. Therefore, it stands to reason that how you level a caravan will also get some attention in terms of caravan modifications. And it has, there are several automated caravan levelling systems on the market now. Using hydraulic or air systems a ram lifts one side and using an onboard gyroscope, they can level your caravan with a push of a button. The most advanced kits also feature motorised corner steadies. So once the caravan has been levelled the corner steadies are also automatically lowered into position.
Automated levelling systems are very clever and can do the job within a minute! However, there are also pretty expensive. Currently, you will be looking to spend close to £3,000 to have a kit fitted. The cost of the systems depends on the weight of the caravan. However, there are those with limited mobility where such a levelling system may mean they can keep caravanning.
But Why is it Important to Level a Caravan?
So let’s dismiss the extremes of sliding out of bed because your caravan is not level. The main two reasons to level a caravan are for your shower and your fridge to work properly. For your caravan fridge compressor to work efficiently and in some cases at all, it needs to be level. Secondly, if your caravan is not level and you have a shower you may get a nasty surprise. Instead of the water running down the drain, it may just run onto the floor of your caravan!
Conclusions on How to Level a Caravan
So, first and foremost, get your self a spirit level you can trust. In fact, it’s often a good idea to have a couple of them around the caravan. As they are easy to lose and then not available when you need one. Phone apps for levelling can also be a backup plan or first port of call. Once you have levelled a caravan a couple of times you develop your own chosen means, and it becomes quicker to do. I’ve also written a post on how to level a motorhome or campervan. Anyway, I hope you found the above useful and you consider coming to visit us at Horton Common as some point. Cheers!