OK to level with one wheel off the ground?


Remember the good ol’ days when setting up camp consisted of stacking an assortment of wood blocks and planks under your wheels and driving up on them to get level? Then you had to go inside and look at a bubble level in the freezer (the most important spot to determine degree of level). Then repeat the process until the little bubble fit completely inside the ring of the bubble level. 

One of the biggest “helpers” to the necessary leveling process today that Class A motorhome owners have is a good leveler system. At the push of a button or two, their rig is soon leveled up and stable, ready for an overnight, or weeks, without fussing with blocks, jacks, and the in-and-out of the cab that other RV owners are accustomed to.

But here’s a question that sometimes pops up: When leveling, is it OK to get a wheel or wheels off the ground? It’s another one of those loaded questions, with people lining up across the fire pit, shootin’ irons ready to blaze.

What creates the controversy? It’s often a matter of, “I’ve been RVing for years, and I’ve had one or more tires off the ground and never had a problem.” Of course, there are plenty of other RVers who bring their own stories to the table. “I have spring-type jacks and once did lift the rear (one side) off the ground while leveling. My motorhome rolled backward at least two feet. Since I had my hand on the control, I released the jack and luckily suffered no damage, but it scared the stuffing out of me.”

Stuffing stories aside, there are valid concerns about raising your motorhome tires off the ground. There is admittedly a bit less stability without tire contact, maybe that’s not an issue for you, particularly if you have your “sea legs.” On the other hand. improper lifting can adversely affect frame and coach dynamics. Can you imagine having your rig’s windshield “popping out”? It has happened.

There are other concerns. For example, if your coach leveling system kicks down and retracts to the rear if your rear wheels are off the ground, and if for some reason your coach loses stability, you can fall forward “off the jacks,” or even backward, mashing the jacks in the process.

WHAT ABOUT PARKING STABILITY? If your rig’s parking brake is based on locking up the rear wheel, jack up the rear wheel and you may lose your braking ability altogether. Having a single rear wheel in contact with the ground won’t necessarily guarantee a safe “parking brake” situation. Add a bit of ground unevenness, and you can imagine your coach sliding off the levelers with unwelcome consequences.

One RVer suggests to those who would wonder if they could safely get a wheel or more off the ground consider three factors. First, what does the leveler manufacturer say? Do they rule out taking a wheel off the ground? Next, what does the motorhome manufacturer dictate on the same question? Finally, what about the issue of the parking brake, as we’ve already talked about?

Sure, there are plenty of RVers who will say, “Sure, the manufacturer says don’t take a wheel off the ground, but they’re just covering their posteriors.” Maybe so, but how badly will you scrape your posterior if you take that wheel off the ground and your rig slips?




7 Thoughts to “OK to level with one wheel off the ground?”

  1. Tom Hargreaves

    So what is one supposed to do if the rig is sitting low with emptied air bags and one or more wheels are still off the ground to get level? I usually move around on the site to find a better level and put chocks on the grounded wheels. But what good would putting boards under dual wheels (not easy) do? The brakes would be only a little more effective.
    I’m sorry, but this article didn’t provide definitive answers; it only stated the arguments. Tell me why the book says “don’t lift the wheels off the ground, ” and tell me what I can do instead.

  2. Thomas Dean

    Correcting my email address thanks

  3. Thomas

    So if the jacks lift the wheels off the ground is this a problem or not. I would really like to know because I experience this situation every now and then. I have had both rear wheels off the ground before. Thank you

  4. Bob Love

    Levelling Rigs
    I have a 5th wheel, so I have a 3-point levelling system when attached to my truck. This means that when I level first, when parking, I am only adjusting sideways using levelling blocks under the tires (I treat both tandem tires the same). After uncoupling, I ‘fine tune’ fore-aft levelling, either up or down, with the front jacks. This makes all four points nearly evenly bearing the weight of the frame at four corners, hence creating essentially no torque. This would be similar in a travel trailer, which may have either three (tongue) or four points. Using rear levelling jacks before uncoupling would be similar, then adjusting fore-aft with the front jack(s). The jacks create positive, solid weight-bearing points in contrast to the flexible spring/tire system.
    A problem with single rigs is that there are four corners to begin with; on highly uneven ground this may cause the problems you discuss. Some levelling systems may have a balancing function that evens the weight bearing on all four jacks, and this does not torque the rig’s frame even if lifting a tire. Others may only adjust (particularly if done by hand) the lowest point until level. If this raises one corner much higher than the others, raising the wheel or even nearly so, the weight of the rig will be concentrated on this and its opposite corner, reducing the forces on the alternate two corners. Even if level, this may create significant torque on the frame and possibly bend areas or even break windows. In extreme situations, I’d suggest levelling the two highest corners (either side or end) first, by block and jack, then fine tuning the other two. This should minimize the torque on the frame even if a tire is lifted or nearly so.
    In any case, always chock the wheels that are in ground contact. I also use tandem wheel braces that lock adjacent wheels. Breaks can fail or creep unexpectedly. (I once had a car roll down my driveway and onto the opposite lawn even though the parking break was still set!)

  5. Bill Dempsey

    We have a 2015 Miramar by Thor and the Lippert Leveling System almost never levels the coach in auto mode. We ALWAYS need to put blocks beneath the jacks and sometimes even put a ramp under the front tire on the side showing it is off level.

    1. Mark Nawman

      Bill there should be a Lippert leveling module located in the basement area that you can recalibrate your system. Check the Lippert owners manual. It will tell you how to do it


  6. Tony

    I never raise a rear wheel off the ground but I don’t have a problem lifting a front wheel off the ground. Because my suspension is A-arm type I made my own shock limiting straps so the weight of the wheel isn’t being held up by the shock. I noticed before doing this that the mounting rubbers were getting oblonged because of the shock holding up the weight of the wheel/suspension.

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