Friday, January 28, 2022


Ask Dave: Is it necessary to level a travel trailer?

Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today Dave discusses several reasons why you should level a travel trailer.

Dear Dave,
Can you talk about leveling a travel trailer? The stove, refrigerator, counter, floor, bathroom door? How important is it with modern refrigerators? Not sure I’m going to change habits, but retirement gives you time to think of “the right way.” Thanks for all your advice! —Bonnie

Dear Bonnie,
Leveling an RV, in my opinion, is very important for several reasons. First, if you have an absorption refrigerator it works by heating a solution of ammonia, chromium sulfate, water, and hydrogen that vaporizes and rises up the tube to the evaporator coils in the freezer section. Then there is a series of things that happen, but the bottom line is they turn back to liquid and need to zigzag back down the cooling unit to the start the process again.

Both Norcold and Dometic state the unit must be level to 3 degrees side to side and 6 degrees front to back. Otherwise, the solution will not flow down and will pool at a corner. It will begin to flake and eventually harden and block the flow, resulting in a defective refrigerator. Use a bubble level to ensure it’s within the manufacturer’s recommendation.

More reasons to level a travel trailer

Next, leveling the RV and stabilizing it provides a firm, level foundation for the slide rooms and mechanism to move in and out. There is quite a debate going around about this and I’m sure I’ll get comments from others that have been told to extend the rooms before leveling. However, we tested more than 14,000 extensions and retractions at Winnebago, when developing our first slide offering in 1996. We found an unlevel coach twisted the chassis and floor. and also put a slight twist to the sidewall. The room encountered resistance going in and out, which made the mechanism and motor work harder and eventually fail.

Every mechanism company that I have discussed this with agrees to level and secure the RV first. These include Lippert Components Inc., Power Gear, Kwikee, HWH, BAL Accu-Sslide, and Schwintek. Several have commented on their ongoing discussion with a few RV engineers that are recommending slides out first when the vehicle is in a “relaxed state,” then level.  Some engineers “must know more” than the engineers who actually designed the mechanism.

Possible problems if you don’t level the travel trailer

And finally, leveling and stabilizing the unit keeps it from moving around as you walk through the unit. That can be annoying, but it can also create stress on the floor, sidewall and roof. All that twisting, even slightly, can cause sealants to separate or pull away, causing leaks later.

It can also cause stress points that eventually create cracks in the sidewall or roof. And an out-of-level coach can create issues with compartment doors and even entry doors.

Any time you can reduce twisting or stress on the chassis, sidewall and roof of your RV will reduce issues down the road.

So, to answer your questions – I believe it’s important to level the coach for the refrigerator. That will also provide a level plane for your slide rooms as well as a comfortable sleeping and living environment. I do not think it will affect the counter other than an unlevel stovetop means the eggs all slide to the side of the pan!

Read more from Dave here

Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.


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John Koenig
4 months ago

Before the COVID Pandemic, I was at an RV rally just “moseying” through the RVs that were on display. I happened to notice that in some RVs with “standard” drop toilets (NOT macerating toilets), the “waste materials” did NOT “flush” straight down into a black holding tank but rather, took a SHARP turn to “route” said waste TO a holding tank that was located somewhere OTHER THAN directly under the toilet! The RV designer expects 1: that the RV builder would have PROPERLY INSTALLED this extended waste line and 2: the RV so equipped with this “extended sewer line” will ALWAYS be perfectly level to ensure that both liquid AND solid waste will “flow” to the holding tank. In residential construction, I belive the accepted “drop” is 1/8″ drop for every 12″ of run. Too steep a drop and the liquid may not carry the solid waste to the tank; to shallow a drop and liquid (and solid) waste can “pool” somewhere in the sewer line. 1/8″ is NOT much “wiggle room”.

4 months ago

Let’s keep it cool. Using the frig as a surface to level from each time one sets up camp is a poor practice when it comes to keeping one’s frig cold. Do it one time, and then mount levels on the outside of the RV matched to the leveled frig. Setting up then only requires reference to the mounted levels.

4 months ago

I try to get the trailer level within a half-inch or less. For the stated reasons and also so that when sautéing meat on the stove that the oil doesn’t pool to one side of the pan.

4 months ago

An RV refrigerator needs to be “reasonably level” to operate correctly – the key word being “reasonably”. Attaining reasonably level does not have to be a Zen experience. The Dometic RV refrig manual states, right up front:
“Leveling is one of the requirements for proper operation with absorption refrigerators. To ensure proper leveling the vehicle needs to be leveled so it is comfortable to live in
(no noticeable sloping of floor or walls).”
In other words, if you are comfortable, the refrig is comfortable. You don’t need an elaborate procedure – or even a level.
When entering a campsite, a friend of ours first levels his RV using a variety of levels in a variety of locations. He then goes inside, puts a frying pan on a refrigerator shelf, and puts a couple tablespoons of water in the pan. He then tweaks the coach levelers until the water gathers in the exact center of the pan.
Now THAT is a Zen experience!

Bob p
4 months ago

I agree on all points, I have always leveled prior to extending slide outs even though our previous motorhome (2002 Mountain Aire) said to extend then level. With the weight of a super slide hanging 3 feet out to the side I felt that was just making the left side leveling jacks work harder. I also found with my first slide out on a 5th wheel using hydraulic cylinders if it’s out of level front to rear the room can shift and bind not moving until level is obtained.

Donald N Wright
4 months ago

I have visited the owner of a self leveling trailer, park it, plug it in, turn on computer , air bags inflate near axle assembly and the mechanism at the hitch raises and lowers. I regret I did not get the name of the trailer manufacturer.

4 months ago
4 months ago
Reply to  Ran

Or, there’s an app for phone or tablet called “Bubble Level”, very simple, gives you a visual and your degrees off level, you can immediately see which corner is low and how much. Stick it on the kitchen counter and check it between adjustments.

4 months ago
Reply to  wanderer

Wanderer, RV cabinetry is often out of level. The floor of the freezer should be the gold standard of level placement.

4 months ago
Reply to  Alpenliter

Okay, if I should ever travel with an empty frost-free freezer, I will keep that in mind. Meanwhile in the real world, we use whatever surface or edge we know to be reasonably level, be it floor, counter, etc.

Bob p
4 months ago
Reply to  Ran

With the bubble level you don’t have to keep moving the level each time you make an adjustment. Your claim to inaccuracies is invalid.