Is it Safe to Lift RV Tires Off the Ground Using the RV leveling Jacks?

Leveling jack with RV tire off the ground

My goal with this article is to take an unbiased look at whether it is okay, or not, to lift the RV tires off the ground using the RV leveling jacks. After reading the article, you decide if it is safe to lift RV tires off the ground with the RV leveling jacks.

Here are a few questions this article will address about the safe and proper operation of RV leveling jacks:

  • Is it safe to raise the RV tires off the ground using the RV leveling jacks?
  • Can I change an RV tire using the RV leveling jacks to raise the RV?
  • Should you put blocking under the RV leveling jack’s foot?
  • What is the difference between RV leveling blocks, RV stabilizer jacks and RV leveling jacks?

Note: There are many different brands and manufacturers of RV leveling jacks and leveling systems. Always refer to the operating instructions for your particular RV leveling system whenever you have questions about the proper operation of the leveling system.

Let’s start with the basics

Lots of RVs manufactured do not come equipped with a leveling system. Leveling jacks are usually an option for motorized RVs, and RV dealers typically add leveling jacks on mid-line and high-end motorhomes when they order the RV from the manufacturer. The majority of travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers do not come equipped with leveling jacks, with the exception of higher end trailers. Leveling jacks are optional equipment for some travel trailers and 5th wheel trailers, and must be added by the dealer when the trailer is ordered. Note: If you purchase an RV without leveling jacks, there are aftermarket leveling systems that can be installed on the RV.

What is the difference between RV leveling blocks, RV stabilizer jacks and RV leveling jacks?

RV leveling blocks

There are numerous types and styles of RV leveling blocks on the market. Some, like in the picture, are stackable and are designed to raise one or more tires to assist in leveling the RV. Research the different types of RV leveling blocks and select the type you think will work best for you. Note: RV refrigerators must be close to level to operate properly, and you should feel comfortable walking around in the RV. Caution: Trailer tires must be chocked to prevent the trailer from moving in either direction when it is parked.

RV stabilizer jacks

RV Stabilizer Jacks

Stabilizer jacks are typically located on all four corners of the RV. After the RV is leveled on the site, you lower the stabilizer jacks. These jacks are not designed or intended to lift or level the trailer. After the jack makes contact with the ground give it about one full turn to stabilize the trailer. Stabilizer jacks make it more comfortable walking inside the RV by preventing the RV from moving and rocking. If your trailer does not have stabilizer jacks there are portable jacks, or you can install aftermarket stabilizer jacks on the RV.

Electric leveling jacks on motorhome

RV Leveling Jacks

RV leveling jacks and leveling systems installed on the RV are designed to physically lift and level the RV on the site where it is parked. There are auto-leveling systems, and most systems can be operated by individual jack positions too. There are hydraulic levelers, and ours (pictured above) operate on 12-volt DC power. If the site you are parked on has soft, wet or sandy soil I recommend using blocking under the jacks foot for better stability. The jacks work well on a concrete surface, but exercise caution on asphalt in hot temperatures, the jacks can sink into the hot asphalt from the weight of the RV.

RV leveling system pad

RV Leveling System Controls

RV leveling systems typically have a joy stick or push button control panel (pictured) located close to the driver’s compartment. Follow the operating instructions for the specific type of leveling system you have.

Is it safe to raise the RV tires off the ground using the RV leveling jacks?

There is controversy about this topic, and my goal is to take an unbiased approach so you can decide for yourself.

Trailer Frames

RV frames, especially trailer frames are prone to flexing. There are different types, different sizes, and different strength trailer frames used in the RV industry. There are C-channel, I-beam, and box style frames, and the frame height can vary from 6 to 10 inches wide. The larger the trailer is the heavier and taller the frame is.

Lightweight trailer frame

Lightweight and Ultra-light trailer frames are not as tall or strong as conventional trailer frames. To reduce weight and keep the weight of the trailer frame as light as possible it is common for frame manufacturers to cut sections of the frame out.

Conventional trailer frames use crossmembers, and outriggers to support the weight of the box and everything in it that is placed on the trailer frame. Heavier trailers, and trailers with multiple slide-outs use heavier and taller frames to support the weight of the trailer.

Levelers on a 5th wheel trailer

The topic of the article is lifting the tires off the ground using the leveling system. When a travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer is disconnected from the tow vehicle there are no brakes to prevent the trailer from moving in either direction. This picture was taken at an RV show, but you always need to use chock blocks on the tires to prevent the trailer from moving in either direction. If you park the trailer on uneven ground, and the levelers lift any tires off the ground while leveling the trailer, you should place blocking under the lifted tires and ensure the tires are chocked at all times.

Note: Leveling jack manufacturers advise not to use leveling jacks to change a tire, or to do any type of service or maintenance under the trailer when the jacks are the only support. Never lift all the tires off the ground without blocking, or jacks to support all the weight of the trailer.

There is no exact science as to where installer’s place the levelers on the trailer frame. A trailer’s frame can flex and twist if the leveling jacks are not used according to the operating instructions. A flexed frame can result in RV doors not closing properly and prevent slide-outs from getting a good seal.

Motorhome Chassis (frame)

Type C motorhome chassis

Similar to trailers, the smaller and lighter the motorhome is the lighter the chassis or frame is. The chassis pictured is a type C Ford motorhome chassis. The question this article addresses is, is it safe to lift the tires off the ground using the leveling system. On gasoline and diesel motorhomes the emergency brake is on the rear axle. Actuation is different, whereas on a diesel when you activate the park brake, air is removed from a spring brake chamber which prevents the rear axle from moving. Regardless of the type motorhome you have, if you lift the rear tires using the levelers there is no brake to prevent the RV from moving. If you lift the front tires, using the levelers to level the motorhome, you should use blocking under the tires so you are not only depending only on the levelers to support all the weight.

Caution: Leveling jack manufacturers advise not to use leveling jacks to change a tire or to do any type of service or maintenance under the RV when the jacks are the only support.

Type A gas motorhome chassis

The chassis pictured above is a Ford F53 gasoline powered chassis. Notice the frame is heavier than the type C motorhome chassis pictured above. I mentioned earlier there is not an exact science as to where installer’s place the levelers on the chassis. When I worked for a dealership in the late nineties I witnessed a couple of type A motorhomes that the corner of the windshield separated from the windshield frame. The diagnosis from the service department was one or both front leveling jacks lifted the tires off the ground causing the windshield to pop out of the frame. I do think today’s motorhome chassis’ are improved over older motorhome chassis’ but in my opinion that is not reason enough to lift and leave the tires off the ground with all the weight supported by the jacks alone.

As I mentioned above, on gasoline and diesel motorhomes the emergency brake is on the rear axle. Regardless of the type motorhome you have, if you lift the rear tires using the levelers there is no brake to prevent the RV from moving. If you lift the front tires, using the levelers to level the motorhome, you should use blocking under the tires so you are not depending on the levelers to support all the weight. Leveling jack manufacturers advise not to use leveling jacks to change a tire or to do any type of service or maintenance under the RV when the jacks are the only support.

I personally agree with Power Gear when they say, never lift the wheels off the ground to level the coach as it can create an unstable condition. In addition to being unstable, I think you increase the possibility of twisting and flexing the frame. To me, it’s not worth risking doors and slide-outs not operating properly, the potential for the RV to move, or having the windshield of a motorhome coming out of the frame.

Happy Camping,

Mark J. Polk

There you have it, Now, you can decide what your thoughts are about lifting the tires off the ground with the leveling jacks. If you want to learn more about using and maintaining your RV visit RV Online Training to see all of our RV training products we offer.

Mark J. Polk

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