Why not just level with a jack? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-03-2015, 12:07 PM   #1
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Why not just level with a jack?

After a full year of fairly frequent “Scamping” I finally last week needed to level the trailer side to side for the first time. In the past our campsites have either been level enough or slightly uphill on the side our heads are on when sleeping so I never bothered. But this time I had to add 4 ¼” of blocks (a 4X4 and 1X4) under one wheel to get the trailer where I wanted it. My first thought was I am going to order a Bal Leveler when we get back. I just now looked at them online and thought “I am not spending $80 and carrying that thing around for the few times I will need it”. Then I thought, why not just use the little bottle jack I carry anyway to level the trailer if I need it? I have a little 6 ton jack that is pretty handy and it seems to be no more trouble to crawl under the trailer with a couple of wood blocks if need be and just jack up the axle on the low side with a few pumps on the jack handle.

An advantage to the jack is getting the trailer where you want it and then level up “in situ”. With the Bal I assume you lay it down and back over it. Not that big of a deal I admit but a small advantage to the jack. Not that backing up on the wood blocks was a problem, but it did take three tries to get level. With the jack I just get my daughter to watch the level and tell me when we are level. Easy-peezy as she would say. I know some of you love your Bal, and it does look like a nice unit, but what would be wrong with the little jack?
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Old 06-03-2015, 12:30 PM   #2
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Jacking on the axle can cause damage to the axle. It would be better to jack up the frame near the axle.
That said it doesn't provide the same security as a BAL leveler. The trailer can slip off the jack but not off the BAL.
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Old 06-03-2015, 12:37 PM   #3
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The bottle jack will bleed down - it's hydraulic - overnight. Depending on the quality of the one you buy, the fluid may also leak out when it falls on its side. You're better off with a couple of these for stablizing:

Aluminum Stack Jacks, set of 2 - Camco 44561 - Stabilizing Jacks - Camping World
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Old 06-03-2015, 12:46 PM   #4
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...half the price at Princess Auto.
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Old 06-03-2015, 12:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tractors1 View Post
The bottle jack will bleed down - it's hydraulic - overnight. Depending on the quality of the one you buy, the fluid may also leak out when it falls on its side. You're better off with a couple of these for stablizing:

Aluminum Stack Jacks, set of 2 - Camco 44561 - Stabilizing Jacks - Camping World
You have to be careful using these. If you jack up one corner then jack up another you put a twist in the frame, which can be permanent. The better way would be to use Legos under the low wheel. Wheels can and do slip off of wood when the wood gets wet in rain.
I use my BAL when on a level pad (rarely) as a wheel chock.
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Old 06-03-2015, 12:53 PM   #6
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I thought that 3-4 step leveling ramps were pretty much a part of everyone's equipment package when on the road. Takes all of a minute to level and I don't have to get-out-and-get-under, much less worry about axle damage or falling off the jack.


I guess it must depend on where you camp at, I usually have to use a leveling ramp at least 1/3 of the time.


BTW: I level for the comfort of the refrigerator, not moi..... LOL



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Old 06-03-2015, 01:00 PM   #7
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The BAL sits on the ground and just slips around the sides of your tire after you are parked. There is no need to try to eyeball it in your mirrors and back up to and over it.

Everybody just needs to find a safe way that works for them and what they want to pack along on their trip.
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Old 06-03-2015, 01:11 PM   #8
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If you're not on pavement, shovels make nice depressions to lower the high side of a single axle trailer.......
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Old 06-03-2015, 01:16 PM   #9
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I also use the Lego-style leveling blocks. So far a small set of four has been enough. And it is for our comfort... my wife and daughter sleep head-to-toe on the dinette, and it doesn't take much of a head-downward slant for one of them to be uncomfortable.

The BAL would be attractive if we spent more time traveling and had to deal with a greater variety of camping sites.
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Old 06-03-2015, 01:24 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by tractors1 View Post
If you're not on pavement, shovels make nice depressions to lower the high side of a single axle trailer.......

I camped at a place once where an entire scenic meadow overlooking a lake was pockmarked with trenches for high-side wheels left by previous occupants. Not a pretty sight, a good way to turn an ankle at night, and environmentally-sensitive vegetation was destroyed. In my opinion, it's one of those old Boy Scout practices, like trenching around a tent, that turns out to cause more harm than good.
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Old 06-03-2015, 01:42 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=tractors1;526896]The bottle jack will bleed down - [QUOTE]

I had not thought of that, I may test your theory. My first thought was actually a scissor jack, but then I remembered I have the little bottle jack. I also agree with Byron’s comment on stability, a constant worry to be sure. But, I do not agree with jacking on the axle damaging anything. The axle is a tube set up as a diamond shape and it seems HIGHLY unlikely it could be damaged by jacking anywhere near the ends. I think a nice scissor jack with a “V” (angle iron) welded on top to catch the axle would be the (cheap) ticket. There would not even be any crawling underneath with the longish, folding handle these jacks use. Just poke it under there and get to cranking. Junkyards must be full of scissor jacks. Oh wait, there is one under the back seat of my F-150 already!
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Old 06-03-2015, 01:58 PM   #12
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I used a bottle jack under the axle of my tent trailer. Bent it.
If you do go ahead, you won't notice anything bending until it is too late to do anything about it.
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Old 06-03-2015, 02:11 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=Timber Wolf;526917][QUOTE=tractors1;526896]The bottle jack will bleed down -
Quote:

I had not thought of that, I may test your theory. My first thought was actually a scissor jack, but then I remembered I have the little bottle jack. I also agree with Byron’s comment on stability, a constant worry to be sure. But, I do not agree with jacking on the axle damaging anything. The axle is a tube set up as a diamond shape and it seems HIGHLY unlikely it could be damaged by jacking anywhere near the ends. I think a nice scissor jack with a “V” (angle iron) welded on top to catch the axle would be the (cheap) ticket. There would not even be any crawling underneath with the longish, folding handle these jacks use. Just poke it under there and get to cranking. Junkyards must be full of scissor jacks. Oh wait, there is one under the back seat of my F-150 already!
Two major ways to learn stuff, the easy way by reading or other forms of information intake, or by the school of hard knocks. Here's a link to a pdf file on the Dexter Axle web site. Most Scamps use one of two brands of rubber torsion axles. Here's the link.
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Old 06-03-2015, 02:30 PM   #14
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I haven't bought a BAL yet, but plan too. It seems a great system for both leveling and stability. It provides the best chocking action you can get and leveling too.

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Old 06-03-2015, 02:33 PM   #15
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Not that I endorse jacking from the axle but in fairness its a safety warning Byron. It does not indicate that damage to the axle may occur by doing so.

Having said that, I think best practice is to jack from the frame for stability reasons if nothing else.

I really like the Anderson leveling system. A bit pricey at around $40 but they are compact, easy to use and it works extremely well.
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Old 06-03-2015, 03:23 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Randy P. View Post
Not that I endorse jacking from the axle but in fairness its a safety warning Byron. It does not indicate that damage to the axle may occur by doing so.

Having said that, I think best practice is to jack from the frame for stability reasons if nothing else.

I really like the Anderson leveling system. A bit pricey at around $40 but they are compact, easy to use and it works extremely well.

I'll quote the warning just for you.
"DO NOT LIFT OR SUPPORT THE TRAILER ON ANY PART OF THE AXLE OR SUSPENSION SYSTEM."

Yes it goes on to say don't crawl under unless it's properly supported with jacks or jack stands. The first statement is the DO NOT LIFT OR SUPPORT ON ANY PART OF THE AXLE. So how hard is it to understand "DO NOT"?

This is not time I've seen this warning, I believe it was also in my Scamp user's manual, it's on Scamp's web site videos. At one time I saw in a Dexter thick manual.

My guess is that if you checked with Casita they'd say the same thing.
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Old 06-03-2015, 03:36 PM   #17
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I think that those who disagree should just go ahead and do it.
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Old 06-03-2015, 03:45 PM   #18
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Byron you specifically highlighted Timberwolf's comment in regard to potential axle damage then providing a link that supposedly buttressed your position. It doesn't.

But, I do not agree with jacking on the axle damaging anything. The axle is a tube set up as a diamond shape and it seems HIGHLY unlikely it could be damaged by jacking anywhere near the ends

Of course Dexter doesn't want you to do something that is unsafe but it doesn't imply or state that damage is the reason for the warning. Again, it's a safety issue and should be respected as such. I don't disagree that it's a bad idea but there's no need for you to be insulting, jeesh.
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Old 06-03-2015, 04:04 PM   #19
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Apparently the BAL is the Cadillac of levelers, but at a corresponding price.

I have an Anderson, and although it does require the movement of the trailer, it is only once, not guessing like with blocks or Legos.

3604 - Camper Leveler

I agree. DO NOT JACK ON THE AXLE.

From Dexter:

MISCELLANEOUS - Is it okay to jack up my trailer?
Dexter recommends that you do not jack up the trailer on the suspension components because there is always the potential for damage. Bent hangers, leaf springs, or axle tubes can cause bad axle alignment with bad tire wear resulting. Also, many trailer builders do not use Dexter hangers and we have no idea how strong these hangers may or may not be. Therefore, we take the conservative approach and recommend jacking up only on the trailer frame.


Maybe one of the reasons:

AXLES - Why are some axles bent in the middle?
The upward bend in the axle is called "camber". Camber is the angular relationship of the wheel to the road surface in the vertical plane. Axles are typically built with a pre-determined bend in the tube that compensates for the expected deflection under load.

Dexter Axle - Trailer Axles and Running Gear Components - FAQ'S


The "axle" is not a solid piece, only a tube with apparently somewhat of a thin wall.
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Old 06-03-2015, 04:40 PM   #20
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[QUOTE=Byron Kinnaman;526925][QUOTE=Timber Wolf;526917]
Quote:
Originally Posted by tractors1 View Post
Two major ways to learn stuff, the easy way by reading or other forms of information intake, or by the school of hard knocks. Here's a link to a pdf file on the Dexter Axle web site. Most Scamps use one of two brands of rubber torsion axles. Here's the link.
I do not see anything on that link that is helpful to the discussion. Generic warnings from liability concerned suppliers may, or may not have merit. I do just happen to personally have considerable long-term experience (hard knocks if you will) with steel tube such as MY Scamp's axle is made of. I have no worries about lifting it with a suitable jack near the end.
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