During our last project spree we also decided to add a leveling system to our travel trailer. We had gotten pretty good at leveling by just eyeballing a fairly flat spot, then using a cheap bubble level (and sometimes our iPhones, which has a nice level on the second page of the built in compass app). My trusty assistant in particular had gotten quite good and guesstimating the low side and adjusting with blocks.
Although we have learned some tricks, its still a time-consuming process which is even more time-consuming if you are doing it alone. All can be done with time and patience, but for those times when neither time nor patience are in great supply, leveling the trailer can be a headache. Us, short on patience ? Say it ain’t so ?!? Here are a few scenarios where leveling can be a drag :
- getting in to camp late at night (bothering any neighbors or nearby campers with our headlights, back and forth, the inevitable chatter between driver and spotter)
- setting up camp in the dark (its hard to see backing up a trailer with low light)
- arriving in bad weather such as high wind, cold rain, snow, hail etc.
- arriving at a dry camping spot that has no flat space
Some rigs like big 5th wheels and Class A campers have “self leveling” landing gear that has hydraulics to handle this process for you. We’re not so lucky. We have our dual axles (the wheels that the trailer rides on), the 4 scissor jacks (one on each corner) and some strong points on the frame of the trailer available to level things.
So, what is this leveling gadget and why might you want one ?
Basically, the little box shown above, is a bluetooth device that has some electronics to keep track of how level your rig is. This can be used by a drivable camper or van, travel trailer or 5th wheel.
The little box talks to a smartphone or tablet via bluetooth, and their custom app gives you live feedback on 3 measurements (in our case for a trailer):
- the level of the tongue to the axles
- the level of the drivers side
- the level of the passenger side
The LevelMate accomplishes this by knowing the position of the install within the trailer as well as some physical measurements of the trailer. In our case this was :
- the distance from the furthest back axle to the hitch
- the distance from the outside of the tire on the axle to the outside of the tire on the other side of the axle
When configuring the LevelMate, the app walks you through the possible orientations / positions available. The only basic rule is that the yellow arrows must point up. From there, you just tell the app which direction the face is pointing.
The LevelMate uses a small watch battery to power itself and the Bluetooth connection. Therefore, its handy to have it somewhere thats easy to get to (during trailer leveling and reconnecting). I chose this spot because its out of the way (not likely to get wacked by some gear or luggage that we might bring in and out the door), but easy to reach in the trailer to turn on or off the LevelMate without having to open the steps or actually get inside the trailer.
The installation was a snap, just open up the case, screw the unit to the wall. It doesn’t have to be perfectly level, the setup can compensate for this. In fact, you have to tell it when your rig is level (which may differ if you have slideouts etc)
When I did the initial install, I was at an RV park. This can be handy because generally there is a level spot to park on OR there is a parking lot that you can use to set things up the first time. Basically, you just follow the instructions as they apply to your type of rig, and then tell the LevelMate when you are perfectly level, and it saves that configuration.
One other feature beyond the obvious function of leveling your rig, in the case of a trailer, is that it offers the ability to remember the hitch position when you disconnect the trailer. This is nice so that when its time to break camp or reconnect, you can “recall” the hitch position, which will tell you exactly how high to raise the hitch to clear the ball on the trailer. This isn’t really that hard to estimate, but it does save some time.
You can choose the sensitivity of the unit by increments of .25″ (or metric if you choose). The 1/4″ setting is its most sensitive, so we went with that for now. Our leveling blocks are basically 1″, so this makes it easy to estimate when we are low on one side, just adding up the correct number of blocks to make up the gap.
Its probably obvious, but another feature of the LevelMate is that you can easily “pre-level” your rig before you even start the process by just doing a better job of selecting your spot. What I mean is that, previously we’d basically put the trailer where we thought we wanted it, then figure out a way to level it. Now, we take the approach of maneuvering the trailer to the most level spot we can find before we choose its final position, which we can do now “live” by watching the LevelMate app on our phone.
here is the basic procedure :
- upon arriving at our fabulous campsite, we open the trailer, reach inside and flip on the power switch (the 2nd gen product has an on / off to save on battery)
- when you power on the unit, it tries to pair to your phone or tablet, so having that nearby is handy
- we do our best to pre-level the rig by watching the app to see which side (driver or passenger) is low
- after we determine which side is low, we try our best to find a spot where the low side can easily be compensated in increments our 1″ leveling blocks
- once its level from tire to tire (perpendicular to the trailer) we can disconnect the trailer from the truck
- when the trailer is disconnected from the truck and the hitch is above the ball (enough to clear truck and pull away) we have the LevelMate app “save hitch position”, this will allow us to “recall” that position when its time to reconnect
- after the truck is free from the trailer, we can now level the trailer “lengthwise” by adjusting the height of the tongue jack.
- the trailer is now level and we can get down to business (enjoying our campspot!)
So… what do we think so far ? is it worth it ?
This little gizmo is fantastic and has already saved us lots of setup time. I have used it several times solo and it makes things very very easy.
Its not cheap, but for us its well worth the money.