10/06/2015
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Motorhome Hydraulic Levelling

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There has been quite a lot of coverage about motorhome levelling systems recently. But what exactly are they and why are they proving so popular?

 
While many people pack a set of levelling chocks in their motorhome, they’re not always the easiest things to use and require delicate throttle control and ideally two people to level the motorhome effectively.
This may explain why hydraulic levelling jacks have become more popular over the past five years – they offer the ease and flexibility to level motorhomes on most surfaces at the touch of a button.

Having fingertip control via a handset also provides a quick and easy alternative to the standard fitment of manual wind-down jacks and wheel chocks.
Levelling systems were previously only an option on larger A-class and coachbuilt motorhomes but, since their introduction into the UK market, they have evolved and can now be fitted to most motorhomes weighing from 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes.

Why they are useful?

Compared to conventional methods of levelling a motorhome, which usually involve driving up onto ramps to obtain a level height, the main benefit of a hydraulic system is convenience. However, there are a number of other benefits that are worth considering, including:

  • Rock solid and level on any surface
  • No bounce when you walk
  • No sway when it is windy
  • Can be an anti-theft device (especially with locking wheel nuts)
  • Helping with winterising your motorhome when it is not in use
  • Keeping the fridge level so it works as the manufacturer intended
  • Changing a tyre when you have a puncture
  • Keeping your satellite dish in a fixed position so you don’t lose the signal
  • Draining waste and water tanks, which can be quicker with the assistance of the hydraulic jacks

How the system works

The levelling system has a power pack, which supplies the hydraulic oil under pressure to four chassis-mounted hydraulic legs, activated via a handheld control pad.
Hydraulic locking valves are fitted to each leg and, once the motorhome reaches its level position, these valves keep the vehicle level for the duration of the stay. They also lock the legs under high hydraulic pressure in the stowed position whilst the vehicle is being driven on the road.

The handset is commonly designed to operate the legs in pairs and provides simple up and down control of both front and rear and side-to-side leg movements, achieving a level position in approximately 35 seconds.
As a power failsafe, the engine needs to be running while levelling is underway as there can be a large current draw on the battery when the hydraulic power pack is operating.
Once level, the system will remain dormant awaiting its next command, although users are advised that the rear wheels should remain on the ground at all times to stop the vehicle from moving whilst level.

An audible buzzer should be fitted to the system to warn the driver if the legs are in the down position with the ignition turned on. This is to ensure that no attempt is made to move the vehicle with the hydraulic legs deployed. It is also recommend that users visually check that the legs are raised before moving the vehicle.
 
Leg types

Depending on the vehicle and coachbuilt body manufacturer, the amount of space under the motorhome needed to install the hydraulic jacks can vary.
To cope with the huge range of vehicles on the market, most hydraulic jack manufacturers offer different versions of their systems including fixed, swing-down and telescopic legs.
Swing or telescopic legs are best suited to vehicles with low ground clearance or limited space underneath the vehicle due, for example, to additional water or waste tanks.

These types of leg only require a low installation height and so suit compact motorhomes.
Swing legs are a folding system that, when stowed, are in the horizontal position on the vehicle frame so they can’t be damaged by speed bumps or ferry ramps. The disadvantage of the swing legs is the limited lift they provide, but they can be the only option for some vehicles.
Fixed legs offer the most lift and are most suitable for vehicles with good ground clearance, including those built on an Al-Ko chassis.
 
Is your motorhome suitable?

If you want hydraulic jacks, a full consultation must be carried out before installation to determine which system is suitable.
The position of the power pack is flexible, but is ideally suited to a clean, dry space under a seat or in an external locker. The pipe routes and handheld control can be fitted anywhere and some control pads have an extension lead to allow for operation inside or out of the ’van.
Having a hydraulic levelling system fitted could be seen as a luxury, but it will remove the worry of driving up those little yellow wedges, stop you being woken at night when someone goes to the bathroom and ensures your motorhome is completely stable when on a windy campsite.
 
How much does it cost?

Prices vary but average £3,450 to £5,500 including installation and VAT for a motorhome up to six tonnes. The costs will get higher as the GVW increases because larger legs and higher capacity pumps will be needed.
Most hydraulic jack manufacturers will have accredited dealers throughout the UK, so you shouldn’t have to travel far to get a system installed. This is also for any warranty issues, although most dealers offer a mobile service for warranty call outs. Some systems can be specified with a warranty of up to 10 years.
 
What about payload?

The weight of the system can be a concern. Some manufacturers offer aluminium legs to keep weight down. The average weight can vary from 60kg to 80kg, which includes the legs, pump, bracketry and hydraulic oil. Some systems will weigh more and others less, so it is always worth asking the jack manufacturer for more information and how it will affect your payload.

Find out more:

Visit the Glide Rite webiste or call 01428 751711 for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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