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Old 06-01-2012, 07:41 PM   #1
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Jacks vs. Air Leveling ~ Strengths & Weaknesses?

Sometimes it's so confusing for us newbies!

Not yet owning a coach, I've been learning (and starting to shop now) for over a year. Just when I think I have something "wired" ~ it changes. Case in point - leveling devices for coaches.

I've been doing heavy research on Country Coach (and from simply curiousity, Newells). Both those coaches only offer leveling systems based on use of the air bags on the suspension. Fine.

I've seen hydraulic jacks on other lower cost coaches and made a leap ~ upper end coaches use air, lower end use jacks. Color me stupid or ignorant, but it was what I was seeing.

Then I saw an upper end Newmar...which had BOTH jacks and air leveling. Now I'm really confused! Why would any coach have both?

And what are the trade offs? Can they both handle the same amount of "leveling"? Is one system more repair prone than the other?

Please share your passion (or dissappointment) with either system!

Thanks in advance,

Mark
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Old 06-01-2012, 07:53 PM   #2
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I have air leveling on my coach. I have never had jacks, so I can't say to much about them. I think with jacks you have a little more leeway in getting level on a rough site, than you would with air. The downside seems to be alot of different problems with jacks. I like my air leveling and it has worked great for me so far. I really don't see a need for both systems on one coach.
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Old 06-01-2012, 08:26 PM   #3
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I have a Travel Supreme with air susp that can level pretty well in a parking lot, but it has some sway. It also has hydraulic jacks I use when running out all the slides. The jacks have much longer travel (can lift wheels off ground) and are much more stable.
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Old 06-01-2012, 11:04 PM   #4
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My prior rig was a bus conversion with air leveling and my current rig has hydraulic jacks. As the bus got older it became increasingly difficult to keep the air system from leaking and we often had either the on-board compressor coming on at night (noisy) or woke up to find we were leaning to one side. It was a pain to track down and fix the air leaks. I do not find the jacks to be more stable than air, however. I think they are about the same in terms of stablizing the RV while parked, but the bus did not have slide outs, which may matter. In fact, because we did not have slides on the bus I never got overly concerned about being perfectly level. Both systems were able to compensate for some pretty uneven terrain. The jacks have not had any maintenance or operation probelms on my current rig (knock wood). I chose my current rig partly becuase I wanted to avoid air leveling, but after living with the jacks for a while I cannot say they are superior, just different. I would not let the leveling system be the deciding factor in your choice of rigs.
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Old 06-01-2012, 11:55 PM   #5
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My earlier Spartan chassis had 3 jacks and I absolutely wanted jacks again. I could level more in off-road places, I have changed and rotated tires, used extra blocking and lifted tires 8" off the ground for maintenance work, ( I know, some folks don't approve of this but it's my choice) underneath chassis and I did not want the air leveling because. My current coach has air leveling! Why? When you buy used and narrow your choices to a particular coach, floor plan, options, sometimes one has to pick which options your willing to compromise on. On this coach, I loved so many other features that I was willing to compromise on the jacks. I figured I could always spend the money and buy them as a add on.

I do miss the jacks. The air works good but it does require the compressor to come on once in a while to re-level the coach as air warms up, or cools down, or we get in and out of the coach. I can't really add the jacks like I thought because of the amount of stuff that is underneath the newer coaches, every square foot of space is used up. It is not practical. At least not in my view.

I could have gotten a Bluebird with jacks, a Newell with jacks but the CC Intrigue, which is the coach I really liked, did not offer them. That was my compromise. I will deal with it and I will adjust and learn to like it.

Some people always park in RV parks and they really prefer the air. I use mine in more off road situations, and I prefer Jacks. Now I will just carry additional blocks of wood with me to make up for the lack of leveling that I get with the air.

AS you research the coaches, the options, the price range, all electric coach, gas vs electric stove, booth vs dinette table, 2,3 or 4 slides, 1 or 2 bathrooms. bedroom in the very back, 40' 42' or 45', sometimes it becomes so overwhelming with choices. Just make your best guess and enjoy it. It is better to be a little bit wrong and have it, then to be perfectly right and never find it.
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Old 06-02-2012, 05:02 AM   #6
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About a year ago we had Bullseye leveling jacks installed on our rig. They are terrific. I don't know how we ever got along with out them.

These jacks are electro-mechanical. Their two big advantages are no hydraulics and they don't leak down over time.

They have worked flawlessly since installation.
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Old 06-02-2012, 05:50 AM   #7
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I have an American Coach Tradition that has both hydraulic jacks as well as air bag leveling systems. I was told by a technician the reason these coaches have both systems is convenience and to provide owners with a choice. Both systems work well for me but recently I have had my share of problems on hydraulic side. I have lost hoses on 2 separate occasions in April and May of this year. After replacing last hose at a local heavy equipment dealer, my pump malfunctioned and now must b replaced at a cost of $1600 just for the part. So for now I level using air bags which quite honestly works well for me. No loud compressor whenever any adjustment is required. Sometimes the electric pump comes on to add or remove air but that is normally after a few days.
I was also told by someone at American Coach that it is better to use jacks whenever the slides are extended because they support the box on the frame better. Also heard that for short stops like wall mart it isn't right to have jacks down so it's convenient to have air leveling for those situations. I can't imagine that coach makers had that in mind when deciding which systems to add. So my conclusion is this, the more systems you have on your future coach, the more systems you will have to maintain. It is nice to still be able to go out now while my jacks have been disabled and get level by the use of air. My wife notices a slight sway with the air that you don't get with jacks but it is very minor. If you are looking at high end coaches like CC and Newells, i wouldn't let this decision be the main factor. As someone else mentioned, floor plan, colors, num slides etc should determine which coach to buy. Of course if you go to factory and order one, I would suggest to get dual systems and use whichever one you prefer. Hope this was somewhat helpful.
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Old 06-02-2012, 05:52 AM   #8
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I have air only. I have never found a spot it wouldn't level. At 31k I don't go off road. We do notice the occasional sway. I carry wood 2x10's just in case. My concerns with hydraulics are chassis twist . As was mentioned it is a compromise point, although for me I'm not sure I could give it up.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coma
I have air only. I have never found a spot it wouldn't level. At 31k I don't go off road. We do notice the occasional sway. I carry wood 2x10's just in case. My concerns with hydraulics are chassis twist . As was mentioned it is a compromise point, although for me I'm not sure I could give it up.
I also was concerned with chassis twist which I guess can not happen with air only. I was told Monacos have three point leveling to help avoid too much chassis twist. I have a friend with a Travel Supreme who's windshield popped out when his coach automatically leveled using jacks. I agree with your no off road comment.
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Old 06-02-2012, 01:46 PM   #10
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My air leveling system is a bit more restricted in correction range than jacks would be, but I carry leveling blocks for extreme circumstances.

We do not go off road because of our weight and low travel clearance. But, we do not have to concern ourselves with a jack getting frozen to the ground or sinking into hot black top or mud.

Only once in 10+ years and 65,000 miles have we be unable to stay in our first choice site because we could not level.

A motorhome is a compromise of wish list items. But we would want air leveling again.
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Old 06-02-2012, 03:50 PM   #11
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I am firmly in the air leveling camp. Some coaches can have an issue with lack of range with air. For example I have been told that the Tiffin Breeze, which is air only, will only adjust 2" side to side because of the strong torsion bars in the suspension. I had both air and jacks on my 03 45' Navigator and on my current 2011 American Tradition 42P. In over 10 years I only had one or two occasions where I couldn't level with air. I have had multiple occasions where I would need large pads to use the jacks on grass at Talladega or rallies, especially if wet or raining. With air I can pull in and level, put out the slides, and set up inside. I go out and hook up when the rain stops. Having both is ideal, but the only time my jacks go down is when I do a periodic test. If my choice was a single system of air or jacks I would go air. I haven't carried boards in over 20 years. If the site is that unlevel, I just move.

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Old 06-02-2012, 11:06 PM   #12
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Either work fine. We have air using the bags. Ours works great. Push one button and in about 1 minute or less you are level. I then turn it off. I have lots of friends with jacks. They work fine too. Given the choice I would prefer using the air bags and not jacks.
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Old 06-03-2012, 01:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chaunclm View Post
About a year ago we had Bullseye leveling jacks installed on our rig. They are terrific. I don't know how we ever got along with out them.

These jacks are electro-mechanical. Their two big advantages are no hydraulics and they don't leak down over time.

They have worked flawlessly since installation.
I'd be interested in what the total installed cost was ~ and which system and how much movement you selected. Did you install it yourself?

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Old 06-03-2012, 08:55 PM   #14
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We've had 2 gas MH's with jacks and the Windsor with air only. Only had to put boards under a wheel 1 time in 12yrs. I love them, get parked, hit the level button on the touch pad and let the system do it's job. Now and then if someone heavy is on the entry step there will be a jiggle in the bedroom. Only downside I see with the air leveling is if you have a flat on the front you will need a tow truck or a tire service to lift the front end but you were going to need the tire service anyway.

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