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Old 03-18-2015, 05:01 PM   #1
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DIY Leveling Jacks

My new-to-me 1988 Fleetwood Southwind (34) has no leveling jacks.


I purchased 4 large, heavy duty scissor jacks and 4 motor drives for them. I plan to install them and run the controls to the cockpit, just like built-ins.

I suspect that people have done this in the past. Any suggestions?
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Old 03-19-2015, 11:00 AM   #2
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Scissors jacks often have a weakness in side-to-side forces. I'd suggest mounting one sideways and one fore and aft at each end to prevent the RV shifting off the jacks. Also scissors jacks have lots of joints and a screw drive, I think you're going to have to constantly lubricate them to keep them working.
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Old 03-19-2015, 01:42 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post
Scissors jacks often have a weakness in side-to-side forces. I'd suggest mounting one sideways and one fore and aft at each end to prevent the RV shifting off the jacks. Also scissors jacks have lots of joints and a screw drive, I think you're going to have to constantly lubricate them to keep them working.
Thank you for your comments. I agree that they have their draw backs, but as everything I do is on a budget, and we currently use this MH only a few times a year as a family (I hope to increase that) I had to try to get the most jack I could get. I wanted to be able to retract high enough to not worry, so I wanted a long lift rate, and all the 24 to 36 inch jacks I could afford turned out to be scissor jacks.

On my previous camper, I mounted them off angle. This is to say that each was at about a 45 degree angle to the camper, so it was neither in the fore and aft like the tires, nor sideways. (Kind of like if you call the camper a rectangle, and then drew a diamond shape inside, a jack was on the diamond inside) I found this arrangement to be more stable.

It does add an old fashioned grease point for an annual inspection however, as each jack has several points that I did keep greased.

On the previous camper (a 28' class C) I never did do the final touch as I plan here, in that I did not add motors to the jacks. I use a long speed wrench and brought them down by hand. It was a project, but not much worse than the previous campers I had owned. With my current Class A, I hope to add the motors to be able to control the whole system from the cab.
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Old 03-20-2015, 10:24 AM   #4
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You might consider the use of good size blocks between the ground and the jack to minimize the distance the jacks need to be extended.

Also, when you crawl under the back of this coach, you're going to see where the frame rail extensions have a rather mickey mouse connection where they connect to the main frame. If it were mine, I would want the jacks under the main frame, which will mean they need to be installed right in back of the rear axle/tires.
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Old 03-20-2015, 11:15 AM   #5
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You might consider the use of good size blocks between the ground and the jack to minimize the distance the jacks need to be extended.

Also, when you crawl under the back of this coach, you're going to see where the frame rail extensions have a rather mickey mouse connection where they connect to the main frame. If it were mine, I would want the jacks under the main frame, which will mean they need to be installed right in back of the rear axle/tires.
ahicks, I have a rather extensive sub frame that reaches back from the main frame that incorporates the factory hitch. This MH seems to have a factory tow package, unless all of this model have it...

This sub frame seems beefy enough, but it is narrow. I would guess only about 3 feet wide or so, maybe 4. I had wanted to mount the rear jacks wider apart than that. I was concerned that if they were too close, I would have fine fore and aft leveling, but ineffective side to side leveling.

The problem with jacks up near the axle however is that with all 4 of us against the back wall of the MH in my 4 person bedroom, I had wanted some support near the rear corners. I thought there would be less sway because of the weight at the end of a long overhang...

I understand that factory jacks are generally near the wheels, not so much in the corners, so I am starting to see it very much as you said, and that the weight needs be near the axles...

As for blocks, I do use them as I can. Thanks for the suggestion. I generally try to size jacks so that I rarely exceed 50% of their lift height. I know they are generally at their least stable when at full extension.

Thanks again for the suggestions.
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Old 03-20-2015, 03:03 PM   #6
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If you've seen that junction between the extension and main frame, good. Just meant this as a heads up in case you had not actually seen it. I worked at a dealer selling these when they were new and I always considered them pretty scary. The floor/sub floor structure carries the majority of the weight the hitch is carrying....

These thing used to crack the sidewalls over the rear axle when the hitches were loaded down with a lot of tongue weight regularly.
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Old 03-20-2015, 03:18 PM   #7
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Rather than buying a motor for each jack, consider using a fairly good 18 volt power driver. You can get a set of adaptors at Harbor freight for 2-3 dollars, that match the drill/driver to 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 socket driver. Then you cut down on the cost of 4 motors, the weight of 4 motors, and a drill/driver that you can use for other purposes. I don't need one for jacks, but I usually have a drill/driver in my tool compartment when we travel. (most of the scissors jacks I have seen, have a hex head drive).
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Old 03-20-2015, 07:48 PM   #8
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Rather than buying a motor for each jack, consider using a fairly good 18 volt power driver. You can get a set of adaptors at Harbor freight for 2-3 dollars, that match the drill/driver to 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 socket driver. Then you cut down on the cost of 4 motors, the weight of 4 motors, and a drill/driver that you can use for other purposes. I don't need one for jacks, but I usually have a drill/driver in my tool compartment when we travel. (most of the scissors jacks I have seen, have a hex head drive).
Actually, I had an arrangement like this on my previous Class C Rockwood. Problem is, on set up, I wound up on my knees half under the corners of the MH and I did not like it. Additionally, I found that you have to tweak the corners from time to time, depending on the campsite.

In that case, I used both hand held electric and ratchet. The problem for me was not the turning the hex bolt head, but being near it. And once you adjust the rear right, you sometime have to go back and adjust then left front...

Also, your suggestion appeals to the incredibly cheap me, and only minorly conflicts with the lazy me, but I already bought the jacks and motors.
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Old 04-07-2015, 11:37 PM   #9
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I'm assuming you mean stabilizing jacks. I don't think that the jacks you're talking about would function as leveling jacks. You will use ramps of some sort to level your RV and then extend these stabilizers. I was just reading that DRV adds jacks with a 5 degree angle to the outside. They state that this increases stability just like you propose. Hope this works well for you, I love creating and installing my own additions the same as you do.
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Old 04-08-2015, 08:00 AM   #10
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Good luck on your install. We purchased but never installed jacks for our 89 Southwind, for just the reason you mentioned. The necessity of getting down on hands and knees and reaching back in to lower them obviated any advantages to having the jacks in the first place.
We full-timed for 4 years and never particularly minded the coach sway when we walked around and never camped in a spot where a few Lynx blocks wouldn't get us level.
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Old 04-08-2015, 08:37 AM   #11
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Reminds me of my first camper, it was a trailer but had no stabilizing jack. I was super cheap and just used 4 bottle jacks, one in each corner with the wheels chocked and tongue jack done. It worked well for the wife and myself before the kids showed up.
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Old 04-11-2015, 09:52 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by 09 harley View Post
I'm assuming you mean stabilizing jacks. I don't think that the jacks you're talking about would function as leveling jacks. You will use ramps of some sort to level your RV and then extend these stabilizers. I was just reading that DRV adds jacks with a 5 degree angle to the outside. They state that this increases stability just like you propose. Hope this works well for you, I love creating and installing my own additions the same as you do.
Please educate me.

I was speaking of using these as leveling jacks. Some of the camp sites I have been to in the past were not level. I have used blocking under the wheels, and drive up onto them, but while that gets closer, it often is a lot of trial and error for me to get level this way.

My jacks are 3 ton each, and I figured that if I were fairly close with the wheels, I could actually lift a bit with these jacks if needed.

If the majority of this forum thinks that I would be better off with drive on blocks, I would love some tips on how to do this on the first try, because driving back and forth a bunch of times is irksome...
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Old 04-11-2015, 12:48 PM   #13
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Depending on leveling requirements of the site we're on, we usually start with the "drive on's" and then do fine trimming/stabilizing with leveling jacks.
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Old 04-11-2015, 03:26 PM   #14
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If the majority of this forum thinks that I would be better off with drive on blocks, I would love some tips on how to do this on the first try, because driving back and forth a bunch of times is irksome...
I think maybe its just practice, knowing how many blocks and where. If you use a round level (ours is in the bottom of the freezer so we know the fridge is level) you can easily see which corner(s) is low, and put out your blocks accordingly.
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