Last updated on July 25th, 2023 at 08:06 am
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If you’re a new RVer, especially brand new to towing, you may be wondering if your travel trailer should be level while you’re in motion. It’s important to always consider your safety while on the road, and towing is no exception!
So, should a travel trailer be level when towing?
The answer is yes, a travel trailer will perform best while towing if it’s level. Having a level trailer means you have more control and are likely to travel safely and securely. It will also help reduce any swaying, help the tires wear evenly, and be more economical in terms of fuel too!
But how can you ensure that your trailer is level while traveling? And what other things can you do to help prevent a dangerous travel situation? Let’s take a look at some answers for you now.
Should A Travel Trailer Be Level When Towing?
There are many reasons why a travel trailer needs to be level when towing, and many are down to improved safety. While having a level trailer when parked matters (primarily when it comes to getting your propane regulator to work properly), your travel trailer should always be level when in motion.
If you aren’t planning on driving very fast, an unlevel trailer isn’t the end of the world. However, once you reach speeds over 25 MPH, you will no doubt notice very quickly if your RV isn’t level, and it can feel scary! Let’s go over some of the primary reasons why you should always strive for a level travel trailer or RV, no matter the style!
Reason 1: Level Travel Trailer Will Reduce Sway
While there aren’t very many statistics available, any RVer will tell you that travel trailer sway is one of the most dangerous things that you can experience as a new rig owner. Swaying while towing happens while traveling at high speeds- and this experience is usually exacerbated by an unevenly weighted or unlevel travel trailer.
However, taking the time to make sure that your rig is properly level can and will reduce your highway sway. This is because a level trailer allows for each individual tire to rest evenly on the road, and grip it in an equal fashion. Physics and weight have a lot to do with why RVs can be difficult to drive.
Having too much weight toward the back of your rig is a guaranteed cause of high-speed sway, and both your RV and tow vehicle can quickly become uncontrollable. Sway can be reduced easily, however, through rearranging your items or perhaps purchasing a hitch with more sway control options- including sway bars. But more on that later!
Reason 2: Trailer Tires Will Wear Evenly
Having a level travel trailer isn’t only beneficial and safe for you and your passengers. It can also be beneficial to your tow vehicle and the tires taking you where you need to go! While you may not be able to tell easily if your tires are carrying weight unevenly, your tow vehicle and axles will be able to tell over time.
Having properly aired tires is important for maintaining a stable trailer, but what can you do about keeping things level? If your RV is uneven, you may notice your back axle sinking toward the ground, or vice versa with your front axle. This can lead to many tow vehicle difficulties and repairs down the line, including expensive axle repairs.
Plus having an unevenly distributed trailer can mean your individual tires wear out at different rates. You may end up with your rear left tire going bald long before the other three! This applies to both your tow vehicle tires and your travel trailer tires too.
Replacing tires and axles can get expensive, fast- especially if you experience a dangerous blowout or popped tire while towing. This can be a new RVer’s worst nightmare, but luckily, proper leveling of your camper should help prevent this from happening.
Reason 3: Your Brakes Will Thank You
While having a brake controller is a must for anyone towing anything, choosing to properly level your trailer before departure will only make your brakes happier. Why might this be? Travel trailers and campers can be heavy, and having an unevenly weighted rig won’t help your brakes. If you want to maximize the brakes on both your RV and your tow vehicle, you should keep your rig level.
Having an uneven trailer simply means not all of the tires are resting on the ground evenly or at the same weight. This will affect braking performance, especially if there’s significant unevenness throughout the length of your rig and tow vehicle.
Some brakes may wear down much faster than others, just like your tires. Plus, your braking performance is key to a safe journey- there’s nothing more vital to towing than a reliable set of brakes! You must be able to slow your rig down safely and evenly, and your level trailer will help you with this.
Any quick maneuvers or braking can be difficult while towing- you should ensure that this effort can be performed safely and easily. There are a few other ways that you can help out your brakes besides purchasing an electronic brake controller. Choosing to purchase a lightweight travel trailer may be a good place to start.
Reason 4: Improved Fuel Economy
Did you know that having a level and even travel trailer while towing can help you save on fuel? Your aerodynamics matter when you hit the road, especially if your trailer is tall and unevenly weighted!
Having a high nose can make your trailer difficult to control, especially when it comes to headwinds or high winds. Having such a tall barrier while traveling can lead to a lot of wasted fuel when it would’ve just been easier to level the trailer in the first place!
While the debate over whether diesel or gasoline is better continues, towing your travel trailer is going to take up fuel no matter what. However, having a level trailer will lead to fewer wind issues and a smoother ride in the long run.
Reason 5: Better Clearance
While you can look at purchasing a travel trailer with more of a lift or a higher clearance, most rigs can still ride pretty low to the ground. This is especially true if your rig is unevenly weighted or weighed down toward the back or front of it.
Going over speed bumps with an unlevel trailer can be stressful at any speed- I’ve scraped up the underbelly and tongue jack of my rig on a few occasions! But this has only happened because of an uneven trailer in the first place, something I could have avoided.
While you can always replace your RV’s underbelly insulation, there is a lot of risk involved when towing a rig with low clearance. There are many important systems held beneath your rig, including propane lines, holding tanks, and electrical cords.
Having an unlevel trailer can lead to some surprising and unpleasant accidents should you hit something wrong. Your RV’s clearance matters a lot, especially with bumps and rocks in the road!
Reason 6: Unlevel Long Travel Trailers Can Be Dangerous
No matter how level your rig is, the longer the travel trailer you have, the more dangerous it can be to tow. This is especially true for long RVs that still only have a single axle- an unevenly weighted rig can be even harder to control.
If you think of an RV as a seesaw, with the center point being your axle and tires, it can become clear very quickly how weight plays a role in your overall safety on the road. Choosing to pack a trailer with all of your weight toward the back can make for an uneven seesaw!
While you can always choose to purchase a small rig (especially a lightweight toy hauler with fantastic space-saving features), this may not be an option for larger families that want to travel together.
If you are choosing a rig that is over 30 feet long, taking the time to keep it level is key. This is a perfect opportunity to segue into how you might get your trailer level- and keep it that way!
How Do I Get My Travel Trailer Level?
If you are a first-time tower or new RVer, getting your travel trailer level is easier than you think. You may need to procure a few tools, as well as troubleshoot a few other reasons as to why your travel trailer might be shaking.
However, once you learn how to get your RV level, the process only gets easier and easier to do! Here are a few of my personal tips and tricks to ensure your rig gets level, fast.
Use A Bubble Level
A tried and true method for ensuring that your RV is level? Use a reliable bubble level, just like a contractor or home hobbyist. These levels are easy to find and purchase from your local hardware store or check out these simple bubble levels from Amazon.
It’s important to measure the ground your rig is on before measuring how level your rig is. You should also plan on taking a few readings from various points of your travel trailer. Some of these points may include:
- Your tongue jack
- Your propane or battery covers
- Your tongue frame (both sides)
- Your bumper
- The floor inside your trailer
- Your travel trailer’s counters (kitchen and bathroom)
Feel free to check for levelness throughout your trailer, including the inside of your rig. Measuring with a bubble level inside of your rig can be one of the easiest ways to tell why your travel trailer might be shaking.
I recommend measuring your travel trailer with a longer bubble level, at least a foot in length. This can give you a better idea of whether or not your trailer is level on a much larger scale!
Measure Your Clearance
Another easy way to tell if your trailer is level or not is through physical measuring of your ground clearance. While this task may feel a bit more tedious, it can be a good way of pinpointing where exactly on your rig you may have too much weight.
You should grab your measuring tape (or purchase one on Amazon- I highly recommend one with magnetic capabilities) and set it to work! You will be measuring the distance between your trailer’s frame and the ground below. I recommend taking a few measurements from front to back of your RV- one at the tongue, one at the bumper, and a few in between.
While you may not be able to tell with the naked eye that your rig is unlevel, your measurements will not lie to you! Again, this process may take some time, but this is another way to get your travel trailer level with more accuracy than others.
Park On Level Ground
Many RVers may try to get their rig level over and over without realizing one simple fact: their trailer isn’t resting on level ground! This can be especially true if you are parked on grass or dirt materials.
Taking the time to hitch up and repark on a surface that is flatter or a stronger material can be a good idea, especially if you are towing for the first time. Parking a rig on grass or dirt can also be dangerous when using slide-out stabilizers too.
You can always use a bubble level on the ground and then on your travel trailer, taking the tilt or slant into account when measuring. However, if you are troubleshooting why your travel trailer is uneven, parking on level ground may help with this process.
Consider A Self-Leveling Tongue Jack
If you haven’t purchased a relatively new travel trailer (or one of the luxury travel trailers from our top eight list), you may be curious about what a self-leveling tongue jack even is. They can be extremely helpful to many travel trailer owners!
These tongue jacks are capable of leveling your trailer using advanced technologies and measurements. All you have to do is get parked and unhitched- you can let your tongue jack take it from there! These jacks can be installed on older rigs with relative ease, or perhaps your RV purchase included one.
These jacks can save your back from cranking over and over, each and every time you set up or break down camp. Plus, having an auto-leveler can save you the hassle of taking measurements for yourself. These automatic jacks work perfectly with stabilizers and other auto-leveling tools- check out our top list of these tools here.
Get Hitched Up Properly
Have you already purchased a hitch for your travel trailer? It can be difficult to know what hitch you need, given that it will depend on your overall tongue weight as well as the towing capacity of your tow vehicle. No matter the hitch you end up with, you should keep an eye out for hitches with more advanced sway control and perhaps even sway bars.
These hitches may cost a bit more than standard hitches, but they can be lifesavers while on the road. I recommend this hitch from EAZ LIFT on Amazon– it includes sway bars and optional sway control, depending on what you are looking for. It’s important to know what tongue weight you need before making your final purchase.
Having a more advanced hitch that is properly linked to your travel trailer can make all the difference while traveling, especially at higher speeds. Sway bars are designed to keep your travel trailer in line with your tow vehicle, rather than swaying with wind or pull. The video below is a great example of how to adjust a weight distribution hitch:
Having a secured trailer is vital, and I wouldn’t recommend towing anything until you’ve achieved this. A simple hitch without sway bars may not be good enough for many longer rigs (you may be able to get away with it on some of these travel trailers for solo travel). Having a singular point for your rig to move on isn’t smart for heavy and unyielding rigs!
Check Travel Trailer’s Weight
Still struggling with an unlevel trailer, even if your ground is perfectly level? You may need to check where your trailer is being weighed down and adjust your interior cargo. But how can you tell what your trailer weighs? There are a few ways that you can weigh your travel trailer at home, and these measurements can be very insightful for learning more about your rig in the long run.
Weight matters, especially when it comes to the towing capacity of your tow vehicle. You can also get some insight into the weight of your travel trailer from the rig’s manufacturer. While some weight is adjustable inside of an RV, such as cargo, some weight you just can’t help- like full propane tanks or your water supply.
Taking the time to check your holding tanks before you depart on any camping trip is a good idea, especially if your gray or black water tanks need dumping. Having a reliable tank monitoring system can help you with this. Weighing down your travel trailer is easier than you think- you just might need to keep your axles and the image of a seesaw in your mind. The overall weight can matter, but it’s more about where you have that weight arranged!
What To Do If Travel Trailer Can’t Get Level?
Still struggling to get your travel trailer level for towing, no matter what you’ve tried? Here are a few other tips for you to try before you hit the road!
Rearrange What You Can
Speaking of the overall weight inside of your trailer, rearranging your cargo or holding tank contents can be a good idea if you are experiencing an unevenly weighted rig. Let’s talk more about what this might look like and what you can do. My vintage travel trailer is small (only 19 feet!) but my primary storage closet is at the very back right-hand corner of the rig.
This can mean that my trailer is unsafe while on the road- the heaviest load is at the very back, and you can tell just by looking at it! So before I hitch up and hit the road, I remove most of the contents from that back closet- I evenly distribute these contents throughout the trailer, and voila! My travel trailer is level, safe, and ready to go.
This may sound tedious and unnecessary to some of you, and it may be. However, if you are experiencing an unlevel rig, it may be because of your onboard cargo. The other thing it could be? Your holding tanks! While dump stations are readily available at many RV parks, you may find your tanks full and nowhere to dump them. What can you do if these full tanks are weighing down your rig in an unsafe fashion?
You might consider purchasing a portable waste tank in order to rearrange some of your gray or black tank waste. These can also be useful for dumping your tanks if you want to stay stationary in your RV for some time. No matter what, some simple reorganizing might be all it takes to get your trailer level. Keep this in mind while you are packing up!
Increase Your Tongue Weight
Speaking of arranging your trailer cargo weight, increasing the weight found on the tongue or front of your RV may be the most helpful way of doing things. Packing with the front of your rig in mind can lead to the best result possible. While you should never exceed your tongue weight capacity, packing the majority of your cargo toward the front of your rig can be the safest option.
Why? It means that the majority of the weight will be supported by your tow vehicle and hitch! Picture the seesaw again- you could pack your rig with the majority of your cargo hanging off the back, away from the center axle. But even packing with the center tires in mind is a better idea than keeping all your weight at the back!
I have a few other tips regarding increased tongue weight and travel trailer towing safety. You can read more about it here. When in doubt, pack toward the tongue, not toward the rear of your RV!
Air Up Your Tires
If your rig is having a hard time getting level, especially from side to side rather than from front to back, you may want to consider having the air in your tires checked. This is always a smart idea for any RVer to do, especially before hitting the road!
Your tires are key to a level trailer, and even the slightest overfill or underfill can lead to an unlevel rig. If you are choosing to rent an RV from a website like Outdoorsy or RVShare, it is important to ask the private owners when they last filled their tires!
Go For the Nose (If You Have To)
Finally, if you have done everything you can think of to prevent your travel trailer from being uneven, the safest thing you can do is pack toward the front of your RV, also known as the tongue or nose.
While a level trailer is usually achieved through even distribution of goods and cargo throughout the rig, you may have to double down and pack heavy on the front of the RV to achieve ideal results.
Having your RV tipped down at the front is better than having it tipped backward. This way, most of the weight falls on your tow vehicle and hitch rather than further back. The farther back you weigh your rig, the less control you will have over it!
Should A Travel Trailer Be Perfectly Level When Towing?
Ideally, travel trailers need to be as level as possible for towing for optimum safety, performance, and ground clearance. But does a travel trailer need to be perfectly level when towing? Well, the short answer is yes, you should strive to tow a travel trailer that’s as level as possible.
As I’ve mentioned already, an unlevel trailer can be dangerous, affecting the stability and even braking during towing. Swaying and uneven tire wear can occur too, and if any tires blow out, accidents can happen. However, getting a travel trailer perfectly level can be easier said than done. A general rule of thumb is up to one inch out and your trailer should be fine.
It’s vital the trailer isn’t bottoming out at all while driving if it isn’t perfectly level, and the issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
How Important Is It For A Travel Trailer To Be Level?
Along with being unsafe, an unlevel travel trailer can also lead to expensive repairs in the future if things go wrong during towing. There are plenty of other concerns to think about with an unlevel trailer, such as damage to interior components such as door frames, RV plumbing, and even drawers and cupboards.
It’s therefore very important to get your travel trailer as level as possible before towing. Once you’ve reached the desired destination, getting your trailer set up and leveled into position is essential too. Sleeping in an unlevel RV isn’t fun – I can personally attest to it! And it can also be a nightmare for components like an RV fridge, as this can lead to stress and strain on the device and could be a reason for it not working properly.
Having a level travel trailer is key for you and your family’s safety while on the road. While it can take some practice to get used to, learning how to properly hitch up is a good idea. Keeping your trailer level at all times while in motion is the only way to go!