Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Andersen Levelers at the Campground

Back in October 2014 I wrote about a better way to level a Roadtrek or any RV or Travel Trailer that does not have a leveling system built in. That is with Andersen Levelers. At the time of the article I only had tried them out on the driveway. Happily we did not need them after that until this past trip. We learned some lessons on using Andersen Levelers during this trip and I will share them with you here.

We arrived at the campsite and tried to find a level spot. Usually with enough moving around the site with the small Roadtrek you can find a spot - even if it means being on a diagonal in the space. This time the Roadtrek was perfectly level side to side but front to back it was too high in the front. This, as shown on my front to back level bubble that is permanently mounted to the passenger door. I don't need to level for our refrigerator. We do not have the usual propane three way fridge. We have an RV condenser AC/DC electric fridge. These do not need to be level to operate properly. I need to level for comfort and a feeling of being off balance if the van is off. I can tolerate it more if the van is lower in the front and higher in the back as I am not sleeping with my head lower than my feet, but as this site was high in the front, it was time to pull out the Andersen Levelers and give them their first trial by fire.

I will go step by step now in what to do with them and will share what we learned or perhaps realized as we went along.

One curved leveling ramp must be placed under each of the tires that are low - with a front to back problem and the back is too low, the Andersens will go under the rear tires. Put the low point of the ramp under the edge of the front of the tire. CENTER it under the wheel. There is a mold line in the center of the ramp that runs along the full length (you can even see this in the dark with a flashlight). There are five threads on the tire. Line up the center of the third thread with the center of the ramp. Make sure that the ramp is pointing in the same direction as the tire or you will drive off the edge of the ramp. This takes some adjusting. We had to make sure of this each time we put one under a tire and we did this five times each of the two tires during this trip - and each time needs some adjustment before proceeding. A tip - at night put your flashlight on the center thread of the tire (third thread) and point it straight down along the thread to the front of the ramp -see teh center line on the ramp - you are good for that adjustment but you still may need to make sure the ramp is straight. DO THIS FOR BOTH TIRES.

Now - look at the front wheels and make sure they are straight (and they must stay that way before you move onto the ramps. If not when you get in, straighten the front wheels and have your spotter (partner) tell you they are straight. There is a LOT of communication that should be going back and forth for safety doing this - we realized that this is a MUST during this trip. Open the window and make sure each can hear the other.

NOW, tell the spotter to stand clear away from the van but to keep watching the tire on their side of the van that is going up the ramp. Put start the engine, release the parking brake, and put the the van in FIRST GEAR. Slowly put your foot on the gas while holding the steering wheel absolutely straight. Start to move S L O W L Y up the ramp and as soon as you see the level bubble go to the center STOP! The spotter needs to tell you to stop if you don't stop before going off the end of the ramp - there is nothing to stop you from doing this.

NEXT - The spotter is NOT to move from their safe spot. The driver must put the parking break on and put the van in PARK. Stop the engine. Be ABSOLUTELY SURE that when you take your foot off the brake the van is not rolling back! Now - yell out to the spotter "ALL CLEAR". They can now move from their safe spot.

I got out of the van - I could have stayed in but I wanted to be sure that Meryl was safe for the next step. The safety wedges are now inserted under the BACK of the leveling ramp - the part that is now sticking up off the ground because the tire has rolled forward and rolled the ramp up in the rear. This is really one of two dangerous parts of using these ramps. Your hand is under the back of that tire and if the tire should slip it will be on your hand if you don't do this safely. Just put the wedge in place and give it a slight push under the end of the ramp. Do the same on the other side of the van.

Now - here is something that I found out about the third day of using the ramps. Once the ramps are in place, go into the driver's seat and have the spotter stand away - back to a safe spot. Put the key in the van, take it out of Park and into Neutral and and release the emergency brake. The van will slightly roll back on the ramp and the wedge - it really moves very little and should remain level. Put the van in Park and step down on the emergency brake to set it. That is it. The van is now level.

Why did I decide to do this last step? One morning on the hottest day of the trip when we removed the leveling ramps the next morning there were black tire marks on each ramp. Heavy black marks. Our first thought was that we had driven through tar but there was no tar on the front tires and no tar on the rear tires where they had not been on the ramp. What I did see on the rear tires was a smooth area on the face of the tire corresponding to the length of the marks on the ramps. What I believe happened - as I had not been letting the emergency brake off as in the last step before this - was that the tires (perhaps due to the heat) had slipped down the ramp to rest where they should have been in the middle of the ramp during the night or that morning. I had been setting the brake where I stopped and that was it - it had apparently held the tire up the ramp until then - but this time the tires could not hold and slipped. So this extra step seems to take care of that.

Here you see the Andersen Leveler in place under the passenger side rear tire. You see the wedge at the back and the leveling ramp at the front and middle. You will notice that the tire rests right in the middle of the curve - as it should and as this curved leveling ramp is designed. The tire should always be cradled this way no matter how high or low the ramp raises the tire. Both tires - one on each time are raised the same, at least as much as the ground will allow.

At this point you leave them and go inside the van or whatever you are going to do at the campground. When you are ready to leave for the day or for whatever, you are going to remove the ramps which is another process with again, with a need to stay alert to safety. I emphasize this because the Roadtrek weighs three tons and there were a few moments that I was not sure that all hands and feet were well enough away while putting the levelers in and taking them away. It was then that we made some rules - the most important of which is never move until you hear "All Clear".

So now to take them out. Your spotter goes to a safe spot and you go into the driver's seat. Open the window and make sure each can hear and understand the other clearly. Put your foot on the brake, start the engine. Release the emergency brake (some call it the parking brake). Put the van into LOW. Don't move! Your spotter should be watching one of the Andersen's under a tire. You will now S L O W L Y move about an inch up the ramp - don't put your foot down on the gas, just five a little to start to move. Your spotter should see the ramp move up off the wedge and tell you to STOP! Put the emergency brake on and put the van in PARK - stop the engine.

LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY: DO NOT DRIVE  OFF THE FRONT OF THE RAMP as I had in the first article to get off the ramp and as Andersen shows in their video. I did this and BANG the RV crashed off the ramp and the ramp went flying back. BAD IDEA! When I did this on the driveway the Roadtrek was not loaded, there was no water in any tank, and it was somewhat lighter. On a trip in real life there is a lot of weight added to the already three tons and you come CRASHING off that ramp if you drive off the front!

SO - next step - your spotter or you is going to reach behind the wedge and pull it out. This is the second danger point in the process. The wedge has nothing to grab onto on the side. It has to be grabbed from the back on both sides to get it out. The only thing holding the van from rolling back on your hand is the emergency brake, the tire threads, and the parking gear. As I am writing this I am thinking that since the wedge is now free to move easily, something might be rigged to push it out without your hands being under the tire. The wedge is solid and there is no way to attach a rope. If I come up with something for this, I will share it when I do.

So for now, get both wedges out from both of the Andersens and get them out from under the van. You need them clear of the rear of the ramp for the next step.

Again - spotter in a safe spot looking at one of the Andersen ramps. Go into the driver's seat, start the engine and put the van in REVERSE and release the emergency brake. Very little gas is applied and you roll slowly back and off the ramp. As soon as you are off the ramp the spotter needs to tell you to stop.  Put the van in park, put on the emergency brake and shut off the engine. Get out to help put the Andersen levelers away.

Other than the obvious hazards described here, the Andersen Levelers worked very well. It was easy to get level. The process does not take long but for safety must not be rushed. At one point I saw Meryl moving to the tire before I had the emergency brake on and the van in park. No! And when tired things can get confused and confusing. We set up our signals and all was well.

I used to be concerned about going to a new campground or getting a site in a campground that we knew that was not one that we have had before. For 95% of the unlevel sites we have refused at  campgrounds these will take the concern away about not getting level.  Those big RVs and trailers have systems built in to do this - nice to be able to push a button. We can't push a button but these make it a lot easier than using the big Lego blocks or trying to carry boards that just won't fit in a Roadtrek or Class B.

I have nothing to do with the Andersen company. I bought my two Andersen levelers for full price on Amazon. I do not get paid in any way to tell you about these levelers. If it works, or it doesn't work - I share that information with my readers (for free).


  1. Are you still using your Andersen levelers? I recently bought a pair and found them unsatisfactory. As my tire rolls up on the leveler, it hits the underside of the low hanging body of my 2015 RT 190P. If the leveler is placed at the front of the front tires or at the rear of the rear tires, they seem to roll onto the leveler just fine since there is more clearance for the large end of the leveler.. I've thought of cutting them down a couple of inches to see if that would allow the leveler to clear the RT body.

    1. We have been using them with no problem, As you can see from the photos the leveler is in the front of the rear tire. As the tire rolls up forward on the leveler, the curved bottom acts to bring the front of the leveler down - while the rear is under the tire. Push the leveler as far as you can under the front of the tire - and center the leveler to the center of the treads. I use the center of the treads and line that up with the center of the leveler with a mold mark that is on the top. When level, the front is low and the rear is under the tire. Nothing should come close to the wheel well. Don't roll forward coming off, Back up slowly off the back of the leveler with the chock out. To do this roll up very slightly, put in park with emergency break on - go out and pull the chock, and then roll off the leveler SLOWLY. As soon as you are off - stop.