Campground Setup and Getting Underway
What's the proper procedure?
|Is it jacks first then slides, or slides then jacks? There
is much debate on this subject. It seems that the argument
about whether to level the coach before the slides go out - or not -
crops up in all Internet RV forums every few months and some
times results in heated arguments. Even motor home technicians, and
design engineers can't seem to agree on this subject.
While I am neither a technician nor an engineer, I have given this subject a fair amount of thought, read opinions from both sides of the argument, and I've come to the conclusion that... it depends. There may be no stock answer. I believe the answer depends on such factors as what kind of coach you have and how it was built, what kind of leveling system you have, and even to some extent, where you are parking. Some motor home manufacturers recommend that you level before extending the slides, while others say the opposite. Since this site is about a Monaco Diplomat, I'm going to confine my remarks to that type of coach, with its PowerGear leveling system and three hydraulic jacks.
Monaco advises that you should always extend and retract the slides while the wheels are firmly on the ground and the air bags are filled to full ride height. They give a couple of reasons for this. First, Monaco coaches with raised rail chassis have a 3-jack system with only a single jack in front. (More about that later.) They contend that at no time is the frame of the coach more stable and square than when it is firmly on the ground at full ride height. It does not matter if the coach floor is level or not, at that point. They advise that the frame of the coach is less likely to be twisted at that time, than it may be up on the jacks. So, that's when the slides should move in and out. I've also heard the argument stated that Monaco builds the coaches (including fitting and adjusting the slides) with the chassis tires on the floor and the air bags inflated to ride height, so they claim that's when the slides are most squarely oriented to the frame. I'm not sure, however, if there are many motor home manufacturers that do not install slides that way.
I tend to think that the main reason Monaco recommends extending the slides before leveling, is to minimize movement of the coach with shifts in weight. With a 3-jack system, the level coach will move a bit with weight redistribution. It stands to reason that movement inflicted by slide extension or retraction may tend to be harmful for the big one-piece Panaview® windshield. So, the bottom line is that, for whatever the reason, I think it is a very good idea to follow Monaco's advice on when to extend the slides. There are a couple of exceptions that I will get to later .
With that in mind, here is the procedure I use (in the order shown) to set up the coach in a camp site...
Earlier I mentioned two exceptions to this procedure. Here they are...
Is it ever safe to lift a tire off the ground while leveling?
This is another question that sometimes comes up, often accompanied by disagreements. Some say it is not safe under any circumstances. I don't know that I entirely agree. I would not want to lift the rear tires off the ground because I don't want to loose the traction of the parking brake while up on the jacks. But, as the photo above illustrates, sometimes you must set up in a site where the front of the coach is much lower than the back. In that instance I sometimes lift the front wheels off the ground with the front leveler. I don't see a problem with this. I carry an "extra step" along for these instances to make entry and exit to and from the coach easier.
Monaco has chosen to use three jacks on their raised rail coaches for a couple of reasons. First, three jacks, like a 3-legged stool, make the coach easier to level. There is less potential to twist the frame when it is up on the jacks. (A 3-legged stool never wobbles, no matter where you place it.) The second reason, is that the front center jack, when placed on the ground first, creates a pivot point when leveling the coach in any direction. That protects the front of the coach from twisting, which in turn protects the huge Panaview® one-piece windshield on Monaco coaches. You never want that big windshield to to be subjected to twisting. If it twists too much, it may develop a crack, or it might tend to pop out of its housing on one corner. For that reason, you always want to get that front jack down first, when leveling the coach.
The "downside" of a three-jack system, is that when the jacks are extended, there is always a little movement in the coach when weight shifts (like when you're walking around). The movement is so slight that I really don't notice it anymore, but it's there. Though Monaco does not state it, I think this is probably the real reason they want owners to extend the slides while the coach is still sitting solidly on eight full air bags. Again, the idea is to always do what is structurally best for that big beautiful front windshield.