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If you’ve watched our channel for any length of time, you know I have a “thing” for getting the RV level. Dead nuts level. We had leveling jacks on our last RV, Lance, but when we got our new Winnebago EKKO, levelers were not a factory option. Well, I’m happy to report that situation has now been fixed (at least on our van), as you’ll see in the below video. Enjoy!
There are other jacks available for the Ford Transit platform, but we weren’t interested in them for a couple of reasons. First, all the ones we’ve seen were standard jacks – which means that a jack with a 12 inch stroke has to start out 12 inches long. When you’ve got limited clearance under your van, that’s a problem. The other thing we were looking for in our jacks was something that worked with our VB Air Suspension installation. Basically, the leveling jacks would need to deflate the air suspension, and keep it disabled while the jacks were deployed.
The system from HPC Hydraulics that you see us installing addresses both of those issues. First, the jacks are telescoping, which means that you can get, for example, 12 inches of stroke from a 6 inch jack. And the HPC system does communicate directly with the VB air suspension without any driver intervention.
Questions You Might Have
The first thing most people will probably ask is, “how much are they?” I’d love to tell you they were dirt cheap, but they’re not. As of right now, as far as we know, Utility Bodywerks, in Elkhart Indiana, is the only shop that’s set up to install them. (That’s cool, because you’d probably get to meet Scott.) Final pricing would be up to Utility Bodywerks. But for planning purposes, be prepared to have discussions in the $7,000 range for the complete package, including installation.
The next thing most people will probably say is that this puts parts of the RV too close to the ground. But as you saw in the video, I measured to the bottoms of the jack pads, and they were actually *not* the low points on the vehicle. Nor did the jacks interfere with approach or departure angles, as you saw me test. Of course, this does add some new low spots on your rig that you’ll want to be mindful of. But we’re more than a month in, and we haven’t hit or rubbed the jacks on anything yet, so for our style of RVing, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Though we have VB Air Suspension, that’s not a requirement for these jacks. They will install and work perfectly well with the stock Ford Transit suspension.
As far as the weight goes, we don’t have a concrete answer on that yet. My guess is that we added less than 100 pounds to the rig, including everything down to the oil in the system. But we don’t usually weigh while we’re on the road mid-trip, so I didn’t get complete before/after weights. We weigh our RV when we’re fully loaded and just starting out on a trip. When we last weighed, we were getting close to our maximum allowable weight. I’ll update this post with our weight the next time we’re headed out on a big trip and we’ll see what that situation looks like. Short answer: Weights TBD.
Our readers aren’t shy about asking questions, so as you ask them in the comments, I’ll update the section above with the most frequent questions.
My Bottom Line
- Telescoping jacks are where it’s at.
- The 360 degree tilting of the foot pads on the HPC jacks is slick.
- Rubber-coated pads means you don’t have to buy extra pads, covers or add-ons to use your jacks on any surface.
- Just use the app – don’t bother with the panel.
- Never having to deal with blocks again: priceless.
Great video guys. What is the approximate size of the control box and oil reservoir. Would need to find adequate space before getting too excited! We have a Fuse.
The reservoir is like a half-gallon jug size.
Without going out and measuring, I’d say to allocate size for a school backpack full of books. That’ll about cover it.
Hey James! We love your vids! We have an EKKO on order and would LOVE to get these lifts. So we asked our dealer’s mechanic if they could install them. He spoke with Utility Bodywerks in Elkhart (he said they were super helpful) and was optimistic until he talked with Winnebago and HWH (who make many hydraulic systems for Winnebago) and they both recommended not putting on leveling jacks as it would void any type of warranty if done due to a manufacturer system not designed/applicable for that model yet. Any advice for us about how to work around that? Was that the case for your rig? Thanks so much!
I usually don’t concern myself with warranty considerations. (I do all my own work.)
But it sounds like somebody was given the run around.
In general, they can’t “void any warranty.” That’s a myth, and it’s frankly illegal.
Now, if you installed leveling jacks, and they could prove it twisted your frame, then damage related to the twisted frame would no longer have warranty coverage, correct.
But if you install leveling jacks and your air conditioner quits working… that’s completely unrelated, and there’s no change in warranty coverage.
So, what I do is ask myself if I trust the work to be done. In this case, the modification would result in supporting the weight of the RV on four different points – but on the same frame rails that support the RV’s weight before.
I judged the likelihood of potential problems to be minimal. But we all have our own risk appetites and ways of looking at things.
For what it’s worth (and, I realize this is only one data point) we have had absolutely no issues with our jacks, or frame twisting, or any ill effects whatsoever from this mod.
Hope this helps.
Thanks! See you out there – hopefully with our leveling jacks installed! 🙂
Seems nice, but…. that pump is awfully big and takes up a whole compartment? I can’t believe you put up with that since storage space is an even bigger issue in smaller rigs. Could it be installed elsewhere? Roof? Also, would this system work with a bigger rig, like a View/Navion?
The pump and head unit could be placed anywhere protected. That’s just where we put it.
It doesn’t take up the whole compartment. It shares half a compartment with a central vacuum and a 2 canister + UV water filter. There’s still room in that half to put our patio rug and a bunch of cat food. (The litter box is the other half of the compartment.)
As to the View/Navion – it should work, but I don’t know what the mounting brackets and locations would look like for those. Strictly in terms of weight capacity, the Sprinter GVWR is only 30 pounds greater than the Transit, so no issues there.
I also wondered about an electric option. Re your comment about thick cabling the motors wouldn’t haf to be big if they were geared low enuf.
Also, surprised there is not just one jack in the front. The front weighs less than the back, and even less so with the rear jacks fore of the wheels. That would lower the cost, and make leveling the van more like leveling a trailer. Plus, I think there is a lot more vertical room for the jack in front of the radiator, so it could be raised higher for clearance.
Hi James and Stef, nice video! I did a little research on the subject of levelers, and saw that there are also electric ones. They claim benefits like less maintenance, cost, and risk of a potentially hazardous fluid leak. I was wondering what your take was on the pros and cons of each system, and how much of these claims were just marketing? Thanks!
I started by looking at systems that were currently available to install on the Ford Transit Cutaway. That narrowed the field dramatically. None of those systems were electric.
I would wonder if the electric systems would be more expensive – since they would require four sets of motors instead of just the one at the head unit. Also, the electric systems would probably require significant cabling to each wheel in order to supply the current necessary to lift thousands of pounds.
It is true that I was looking at units for a Sprinter. Amazingly, the ones I saw were typically about half the price you mentioned, but just for the components. Installed might end up being a similar price.
These plug-and-play (relatively speaking) kits are the future of RV manufacturing, given ongoing labor shortages. The more manufacturers can do to prevent wiring and installation errors at the factory, the better off everyone, but especially consumers, will be. I’d much rather pay a little more at the outset than have my rig in the shop for months at a time because someone used the wrong widget, overtightened (and ruined) a valve in an inaccessible location, or used the wrong gauge wire. It’s interesting that the Europeans are so far ahead of the US in creating easier to install products (Truma, etc), but not too surprising, I guess, given higher labor costs over there and the emphasis on saving every ounce. Thanks for this really interesting video. I’ll stick with legos for now, but there will be a time in my life when legos aren’t realistic, and auto levelers will be much appreciated.
We always enjoy your videos but the loud intrusive soundtrack marred this one I’m afraid; it makes it very hard to concentrate on the real content.
Sorry you didn’t appreciate the music. In this case, the music was only during the HPC install steps.
HPC doesn’t sell kits for self-installs (as far as we know), so it’s a safe bet that none of our readers will ever try to follow those steps.
James & Steph, you did it again! Thank you for investing your time in research and education for our adventure vehicle. You guys are the best! Will you come to Bend and help us dial out our rig? LOL! Kidding, not kidding. Safe travels to you.
We still have (a few) more mods coming!!
James & Steph,
Is it possible to have a washer/dryer mod for the Winnebago EKKO? Would it be possible with all the mods you have done in your RV?
Thanks for your responce aand input.
Well, anything is possible for an RV mod, given enough time and energy.
The difficulties you’ll run into will be where to put it, as well as weight considerations.
There will be plumbing, power, and ventilation work as well.
It would be a significant undertaking.
These look like the best of the bunch, but it seems like it’s 2022 and there should be something better than a centralized hydraulic pumping station. I’d rather see something run 12V over hydraulic hoses. Even if the remote units still used hydraulics and had their pumps/reservoirs, it seems like the overall package would still be smaller and less complicated. Telescoping is a no brainer – the fact that most existing kits don’t use them shows where the rest of the industry is. $7K is a lot.. I’ll probably keep driving around for the flat spot until something better comes along.
The pump is a good bit of the cost of the system, so it’s not surprising that there’s only one. Also, if they moved the pump(s) to each jack location, they’d also have to duplicate the manual override functions at each. (You can see the hand pump for that in the video.)
I agree, these things are spendy. As a percentage of the MSRP of the EKKO, it’s not that great.
But compared to the cost of some blocks and a few minutes driving around… yeah.
I may have misunderstood (probably did), but the antonym in English for “Retract “is “Extend”, not “Extract”.
/doffs pedant hat
I’m just glad they switch the language out of Dutch for me!
I have learned a lot from your videos. I’m building my own RV out of a box truck. I watched your solar and battery install, (20K watt). I would like to buy the batteries that you got but, I can’t find them. Could you please tell me how and where to get them. Thank you so much. Keep up the great work. Love your videos.
God bless to both of you. Russ
I’d suggest calling Lithionics directly and asking them where you can purchase the batteries.
Great info on the HPC leveling jacks. Heard that VB Airsuspension was partnering with a company making lighter weight jacks. Good to see them in action – thanks.
Worth the wait, for sure!
Trying to get on someone’s calendar up in Pacific Northwest to get this done on my Mercedes 170 EXT 4×4 has been a nightmare. Was told one place I found was taking 2nd quarter 2023 reservations!!!
If you don’t mind a road trip, I highly recommend Utility Bodywerks…
Is there a way to manually retract the jacks if there is a failure in the hydraulic system?
Yes. There is a hand pump option. You can see the handle on the control unit.
could you change a tire with the levelers?
I don’t know if they recommend it or not, but it is capable of lifting a tire or two completely off the ground.
Hi James and Stefany, did they provide information on why the front jack are before the wheel and not after like on Lance ? Can the control box and oil reservoir need to be install at a specific location ?
There’s just not room or a convenient place behind the wheel as there was in Lance. The cab footwells come very close to the rail, and there’s no room there for the jacks.
The control box and oil reservoir can be installed any place you can make room for them. Where you see them in the video was the most convenient place for us, but we had other options.
Does this work with class B transits with the unibody?
It should. I would make sure to provide the VIN number to the installer ahead of time to verify fitment.
Hi James! Weight? Cost?
Both are discussed in the write-up directly above! 🙂
Sorry, I had watched the YouTube video and came directly here to ask the question above…should have read through this article…..