Installing an E&P Hydraulic Leveling System in our Class B RV!


In my battle to get our RV completely level, I finally pulled out the Nuclear Option.  I installed automatic leveling jacks from E&P hydraulics on our ProMaster-based Winnebago Travato.  Check out this video to see them being installed, and to see them in action:

 

Level.  Oh you sweet, tasty level…

If you’ve hung around here a while, you’ve seen me “get my OCD on” around getting our RV level.  It’s true.  I’m kind of a freak about it.  I’ve tried blocks, and I’ve tried weird curvy blocks (that I didn’t like).  I’ve bought super expensive levels, and used them to install a leveling box in our rig.  That I did like, and while it gave me data about level, it didn’t do anything to get me level.  So after a couple years of obsessing, all I had was the same Hosspads I started with, and perfect knowledge of exactly how out of level I was.

Then, came our visit to Advanced RV.  They’re a custom Class B maker.  And since it’s their business, they get to experiment with pretty much any technology their customers want.  Fortunately, I’m not alone in my level geekiness, and the folks at Advanced RV had been installing automatic leveling jacks from E&P Hydraulics in some of their Sprinter motorhomes.

Knowing this, I checked out E&P and found that besides Sprinters, they also manufactured leveling jacks for the Fiat Ducato.  The Ducato is the European cousin of our Ram ProMaster.  So I made some inquiries and asked if their Ducato system would work on a US ProMaster.  There were a few emails back and forth, and pictures of the underbelly of Lance.  In the end the folks at E&P and Advanced RV are just as eager to try new things as I am, so we decided to give it a go!  The install went smoothly, and ahead of schedule, and you can see the finished product in the video.

 

Dialing in the auto-leveling with reps from E&P and Advanced RV.

Oh I’m level… but there’s more.

And yes.  In practice, the E&P jacks work exactly as I had hoped they would.  The automatic leveling gets me more or less level, and then I can tweak it to my heart’s content using the manual mode to get my head the just-slightly-higher-than-my-feet that I prefer for sleeping. It’s AWESOME!

But there’s another benefit that I hadn’t even considered that I’ve grown to love (and Stef likes, as well).  You see, when the jacks are down, the vehicle isn’t resting on its suspension.  So besides being level, it doesn’t sway at all!  We can get in, get out, run back and forth front-to-back, and you’d never know from looking at the outside of the van.  There’s no sway, no rocking… nothing.  We never really realized how much our van moved when we were inside it – until it quit moving.

And Before You Ask

I tried to show this in the video, and since the install, I’ve measured myself.  Installing the leveling jacks did not decrease the ground clearance of our Travato.  The jacks are higher than the rear axle, which has always been our lowest point.  I haven’t measured the departure angle yet, but I suspect that the rear hitch is still our sticking point there.  But even though it didn’t decrease the absolute ground clearance, I obviously do have a few extra things hanging down underneath the van.  I haven’t scraped one yet, and I think being reasonably careful (as you should driving any RV) will keep me out of trouble there.

And, since a couple of you have asked…

Yes, the capacity of the leveling system is quite a bit greater than what we showed in this video.  I haven’t tested the absolute capacity of the system, but I know it’s greater than the two inches of Hosspads I was carrying before.  We once deployed it on a loading ramp.  How’s this for leveling?

We’d never actually try to spend the night here, but we tried this out just to see…

Just like Ron said, you really can raise a wheel off the ground.

So in short.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE our automatic leveling jacks from E&P Hydraulics.  I love being level.  I love being steady.  And Stef loves me not having to drive all over the campground for about an hour trying to find a spot that’s level.  Everyone wins.

Cheers!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    40 thoughts on “Installing an E&P Hydraulic Leveling System in our Class B RV!

      1. James - Post author

        Don’t know, haven’t had to do it yet. I’ll have to have a look at the instructions. I imagine it involves a funnel and crawling around underneath the rig.

        Reply
    1. Rex Davis

      Love your videos! Lots of excellent information. I wanted you to know that some of us viewers saw right through your reasoning for why you wanted the auto leveling jacks. You’re looking for that extra 2.8 per inch on the black tank drain. We know that you are (secretly) raising the rv when you go to drain the black tank…lol. Mentally counting “one apple, two apple, three baby, four light bulb…bwa ha ha ha. (And yes, I know you were measuring tank height, not drain drop…but I couldn’t get the image of you chortling up on the roof out of my head). Again, very entertaining and keep posting!

      Reply
    2. Mark E Hesse

      Hey James! I love your videos! I have a Coach House Platinum II just like the one you guys reviewed a while back in an RV park. I love it! But they told me that Mercedes would void the 5 year 100,000 mile warranty if a leveling system were installed as the frame was not meant to handle that. I know yours was on a Pro Master, but do they have a solution for a Mercedes Sprinter 3500? Thanks again & howdy to Stephanie!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Did Coach House tell you that? Or Mercedes? I highly doubt it voids the warranty. These things are installed all the time!
        Yes, there is one available for the Sprinter 3500. Advanced RV can install it. They install on their own Sprinter builds regularly!

        Reply
    3. Randy Gerdes

      James, I fear it’s going to be a terrible day when you run out of tweaks to make on Lance! I hope you’re near a hospital or a bar! I enjoy your videos!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Not really. Our generator had been installed in the middle of the coach, behind the rear axle. The leveling jacks are installed on the frame rails – the generator went between the rails.
        In my opinion, you could install these jacks if you still had the generator.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes. I weigh the van after each major mod. When fully loaded for a trip with 4 bikes, cat, full tanks, etc, we still have a couple hundred pounds to spare. We’re good!

        Reply
    4. Mark H.

      One thing to note, by raising the jacks by releasing the parking brake you might risk bending the jacks if the coach starts to move if you are an incline. Just a thought. Otherwise great video.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, someone else mentioned that.
        Technically, the e-brake lift is a safety feature. A darn convenient one, but one that could lead to abuse as you suggest.
        I may need to rethink my approach to departures…

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        It would be a few thousand dollars – but it would depend on your rig, and whether or not you had the VB Air suspension installed as well.
        Best bet is to call Advanced RV for pricing for your situation.

        Reply
        1. Michelle C.

          We had contacted ARV asking about the E&P hydraulic system for our Sprinter-based LTV. We were quoted over $6800 as long as there was nothing interfering with the installation locations, 4-6 week lead time, 12 hours for installation. This was for hydraulic only, not the additional VB air system.

    5. Dan

      How unlevel can the van be before engaging the system and still level the van. For example, without this system we would raise a tire two to four inches using blocks. Your test site looked reasonably level to begin with – the camera may not have shown everything. Find a bad campsite and film demonstration number two. Thanks for sharing! Christmas may come early to my van this year!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The capability of the system is much greater than this campsite showed.
        We did level the van once on a loading ramp.
        I’ll update the post with pictures.

        Reply
    6. Steve Gillespie

      James, what’s the approximate cost of the leveling system? Could it be installed if you didn’t have the air bag suspension system?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        It would be a few thousand dollars – but it would depend on your rig, and whether or not you had the VB Air suspension installed as well.
        Best bet is to call Advanced RV for pricing for your situation.
        They DO have a model that can be installed if you do not have the VB Air suspension.

        Reply
    7. Alex

      Does this system have a way to manually calibrate so it will auto level to the 1/2″ lower in the front you prefer?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, there is a calibration procedure. I haven’t investigated it yet, but we did it initially to set the level in the first place. I assume I could rerun it to get the slight tilt I prefer.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        It would be a few thousand dollars – but it would depend on your rig, and whether or not you had the VB Air suspension installed as well.
        Best bet is to call Advanced RV for pricing for your situation.

        Reply
    8. Michael

      Ah, I wanted to see it fully extend and see how much off the ground it could get and if you really could change a tire.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, you can. We’ve got a picture somewhere. I’ll see if I can find it.
        Look down through the comments. If I dig it up, I’ll try to post it there.

        Reply
    9. Dana Boze

      I have a 1999 Dodge 3500 Dually Xplorer camper van and would love to install these jacks. How do I find out if that can be done? Love your videos…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I believe the E&P system is made specifically for certain chassis.
        Best bet is to look at their web site and see if they make one for your make/model (or for its European cousin).

        Reply
    10. Tom

      Very cool and informative post. It’s a contrast to a post by an airstream owner who professed his love for the manual hand-crank jacks!

      Hey, I would keep the emergency brake on until the jacks are raised. If you were ever on a slope the car could move a few inches in park. If one of the cylinders was a little late rising, stuck in the soil, or blocked by a rock it could bend the cylinder if the car moves forward. Just a thought.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, technically the handbrake interlock is a safety feature, and *not* the recommended way to raise the jacks.
        It’s just a little too convenient for its own good.
        I do let the vehicle “settle” into park before I deploy the jacks, but even so, you bring up some good points.
        I should probably change my SOP somewhat. 🙂

        Reply
    11. warsurplus

      I think you were off by one order of magnitude James while estimating the psi equivalency to bar measurement in the video. I think 200 bar would be closer 3000 psi.

      Do you think it would be advisable to lower the cylinder feet onto pieces of 2×8 wooden blocks or similar just in case the feet were lowered onto moist soil or water and froze? Could you risk damaging the system or mounting points during retraction if they froze to the ground?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yeah, I realized that afterward, while editing the footage. 3000 psi would be enough to easily lift a corner of the van.
        (I’ve never really worked in bar much.)

        You could always lower on to blocks of wood, or hosspads or something similar if you were worried. But as for us… I’m not carrying any anymore. Since the cylinders are driven in both directions, they have some oomph on the way up as well.
        We heard Ron from E&P tell us about customers who have used their systems to get UN-stuck from the snow – by raising a corner of the van enough to get some traction material underneath a wheel.
        I’ve put the hosspads in storage.

        Reply

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