Building your own campsite levelers


Capt. Mike

Moderator
5/13/98 (9:02 AM)

Leveling is not only to get the LP refrigerators started and working best. It makes for good sink draining, not having things roll off the table and not sleeping downhill!

I made my own levelers out of 2X6 treated wood. Took a 24" piece; stacked on a 16" piece, then finally an 8" piece. Flush at one end so they form steps from the other. Screw or nail together. I beveled the front of each step, and then covered them with a non-skid strip available as non-slip safety strips for stairs in most building supply stores. Build two -- they reverse nest into a nice compact package which I bungee together and store on the roof rack.

Once at the campsite, I dig out a bubble leveler -- I prefer the round bullseye style -- and set it on the sink cabinet. If you are straight up, down or 90 degrees to the hill, you might need levelers under both wheels on the downhill side, but most of the time the bubble is off towards one corner or the other. Than just driving up on one will usually get the Westy level.

Caution: be sure you're on square so as not to put a sharp edge under the tire. Also, chocks & steps are not friendly to "plug" tire repairs; if the plug is at an edge, it can leak. Plugs are a jury-rig tempory thing anyway; even running over a rock can start them to leaking. Always get a professional, inside-the-tire glued in patch.
 

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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Rick (rickkel@home.com)

9/20/98 (11:37 AM)

Just wanted to say that I made a set of these levelers and they are great! Not only has leveling the van been a breeze (without blocks of wood flying out all over the place), but they are the envy of all who see them (I'd hide them good if you don't need them at the campsite you're in!)
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Richard Cochran (rcochran@netcom.com)

9/30/98 (8:26 PM)

Good suggestions, but here's an addition. I got a pair of clinometers (that's a fancy word for levels that read out in degrees) from a boating store, and glued one to the driver's door to measure pitch, and glued the other to the dash to measure roll. I even painted green arcs in the range where the refrigerator is OK to operate (+/- 6deg roll, +/- 3deg pitch for my '97 Eurovan).

This way, I don't have to keep track of a bubble level and drag it out when setting up camp. Since the levels are visible from my driving position, I can refer to them as I'm choosing my parking spot, so I minimize the amount of levelling I need to do with boards. It's amazing how much the eye can fool you about where the most level parking spot is.

Small suitable clinometers are available from boating stores (West Marine) or from RV places (Camping World).

Richard Cochran
'97 Eurovan
 

filmcan

New member
For leveling, I just use one of those bubble levels with the sticky-back tape (Home Depot -$2). Just stuck it to the top of the stove/sink cover lid, and there it lives. Works every time. A friend of mine just uses a cup of water set up on the same sink/stove cover - kind of messy.
 

judlandis

New member
I recently built a set of levelers on the Capt.'s plan, and can also highly recommend them. I got one of the $3 "bull's eye" levels and stuck it to the top of the sink cabinet, which works OK. I put it near the latch on top (behind the driver's seat) because I sometimes use the closed top as a storage surface when camped and didn't want it in the way. But, it's hard to see from the driver's seat while positioning the van. The best idea would seem to be having the bubble level in the top drawer, ready to pull out and place in a visible spot when needed, and able to be put aside when not needed.

[ 11-20-2001: Message edited by: judlandis ]
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
I'm really glad my levelers are working out for others. I used mine the other day for something totaly unrelated and marvel that they are still pretty much intact from use in 2 Westies with a quarter million miles. The wood has lost it's bright new yellow and full of nicks & rock dents; the non-skid is still the original, though also showing a little wear & tear.

Sometimes the $10 solution to a 50 cent problem has it's drawbacks. Putting the level bubble on anything that isn't always exactly the same defeats the purpose. My little bubble sits in the front of the 'gutter tray' over the sink, I can reach it from the driver's seat and put it on the corner of the sink cabinet to see while leveling. Then back in the gutter.

Unlike permanent mounting, it's never in the way, I don't have to worry about damage, and it won't leave any glue or screw damage to the cabinet.
 

Mrdi

New member
18" 2x6's are perfect, I put a 2x4 cut to 6" under the front of the 2x6 if needed rocks are also handy when the 2x4 isn't tall enough, be selective. I also use a line level for inclination fore and aft as well as side to side (sorry for the Landlubber talk Cap'n). A line level is a small level used to build block walls and is about 2" long and 1/2" in diameter. It is available at hardware stores for $2 and fits in the silverware drawer. I pull it out and put it on the top of the sink cabinet when adjusting inclination. This has been my best solution through four Westies starting with a 69 that I took delivery of En Europe in 69. A good skipper however is inclinationally adept within a couple of degrees w/o prophylactic devices
Cheers,
Mrdi
 
G

Guest

Guest
The level blocks are a good idea and a necessity. I also used 2 x 6 boards in 27",17",13",10" lengths. They are treated lumber.I did not fasten them together instead they are loose and at the end of the 27" board I drilled two holes for 1/2 inch dowel rods(about 7" long) this allows me to vary the height and have different heights for different tires. The dowel rods hold the other boards in place and are removable for storage.I then bought a small nylon bag and the entire unit fits in a neat package that I can put on top or in the back. As for level bubbles I have one attached on the inside rail just behind the passengers seat and another on the rear A/C housing this allows me look to the side and back and view both roll and pitch from the drivers seat as I drive up onto the blocks. By the way I have a 1989 Westy camper mint condition 55,000 miles.
 

peterkrogh

New member
I think it took me about 12 years of camping in the van to figure it out, but simply using the jack works great for me. I just park on a slope with the driver's side lower than the passenger side, and jack it up to level. Several advantages: Can be finely adjusted with the van in place, and, more importantly, it greatly dampens vibration from movement inside the cabin. In the time i have owned the van, I have gone from camping mostly by myself to now doing family outings with my wife and two kids. The ability to move around without rockking the van is greatly appreciated. I bought an extra jack recently, and try to always use both of them for maximum stability. Go try it in your driveway., it works.

BTW, it does not work with the passenger side lower, because the jack gets in the way of the sliding door.

HTH,
Peter
 

magowanc

New member
I would be a little worried about using a car jack as my leveller. I have seen good floor jacks fall over on concrete with a car on top of them for no reason. A thing with as small a base as the stock jack on gravel or uneven ground such as that in a campground would stand a far greater chance of falling over. Especially with someone inside the vehicle.
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
I would HOPE he is refering to jack stands. Jack stands are the metal, adjustable post stands you lower the vehicle onto AFTER you have jacked it up with the car jack. Usually a triangular or square base with a post that is adjusted with pins, racheting pawls or a heavy-duty screw thread on the post itself. Their size (storage room) usually precludes them from Westy use though I've seen nesting ones in some RV catalogs.

The warnings that come with every regular jack -- and in the VW owners manual -- would make them unsuitable for 'leveling'. If the vehicle rolls any at all, it will twist the jack and may damage it and/or the jack socket, rendering future use unsafe. This is a dangerous practice; any recommendations to do so will be deleted.
 
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Garyo

New member
I've made a set of levelers like the Capt.'s a couple of years ago after I read his post (above, about a dozen posts), they work perfectly. Trust me, if they'll work here in Newfoundland, they'll work anywhere! Thanks again Capt.
Regards
Gary
 

j8

New member
You folks were ahead of your time. Lately I've stumbled across many polyethylene "level up" type beveled step levelers in catalogs and online. Good to know there's always a homemade remedy out there.
 
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j8

New member
Thanks Capt. Mike, I finally built these, tweaking the measurements for personal preferences. I can share photos and a breakdown of directions alongside the pics if you'd like.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Home made leveler set

Photos of my leveler set are now included in the Tech Drawings under the Westy Accessories set. Please note that these levelers are now ~30 years old and have seen heavy use. They are scarred and stained; the non-skid strips are showing their age; and my bungee carrying strap is losing its electicity. I might even have to refurbish them in another 10 years! ;) The picture shows them battle-scarred but ready.
 

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Fanty

New member
I use a hand bicycle pump, it works great. In most cases you don't need to fill the thing to the breaking point. I inflate each one separately and probably don't spend more than 1-2minutes doing it. With an electric pump 10-20 seconds should more than fill them to their needed position.
 

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