The Levelling Jack System
As promised, I wanted to make a separate article for the Levelling Jacks System I just purchased and installed on Gigi, so here it goes..
First thing is that I need to clear the mess regarding this product origin. When I purchased this product I got lost as far as whom was the maker, the distributor and what to do as far as warranty claims, so here it is the current situation:
The actual system is made and sold by an American company called Equalizer Systems.
Here in QLD Australia one of the distributor goes under the name of Titan Trailer Brake.(TTB)
To make things easier Titan Trailer Brake made a separate web page called Levelling Jacks.
I hope this clears a bit the confusion hovering around forums and before you go and order the system directly from the US let me tell you way you shouldn’t!
- The jacks are the consumable parts in this system; they are extremely heavy and therefore expensive to freight around
- If there is a need for a warranty repair on the rest of the system (pump or electronics) I don’t need to tell you how long it could take..
- TTB is a good company and Nigel the owner is a good person. We need to support good business
- Not important as the rest but the red foot on our Australian made jacks, looks better than the old black ones
I did my homework and based on my learned experience with purchasing heavy equipment from overseas and the above, I just couldn’t justify the small saving compare with the peace of mind, that if something goes wrong (normally with hydraulics system it does), my bum is covered..
The next thing is to decide is, if you really need one to justify the cost. If you noticed, I haven’t mentioned a specific price for this system, but I gave you the links above to work what your system should/could cost. Just be realistic and if you decide to go ahead, and you live in QLD, ring Nigel or Andrew the manager and discuss a price. You may be pleasantly surprise…
In my past experience while travelling in a motorhome, I always found the job of levelling the vehicle, even only for an overnight stay a must. Beside the sleeping problem when on a bed on an incline, there are also other problems like walking on a wobbling vehicle, cooking pasta with hot water on a pot sitting on a stove not levelled, getting false reading from the water tanks, water logging in the sink, showering… I simply didn’t like it. Now, that was with a 7 metres vehicle and I did already struggle, to find a levelled place to park. I can only imagine how harder will be with a 12 metres vehicle that also sits on airbags…
Back then I was young and strong, I loved to spend even half an hour going back and forth with driving wheels on timber blocks (plastic ramp did not exist back then :oops: ) and juggle with the only two rear levelling feet to stop the thing from rocking. The most common problem then was the once the vehicle was levelled, one or both of the rear feet would have trouble reaching the ground and so more wooden blocks were required to feel the gap.. Then sometimes it rained, or the ground was already wet making the timber block sinking… :D
But none of the above are the main reason of why I choose to get a hydraulic levelling system. If you have ever tried to change a flat tyre on a truck on the side of the road, you don’t need to read any further.. To me, on a 20 tons recreational vehicle, an hydraulic lifting (read levelling) system is a must..
The automatic levelling system from the US is a good tested system built with quality components. They are used and installed on a variety of vehicles and probably watching this video will simplify for me the explanation of how it works…
I picked this particular video because it actually shows the system at work inside and out. You get to see how easier it is for the system to lift completely the vehicle off the ground. There are however other video from this company with the system mounted on Motorhomes and caravans. You may also want to watch the other videos from this company as they explain the other procedures such as programming the Equaliser, change a valve and coil or pressure switch… They are all HERE.
The kit you get from TTB does come with instructions, but as we know a picture is worth a thousand words.
Installing the Jacks
This is the first step of the installation and It can become a very frustrating job. I strongly suggest you to get a very powerful Impact Wrench, as the nuts provided in the kit are self locking nut and there are 32 of them. Truthfully this turned out to be the hardest job of the entire installation. You have been warned! When I purchase the jacks I was told to make sure I had the room for the actual jack body under the vehicle floor.
In the instructions you are also told to pick a location as close as possible to the axles.. I did take my measurements and like most coach, there is plenty of room under the floor… But there is no room near the axles, in particularly on the K113 chassis at the rear. In the front there is room for the Jacks near the axles, but you need to allow room for the steering wheels to move…
In the end, I only had one possible place for the rear and for the front Jacks with no room to spare. Reason I’m saying this is because it seem to me that, they were more concern about the Jacks length fitting under the floor when I order them, where in my case the biggest problem turned out to be the physical size of the rams and in particularly the large red foot…
There are very few place on the chassis, where you have no bolts or other accessory attached and as you can see from the pictures, these jacks are quite big. (interesting optical effect in this picture that makes the Jack look like is sitting against the coach, while in reality is standing on his own foot)
In the rear I ended up welding the supplied bracket to the cross member subframe as by Law, you are not allowed to weld to the main chassis and I still wanted to be as close as possible to the axle.
The cross member is also the second strongest point in the chassis, as all the upper frame rest on it, so that gave me peace of mind regarding the strength of the chosen location…
It also made it a fraction easier to bolt the actual Jack using 8 bolts as recommended in the instruction (not for the front). It still took nearly two hours to get those 24 bastards tightened to specs and I couldn’t have done it without the Impact Wrench.
In the picture you can see the Jack mounted in position bolted to the welded plate. Those plate are not actually part of the Kit but they can be purchased separately. I did when I realised that I didn’t have much spare chassis to drill holes into it..
Also you can see that the red foot sit just below the bottom frame at about 18 cm from the ground. That’s still plenty more than the lowest point in the coach (torsion bars). The Jack does have (like all Jacks) 2 connection either side of the cylinder, so that connecting the hoses should never be a problem.
In the instruction they recommend a minimum of 10″ (25 cm for us) for most models, but there is no way to have the Jacks that high on a coach because of the massive red feet they got.. I don’t see this as a problem as long as your Jack are not installed at the very ends of the vehicle. In my case they are near the axle and just below the body line (not the chassis lowest point), so they wont interfere with either angles of approach or departure of the vehicle..
In the front of the chassis I had virtually no choices of location but one. You have to allow room for the wheel to both steer and go up and down while driving.
The big red foot became the problem again as while the Jack could easily fit in three different locations, the foot could only fit in one.
In the front there were also no room to weld the pre drilled plates to the subframe as one side is different from the other because of the door on one side and the electrics control panel under the driver seat on the other..
Behind the wheel you only have about 15 cm between the wheel and the subframe, therefore bolting the Jack directly to the chassis, was the only option. From the picture you can also see that the Jack is slightly tilted back.
That is to give even more clearance to the wheel when turning full lock. Like most industrial Jacks the red foot can adjust to slight incline on the ground, so having the Jack at an angle is not a problem.
You can also see that I only used four bolts instead of the recommended eight. Two good reason for this:
Firstly I didn’t want to compromise the chassis as two row of four bolts so close to each other, didn’t leave much metal between each hole.
Secondly the actual front axle is supported by a sub frame that only has six bolt on each end (as you can see from the picture). So if 12 bolts are good enough to take the stress of the entire half front axle, surely 4 high tensile bolt will have no problem holding 5 Tonne of weight
Considering that the Shear capacity of each bolt is 80 kN, that converts in a comfortable 8157.72 Kg. So at 5000 Kg I’m still in a very safe range.. I hope my calculation are correct… ;)
Installing the Pump & the Hoses
Second step of the installation is to chose a location for the pump and it seem quite simple until you look at the size of the unit and also realising that it need to be mounted as close as possible to the power bank as per instructions…
Then to complicate things even further you must have easy access to both side, top and front for manual operation in case of failure and ongoing maintenance (topping up the oil tank, replace faulty Solenoid Valve…)
When I designed the Motorhome I didn’t allocate any spare room under the coach or in the bin for this unit, so it had to go inside the Motorhome. Luckily there was spare room in the newly built-in garage at the back. That also happen to be the location of the Power Bank, so it did turned out to be an easy fitting.
The pump itself is not very noisy (same noise as a water pump) but if not serviced by thick power cables (as per instructions), it gets hot pretty quickly. It can also be installed only on a horizontal position, so be prepared to lose half a metre of space in which ever location in the vehicle the pump ends up to go..
You also need to remember that you will have 8 hoses (16mm) coming into the same location as the pump is, so if you are planing to use a metal box, you better allow for some extra space on either side for such hoses
While on the subject of hoses, the ones that come with the kit are not the expensive reinforced rubber hose that you normally see on most vehicles on the road or in a construction site. The are actually made of plastic (similar to the air hoses, just bigger), so I strongly recommend to buy some hose protector (Ebay Item Number 262380404233) and use it in every corner and in any place where the hoses are coming in contact with the vehicle metal parts.
It only take a couple of hours extra and it can save you a lots of frustration and oil expenses in the long run. I was actually pleased to have this hoses in the kit as they keep the weight of the vehicle down and for the amount of use they get they are more than adequated for the intended purpose..
On the Instruction they suggest to use a garden hose to take the measurement for each of the 8 hose required to complete the installation. Again a word of warning here is that if you order a 7500mm hose you will receive an hose that is exactly 7500mm from connector to connector. So give yourself an extra 20-30cm for each hose when you are taking the measurements. Is easier to make a loop than having to call and ask for another hose just a bit longer…
Installing the Controller Equaliser
Third step is to choose the best spot for the installation of the controller, that has the job of levelling the vehicle by sensing if the vehicle is at an angle, to prevent the vehicle chassis to twist, and to manage the power and connection between the itself, the pump and the control panel. This is the actual brain of the system and therefore it is imperative that it is installed right in the centre and in the middle of the vehicle.. In the instruction they suggest to draw two imaginary diagonally lines between the four Jacks. Where this two line cross is where you should be mounting the controller.
On a coach, this is easily achievable as you have an entire floor at your disposal. You can see in the picture above the controller that also has two arrows that must point up and forward.
Again, as easy as it should have been, I couldn’t mounted right in the centre of the vehicle (electrical pipes and gear box linkage in the way). So I mounted 16cm offset to the left, but dead centre between forward and back. It is working well, so I’m presuming that as long as the device is mounted on a perfectly flat surface, somewhere near the centre spot of the two lines crossing each other, it will work as intended.
Purging the system
The last step in the Installation involved connecting the power to the motor of the pump, fill the tank with oil and purge the system. I followed the instruction and I had no problem what so ever and like the instructions mention twice, take your time to prime it as you can’t force air out of the system too quickly. If something is not right, check the trouble shooting in the manual and if still in trouble give Titans a call and they will be more that happy to help you out with your new system..