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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Difference between (and Necessity of) RV Stabilizing Jacks and Leveling Jacks


Anyone who has ever been camping in an RV has been there. Anyone who owns one has certainly been there. You pull up to your campsite, or to a location you’d like to camp at and park the rig. It shouldn’t take you much more than a few seconds to notice if the trailer or the camper is not level.

Let’s face it. The world, in general, is not level. There are more sloped grades out there than you could possibly number, and they’re tied to the enjoyment of camping. After all, the purpose of camping isn’t to find a large blacktop surface and hang out for a couple of days. It’s to get out there.

With that in mind, “out there” is made up of wilderness, and wilderness has slopes and grades. Now, when you’re backpacking and really roughing it, tolerating a night on a slope is no big deal. In fact, in a way, it sort of makes the whole experience that much better. The imperfections in the land bring you closer to nature.

This is not the case with an RV. Allowing your RV to rest on a surface that is not level is not the only problem you can have in camp, but it is one that will need to be addressed immediately. Before you can really enjoy your camping experience, you need to see that some of the following problems are addressed. 

The Problems 

So you pull up to a campsite or you get off the grid and stop on a gentle incline. Gentle or not, you could experience some serious problems if you allow your RV to rest on a surface that is not level for a prolonged period of time.

The first problem you’ll experience is, luckily, one that won’t incur any permanent damage to your RV or infrastructure. It’s just generally uncomfortable when you’re living on a slant. Think about it; there’s a reason that homes are built on level floors. People just aren’t made to roll around!

Comfort alone is not the only reason that an RV must not be allowed to remain on an off-level surface when at rest. There’s also the fact that your RV is a bit like a mobile home in the sense that it has furniture and accessories stored within it and throughout the closets and cabinets.

Similar to how airlines and bussing companies tell you to be careful when retrieving luggage after a trip because it could have shifted in transit, the same can occur to the items in your RV when it is off level. Imagine opening a cupboard only to have the contents clatter past you and onto the floor. That wouldn’t happen on a level surface!

So now we’re getting into what the issue is here; that being on an uneven surface for too long can result in damage, but this is just the beginning of the picture. This may be something of an esoteric fact, but believe it or not, you can actually cause permanent damage to your fridge if you store your RV on an uneven surface for too long. Anything more than a few degrees of incline can cause this damage.

Depending on the type of RV fridge you have, if it is operated on an uneven surface, water and ammonia can gather in the low areas of the lines. When this happens, the fridge will stop working. This is a best-case scenario, although the damage would probably be irreversible. In some instances, the fridge would not only fail but might also present a fire risk.

While you can cause permanent damage to your RV’s fridge if you operate it off of a level surface, that isn’t the only damage that you can incur. You’ll also have to be cognizant of the fact that allowing your RV to stay at rest in a slanted attitude puts a lot of stress on the frame and structure.

Much like buildings, RVs aren’t designed to rest off-level. It stresses a wide range of internal components of your RV when you park it on an uneven surface or a grade. In addition to the actual frame of the vehicle, you can cause damage to windows, door frames, internal fixtures, and even plumbing.

Finally, though this is more of an annoyance than a concern of permanent damage, camping with your RV off of a level surface has the potential to cause inaccurate fuel readings. That’s one final afterthought for you.

Now, accounting for all of that, there is a unique issue that some RVs face even when they are on level ground. Consider the following issue and reflect on whether or not you have ever experienced it.

Let’s say you’ve reached your intended campground and set up shop. You’re on level ground, so everything appears to be going by swimmingly. The only issue is that as you move around in the RV, it’s either swaying front to back or side to side. This is a pretty common issue encountered by RV’ers when their RV hasn’t been stabilized.

Moving around inside the RV, or just shifting the contents within, can cause an RV to sway or rock. This, however, is a separate issue from resting your RV on ground that isn’t level, and so has a separate solution.

The Solutions 

As you can see, there is no single issue here. Even when your RV has been parked and set up on level ground, you might still experience issues related to stability. That being said, you’re going to need an RV leveling system to solve one problem and a stabilizing system, like RV stabilizerjacks, for the other. While some leveling systems can be used to stabilize the RV, the opposite is not true and RV stabilizing jacks should never be used in an attempt to level an RV.

Let’s start with leveling. It has already been shown why this is a necessity in some situations, and there are a variety of ways in which you can solve the problem of being on a grade. Some RVs are built with a level system, which means you don't need supplementary levelers or supports. For the rest of us, there are a variety of other solutions.

The most basic solution for leveling an RV probably comes from leveling blocks, which can be used to provide a more stable and level surface for an RV. These are decidedly more low-tech than crank-handle jacks and other hydraulic levelers, but on the flip side, they’re easy to use, require no maintenance, and can never break down or need to be fixed. They’re the ultimate form of cost-effective, dependable leveling, even if they’re not as easy to use as some jacks.

In addition to these basic levelers, there are, of course, hydraulic jacks that, when coupled with a jack pad, can bring your RV back to level in short order, and easily at that. Though Bigfoot Hydraulic Jacks and Equalizer Hydraulic Jacks are more expensive than basic levelers, many of them have very adequate weight capacities and are also easy to use.

Now, leveling systems like these can bring your RV back to level and should serve to stabilize it. If you’re dealing with an issue of sway, when you might not need a leveling system but you’ll still need to bring along or install RV stabilizers or RV stabilizing jacks.

Whereas levelers provide both functions, RV stabilizers are solely intended to help the RV better respond to the movement within it so it is more secure on a level surface and doesn’t rock, sway or shift.

For the most part, the easiest and most approachable way to stabilize your RV is by utilizing stabilizing jacks. Here at RV Upgrades, we sell a number of different stabilizing jacks and tongue jacks, all of which can be used to stabilize your RV, provided they are rated appropriately and used with the proper associated equipment, such as jack pads.

Why Your RV Should Be Stabilized 

By the way, we went on at length about why your RV should be leveled but didn’t allocate an uncommon measure of reason to the matter of stability. While the need to stabilize your RV is not as imperative as your need to level it, it should be stabilized nonetheless, especially if it is subject to a lot of movement when parked.

If you don’t use stabilizing jacks, just like if you don’t use levelers, the first area of camping that’s going to take a hit is comfort. It’s not something you can’t learn to live with, but as you move around inside the RV it will sway and bounce. It’s a little unsettling and it can be prevented.

Then again, as you might expect, there is a much more material reason for the use of RV stabilizers, and just like leveling, it has to do with preventing damage to the RV’s structure and internals. Stabilizing your RV using a set of stabilizers, whether you use the RV’s inherent leveling system, a series of jacks, or even slide-out levelers, can help prevent damage to the structure of the RV. When used to their fullest effect, both levelers and stabilizing jacks can help alleviate wear and tear on your RV.

Just as we offer a large range of levelers and leveling accessories, we provide plenty of equipment for stabilizing your RV, including but not limited to tongue jacks, stabilizing scissor jacks, and much more. 

Why You Can’t Use RV Levelers and RV Stabilizing Jacks Interchangeably 

One thing that needs to be mentioned here is that RV stabilizing jacks and leveling jacks cannot be used interchangeably. As we have stated, some leveling jacks and other systems can be used both for stabilizing and leveling your RV, but the opposite situation is not true.

Stabilizing jacks cannot be and must never be used as leveling jacks. This is because whereas levelers are designed to shoulder the weight of the RV, stabilizers are not. RV jacks that are intended to be used as stabilizers don’t support the entire weight of the RV, just enough of it so that the RV or the camper doesn’t sway or rock back and forth.

Using a stabilizer as a leveler is a potentially dangerous situation and should be avoided entirely. With that being said, if you purchase an adequate set of levelers, these can potentially solve both problems for you. 

What Can You Do About It 

If yours is one of those that doesn’t come with a leveling system, then you’ll probably be looking for a solution like a set of leveling scissor jacks or a set of stabilizers or potentially even both, that way you’re prepared in any situation.

Just by bringing along a set of stabilizers or levelers to help you get your rig steady fast, you’ll be protecting your investment and making the most of your time on the road and in camp. Since you can’t use them interchangeably and a good series of levelers have the potential to provide the benefits of both, that may be the way to go. Just get in touch with us for additional information! 

Get in Touch with Us for Help 

Whether your unique situation would be best remedied with a set of distinct levelers and stabilizers or you should just get a set of levelers is up for debate, but if you need the input of those with experience we are never more than a call away.

Just give us a call anytime you want to learn more and we’ll fill you in. Plus, if you aren’t sure which direction to take or even which type of levelers or stabilizers will serve you best, we’d be happy to help you get to the bottom of it.

You can reach us via live chat on our website, but if you prefer the personal touch of a phone call just give us a ring at 866-332-7881. Let us know about your RV or your camper trailer, your budgetary concerns, and more and we’ll help you figure out what you should choose!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

How to Choose a Quality RV Roof Tape

RV roof tape
is a surprisingly essential accessory for RV owners to keep on hand. It might seem like something you can go without, that is until you’re caught in a rainstorm and the roof starts to leak. Keeping roof tape on hand is an amazing emergency plan for dealing with leaks that spring up out of the blue.

With that said, not all types of RV roof tape are created equal, and they don’t even all have the same properties. Here are some of the qualities you can look for in roof tape, as well as why they matter. No single roof tape will possess all of these qualities, but if you can find a good mix, you’ve just landed on a roofing tape that might save the bacon when the rain comes down. 

1.    Look for RV roof tapes that don’t require a primer

While it’s standard practice to ensure that a surface is clean and dry before applying roof tape, some of them don’t require primers. This makes it highly beneficial for leak repairs and roof seals for RV owners who have to apply them at a moment’s notice, often on the road and away from home - which is exactly what usually happens.

While you will need to ensure the surface is generally clean and clear of dirt and oil, some of our roof repair tapes require no additional preparation prior to application.

2.    An adhesive that is compatible with a wide range of surfaces is best

Since the manufacturers of these roof tapes can’t predict with certainty what the given roof material of their client’s RV roofs will be, they have to cover the widest number of bases. You should, too. While your RV’s roof might be rubberized or aluminum, you might also want to seal joints or surfaces made of EPDM rubber roofing, TPO, fiberglass, PVC, vinyl, wood, OSB, or other metals besides aluminum. Many roof tables can bond to all of these and more.

3.    Roof tapes that remain flexible are superior

Several brands of roof tape claim to provide an immediate, permanent bond, but non-hardening is a better guarantee of permanence than a blanket promise. Several RV roof tapes are non-hardening, which allows them to expand and contract and remain flexible across time and with exposure to the elements. This makes it harder for the bond to break down and gives the tape extra longevity.

4.    Look for a tape that bonds instantly

Since these tapes are typically applied at basically a moment’s notice and you need to ensure that they create an instant, watertight seal so no water can leak through, this trait is desirable. Many types of roof tape will boldly advertise that they create an instant, permanent seal. Also, look for one that doesn’t require any tools to apply it - even if they are suggested.

5.    RV roof tapes that have high UV stability are superior

Besides the fact that these types of roof tape will need to sit out in the spring, summer, winter, and fall and deal with all sorts of weather when the weather does cooperate, they’ll be baking in the sun. That’s bad news for most synthetic materials, including your RV awning and tires, because UV light breaks down many of them. That’s why you need to look for a roofing tape with the highest UV resistance possible.

6.    Look for a wide range of temperature stability as well

On the same note, it’s just as valuable to look for a roofing tape that is highly stable under as wide a range of temperatures as possible. Far northern RV owners might be used to dealing with temperatures way south of freezing. Similarly, campers in the south and west might need to contend with temperatures well in excess of a hundred. Both very high and very low temperatures have the ability to damage adhesives, which is why temperature stability is so important.

7.    VOC-free is a plus

Finally, one more thing that is nice, though not absolutely necessary, is a roof rape that is free of VOCs. Since VOCs are harmful to humans, it’s simple and generally advisable to avoid them wherever possible.

If you can meet those standards, then you’re well on your way to choosing a high-quality RV roof tape that will serve as a great disaster game plan when you’re on the road and the roof starts to leak. Let’s put it this way - it’s a common enough problem that these products exist, so shell out a few dollars and be prepared. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll be fortunate enough to never need the roof tape.

If you have any questions about our products, don’t be shy about getting in touch with us at 866-332-7881. We’ll field any questions you have and we might even be able to make some recommendations about which roof tape is best, given your specific circumstances.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Towing Mirrors: Improve Your Visibility

Any licensed driver is bound to be familiar with the use of mirrors while driving. All vehicles, commercial and recreational, must be outfitted with a number of mirrors - as prescribed by law - in order to provide the best level of visibility to the driver.

This is because the value of attention, paired with optimum visibility, helps to mitigate the risks of the road. Concepts like the “blind spot,” an area around the rear and sides of the vehicle which the driver cannot easily see. Even with the help of the side view mirrors, seeing fully into the blind spot is difficult; it’s a good practice for drivers to turn around and actually look out the side and rear windows of the cab to ensure that the space is clear.

This is just the best practice for recreational vehicles; that is, cars, SUVs, and the like. For commercial vehicles, RVs, and trucks equipped to tow larger loads, the picture changes quite a bit - literally.

This is because the blind spot takes on a new meaning in these scenarios. Whether you’re driving a moving truck with a cab and “trailer” that are joined, an RV with no rear visibility, or simply towing a trailer that severely limits your sight picture, your rig may actually have true blind spots. That is to say, even with the help of most mirrors, there will be areas that remain blind to you.

For example, some rigs have no visibility for a couple of yards directly behind the rear of their trailers. That’s why some truckers place a convex mirror at the rear, top corner of their trailers; it gives them a small measure of visibility into an area that would quite literally be obstructed without it.

That’s a bit of an extreme example because, for most drivers, the blind spots they’re concerned about are the ones at the rear sides of the trailer. This impacts safety because drivers must be sure these areas are clear before making moves on the road, such as changing lanes or while turning.

To help with these maneuvers, most drivers enlist the help of specialized mirrors known as towing mirrors. 

What Are Towing Mirrors 

When you’re driving a recreational vehicle (like a car, as opposed to a commercial vehicle) typically, your side-view mirrors will provide you with enough visibility to make safe decisions while you’re driving. However, these mirrors are limited both in size and in the sight picture they offer. Towing mirrors are specifically designed to provide better visibility to the rear and sides of the vehicle.

Let’s say your vehicle is not equipped with tow mirrors (some pickup trucks are) and you go to tow a camper with your car or van. When you hitch up the trailer, with it extended away towards the rear of the car, you’ll probably notice that suddenly your mirrors are not as useful as they should be.

For one thing, your rearview mirror will probably be useless. It depends on the size and height of your trailer, but typically rearview mirrors are totally obstructed when you’re towing a load. That throws them out of commission.

It also means you now need to rely entirely on the sight picture provided to you by your side-view mirrors. However, once you have a trailer behind your vehicle, you’ll find that it’s hard to acquire the visibility or the sight picture you need with just the mirrors that come with most vehicles. Either you’ll be cropping out the rear edge of the trailer or it will be difficult for you to see what’s right behind and to the side of your actual car.

Before we go any further, that only addresses visibility issues on one side of the vehicle - the driver’s side. The passenger side of the vehicle is a whole different animal.

With a trailer behind the car or truck, you’ll have even less visibility on the other side of the vehicle. Here’s the kicker -  you’ll have the same limitations on the passenger side, but the problem is that you won’t be able to turn your head and see what’s there because the trailer will be obstructing your view.

The first few times you drive a truck or tow a load, the knee-jerk reaction to check your passenger-side blind spot is to turn around. When you do, you’ll just be looking at the trailer. It’s very frustrating and takes some getting used to. Luckily, tow mirrors were specifically designed to solve this problem.

Just in case you’re not familiar with them, have you ever seen a truck, like a pickup truck, on the road, with really large, tall, wide side view mirrors? Meaning, mirrors so large they almost seem oversized? Those are tow mirrors. Take a look the next time you’re on the highway; basically, all commercial vehicles, from tractor trailers to buses, have these mirrors, and several angles of them, on the sides of their vehicles. 

How Towing Mirrors Can Change Your Experience 

Generally speaking, towing mirrors, especially those that have been built into the design of a truck or another large vehicle with limited visibility, are large mirrors with a lot of surface area and dimensions that make them useful for eliminating or at least minimizing drivers’ blind spots.

Since some vehicles come readily equipped with tow mirrors, we can only assume that you’re here because yours does not and you are probably interested in the value they provide - or in options at your disposal.

What you can expect from towing mirrors (depending on what you choose to add to your current vehicle) is that they will make it much easier for you to see along the sides and to the rear of your vehicle and trailer. These types of mirrors will not eliminate the blind spot that exists directly behind the trailer, but when adjusted properly, they will allow you to see the full length of your vehicle and trailer on both sides. That will enable you to make much safer reactions and decisions while you’re driving. 

Towing Mirror Options 

Since many vehicles do not come with tow mirrors, there are plenty of options on the market today that can be added to your vehicle’s current mirrors in order to improve your visibility and provide utility similar to towing mirrors.

Short of providing you with a custom job to retrofit your vehicle with new tow mirrors, here at RV Upgrades we provide a number of towing accessories including tow mirrors that clip, snap, or clamp onto your existing mirrors. These mirrors both add surface area to the mirror and extend your visibility along the sides of your rig.

Some of the tow mirrors on our website slide onto your vehicle’s existing mirror using adjustable rubber straps. There are a few benefits to mirrors such as these. For one thing, they are adjustable, which makes it easy for you to get the proper sight picture, regardless of who’s driving or how the seats are positioned.

Additionally, these types of mirrors will experience minimum vibration when adjusted properly. They can be removed easily and stowed somewhere safe when you are not towing, and, in addition, they do not obstruct your vehicle’s mirrors since they do not overlay them (as some do).

Others attach to your current mirrors via different methods. The Prime Products SpeedFix Clamp-On Towing Mirror attaches via a series of high-quality plastic and steel clamps that are engineered to last a lifetime. Because of the nature of attachment, these mirrors are easy to affix and remove, are suitable for almost any vehicle's mirrors, and can be used on either side of the vehicle.

They are also highly adjustable, making it easier to get exactly the view you need and are aerodynamically engineered to ensure minimal wind resistance.

A number of the tow mirrors we sell here are produced specifically to fit the factory mirrors of specific models. Our line of K-Source Snap & Zap Exterior Mirrors is made specifically for certain models of Dodge, Ford, GMC, Toyota, and Chevy Trucks. They’re designed to give you a perfect fit for your vehicle with minimal fuss.

They also do not obstruct your current mirrors, require no hardware to mount, and have an adjustable, flat lens to help minimize or eliminate your blind spot. For a no-frills solution that works, these might suit your needs. 

Other Considerations 

At certain points in this article, we mentioned that some mirrors “don’t obscure your current site picture.” The reason for this is that some supplementary mirrors occasionally referred to casually as towing mirrors, actually overlay your side-view mirrors. This requires a brief explanation.

Some mirrors actually stick onto or lay on top of your current mirrors. Often these are little, circular mirrors called convex mirrors or hot spot mirrors. They’re very functional, but they don’t provide quite the same level of functionality that true tow mirrors do.

What these convex mirrors do provide is the ability to see further around the sides of your vehicle, which helps to eliminate your blind spot. They are very practical and can improve your visibility on the road, but they are small and usually occlude part of your mirror.

You may notice, however, that some commercial vehicles have more than one set of side-view mirrors. Occasionally, they are outfitted with convex mirrors on the top or bottom of their flat side mirrors that give them the functionality of these smaller convex hot spot mirrors.

Depending on your circumstances, it might be valuable for you to get a set of mirrors that you can easily remove. This will make it easier for you to maintain them, allow you to store them somewhere out of the elements, and cut down on the clearance on the sides of your car or truck. 

Get Your Other Towing Essentials and Accessories Here

By the way, while you’re here reading up on towing essentials, keep in mind that they are not the only useful pieces of equipment or “must-haves” for towing. Here at RV Upgrades, we also provide the following useful towing essentials, among our other camper accessories:

     Tow Bars and Tow Bar Accessories: Tow bars are the quintessential piece of equipment that enables you to tow a load, whether it’s a camper, a trailer, or a disabled vehicle. We also provide a number of tow bar parts and accessories, along with tow bar adapters.

     Hitches: Naturally, if you’re going to tow a load, you need a towing hitch that’s properly rated to do so. In our collection of hitches, we carry 5th wheel hitches, gooseneck hitches, and a variety of other hitches, ball mounts, hitch covers, hitch pins, and more.

     Wiring Kits: Towed vehicles must often be properly lighted in order to comply with the law and foster safe communication between other drivers on the road. We have a full collection of towed vehicle wiring kits to ensure you’re safe and compliant!

     Towed Vehicle Braking Systems: In our collection of dinghy towing accessories you will also find towed vehicle braking systems that significantly enhance the safety of your rig. Designed to brake for the load, they will improve your control and handling, thereby improving safety.

     Tie Downs: Depending on what you’re towing, you may need a set of towing tie-downs or ratchet straps.

     Jacks and Levelers: When you get to your destination, the journey hasn’t ended! You may need a jack to raise or lower the tongue of your trailer so that it can be hitched and unhitched - we carry tongue jacks, in addition to a variety of other jacks and levelers.

Call Us for Help! 

As proud as we are of our expansive collection of RV essentials and accessories, we’re every bit as proud of our customer service. If you have questions about towing and would like our advice, don’t be shy about reaching out to us.

You can reach us via the live chat feature on our website and of course, you can reach us by phone at 866-332-7881. Give us a call any time and let us know what you’re looking for and we’d be glad to help.