A common issue with most RVs is that they rock and sway with every step that you take. Unlike a house, an RV by nature is mobile and thus is not set on a firm stone or concrete foundation. This causes motions!
So then, how do you stabilize your RV to minimize bouncing and rocking movement?
Simply lowering your RV’s tongue jack will keep you from rolling away, but its not meant to completely prevent rocking and swaying. Tongue jacks are designed with a bit of flexibility so that they don’t break under excessive pressure.
And after the tongue jack – the only other points of contact are the tires – which needless to say are designed to both roll and bounce a bit! A certain amount of “give” is necessary in the axles to ensure the trailer can safely travel on the road.
Since the wheels are round, and the tongue jack is but one contact point – RV stability often comes down to the number of stationary points of contact. The more points of contact between your trailer and the ground, the better. The firmer (or more rigid) those points of contact, the better.
With this in mind, below are several ways to help maximize stability and minimize movement in your camper.
1. Make sure your camper is level (like, actually level)
Before taking any stabilizing measures, you should first make sure that your unit is level. If you stabilize before leveling your RV, you won’t correctly level out, which is a whole other set of problems that impacts gas flow, water/drainage, and even the operation of your appliances. Plus its just easier to stabilize when the RV is level.
Many newer RVs come with self-leveling kits, making this process extremely easy. For most people who don’t have a brand-spanking-new RV, however, the leveling process can be a little more trying – involving bubble levels and Lego-like stacking blocks. Regardless, make sure you learn how to level your RV!
2. Chock the wheels – hard!
Wheel chocks are the little triangle-like pieces that are put under a tire to prevent the camper from rolling away. Oftentimes they are only used under one side of the wheel – whichever is downhill. The thinking is that gravity will only allow the trailer to roll in one direction. That said, we find its best to chock both sides of the axle tire (and both sides of the trailer – so 4 total chocks) as not only does this provide added prevention against a rollaway, but it also helps secure and thus stabilize the camper.
Even better than just placing the wheel chocks though, is making sure they are snug. A snug fit will keep the tires in place. We recommend using a rubber mallet to tap them into place. If you can easily move the chock by hand, its not snug enough.
3. Try X-Chocks for 2-axle and 3-axle trailers
A relatively new solution are wheel stabilizers, also known by the popular brand name “X-Chocks”. These are placed off the ground between two tires on an RV that has two or three axles. The come in standard and split-axle (for axles that are further apart) versions.
Essentially these stabilizers are expanded to push simultaneously on two tires, and create tension that limits the ability of either wheel to give or roll slightly.
4. Use additional stabilizing jacks
This tip here is pretty obvious, as the name implies. Stabilizing jacks are the primary stability feature of the RV, are some of the best ways to prevent rocking and swaying while inside your RV.
Most modern RVs come with preinstalled stabilizing jacks (often electric), but they’re often not enough to keep movement to a minimum. They are typically placed at the four corners of the frame. If you are only going to use four stabilizing jacks, the four corners of the frame are a great choice for their placement.
But remember, more points of contact is better – and leads to more stability. So we recommend having a few extra stabilizing jacks to use in addition to the default jacks at the four corners of your camper. You can put these jacks wherever you want under your RV (so long as they are attached to the frame), but here are a few of the best places to put additional stabilizing jacks:
Under your slideouts.
Your slideouts will be some of the least supported parts of your RV, making them very prone to swaying and rocking. You usually won’t be able to walk around on your slideout areas, but they often hold furniture such as beds, tables, and couches. Because they are some of your primary areas of rest and hanging out, under both ends of your slideout is an excellent place for stability jacks (in certain cases).
Underneath all beds and couches.
For obvious reasons that I’m not going to go into, it’s a great idea to have stabilizing jacks under your bed. Your couches as well are where a lot of hanging out and watching movies will take place. If you don’t want to feel your RV rock every time you stand up and sit down, then invest in some RV jacks.
For fifth-wheels, under the front hitch area.
Fifth-wheel travel trailers are usually larger and more stable than travel trailers, but they have a few problem areas for rocking and swaying. One of these spots is under the front in the trailer hitch area. Using a tripod stabilizer is a great way to keep this area supported and from swaying.
Under all doors and exits.
All points of entry and exit will see a ton of walking activity. Making sure that your doors are stabilized is crucial to keeping swaying to a minimum.
Don’t forget about the bumper.
If putting stabilizer jacks under the two rear corners of your RV, adding a folding RV stabilizer is a great idea. This type of stabilizer works by having two points of contact to the ground and folding out, similar to how a bench or table does. This provides maximum support to an area that is vulnerable to swaying.
Final thoughts – just enough, or too much?
When it comes to RV stability, balance is key. Both literally and figuratively!
Few people enjoy the rocking and swaying of an RV, and in the tips above we’ve laid out several ways to minimize this. That said, completely eliminating motion in an RV is generally not possible due to the fact that it is indeed a vehicle that is designed to be mobile!
Our advice is to consider the context when it comes to your “stabilization plan”. If you are only stopping at a particular campground for an overnight on your way to another location, then it doesn’t make sense to spend an hour working on stabilizing the RV. By contrast, if you are staying somewhere for several weeks or longer, you may find it worth the extra time to place a few extra stabilizing jacks, chock the wheels hard, and use some X-chocks to get the RV as firm and rigid as possible.
Jalin Coblentz is a full-time RVer, along with his wife (Kate) and their goldendoodle (Harper). They became full-time RVers while Kate was in physical therapy school and doing clinical rotations. Home is their 2019 Palomino Puma, which is currently touring the southeast US. Jalin writes and works for a grocery delivery company full-time, and prior to that he worked as an HVAC technician. Jalin and his wife enjoy hiking, running, and basically anything outdoors activity.