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Autos and pick-up trucks usually have an owner’s manual in the glove compartment, which details the proper location to position a jack to lift the vehicle in a tire emergency. That’s not always the case when dealing with a motor home or RV trailer, and jacking one up improperly can be unsafe and cause damage to the RV.
Apply the emergency brake if you are in a motor home. If jacking up a trailer, leave the trailer hooked up to the tow vehicle, if possible, and apply the emergency brake in the tow vehicle. If the trailer is not attached to the tow vehicle, chock the wheel on the opposite side of the trailer to prevent it from rolling when the trailer is being jacked up.
Assemble the Tools
Locate the jack, lug wrenches and hubcap removal tool if needed. Most motor homes are equipped with an adequate jack and tools, but most trailer campers are not so equipped, and you will have to rely on the jack from the tow vehicle or one you’ve been thoughtful enough to bring along. In the case of a trailer, hopefully the size of the lug nuts on the tow vehicle are the same as the size of those installed on the trailer wheels. But don’t count on it. If you are planning ahead, add a half dozen 15-inch 2-by-6-inch planks to your tire-changing tool kit.
If the tire to be changed is on a camper trailer or one of the rear tires on a motor home, the best location for the jack is under the axle. Position the jack directly under the axle. If the RV is sitting on pavement, the bottom of the jack can set directly on the hard surface. If the RV is sitting on an unpaved surface, set the bottom of the jack on one of those 15-inch 2-by-6-inch planks to keep the jack from sinking into the soil.
If the tire to be changed is the front wheel on a motor home, look behind the tire for a solid piece of steel supporting the wheel, steering mechanism, brakes and other front-end parts. This is the part under which you should position the jack. There’s often a flat spot on this support put there as a location to safely hold a jack without slipping.
It Doesn’t Fit
Once a tire goes flat, the axle drops closer to the ground and depending on the type of jack available, there may be insufficient room to place the jack under the axle or front wheel support. In this case, the trailer or motor home may need to be jacked up in stages. Place the jack under one of the leaf spring supports, frame of the chassis or trailer undercarriage using the 2-by-6-inch planks as needed to get maximum elevation out of the jack. A lot of jacking may only raise the axle a few inches since in this method, you are jacking the weight of the RV off the springs. The RV will go up several inches before the axle will begin to raise. Once the axle raises a little, stack the 2-by-6-inch planks under the axle, let off on the jack to transfer the weight to the planks, reposition the jack, raise everything again and keep repeating until the axle has been raised enough accept the jack.
Mike Schoonveld has been writing since 1989 with magazine credits including "Outdoor Life," "Fur-Fish-Game," "The Rotarian" and numerous regional publications. Schoonveld earned a Master Captain License from the Coast Guard. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife science from Purdue University.