Use the checklist. But don’t check out.
Now is not the time to lose sight of your common sense. Materials you find online are a great jumping-off point, but they don’t wholly replace specialized or in-person help from a pro.
There are lots of checklists out there (we’re partial to our Unhitching Checklist), but even the most iron-clad checklist still requires a critical eye. Make sure to judge the value and relevance of each step against your owner’s manual. Also, if you’re going to unhitch a fifth-wheel trailer, your steps will be slightly different from someone with a simple bumper-hitch system.
Many people will add or subtract a couple of steps to their checklist as necessary, even printing and laminating their own customized version for repeated use. What’s really nice is you can use a dry-erase marker on the laminated surface to check things off and make it reusable—snazzy! We prefer the digital version, though. Togo offers completely customizable checklists. It helps the environment and you don’t have to worry about finding a laminator.
4 unhitching hacks that’ll make you look like a pro.
As you’ve probably already gathered, there are lots of RV tips and tricks that will save you serious time and money. Things like your wheel chocks, leveling blocks, stabilizing jacks, and a level are absolute must-haves, but do you know how to get the best use out of them? Here’s what we’ve noticed from our own years on the road, plus a few things we’ve learned from other RVers along the way.
1. CHOCK IT UP TO SAFETY
Use standard wheel chocks on either side of each of your wheels to keep everything in place. This also adds more stability and less movement as you unhitch your RV. If for some reason you don’t have enough chocks for both sides of each wheel, always favor the outside, as this will give you the most stability.
Alternatively, X-Chocks, which lock your wheels from in-between, are very popular. Because of the trailer’s suspension system, there is always some give and a soft feeling when the RV is parked and in use. These work by using opposing force, working with the tire’s natural movement instead of against it to stabilize.
2. KEEP IT ON THE LEVEL
Having your RV level is top priority. A 3-foot level is a basic necessity. Place this on the floor of your RV and your grand mission, should you choose to accept it, is to line up the bubble right smack in the middle. The process of leveling your RV side to side (left wheels and right wheels) is straightforward; some people actually affix a small level to the outside of the RV for at-a-glance leveling. You’ll also want to make sure your RV is leveled forward and back.
3. DON’T BE A BLOCKHEAD
Chances are that your RV will need a bit of leveling. Some people haul wood beams to get the job done, but that can add extra weight to your load. Plus, leveling can take more time if you’re always running between the tow vehicle and trailer, leaning on the jack all day, and adjusting and restacking beams.
Give your back a break and consider making a simple upgrade to basic leveling blocks, like in the photo. There are several styles to choose from, but typically they are Lego-like stackers wedged under your tires to level out your RV. Be sure to buy a pack, because depending on the terrain, you might need a bunch. Before you go and level anything though, we recommend you read our in-depth article How to Level Your RV.
4. JACKS BE NIMBLE
Like little stilts for your RV, stabilizing jacks are placed under your RV. They’re considered an RVing essential and are even more effective when used with rubber gripping pads on the bottom. Proper placement of jacks will keep your RV from wobbling and prevent you from sinking down in areas where the ground is a bit softer. Set up and tear down can be time consuming, however—you’ll need eight jacks (four on each side) for a 30-foot-plus trailer. If you use the X-Chocks though, you’ll have virtually no need for stabilizing jacks, and you’ll probably be the talk of the campground.
So, are you feeling ready yet? We realize it’s daunting with so much to know, but relax—we’re not going anywhere. It’s you that’s on the move! Come visit our blog anytime, and check out our other posts. We’re always sharing the best knowledge for first-time RVers and road warriors alike.
Now that you can unhitch like a boss, you’re ready for our Hitching Your Trailer guide. Check it out for all the hitching know-how you can handle.