Since your travel trailer is mobile and secured by only wheels and jacks, it is common to have shakes when walking. Whether you have travel or a fifth wheel, weight shifting inside your trailer can cause unwanted bounce and give your camper the shakes.
The question is, what can a camper do to keep the movement and bounce to a minimum where it is not noticeable? To minimize the travel trailer shakes when walking, there are certain components that you can double-check at the campsite. Unsecured wheels and stabilizing jacks are the most common causes of travel trailer shake when walking. This post will review what to look out for and how to stabilizer your RV, including:
We all have our routines as we hit the RV site and start to set up at the campground. Back in (or pull through the site if you’re lucky), unhitch, then level the trailer. All those tasks can be routine and can be done outside while working around your tow vehicle. But the one thing that campers notice later on, after all the commotion of setting is done, is that the trailer shakes when walking. Usually, this is discovered when you’re in bed, and someone else starts walking around. This is the point where the last thing you want to do is go outside and see what is causing this.
The good news is that there are only a few components on your travel trailer that you can quickly check and adjust to make it more stable. With that said, let’s jump into this so you can get back to camping.
The components below pertain to all travel trailers and most fifth wheel owners. Both of these RV types are designed to hitch up to a towing vehicle and to be secured by the rear axle wheels and jacks. The main difference between is the tongue jack and how that functions for the hitching process. Let’s start with that first and then get into the similarities between the rigs.
Table of Contents
The first component to check is the RV jack. This jack is the travel trailer single jack where the hitch receiver is located. It is sometimes called the tongue jack.
This jack can either be manual (with a crank) or a power jack (powered by your 12V battery). Regardless, the jack function and role and stabilizing are the same.
The jack plays a critical role in your camper’s stabilization. It is the single point where your front weight is transferred to the ground. This can be several hundred pounds, all pointing down on a small diameter pipe. Any off balance or misalignment will cause the camper to shake as your weight moves around the trailer.
Double-check that your jack is secure and firmly blocked on a block. It does help to have your jack on a secure block or piece of wood that is raised from the ground. The reason is that a block reduces the jack extension and puts the trailer frame closer to the connected ground. This helps with any sway or vibration caused by the fully extended jack pipe.
Another thing that helps is to get a jack footplate. These plates are at the bottom of your jack’s post. They help by giving you a larger stabilizing surface area to transfer the weight. Whereas if you don’t have a foot plate, the jack’s weight is only distributed by the thin metal area of the pipe. This can cause a weak and unstable connection point in your travel trailer and cause excessive shaking.
Your wheels are the next point of contact with the ground of your trailer, which can cause instability. Your wheels are the largest surface area contact from your trailer to the ground and an important factor in stability.
And being that the wheels are at the rear axle and support most of the trailer weight, any instability will be felt throughout the travel trailer or 5th wheel.
The most common cause of wheel shaking is improper or inconsistent tire pressure. If the tire pressure is low or all wheels are not equal, that will allow for more lateral movement in the tire, resulting in your feeling of the trailer shaking.
It’s a good idea to check your tire pressure and confirm it is the recommended tire pressure for your trailer. Tire pressure is also important in towing your camper or fifth wheel trailer as it relates to how much weight your trailer can hold.
Also, check for consistency in tire pressure. Even with a dual axle trailer, one low-pressure tire can cause unwanted movement.
I recommend always having a battery-powered air compressor with you at the campsite. There are many instances in RV living that a portable air compressor will get you out of trouble. Since RV tires have higher air pressure, some at 70 plus PSI, ensure the compressor can give that kind of pressure to match your tires.
Next on the list of potential causes are the wheel chocks. Chocks are a great help in keeping your trailer from rolling away from your RV site. But they also play a role in the overall stability of your trailer.
A secured wheel chock will keep your rig from rolling away. But it should also be installed to reduce any back-and-forth movement. I used a block of wood for years and lightly wedged it under the tire. I figured just one block should stop my RV from rolling away. Although that was true for rolling away, it didn’t help the vibration and shaking felt in the camper. Then I installed an X-chock that locks both tires together, and what a difference that made!
Ensure your chocks lock the wheels and not just stumbling blocks if the trailer rolls away. If using blocks, secure them under all tires. And secure tightly where the block is wedged between the tire and the ground. Your goal is to limit the back-and-forth movement.
Also, I suggest the X-chock. I have this on my travel trailer, and they work really well. You need a dual axle trailer for them to work and not too much room between the axle. The new wide-track trailers have the axle spaced a couple of feet apart. This is great for the trailer riding feel and swaying, but will leave it impossible to use the X-chock.
The stabilizer jacks are the last culprit that can cause your camper to shake. Your stabilizing equipment is there for extra support and to help that camper get more connected to the ground. Adding support from the trailer frame gives your camper a wider stance to reduce unwanted shaking or movement.
Just extending stabilizer jacks may not be the fix and there are some things to consider as you use them. Whether you have electric stabilizing jacks or the manual scissor jacks, the following will help stabilize and reduce vibration.
Here are some things to consider with your stabilizing equipment:
- Stabilizing Jacks are meant to stabilize, not lift. It may be tempting to keep raising your stabilizer jacks in hopes that it will either level or reduce the shaking on your camper. While it can help to firmly get the jack on the ground, causing too much extension can add stress to the trailer frame and make the camper off balance. Remember, these are “stabilizing” jacks, not “lifting” ones.
- Use blocks to reduce the extension length of stabilizing jacks. These jacks can usually extend around 2 to 3 feet. Although they can extend that far, you will want to keep a shorter distance using blocks. I suggest wood or plastic blocks that are at least 12×12 inches. This will give your jack a good base and connection to the ground.
If your travel trailer is shaking, there are a few simple steps and components you can check to get that needed stability. As you set up at the RV park, first check that your power jack is not fully extended and has a foot plate or secure block. Next, check that your wheels have the specified tire pressure. Then, check your chocks are secure and are locking the wheel the in place, not just a stumbling block for your trailer to roll away. And finally, check your stabilizer jacks or scissor jacks are firmly secured to blocks and not fully extended.
Tony is an avid camper and RV traveler. He fell in love with camping on his first RV trip with his wife over 25 years ago. Tony loves sharing lessons learned and tips about RV maintenance and safe traveling.