Curbside Living: Taking A Summer Drive to Moscow

Winnebago View parked at a mechanic's garage

I drove the Winnebago to Moscow, and it occurred to me it might make a nice, brief write-up! Moscow, Iowa, not the Moscow you are probably thinking of.

The purpose of my trip was to get self-leveling hydraulic jacks installed on the 2016 View I bought from my parents. HWH, Inc. of Moscow, Iowa is the original equipment manufacturer for jacks, slides, and other moving parts for Winnebago and many others.

I wanted self-leveling jacks, since the campsites my wife and I frequent are rarely level. State and National parks are of course usually just a dirt clearing, or maybe a gravel pad. Our site at Yellowstone last summer was nicely paved with asphalt, but, was nowhere near level.

Even busy campgrounds near the interstates often have a mix of paved and unpaved sites, and little chance that they are level. You can use manual jacks, leveling blocks, etc., and I did that with our travel trailer for years with great success. But the View is about 11,000 pounds and resists manual leveling. You also have very little cargo room to carry the manual jacks, even if you wanted to.

With this computer controlled, hydraulic system, you push a button and the RV levels itself. Being out of level doesn’t bother me every time, but it drives my wife nuts. We have had some unusual sleeping situations, I’ll admit, where we either are sliding towards the foot of the bed because the cab is aimed downhill, or, our heads keep butting against the “headboard” because the tail of the RV is aimed downhill.

My parents ordered the RV new and it is pretty loaded, but they left the jacks off because they just went to the same three or four upscale locations with all paved, level sites that they had visited for years with their big Class A diesel pusher. They didn’t need the jacks because they didn’t use the View like we do.

HWH is about 800 miles each way from my house. So why bother with them? Well, I called three Winnebago dealers near home about getting the jacks added. The dealer who sold the RV new to my parents, never got back to me. Another dealer quoted $4100 for the kit and $2000 labor, which seemed awfully high. A third dealer was honest about not being familiar with adding jacks to the View and said they didn’t want to do it.

I thought about installing them myself, and the actual wrenching looks fairly easy. But, you have to tap into the vehicle’s electrical system multiple times for a number of reasons. Power for a little hydraulic pump and the gyro level sensor, of course, but also an interlock to keep the jacks from deploying unless in park, and another interlock keeping the Mercedes chassis in park unless the jacks are retracted. 

So, the multiple warnings about the wiring modifications were enough for me to sit this one out. I decided to call HWH directly and long story short, they will do the installation for $4000 plus tax, turnkey. So for less than the price of the kit at my local dealer, I can get it installed by the same people who design, build, and install the systems for the Winnebago factory.

a row of new Mercedes Sprinter RV's

So, driving there and back seemed like a reasonable inconvenience to get it done right. Indeed, there was a large group of new Winnebagos there waiting to have the same lifts installed by the same hands. So I felt I had made the right choice.

They wanted me there at 7am for the install appointment date. I left home 36 hours earlier, drove part of the way into Kentucky, then arrived at HWH about 4pm the day before. They do have shore power for RV’s arriving for service, but no other connections (the lead picture is me sitting outside the factory for the night). I brought fresh water in the tank from home, and was pleasantly surprised to pull in a couple of dozen TV channels with the digital antenna. 

An RV hydraulic jack

The morning of the installation, they brought me into the shop to show me all the parts before and after installation.

An RV up on a lift

Due to the poor cell service, the pictures did not upload so I am sharing the brochure pictures here.

an RV jack brochure, page 1

There are four hydraulic jacks, two aft of the engine and two aft of the rear axle. The hydraulic pressure lowers them, and they self-level. Metal springs then cause them to retract. So, in theory you can never get stuck with them “down”. There is a switch to relieve the pressure if all else fails, and then the springs do their thing.

an RV jack brouchure page 2

This is all you see from the driver seat:

a dash controller for rv jacks

You park, then with the engine running, press “auto level” and wait about 60 seconds. The jacks go down and self-level the RV. When they are done, the red “JACKS DOWN” light glows and a pleasant Cadillac-like chime sounds. 

When you are ready to leave, start the engine and press “auto store”. The jacks retract, the red light and chimes go off, and a green light above “travel mode” comes on. That’s all there is to it. The system is maintenance free, though they recommend spraying the jack shafts with WD-40 if you leave them deployed for months on end in challenging conditions, such as spending six months parked at an oceanfront space. 

An RV in a truck wash day

Getting a much needed bath at a truck wash in Reno.

I drove on to California from Iowa to see family. My wife flew to California to join me, and we meandered back home to North Carolina through Northern California redwoods up into Oregon, then back down to Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen, California, Nevada, Utah, et al. I was gone 15 days and covered 6,700 miles on the nose. I’ll try to write up more of that journey as well!