Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Reese LevelAll Cover

My cousin Leslie and I, as little kids, often played together since we lived within easy bike riding distance of each other. One day around 1971, we were doing something in his back yard near his family’s Airstream when his dad walked by. Pointing to a plastic-covered round thing with two little capsules of something with an air bubble in each & mounted on the front of the trailer, I asked my uncle what it was & what it did. I remember his eyes kind of widening as he took half a step backward before mumbling something about the device being used to set the trailer up at a campsite. He then skedaddled inside before I could ask about the braided wire attached to something else.

While I have always been curious, years later I found out that my aunt & uncle were both a little on edge with someone as young as I was asking so many technical questions. My parents never complained, though, because, as my dad is not a DIYer, my curiosity kept all the appliances in our house working.

The ensuing years found my aunt & uncle becoming more & more comfortable dealing with me, and in late 2003 they decided their 1967 Airstream Overlander would be better off in my hands.

During the Airstream’s subsequent refurbishment, the object of 1971’s question was identified to be a Reese LevelAll. As most RVers know, proper RV refrigerator operation, among other things, requires a level trailer. The Reese LevelAll with its two perpendicular bubble levels, is mounted on a plate on the tongue jack, and inconspicuously provides a quick-reference for determining just how much level correction needs to be made.

Since the formerly transparent plastic cap had weathered and yellowed rather badly it was polished with #00000 steel wool. The effort helped, but subsequent camping trips usually found me unscrewing the cover to check level since Reese no longer offered a replacement cover.

A couple of years ago around Christmas time, I was perusing the web, and found what appeared to be the Reese LevelAll being offered for sale by Hitches for Less. Unfortunately, Santa found the item to be out of stock with no projected restocking date.

Jumping forward to a few weeks ago, the same site was found to be again offering the LevelAll, and I emailed them to check availability. Last week, they replied, “yes”, so I ordered a complete LevelAll even though all I wanted was the clear cover. As expected, the new cover mated perfectly with the 42 year old threaded shaft.

All is now well - Setting up camp will be easier. End of story… for me.

However, if you are now considering purchasing a LevelAll after reading about it, there are a few details about this latest Internet offering which may interest you. This newly offered indicator “isn’t your Uncle’s LevelAll” in that it is not of the same quality construction as was available in the sixties. And, the company from which it was purchased from does not offer the tongue jack shelf. So you may be on your own with respect to a mounting platform.

This product is NOT made by Reese Products of Elkhart Indiana even though lettering on the plastic cover (between 10 o’clock & 2 o’clock) would have one think exactly that. Interestingly, if you scroll up to the top of this page and take another look at the marketing image scanned from their package, you will find nothing but the word “LevelAll” at the top. Maybe the patent expired; maybe not – I don’t know.

But what I do know if that this current day LevelAll is not supported on three stamped feet like the old one was, and the resulting flat surface is more likely to capture water inside the assembly if not sealed properly after installation.

The bubble levels’ backing plate on my vintage LevelAll is anodized, and has no trace of rust even after being around almost as long as Frank has. Hitches for Less’s offering appears to be the same zinc-coated steel as the rest of the unit – rust is more possible (but not necessarily probable).

But, all said and done, if I was to buy another Airstream tomorrow, and it did not have a LevelAll, I would buy this one again. Now that I know what might go wrong over time, I can preemptively deal with it.

1 comment:

  1. I am a year older than that damn fancy pants level all around thingie!!!!

    In all seriousness, for I too am a curious fellow. If you install that thing and the trailer is slightly out of level will it always be out of level after you level it up? Do you have to go to some flat spot on the earth to calibrate it? Having worked a level for a living I know that if you are a fraction out of level it translates huge over eight feet. Over 26' 8" for the 1967 Overlander that could be a lot of drop.

    I have evolved a leveling technique over the past few years that I would like to share with your loyal readers. First thing I do when I get to the camp site is mix a stiff cocktail. After a long pull with the kids fighting for the last two hours over who touched who and who's red pen it is, I need a stiff drink. A stiff drink is the first tool needed to properly level the trailer. Next I get the trailer where I want it. This usually involves some shuffling from the "perfect" spot Beth says we are in. I like to maximize my rented space by getting as close to the street side property line. Once it is sighted I walk to the rear and give my old girl the hairy eyeball. There is no fooling the eye as to what is level. At this point I am at least half way through my cocktail and the eye sight is getting keen. Next I need to put my wheels on my fancy leveling boards. I pull up about 4 feet. I have three 4 foot 2x8's so one side can go up 4 1/2" if needed. I find that most camp sites are very close to level so I will use one on each side. After I have put the trailer on boards I check to see if I did a good job on side to side leveling. At this point I usually mix a second cocktail. While in the pantry I pull out a can of tuna, beans, or green chilies. I put the can in the middle of the floor and see if it will roll to one side or the other. Once I know my eyes are telling me the truth, I unhook from the truck. Now the trailer needs to be leveled with the length. I take a big sip of my drink and lay down on one of the twins. I feel the incline while my eyes are shut. Now sometimes this step takes a few hour for I meditate deeply while getting a feel for the incline. I then adjust the pitch using the tongue jack. Once I feel it is right I check it with the tuna can again. At this point the the trailer is ready for stabilization. Unfortunately I usually spill my drink about this time and need to mix a new one. Now Anna is a vintage trailer so there are none of those lunar lander looking stabilizers up in the belly. I use those aluminum jack stands under the rear. I first lower the tongue one and a half cranks and put the stands tight under the rear frame rails. The tongue jack is then put back to the original position. All done except to mix another cocktail while I hook up the utilities.

    I hope someone can find the same pleasure as me in leveling up their trailer at the next rally. No need for thanks Tom, it was my pleasure to give you my insight.