Caravans and trailers do not come with a jack. There will be times when you need to raise or move your caravan, trailer or RV using a jockey wheel or jack. These devices can be used to position your caravan at home, change a wheel or raise the van or trailer to enable you to grease the nipples on the suspension.
Trailer jacks can also be used to raise up your RV to enable you to hitch up to a tow vehicle as well as raise the RV to enable connection of the chains to the hitch bracket for the weight distribution hitch.
NOTE: No portion of your body should be placed under a vehicle or RV that is supported only by a jack. Vehicle support or safety stands should be used. To protect your hands it is a good idea to use leather safety gloves.
Even when releasing the weight distribution hitch chains or uncoupling your caravan or trailer off the tow ball you should keep your feet well away from under the ‘A’ frame or draw bar. Jockey wheels have been know to fail or collapse from not being secured properly to the bracket on the drawbar.
If your caravan or trailer gets a flat tyre find a place, with preferably a level surface, and pull over. Make sure you will not be in danger from passing traffic when you are in the process of changing the tyre. It is best to leave the caravan or tailer hitched to the tow vehicle to prevent it moving or rolling forward but chock or block any wheels remaining on the ground. Use a piece of plywood or plate under the jack. Give some thought to the jack extension height to ensure it will be high enough to lift the wheel off the ground particularly if you have an off-road caravan or camper trailer as it may have a higher ground clearance. Use safety stands to support the caravan or trailer and don’t place your body or any parts of your body under the RV.
Trail-A-Mate Caravan And Trailer Jack
The Trail-A-Mate device is a hydraulic jockey wheel that can convert to a hydraulic jack. By removing a pin you can replace the standard hard wheel with a base plate. The Trail-A-Mate comes complete with the jockey wheel housing assembly, jacking base plate, jacking brackets, lifting clamp attachment, pump handle and instruction booklet.
Some caravans and camper trailers now have a jacking bracket or jacking point behind the rear wheels but, if not, brackets are supplied with the Trail-A-Mate kit. Make sure the cross member is of solid construction before having the jacking brackets welded on. A welded steel tube right across the caravan may be required for some of the older caravans. The last thing you want is for welding for the jacking bracket to break away from the chassis whilst the RV is jacked up.
The manufacturer claims the jack has a working load limit of 1000 kgs and a maximum lifting range of 380 mm (15 inches). When you are jacking a caravan or trailer you are not lifting the total weight but rather about 1/3 or less of the van or trailer weight.
The Trail-A-Mate makes raising and lowering the RV physically much easier, especially on your back, than the jockey wheel winding method particularly for the heavier RV’s. Get a canvas tent peg bag or a plastic bucket and place it over the head of the jack to protect it from the weather. It’s also a good idea to chock under the ‘A’ frame or drawbar and lower the trailer onto the chocks or a jack stand to take some of the stress or weight off the Trail-A-Mate if storing your RV for a long time.
The hydraulic (rubber seals) can perish over time so it is a good idea to carry your jockey wheel with you as a spare anyway or take a bottle jack because if the jack hydraulics fails you may still need to lift the ‘A’ frame or draw bar up to get it onto the hitch/tow ball of your tow vehicle.
Hydraulic oil can be purchased from automotive accessory stores. You can obtain a Trail-A-Mate Service Kit and the supplier will post it to you along with a DVD that gives step by step instructions on how to complete the replacement of the seals etc. It is worthwhile to note, you would need a vice to grip the Trail-A-Mate to loosen the nut if you have to replace the piston seal.
The Trail-A- Mate Service kits are available from Seatra International Pty Ltd, 233 Shepherds Hill Road, Eden Hills SA 5050. Ph (08) 8278 5107 or email email@example.com.
There are other Hydraulic Camper Jacks available. The manufacturer claims they are heavy duty construction with a 2,000 lb capacity.
A Sidewinder Jack can double as a jockey wheel. The manufacturer indicates it is for caravans or trailers up to 16’ and a maximum GTM of 1600 kgs.
Bottle jacks are hydraulic jacks, including air hydraulic, used for lifting. The extended height of the bottle jack and its lifting capacity can vary per type and model so check for sure the one you choose will do the job you want it to.
A handle is used to turn the valve clockwise to raise the height and counter clockwise to lower it. For ease of use, it is best to have a bottle jack that has a handle that operates in a vertical (an up and down motion) rather than a winding motion (clockwise and anticlockwise) as the latter type of handle can be low to the ground making it difficult to turn. To lower the jack shaft it is a simple as turning a lever, controlling the rate of lowering, and the hydraulics do the work.
Also, prior to using the bottle jack be mindful of its height extension capacity as you may need to put a block of wood under it to get it to the height you want. It is really tiresome to jack it all the way up only to find there is not enough height for the jack to get the wheel off the ground and able to be removed from the caravan or trailer.
Jack stands come in a number of construction materials. For example, plastic jack stands (max load 750 kg), sturdy aluminium (1000 kg capacity) or steel (up to 4000 kg or 4 ton). These can be bought singularly or in sets of 4. They are handy to support the van or trailer once on site or if you want to chock it up off the tyres when in storage or when changing a tyre.
Go Jack is a portable dolly/jack combination suitable for say positioning your caravan, trailer, campervan or motorhome.
The twin rollers slide around the tyre, squeezing upward and lifting the tyre off the ground. The 360 degree casters enable you to side load, spin and position your RV or vehicle. The manufacturer claims that each jack can support 680 kgs.
High Lift Jacks
If you own a 4WD vehicle you may already own a high lift jack. Various 4WD forum discussions indicate there are varied opinions on these type of jacks from ‘essential to have’ to ‘downright dangerous to own’.
Whilst the high-lift jack cannot be used as a jockey wheel it can be used to raise the RV to change a flat tyre but there must be approved jacking points on the tow vehicle, van or tailer. Use leather safety gloves to protect your hands and keep your body well clear from underneath the vehicle or trailer.
There are various brands of high lift jacks available such as ‘Terrain Tamer’, ‘Jack-All’ (Canadian) and ‘Hi-Lift’ (USA) and they come in various sizes and construction material. The manufacturer of Hi-Lift Jacks claims that it is a rugged, versatile jack weighing about 14 kg (30 lbs) and rated to 2113.74 kg (4,660 lbs) and manufactured of specially rolled extra high carbon steel. It is available in 107 cm (42″), 122 cm (48″) and 153 cm (60″) heights. Hi-Lift have a User Manual available online. ‘Terrain Tamer’ high lift jack has 1050 kg lift capacity with a 48 inch lift.
Suppliers of high lift jacks need to ensure that the goods they import and supply in Australia comply with the relevant mandatory Australian standard (AS/NZ 2693:2003).
High lift jacks are available from Auto Pro, ARB and 4 x 4 stores and eBay. Opposite Lock supply RGJACK brand high-lift jacks.
When buying a high lift jack check that it has the markings or labelling of the name and address of the manufacturer or importer, the batch identification number, the nominated working load capacity and any warning signs. The jack should have the ability to lower step-by-step otherwise it may drop down to the base plate thereby dropping your load. Such an event has been know to trap and injure hands or other body parts. Use a base plate under the jack to help distribute the weight. For ease of use, wipe of any dust and dirt and apply some lubrication such as CRC prior to use.
The high lift jack should be regularly maintained and also check the engaging pins are not bent as this may prevent proper operation. To prevent pin damage, one suggestion has been to make sure the direction lever is in the ‘up’ position when the jack is stored. One disadvantage of these high lift jacks is the storage in or on the tow vehicle due to their length.
Your vehicle or RV should be fitted with suitable jacking points if you use this device.