Automatic leveling jacks on a fifth-wheel trailer are not only convenient, but they add an element of luxury that is sure to spoil any owner.
One of the more popular systems designed for fifth-wheel applications is made by Bigfoot Quadra Manufacturing, a company that’s been on the scene for quite some time. These jacks work smoothly and reliably, and although it’s hard to imagine making them even better, the company did so with a recently introduced upgrade panel that’s supported by a handy and small remote control.
Bigfoot’s basic leveling system installed at the factory on our fifth-wheel is effective and well made. However, the user functions were limited to auto leveling, the ability to raise and lower only the front jacks manually and an emergency retract feature. For the past several years, Bigfoot Quadra has been developing an upgrade system that makes its fifth-wheel leveling system even more versatile, not to mention adding the benefit of being able to control the jacks remotely with a wireless key fob.
The key fob allows the user to hitch up without the need for another person to move the front jacks into position. Even better, Bigfoot incorporated an auto-reconnect feature, which remembers the height of the kingpin within an inch or two after disconnecting. All the driver has to do is back the truck close to the kingpin and push the key-fob button. The rear jacks will automatically retract and the front jacks will adjust to restore the fifth-wheel’s original hitch height.
The new control panel offers more user options, such as side-to-side leveling as well as independent operation of the front and rear leveling jacks, which allows for precision leveling. Raising and lowering the jacks individually more than a few inches can cause the frame of the fifth-wheel to twist, so caution must be exercised when applying this special feature.
The Bigfoot upgrade kit comes complete with everything you need for do-it-yourself installation except for a few cable ties, which can be used to tidy up the wires. The most time-consuming step was installing a rear sensor onto a frame cross member just behind the rear axle. From the rear sensor, a wiring harness must be run all the way to the front sensor.
Using longer bolts, I stacked the new front sensor on top of the old front sensor, allowing me to reconnect the old control panel in case the new system were ever to fail.
The new control panel is housed in a small plastic box. It’s smaller in size and has a different shape than the original control panel. Bigfoot supplies a faceplate to make the new control panel fit properly into its designated mounting location.
In addition, there were about 10 extra feet of wiring harness between the front sensor and the control panel. Since the control panel mounts in its own plastic box, I decided to use hook and loop fasteners rather than attaching it permanently. That gives us the option to take the Bigfoot control panel in hand while looking under the vehicle to watch the individual jacks during operation – if that ever becomes necessary.
Once all the components were in place, the system needed to be programmed. Using the manufacturer’s simple instructions, the control panel and the wireless key fob were programmed within five minutes. Total installation time was about 1.5 hours.
It’s easy to fall in love with this system right from the get-go. The upgrade kit really takes the Bigfoot leveling system for fifth-wheels to the next level. While effortless leveling is certainly convenient, the real bonus is the ability to hook up the fifth-wheel to the truck without anyone’s assistance. This upgrade retails for $495, but in our opinion, it’s money well spent.
Quadra Mfg. (800) 752-9815 www.BigfootLeveler.com.