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Old 01-28-2007, 03:52 PM   #1
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1999 23' Safari
Palm Desert , California
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First Tow Experience

We picked up our new (to us) 1999 23 ft AS safari the other day and, not having towed before, headed for an empty parking lot to practice backing up! Oh my gosh--not sure I will ever learn. Hubby started first and when his frustration level went over the top I took over. Is backing up with a hensley harder than with a regular hitch or are other hitches just as hard--or perhaps it is just us! We practiced for a number of hours and then had to head to the storage area (we store in a local campground). To get to our spot you have to back at least 100 ft between two rows of motorhomes and trailers and then angle into the spot. My husband said we would split the grief so I got to back up--think it was so that I would look like the idiot --and he would put it into the spot. I did have a lot of gentlemen offering me advice! Took about an hour to get it settled into it's spot--seems for every couple feet I would back up I would have to drive ahead a foot to straighten out again. Any advice sure would be appreciated!! Once in our spot we thought the ordeal was over but first couldn't get the jack down because the car was on such an angle one of the struts was under the jack so back in the car to try and pull ahead to straighten out a bit. Now ready to put down the jack and the electric hitch just stopped working. At this point we thought we would never get unhooked. A little earlier a gentleman had stopped to ask if we needed help (at that time we were doing fine) and said he had an airstream and was staying in the park so off we went in search of him. Luckily we found him and he very nicely consented to help--told us there should be a handle in the trailer that would allow us to move the jack by hand. We found it and he helped us to finish unhooking--he also had a hensley on his AS.
Went over yesterday to replace the fuse on the hitch and it is now working but we have not tried to hook up by ourselves yet (dealer did it for us when we picked up the trailer)--will wait till our blood pressure is completely back to normal! We are not sure if the hensley is even on correctly as the dealer did it and they had only done two before ours. It doesn't seem centered on the trailer anymore--maybe the struts weren't adjusted properly or tightened properly? I have studied the installation manual even though we didn't install it and will study it some more while looking at the hensley to try and understand how it was installed and if it is correct.
One bright note--we towed home in heavy winds and had no sway whatsoever which is why we bought the AS and the hensley.
Gail
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:25 PM   #2
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Hi Gail,
I have the Hensley on an '86 Sovereign 25' and I have learned a few tricks from those on the forum as well as trial and error. I really don't see any difference in backing with the Hensley and a Reese. Try this, place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the rear of your trailer to go toward the driver's side of the vehicle, rotate your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel toward the left side (toward the driver's door). Look in your side mirror to get a good idea of where your trailer is going in relation to your vehicle. Many look over their shoulder until they get used to the side mirror. You need towing mirrors to see the side of the trailer.

If you are just wanting to back up straight without turns, do the same thing but pick out something near the rear of the trailer such as a rear side clearance marker. As you are backing up you might see more of the driver's side marker than you should so run your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel toward the passenger side door. If it disappears then run it toward the driver side door. You get better as you practice and will soon find that your hand movement is smoother and your backing up gets straighter.

Remember, push the lower edge of the wheel in the direction you want the rear of the trailer to go. Have fun practicing.
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:26 PM   #3
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Our first experience was not quite as trying as yours was, but close. The backing of the trailer comes with experience. Mastering the Hensley was a little more difficult for us. The dealer who installed our gave us a hitch bar with about 2" of drop more than we needed. This enhanced our problems. Once correctred, it became easier.

If your Hensley if off to one side, it needs to be straightened before trying to hook up again. This can be done by releasing the the lock pin at the front of the Hensley. Get down on your hands and knees and look into the Hensley. You will see a square silver metal rod that pivots up and down. Raise the pin with your finger, and you can then move the hitch bar receiver to center. This will allow for a straight-on hook up.

The next time that you have the Airstream out, check the trailer/tow vehicle combo to make sure that you are about level. Do this on level ground. This will tell you if you have the correct drop on your tow bar. Practice hooking and unhooking several times.

Despite what you are thinking now, you will get the knack of it. Good luck.
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:55 PM   #4
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I've owned mine almost two months now, and backing-up is still hard. I've towed U-Hauls and camping trailers, but with shorter wheelbase vehicles. I'm still trying to get use to the longer wheelbases, and knowing when to bring the truck wheels back to stop the trailer from turning. I practice a little in the storage area parking lot each time we go out.

BTW: I'm towing with an Equal-i-zer.
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Old 01-28-2007, 05:03 PM   #5
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We all went through this. Practice and patience are the keys. Soon you'll be pros. You will also be offering help to other newbies. Then there will be the days when noting goes right.
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Old 01-28-2007, 05:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goin camping
We all went through this. Practice and patience are the keys. Soon you'll be pros. You will also be offering help to other newbies. Then there will be the days when noting goes right.
The day that nothing goes right always has the largest number of people watching.....
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Old 01-28-2007, 05:08 PM   #7
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Good suggestions above. Additionally always look up for tree branches and other obstacles waiting to bite your roof.

You will get better at it. Just be patient, and have confidence you can do it. Even on your first try, you got it into the space. Accept the fact for anyone to get really good at backing, you need to do it a LOT. What you're aiming for is to be pretty good, a few retries occasionally, and the feeling you can do it with a little time. Allow realistic time to do the backing, and quit your day's driving before you're too exhausted to spend the time getting into the spot.
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Old 01-28-2007, 05:18 PM   #8
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Great advice above

But the advice I give to everybody is get a set of walkie talkies so easy for the co-pilot. We always found ourselves yelling instructions out.
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Old 01-28-2007, 08:59 PM   #9
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Trailering magazines advise to use the hand on the bottom of the wheel trick. A big rig professional truck driver would never do such a thing... The following method is easier when trying to back up in a straight line. Hand on top of the wheel(not bottom), back up and keep watching left and right mirrors, when the trailer gets bigger in a mirror push the wheel towards that mirror and then immediately pull the wheel back to center to straighten out the trailer. Good luck, hope this is easier for you too.
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Old 01-28-2007, 09:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azflycaster
The day that nothing goes right always has the largest number of people watching.....
Ain't that the truth.
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Old 02-04-2007, 11:59 AM   #11
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Lake Forest , Illinois
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hapitauk
We picked up our new (to us) 1999 23 ft AS safari the other day and, not having towed before, headed for an empty parking lot to practice backing up! Oh my gosh--not sure I will ever learn. Hubby started first and when his frustration level went over the top I took over. Is backing up with a hensley harder than with a regular hitch or are other hitches just as hard--or perhaps it is just us! We practiced for a number of hours and then had to head to the storage area (we store in a local campground). To get to our spot you have to back at least 100 ft between two rows of motorhomes and trailers and then angle into the spot. My husband said we would split the grief so I got to back up--think it was so that I would look like the idiot --and he would put it into the spot. I did have a lot of gentlemen offering me advice! Took about an hour to get it settled into it's spot--seems for every couple feet I would back up I would have to drive ahead a foot to straighten out again. Any advice sure would be appreciated!! Once in our spot we thought the ordeal was over but first couldn't get the jack down because the car was on such an angle one of the struts was under the jack so back in the car to try and pull ahead to straighten out a bit. Now ready to put down the jack and the electric hitch just stopped working. At this point we thought we would never get unhooked. A little earlier a gentleman had stopped to ask if we needed help (at that time we were doing fine) and said he had an airstream and was staying in the park so off we went in search of him. Luckily we found him and he very nicely consented to help--told us there should be a handle in the trailer that would allow us to move the jack by hand. We found it and he helped us to finish unhooking--he also had a hensley on his AS.
Went over yesterday to replace the fuse on the hitch and it is now working but we have not tried to hook up by ourselves yet (dealer did it for us when we picked up the trailer)--will wait till our blood pressure is completely back to normal! We are not sure if the hensley is even on correctly as the dealer did it and they had only done two before ours. It doesn't seem centered on the trailer anymore--maybe the struts weren't adjusted properly or tightened properly? I have studied the installation manual even though we didn't install it and will study it some more while looking at the hensley to try and understand how it was installed and if it is correct.
One bright note--we towed home in heavy winds and had no sway whatsoever which is why we bought the AS and the hensley.
Gail
We have a new Hensely and I tried to back into an enclosed garage at sunset and when I finished it was dark with the exception of a security light. I was exhausted and next time I will arrive when I have plenty of light and time.Recently I went to the storage yard and practiced just backing my truck into the Hensely.I had the same problem with the Hensely appearing to be on an angle and I moved the metal pin to center of the hitch.I was then able to center it. I also experimented with the spring bars and the struts. I thinkI will be able too hook up with ease next time even though it may take some time. The best advice that I have received is from this Forum even when I had dumb questions. Also I contacted Hensely and they have been great at giving advice. Contray to everyone else I like to back up by myself and I therefor enter and exit the truck numerous times but in that manner I can see exactly where I am going.Also exiting the truck allows me to relax a bit. Quite frankly I do not ever expect to master thsi backing experience. I am prepared for some frustration but its part of the Airstream experience. Good Luck
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