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Old 10-24-2005, 10:49 AM   #15
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While using a U-Haul can get you some basic concepts, I can tell you from personal experience that a U-Haul, dependent upon it's axle configuration will react differently from your Airstream. Nothing can replicate doing it with the real thing, hence my suggestion about the big empty parking lot and small plastic trash cans with brooms in them. You won't break anything on an Airstream if you run over a soft sided room sized trash can.

I'll add my dittos to the use of 2 way radios. Patty and I switched to that form of communications years ago after watching what I call "campground follies" of others yelling and waving their arms.

Another tip which will almost insure you a smooth back in is to be sure you pull your trailer well beyond the entrance of your campsite prior to backing. I've watched countless folks who pull their trailer bumper to the boundary of their site, then having to almost jackknife the trailer to get it in, and then subsequently pull back and forth attempting to get their TV and trailer in a straight line.

The secret is to pull well enough forward of your campsite to allow yourself to angle in. If you do this right your need to do extreme turns will be limited and your trailer will stay more in control.


Jack Canavera
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'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 10-24-2005, 06:18 PM   #16
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Friends of ours bought a trailer and he scheduled four hours of trailer driving lessons for his wife with a local driver ed place (I think trucks). They came to the house and off she went driving the truck and trailer with the instructor. Four hours later she came back and backed that puppy down their long driveway with a turn in it at that. She's now by far the better parker of the two (much to his chagrin but he won't take the course). He says it raised her comfort level hugely, he figures he saved huge bucks not having to repair either damage or ib "sorry honey meals out", and too boot they got a bit of a discount on their insurance.

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Old 10-24-2005, 06:51 PM   #17
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The first day of my CDL school bus training, the instructor said I was handling the bus quite well for a rookie. I explained my technique to simply be that if the oncoming traffic wasn't moving towards the berm on their side of the road, I wasn't close enough to the center of the road.
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Old 10-24-2005, 07:03 PM   #18
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In a prior life.. when I was very young, I learned to back by going straight! Place your tow vehicle in a straight line with the trailer behind you. Now back up keeping the vehicle combination in a straight line. Slow ... very slow, never touching the gas unless required. As the vehicle combo starts to change from straight learn to interpret why. Move forward to regain your straight direction.

Always use your mirrors and don't give in to looking over your shoulder.

Once you can back straight you're ready to turn. The lesson of straight back has already ingrained some control. Move the wheel left.. watch the trailer move right. Follow it in.

Inserting the trailer into a campsite or parking space is a matter of looking for the right opportunity while you are leaning. Start with a very simple left hand insertion. This means you will be passing your target site on the drivers side. Backing into this side allows you to see the tail end of the trailer from your drivers side. Small corrections are the rule. Move forward to cancel over corrections. You only need to see the drivers side of the trailer as you have already asertained that the trailer will fit into the site as you passed. Look for land marks to keep you square as you back in. Check the nose of the tow vehicle from time to time to avoid obstacles. Once the trailer starts to turn in correct your steering to "follow" in. Pull forward to correct over turning.

Blind side (right hand insertion) is for advanced learning and requires a spotter in the right location to be done without wrinkled aluminum.

I learned to back 45' trailers into blind, narrow lanes in downtown Toronto as a young truck driver. Practice makes perfect. Wide open spaces with lines help to get you ready for the tree lined sites, some of which are only for the brave or experienced.

Often at camp sites if you spend a lot of time looking things over and scratching your head a retired or vacationing truck driver will come to your rescue. I have volunteered at boat ramps and camp sites all over North America for many happy and sweaty folks.
Glen Coombe AIR #8416
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Old 10-24-2005, 07:25 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by GlenCoombe
Blind side (right hand insertion) is for advanced learning and requires a spotter in the right location to be done without wrinkled aluminum.
If you equally practice backing to both right and left, you will lose tendencies to prefer only one way. Getting in my driveway (dicey!) and parking in my storage garage both involve "blind side" turns as Glen describes. I can see necessary changes much earlier when I remember to directly visualize the right or curbside tires of the trailer as they are making the turn. It tells me where they will be next so I don't have to try to correct after the fact.

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Old 10-24-2005, 07:28 PM   #20
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The only further advice I will give, is to take it easy on the steering. A tiny move of the wheel will equate to a large swing of the rear of the trailer. It's like Brylcreem, a little dab'll do you.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 10-24-2005, 09:21 PM   #21
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Once it's pointed toward where you want it to go you have to start unwinding the turn, that is correcting to straigthen out. As long as the front wheels are in a turn the trailer will continue to move to a sharper angle with the truck. It takes trial and error to get a feeling for when and how much to start correcting. The guy in tha back is in charge, like in a canoe. Real test spousal patiences.
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Old 10-24-2005, 09:47 PM   #22
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Over59's point is a good one, and others also made great points. Practice backing in a straight line and getting comfortable with the minor adjustments needed to keep going straight. In a real situation, pull well ahead of the spot, make sure your trailer and TV are straight, and back up gently. Picture where your trailer wheels are and, relying mostly on mirrors, begin a gentle turn (hand on the bottom of the wheel, at least for beginners). Once you get the right arc going, just keep pushing things around that same arc - don't try to sharpen it. Start straightening again just prior to your trailer being on a straight path into the spot.

On another point, I got myself into a jam in the Refugio campground near Santa Barbara trying to get out of a spot I had entered quite smoothly three days earlier. The applause I got the first day was gone and a small crowd began to watch as my wife and I went back-and-forth, getting ever closer to a large palm and some hanging branches of another tree. Thank God we were using the radios - our marriage would probably have ended right there. The final shameless solution: I unhitched my truck entirely, repositioned myself so I was at about a 60 degree angle to the trailer, hithced up again, and we pulled out without a problem.

The moral: The natural inclination is to hitch up with your truck and trailer in a straight line, but there are situations where starting at an angle will work far better.
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Old 10-25-2005, 04:35 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by cammur
The moral: The natural inclination is to hitch up with your truck and trailer in a straight line, but there are situations where starting at an angle will work far better.

Amen! ... "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken."
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Old 10-25-2005, 08:33 PM   #24
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Wow, lots of good advice here. I guess it's too late to suggest that you grow up on a farm. That's where I learned to back up a trailer, sometimes a baler with a wagon behind it.

If the site looks like it will be a challenge to get into, or if there are a lot of obstacles I usually walk around it first so I'm familiar with where the fire pit, picnic table, trees, etc, are. Also look for overhanging branches. Often I'll get out and take another look when I'm backing in, just to make sure I'm on track.

Sometimes it's easier to back in from one direction than the other. In many cases you can ignore the One Way signs in the park and approach the site from the direction that suits you.

One of the most important things is to stay calm. If you've got an audience and things aren't going well it just makes it worse to get flustered. Take a deep breath, get out and look, think about where you want the trailer to be and take your time. Most of the people watching you are probably glad they're not trying to do it.

Practice with someone helping you, and without. You need to be ready to do it on your own. For me the only difference in having my wife direct me is that it saves me getting out to look. If I'm on my own and it's a tight spot I'll get out and look several times to make sure I'm on track and not going to hit something.

I never let anyone other than my wife direct me. Last July I let a worker at the camp site direct me into a site and I came within an inch of hitting a picnic shelter which would have dented the trailer and bent an awning arm. While directing me back he was only watching one side of the trailer, the drivers side which I could already see. I thought he was checking the other side too but when we both looked at how close I was to the roof overhang of the picnic shelter he admitted that he wasn't watching that side because he thought there was lots of room. The awning arm was touching the shelter, but not with enough pressure to damage it. Now I trust my wife, and no one else.
Grant Davidson
Milton, ON

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Old 10-26-2005, 08:28 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by DavidsonOverlander
Wow, lots of good advice here.
Grant good stuff, especially on the backing help. I've posted this before but my only backing accident came when someone attempted to help me and distracted me from Patty's advice. Thankfully I didn't damage the trailer but I did put a small crease on the TV door on the passenger side. So if you see me backing up, thanks for the offer but I don't need any help if Patty is back there directing things.

Other things to consider backing. Think about the hookups. Some campgrounds have a nasty habit of putting that sewer hookup way to far towards the front of the site. My 20' hose has saved me many times there. Also watch that curb side and make sure you have enough clearance from trees and shelters. (Something you always remember too late since I know from my standpoint the awing is one of the last things I do on setup). And finally for you slide out folks make sure you clear the utility posts and other vegetation on that street side.

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Old 10-26-2005, 09:52 AM   #26
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A few things that I have learned:

1) Make sure that the site you pull into is not a reservable site, unless of course you are the one that reserved it.

I know this is obvious, BUT, it happened to me a few trips ago: The sign on the site number post was angled just so, and it appeared to me to be a non-reservable site. WRONG. I found this out after leveling, awning out, and pluged in. And it was about 95 degrees outside...

2) As mentioned from posts above, check out the lay of the site so you have a mental picture of where you are heading, and obsticles you may encounter. How will the awning(s) open? And one thing to be aware of: are there any tell-tale giant seed-ball things in the site? A sign that some tree will have a field day with your exterior.

3) It is a good idea to anticipate how you are going to have to level out your rig. I too often forget to take into account front and back level-atude. When leveling front to back, you may or may not be able to use the jack stand (trumpet looking thing), which is when a piece of 2x6 comes in handy. I see at campgrounds where it looks like some of the folks camping almost have the tongues of their trailer's on the ground, just to get level. I carry a small torpedo level with me to check this.On most of my trips, I travel alone, until I pick up the Mrs. from the train to join me. So I'm on my own as far as getting into a spot. So far very few problems....

4) Before pulling in to a spot that has hook-up(s) I use a small electric tester to make sure that there is actually power going to the electric panel. I've been to some sites where it looked like someone drove off the site still connected to the box!!! Sometimes if the 30amp socketed is busted, the 15amp may still be OK. If you are not using the aircond. 15 amp may be OK.

5) And on the subject of electric, I bought and have used more often than I thought a 25' 30amp extension cord. We have been to sites where the power is on the curb-side, in between our site and the next. This extension has proven invalueable. I kiss and hug it every time I use it. Sometimes I will even sing some obscure medley of geat jazz standards to it. This creates quite a scene at the campground. Familys will keep their kids away when you do this. Just don't try it if you are actually connected!

Sometimes I wish I were living in the stone age. Then I would know I'm the smartest person in the world.
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Old 10-26-2005, 09:54 AM   #27
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Cindy, I have a 27' International and try to always get a pull-through space. I think that men are born knowing how to back a trailer, I have a horrible time of it. I think that practice backing on a parking lot is a good idea. Also, no one told me this and I learned by experience, don't back with your sway bars on, take them off. Get some walkie-talkies and a sister to help you. Have fun, it is well woth the effort. K
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Old 10-28-2005, 02:26 AM   #28
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You turn the wheel in the opposite direction of where you want the end of the trailer to go. Just the opposite from when you have no trailer attached to your tow vehicle. I don't back up too often and find out I have to unlearn this practice.

Go slow.

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