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Old 05-12-2012, 07:30 PM   #1
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Question Learning to tow and backing up

Hello friends,

I have just joined the airstream forum group. I am thinking about buying my first airstream in the near future. But first I need lots of advice from experienced people that know how to tow.

1) Where, when, how, etc.....do I learn how to safely tow an airstream trailor and how does one back it up into a campsite.

2) What kind of hitch do I use?

3) What else do I need to know?

Many thanks in advance to those of you who can help me start off on the right foot! Don S.
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Old 05-12-2012, 07:40 PM   #2
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1) practice in a large church parking lot during the work week. Set up cones and paly till you get comfortable.

2)Use the search function in the blue bar at the top and you can read a decade's worth of hitch threads...it'll take a year for you to read them.

3) A WHOLE BUNCH. Just keep reading, and as questions arise, use that search function. It is ALL HERE!
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Old 05-12-2012, 07:52 PM   #3
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It's a breeze, really. The bigger the trailer, the more intimidating, though, and the bigger the trailer, the bigger the tow vehicle. The hitch you'll need will depend on the trailer and TV you end up with. In the forums, there are hundreds of posts under "towing and hitching" that will give you a basis of knowledge to work from. If you're considering a new trailer, your dealer should help you with selection and some training. If used, once you've found a trailer you'll get all kinds of help here. You might be able to get a forum member near you to give you some driving lessons - I would if I was closer.
Backing up? If you have a good partner who stays in your mirrors to direct you, and you go slow, it's not hard. To direct the trailer while backing, you put your hand at the bottom of the wheel, then move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. If you're by yourself, you get out and check every few feet until you gain confidence. Stop worrying, and go out and find your trailer!
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Old 05-12-2012, 07:53 PM   #4
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dstoner,

Welcome BTW!
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Old 05-12-2012, 08:58 PM   #5
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Learn to backup using the mirrors. An assistant is a big help when learning.
Look over the site you are backing to and look for reference points like a post or other fixed object on the drivers side preferably.
Don't forget to look up for tree branches or other objects that you may back into.
A trailer and the TV will take up most of two spaces in a parking lot. Find an empty parking lot and practice backing into the space. Use the lines on each side of the parking space for a reference as mentioned above.
Again; learn to back up using the mirrors.
Then; practice, practice, practice.
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Old 05-12-2012, 09:11 PM   #6
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All good tips so far. Don't let backing up scare you. A little practice and you can do it. Towing...just be aware that your trailer will not track exactly in your TV tracks. Your turns have to be a bit wider. I've towed something, long, short, wide and tall. I find it easier to back a long trailer than a short one. As said a good spotter beats getting out and in your TV to check how and where you are backing in to.

Neil
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Old 05-12-2012, 09:29 PM   #7
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Dstoner,
Welcome! You're in the right place. Everything you need is here!
As far as backing goes, there are some great videos on Youtube to give you the idea.
Good luck and enjoy!
Ken
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Old 05-12-2012, 10:54 PM   #8
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You'll find more and more sites that are 'pull through' and you can avoid the whole backing up issue... but, the best advice I can say is even when you are an 'expert', use a spotter. It's just too easy to dent an Airstream, and at around $5000 a panel for a factory-fix... gets pricey if you wait until you hear crunching to stop.

The kind of hitch you use is going to be a product of how big the trailer, and the tow vehicle capability. It is less than $100 for a basic draw bar and ball, from $400 to $800 for the basic weigh-distribution/sway hitches, and $1000 and up (way up) for more advanced designs like Airsafe and Hensley. There is lots of discussion on all of the options, just keep in mind to include some budget for safe towing.

What you need to know is also a product of what you are going to be using it for. If you plan to cover vast distances you'll want to research the towing vehicle threads... if you are a full-timer, there are considerations for that lifestyle... but really, the systems in an RV are not that different than a house... water, power, sewer... you just have a bit more involvement in managing them. It's not hard, and there are lots of people available to help. You might look up your local Airstream chapter and plan for your first outing as part of a caravan, then lots of folks can walk you through it in person, with a similar trailer.

Have fun!
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Old 05-12-2012, 11:15 PM   #9
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dstoner,
Welcome to the group!!! Everyone has to learn these things somewhere and you've come to a good place here at AirForums. There will be many opinions on hitches, trailers, brake controllers and all of the other details.

You need to decide whether you will need to buy a different vehicle to tow a travel trailer. How large or small, how new or old, what's your budget, how much sweat equity are you willing to spend...all these questions are important considerations. Hang around here and peruse the various threads so that you can become an informed prospective buyer.

As to learning to drive with the trailer, here's how I would approach the process:
1. As others have suggested, use an unoccupied parking lot for practice.
2. Initially, practice with the tow vehicle only, using your side mirrors. Place something over the center rear view mirror and learn to drive without it part of the time.
3. Once you're ready to start towing the trailer, have someone who is experienced and patient go with you for some practice in an uncongested area.
4. Practice using a toy truck with an attached trailer. Have some fun with this but play around enough (several days) with the toys until you have a fundamental grasp of the geometry of the tow vehicle plus the towed vehicle.
5. Going forward and turning through an intersection, think of the concepts
A. Take things slow
B. Go long - pull forward into the intersection as far as possible (don't cut the corner too short)
C. Watch your mirror on the inside of the turn -watch the inside wheels of the trailer to judge if you will clear the curb or any other obstacle
D. Turn Sharp - initially then begin to straighten up (only after you've determined through looking in the mirror to the inside of the turn that it's safe to turn).
E. Plan Ahead - This applies to lane changes, stopping, turning, backing-in, etc.
6. Backing in
A. Remember, if you have to turn to back into a camping spot or driveway, it's always easier to back-in turning left (driveway, etc. on the driver's side).
B. Backing in involves the following processes
1) Turn steering wheel opposite the way you would turn if it were a solo vehicle
2) Watch your inside mirror and see how the rear of the trailer is responding
3) At some point pretty soon, the trailer will be headed in the proper direction and you'll need to take out the opposite direction steering from step one so the tow vehicle can begin to follow the trailer in the turn
4) Be aware of where the trailer A Frame and front corner of the trailer are in relationship to the rear corner of the tow vehicle. You don't want to "jack knife" the tow vehicle and trailer into each other.
5) Anytime things don't look right, pull forward and start over.
6) If you're in doubt about things, get out and look things over as frequently as necessary.
7) Have someone watch you as you back in.
8) Roll all windows down and turn off the radio and air conditioner so that you can hear what they are saying. I also have a pair of voice activated walkie-talkies to communicate to the other person without yelling.

Anyway, these are some initial suggestions. I don't want to overwhelm you with recommendations, but I do think the suggestions may help.

All my best,

Steve
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Old 05-13-2012, 03:33 AM   #10
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Dstoner,
You might be better off renting or borrowing an ordinary trailer and use that to learn to back up with. Put some flags on the rear putsode corners of the trailer so you can see where the rear end is going as you back up. I have learned it is more natural to use the mirrors when you back. Makes the "opposite" steering wheel movements correspond better to what the trailer is doing. Also easier than craning your neck around. As mentioned before use an empty partking lot to practice in. Set up some cones and have at it.
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Old 05-13-2012, 05:55 AM   #11
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Thumbs up Welcome Aboard....

Dstoner,

Remember....no such thing as a dumb question, use the search function and ask away.

Backing up....always try to back up over your left shoulder, easier perspective.
Go slow.
One hand at 6 o'clock on the wheel, move that hand in the direction you want the rear of the trailer to go.

Bob
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Old 05-13-2012, 05:58 AM   #12
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Also, along the line of playing with a toy car and trailer....if you know someone with a garden tractor and garden trailer, ask them to practice with it. They are actually harder than your TV and trailer, because they are so short. Get that down and you're more than ready for a "full size".
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Old 05-13-2012, 07:18 AM   #13
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Practice, practice, practice.
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Old 05-13-2012, 10:18 AM   #14
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Having had a bit of experience backing and helping others back, I'll add one point: While it is important to learn how to back, it is also very important to understand where to position the AS and TV before you ever put it into reverse.

Think of it this way. Assuming that the site you're backing into is 90 degrees from the road, then how can you stop the AS/TV such that you cut down on that angle, say, to 70 degrees instead? Cutting off that much of the angle will make your backing experience a whole lot easier!


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Old 05-13-2012, 10:49 AM   #15
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Do a lot of reading/research - this forum is a great place to spend time in - but don't forget youtube, other forums and manufacturers websites.

Be careful of "it'll do" advice: for example - don't scrimp on your hitch and sway control - particularly if you will be towing close to the limits of your vehicles capacity - take the time to make sure the marriage will be a good one.

Assuming you will be getting your trailer from a dealership then video-tape the walk-thru and orientation - it is easy to suffer from information overload very quickly - but the video-tape doesn't forget.

Do things in bite size pieces - think about spending your first "night out" in your driveway or at least very close to home - do a couple of practice hook-ups - be comfortable with the trailer and the towing experience before a big trip.

Think about creating a checklist to help you through hooking up/unhooking procedures and also campsite set-up/tear down. After a while you won't need it (most on this forum will have some kind of story about leaving the TV aerial up, driving away with the electrical cord still attached to the pedestal, stabilizer bars dragging through the gravel etc. etc. etc. .... it's a long list of things you can forget .....)

Ask lots of questions - before, during and after your purchase.

You have a great experience in front of you - before long you'll be the one answering the questions of those who haven't don it before.

Good luck,





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Old 05-13-2012, 11:06 AM   #16
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This is a great little video about how to back up into a spot using "The Scoop" technique :
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Old 05-13-2012, 11:08 AM   #17
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1. Get a copy of "The Long Long Trailer" with Lucy and Desi. It will teach you everything you need to know.

2. After viewing the trailer backing sequence get a back up camera put in the back of a trailer.

3. Always use a spotter. Just when you think you don't need one you will back up into some immovable object.
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Old 05-13-2012, 11:27 AM   #18
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Dstoner,

When we were thinking about buying an Airstream, I found some books on RV's and read them. That gave me an overview and made me more clear on what I needed to know. I also started going through the Forum and reading on all sorts of topics. I'm still reading, but we bought the trailer after about 2 months of research.

Preparation is important.

Next, decide on the trailer you want and then think about the tow vehicle that fits it. If you buy new, the trailer is most likely a much bigger investment, depreciates faster for a while, and will last longer. You want to get that right the first time. You may want a specific brand of truck or SUV, but it may not fit with the trailer you want, so settle on these things before you spend any money.

Backing takes lots of practice. If you put your hand on the bottom the steering wheel, the direction you turn the wheel is the direction the trailer will go. Some keep their hands toward the top and then everything feels backwards to me. For me it is easier to keep one hand on the bottom. Go really slowly and check where you are frequently. A spotter is good, but your own eyes are better. Use all of them. Unfortunately, most backing is in the hard direction, over your right shoulder—campgrounds are usually set up to drive past the space (and make sure you drive far enough past it) and then back in. Spotters have to learn to stay visible in the mirror.

Going forward is a challenge for everyone at first. Keep looking in the mirrors, but keep looking forward too—at first (the first 3 blocks) I was so concerned with where the trailer was, I almost rear ended a car. Watch what big trucks do—they take those wide turns and cross a couple of lanes because they have to on turns. Depending on trailer length, you'll have to do that too (longer means wider turns).

It all seems daunting at first, but eventually you'll learn and do fine.

Keep reading.

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Old 05-13-2012, 11:31 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eubank View Post
Having had a bit of experience backing and helping others back, I'll add one point: While it is important to learn how to back, it is also very important to understand where to position the AS and TV before you ever put it into reverse.

Think of it this way. Assuming that the site you're backing into is 90 degrees from the road, then how can you stop the AS/TV such that you cut down on that angle, say, to 70 degrees instead? Cutting off that much of the angle will make your backing experience a whole lot easier!


Lynn
......and also my experience is to, whenever possible, to back in to a site turning to the left...that is relying upon the driver side view. Unless you have super view mirror on the passenger side the driver side view is much easier.
Neil
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Old 05-13-2012, 12:08 PM   #20
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Dstoner
Get a copy of "The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming". Lots of good information. YouTube has some good clips done by professional truck drivers to help you with backing.
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