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Old 01-09-2018, 11:59 PM   #1
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Chula Vista , California
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Learning curve to towing...

So...I have been wanting an Airstream for a while now...I am married to a poop
whom I am not sure will ever want to travel that much. But my little bro has an Airstream and I just want to see this country. My big fear is towing it...
Anyone out there who thought it would be awful but it ended up not being too bad???


PS- husband isn't really a poop...he just works a lot...

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Old 01-10-2018, 05:25 AM   #2
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Hi. I never towed a thing before buying my Airstream. My wife and I prearranged to spend our first weekend with the new trailer at a safe RV driver training program at a local CDL/Commercial Driver License training center that offered the course. Great investment. I was nervous about it at first. Now I wish I could tow it every day. It's a joy!

Good luck!

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Old 01-10-2018, 07:20 AM   #3
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If you wanted to, you could go to your local U-Haul and rent a trailer, then practice towing it around (including backing)*. The size and weight would be different from your eventual Airstream, of course. But you would learn the basics by doing, at a reasonably low cost. You would still have to learn the intricacies of sway control and weight distribution hitches later, but the mechanics of maneuvering a vehicle that's hinged in the middle would no longer be a mystery. A shopping mall parking lot in the early morning is a great location to practice with a trailer. There are traffic lanes, marked spaces, and curbs to bump into already provided for your learning pleasure.

*A U-haul trailer is lightweight, so it would be tempting to back up close to the trailer, then move the trailer tongue to meet the hitch ball when hooking up. Resist the temptation. Do it the hard way, backing up your tow vehicle to meet the trailer's hitch, same as you'd have to do with your Airstream when you get it. For some people, backing up the tow vehicle to the trailer's hitch to hook up is harder than backing the whole trailer into a space.
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Old 01-10-2018, 09:06 AM   #4
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Nearly everyone who owns an Airstream or other travel trailer has been in your shoes at some point, including me. When I started, I realized that millions of travel trailer owners had successfully made the grade and I figured that it was unlikely that I would be at the 99th percentile who couldn't make it work. And lo and behold, I was not in the 99th percentile, but rather somewhere in the middle but high enough to make the grade.

Know that pulling a trailer is not all that different from driving a car (except you need to be more careful about sharp turns and changing lanes.) The real difference is backing up. This is where an empty high school parking lot can be your best friend. I practiced backing up in this lot for about four hours on a Sunday and then hit the road. Sure the first few campsite back in's were slow and stressful, and every once and awhile I still run into a challenging situation, but it's all doable.

If you have serious concerns and access to a loaner or rental trailer, by all means go out and practice before buying.

Safe travels!
Bob Martel
WBCCI# 5766
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Old 01-10-2018, 10:31 AM   #5
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Winston Salem , North Carolina
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*raises hand* I was quite fearful my first time towing. I had never towed a trailer in my life; but was hell bent on getting in the drivers seat with it. Now, I'm the one who tows it all the time, and I'm trying to work on my backing skills. It ain't easy nor fun....but I get it done. Like those before have mentioned, try it out with a rental if you prefer. If not, hook it up and go slow. Don't let anyone rush you or dictate your speed. You got this!
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Old 01-10-2018, 08:47 PM   #6
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Hi and welcome from Colorado: Of course you can learn to tow and be quite good at it. For me, the main thing is realizing, and sensing, your vehicle dynamics are completely different with a camper on your bumper. Your rate of acceleration up a merge ramp is much slower, your ability to stop requires more distance, you have to learn to make wide turns so the trailer doesn't hit a street light or gas station protective bullard. And you have to learn to back the trailer into a campsite or parking place. It just takes practice.

You will learn the mechanics of hitching up, preparing to tow, and servicing the Airstream. I enjoy the "doing" of traveling with our Airstream. It is easier and cheaper to stay in a Super 8. Ugh.

All these things can be learned. I've met several solo women Airstreamers in our travels.

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Old 01-11-2018, 12:28 PM   #7
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Hi there. I will second the Protagonist recommendation to rent a Uhaul. Strangely, I felt like the smaller trailers get away from me quicker while backing. When we went from our class C to the trailer, we were almost overwhelmed by the hitching up procedure. We would check, double check, and triple check before pulling out. If I were starting again I think I would take a video of the procedure and review it before actually hitching up.
You can check YouTube for instructions on backing. There was one I recall where a guy showed how to do all the requirements a trucker needs to be proficient at. The biggest thing I learned was to put my hand at the six o'clock and move it left to get the trailer going left and so forth. That 12 o'clock thing got me mixed up fairly often.
Learning is half the fun as far as Im concerned so, have fun!
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Old 01-11-2018, 12:55 PM   #8
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My first day of driving a 40' motor home + trailer was day 1 of a 2000 mile trip. You need to be aware of your size and drive in a "bubble" of space around yourself. Forget quick lane changes, tailgating, zipping into gas stations. Everything requires planning and observation. It's not that hard. Plan ahead. A GPS that warns you about which way your next exit goes is a huge help.
The Airstream is a piece of cake. Would I loan it to a learner? Not a chance.
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Old 01-11-2018, 01:36 PM   #9
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Walnut Creek , California
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The learning curve is short, long and never ending.

Short - if you only drive forward on highways at 55 mph, you can get comfortable quickly. Many campgrounds have pull throughs and big mega-center type fuel stops can be quite easy in and out.

Long - as you begin to camp in back-in sites and travel on narrow, twisty, hilly and dead end roads .... the learning curve goes up a bit. It will vary with the size of your rig. Hitch adjustment, steering precision, awareness of rig position are all are elements that make towing complex, but not difficult to learn when effort and the desire to learn are applied. Those pesky fuel stops can be quite restrictive in small towns. We filled up at a station in down town Cambria. It was a parking lot. Cars went in from both directions. Folks parked and purchased drinks and sundry items while others waited for them to move. It was tight with no backing required. Not alway possible unless you are careful in island choice. Learning to recognize road hazards like gaters, holes, drop offs, steep transitions and low overhangs is critical to safe travel.

Endless - understanding the forces acting on your rig can be a never ending process of investigation, testing, and tuning. Backing can be challenging and requires practice, care and practice. I still can't back-up a four wheel farm trailer (think radio flyer). My little boat trailer takes several tries to get it into it's parking place (turns very fast). However, much of this is the process of moving to expert and really is not critical for safe travel if speed is carefully controlled.

So, start slow and work up to the hard stuff. If you have never backed a trailer, get a U-haul open trailer. Tie a broom in each corner so you can monitor where the corners are. Then practice, figure out what works, use your mirrors and practice. Then get an enclosed trailer. A double axle is a good idea, because it turns slower. Practice and practice some more. The enclosed trailer forces you to use your mirrors, so get comfortable with them. Note - use a spotter. Do not use them to tell you what to do, but to warn you when you are within 10 feet of something. Learn to communicate with them effectively. If you do not have a spotter, stop, get out and look. Move no more than 4 ft before looking again. Sounds excessive. Repairing a hit is real expensive. Spend your money learning and traveling.

Good luck! Travel safe. Hope to see you down the road with a smile. Pat

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