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Old 12-22-2010, 10:06 PM   #1
leopattie's Avatar
2008 22' Safari
springfield , oregon
Join Date: Apr 2008
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2011 Goal: Learn to hitch/pull our Airstream!

Well, it's time to put together my 2011 goals and number #1 on my list is learning to hitch up and pull our trailer... I am a brave girl but have totally turned all this over to my hubby. We've had our trailer over 2 years and it's time I learned to do this - and get over my fears! Biggest fear is doing something wrong, catastrophe, I don't want to be the one responsible for even the tiniest scratch on her beautiful, shiny shell.

So I think step one is making a complete, step-by-step list of all the many, many parts of hooking up. Step two: doing all the steps by myself. Step three - most terrifying! - get behind driver's seat and seeing what it's like to drive and tow... yikes.

Any other suggestions... places to try driving? Heck, I know there will be many baby steps before even TRYING to back her in some kinda parking space, oh lord help me.

TAC- Oregon 07

"It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive" - Bruce Springsteen
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:19 PM   #2
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Good for you Leopattie..

I wish my wife felt the same way.. maybe she is afraid of pulling trailer.. maybe she is afraid of me having her pull the trailer..

Im going to nudge her after reading this post.. Let us know your progress!

Cheers Vinnie

"Old fashioned service on your late model Airstream"
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:37 PM   #3
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2005 25' Safari
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Hi, the first thing a lady needs to do is to retrieve the hitch assembly from the garage; Then install it into the receiver. This is one heavy chunk of iron. At this point, my wife is finished. Not all women can or want to tow a trailer. Not all, but most of what I've seen is women towing tiny trailers with small tow vehicles that some man hitched up for them and they never un-hitch. Some women, like my wife, are not built to do this kind of work. Before I get bashed, I said "not all."

2005 Safari 25-B
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Old 12-23-2010, 03:31 AM   #4
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2007 25' International CCD
Sugar Grove , Ohio
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We've been hitching up and towing for three complete years now. The first two were as nerve wracking as you think they are! We typed out a "hitching up" list and an "unhitch" list and a "put it away until next trip" list and keep all three of them in the back of the SUV with the hitching materials - clamps, grease, spray, etc... WE NEVER HITCH UP WITHOUT THE LIST! It will take a few trips to complete the list as you always seem to forget something - write it again until you've got it complete. Repetition is the secret - SUCCESSFUL REPETITION. Remember when your elementary teachers used to say, "PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT"? The real phrase should have been PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Doing it right is the secret so write it down and follow it!

The second thing we did when this was all brand new to us is go to a grocery store parking lot. Fortunately, we had an out of business one close by our storage unit so we could go there with noone else around. We could park, back up, turn, and do anythhing we needed to try and, again, nothing like practice to build some confidence.

Nike got right - JUST DO IT! Then DO IT again and pretty soon it really isn't difficult. This year wrapped up our third year of towing and it was amazing the number of times that my wife would comment on "How easy it was to hitch up that time" because we've gotten it down pretty good even though we still use our cards everytime.

Good Luck - it's a thrill! Happy 'streaming.
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Old 12-23-2010, 06:27 AM   #5
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The hardest part is picking up that hunk of iron and putting it into the receiver in the back of the tow vehicle. When camping, I leave it on the ground under the hitch to lessen the distance I have to carry it.
Putting the clip in the hitch pin (and removing it) requires a little hand strength. This can be lessened by lubricating the pin.
An electric jack on the hitch makes putting on the spring bars easy.
My wife went solo from Colorado to California. She left the hitch on the tow vehicle and always found some helpful in the campground to back her in. Otherwise, she could always go forward.
We each have our little knicks in the Airstream. You know the phrase--"It happens".
As for big scrapes, not yet, but that's why we have insurance.
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Old 12-23-2010, 09:02 AM   #6
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1980 22' Caravelle
Bay Area , California
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You can definitely do it! We've just started learning to pull ours. I bought ours from my grandparents and got one "lesson" of driving around the block. We're figuring it out as we go. Backing up is the hardest part. So far, my husband has more practice with this (partly because he claimed his airplane flying skills were transferrable here...not sure how!). I agree with pilgrim, practice makes perfect. Although I am a newbie, I would say, aside from making sure the hitch is set up right, remember to pay more attention to road signs then you normally do, think ahead, allow more space for braking, and just take your time (hurrying probably causes many problems!). Although I haven't done yet as we've been too busy cleaning the trailer, etc., go to a big mall or Walmart parking lot when its closed and practice backing up. The driving part isn't hard. Driving up and down hills.....still working on that, best to read up on that!
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Old 12-23-2010, 09:45 AM   #7
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I like the idea of checklists... much better than standing there wondering what you've forgotten!

One tip that worked really well for me when I was learning to back a trailer, when your hand is on the bottom of the steering wheel, the butt of the trailer will move in whatever direction you move your hand.
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Old 12-23-2010, 10:30 AM   #8
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You GO Ladies

I do it, and I'm 62 and not super fit.

Hints for picking up the big chunk of iron (Reese dual cam hitch in my case). Think of picking up a wriggling three year old. The hitch doesn't wriggle. It weighs about the same. Most of us will pick up a 5, 6 or 7 year old without issues. The hitch is heavy - and if you have a questionable back, just remember... lift from the knees. You could even make a strap that would go over one shoulder and around your back to assist (seat belt material in a loop... about six feet should do it.)

Hints for backing - everything about backing is counter-intuitive but...
  • As said above, practice in a big vacant parking lot is great
  • Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move it in the direction you want the back end of the trailer to go. Excellent Advice
  • I'll add one more - LESS is more. Don't wrench the steering wheel around 3/4 turn... usually a quarter turn or LESS works.
  • Developing a sense of how far forward you have to be before you start backing? Parking lot practice... take an empty dish detergent bottle and fill it with water. On the ground spray a path from the back of the trailer's driver's side tire to where you want it to end up when you're successfully parked... then just back over the water trail. After 5 years I can simply visualize that path.
  • Backing from the blind side- where the rear end of the trailer has to go to your right. In five years I've had to do that one time. I piss people off because I'll get out and walk back behind the trailer and look at my progress 5 times if I have to. Making someone in a golf cart wait for me to git 'er dun? T.S.
  • The bigger your trailer is, the easier it is to back - short trailers will jacknife in a heartbeat - longer ones take longer to start turning - it's all about the distance from the hitch pin to the axle(s)
  • ASK for help if a space really intimidates you. Some are very narrow, with trees on either side and a garbage can surround across the road - and sometimes you may just be tired or stressed.
I hate to admit it, but for some reason men (in general) do seem to have a more natural ability to learn to back a trailer. Some ARE total Klutzes though... and virtually anyone CAN learn if they practice.

Driving - BIG thing is take it easy. In bad weather, or super heavy traffic... park it and wait it out. You bought an RV for FUN, not stress.

Remember not only do you have to pull your trailer you have to be able to STOP it... and sometimes that can mean a panic stop under bad conditions. Make sure your brake controller is adjusted correctly EVERY trip out. Have it a tiny bit "grabby" so your trailer brakes FIRST and acts as an anchor... you don't want it to PUSH your tow vehicle. Going downhill SLOW DOWN. It's a lot easier to stop going 40 than 65... When you see signs advising truck drivers to use lower gears or it says "8 % grade next 5 miles" that's also a hint to you that your trailer can get you into bigass trouble if you don't slow down.

Turning - right turns - you have to swing a little wider. Watch where your right side axles go when you make a right turn (orange cone in the parking lot will be very handy). The world is full of stop signs and telephone poles close to the road, and if you don't swing wide enough, you'll get some nasty scratches.

Overhead stuff - toll booths, drive up windows, gas stations, etc. Awareness is everything. Backing too far is a hazard. Lots of airstreams have dings in the bumper or rear top segments just because the owner thought that tree stump or branch was at least 5 feet further back. Yep, my bumper has a ding.

INSURANCE - Stuff happens. Stuff happens. Stuff happens. People are always more important than stuff. If some drunk drive totally destroys your Airstream... Well look at the new Eddie Bauer edition and pick up the check from the insurance claims center.


Say BTW... where have the flowers gone. Used to be a Smilie with flowers, now there are two "not guilty angels"
Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 12-23-2010, 12:15 PM   #9
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Go for it!

You can do this! Smart planning is the way to go.

Checklists for hitching and unhitching are good. You already have that idea.

Trucks are easier to move than hitch assemblies. Drive the TV as close as possible to where the hitch is stored, and carry that heavy thing the shortest distance possible.

Locking hitch pins are more secure, and don't need the hand strength to push that pin through the little hole. Just don't lose the key like I did once.

Tools are available to make backing in to hitch up the trailer easier. I bought a set of these, and they're great!

Otherwise, almost everyone needs a helper for that.

Understand what each part of the hitch setup does. It's not rocket science, and it makes the process easier if you have the knowledge. Also less likely to forget something.

Driving while towing is different, but you probably already have most of the skills.

Drive your TV by itself while pulling an imaginary trailer for a while. (Might do this in light traffic so people don't think you're too weird.) Rent a trailer from U-Haul and practice with that if you want to--not as long as an AS, but the principles are there. You won't have to be so afraid of scratches.

Turns are wider. You're driving something much, much longer. Think about the trailer when you plan the path the TV takes into the turn.

Stopping takes longer. Much heavier than you're used to. Be more alert for panic stop situations developing ahead of you. Don't cause your own panic stop by failing to pay attention.

Backing is the biggest challenge. Once the trailer starts turning, the TV has to be maneuvered to follow it. Find a large empty lot to practice in, leave your ego at home (it's going to be embarrasing at first), and work on it until you learn. I'm still worklng on this myself. I've pulled trailers for years, but the AS blocks more of my view than the utility trailers I was used to. I've just realized that I'm used to seeing the back end of the trailer while backing, and I can't do that with the AS. I'll be out to the parking lot for practice as soon as camping season is here again.

BTW, the Airstream is the sweetest towing trailer I've ever pulled.
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Old 12-23-2010, 01:13 PM   #10
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1988 29' Excella
Collinsville , Illinois
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I need to join this group and do this also. This may sound weird, but I am not afraid of hitching, backing or driving. What scares me is the interstate. It took years for me to get comfortable with on ramps and lane changing in a car without an extra 30 ft behind me. My fear is that I will take out a small car that I can't see back there.
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Old 12-23-2010, 01:28 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Foiled Again View Post
I hate to admit it, but for some reason men (in general) do seem to have a more natural ability to learn to back a trailer. Some ARE total Klutzes though... and virtually anyone CAN learn if they practice.
I do not mind hitching up or towing my trailer, and have done it by myself a few times (though a checklist is a MUST HAVE) but I cannot for the life of me get the hang of backing up! My husband, who didn't even want the trailer in the first place and is not a truck driver or anything like that, took to it like a fish to water. He can back that thing up into the tiniest spots from the most awkward angles. I can't even back it down the driveway! To put it away he has to back it around a corner into the driveway, down a long drive and then a sharp angle into the carport - I just cannot do it! Even though friends have repeatedly given me tips and instruction on how to back up. So good luck with that part. Hitching and towing is a breeze compared to backing up

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Old 12-23-2010, 03:34 PM   #12
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2014 25' FB Flying Cloud
- east coastal area - , Florida
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my 2 favorite hitching rules -

NEVER remove the wheel blocks before making darn sure the AS is securing connected to the TV. [did this once, luckily no damage, never again]

ALWAYS remove the wheel blocks before moving [haven't done this yet but probably just a matter of time].

everything else is just mechanics
Jon & Deb
Phoebe & Ellis - Airstreaming Mini-Schauzers

* * * * * * *
I Donít Always Pull A Trailer
But When I Do - I Pull An Airstream
Keep Moving My Friends
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Old 12-23-2010, 03:38 PM   #13
We can tow it!
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1996 28' Excella
Where the water tastes like wine , Michigan
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Talking You can do it!! I did and nobody has died yet.

Hyperventilated yes, died nope.

Paula (Foiled Again) has great advice. I'd add only one thing

Wear extra deodorant!

Its fun but you will sweat it the first few times. It helps if your partner has been properly medicated and you only have one person telling you how/where to back in as you go.
Steph in MI Air# 6996-
I Hockeytown USA!!
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Old 12-23-2010, 03:40 PM   #14
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2008 22' Safari
springfield , oregon
Join Date: Apr 2008
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Wow I am even more inspired to do this!

Thanks everyone for such great suggestions and tips, I will take it slow and calm (ha!) while my ever-so-helpful hubby coaches me. I'd like to "someday" be able to take a trip with a girlfriend or two so we can do some glamour camping together so I'll just keep at it until I can do it! And I'm also sure that my husband would appreciate not having to do the driving all of the time.

I'll keep y'all posted, perhaps with some hilarious parking pictures for your enjoyment.

Happy New Year everyone!

"It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive" - Bruce Springsteen
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