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Old 02-22-2009, 12:42 PM   #1
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1974 27' Overlander
full time in canada/US , British Columbia
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Trailer driving skills

I bought a 27', 1974 airstream this fall, and just having it sitting in the back yard, reading a lot of the threads on this forum, has lead my partner and i to decide we are going to run away from home in it for a bit. As a web designer, i can pretty much work from anywhere, so living the airstream dream full time is the plan.

Of course we have a lot to learn before we hit the road, taking one step at a time. One of the steps is niether of us has actually driven a truck/trailer combination. Rather than practice on it, i was hoping to find somewhere that would give you lessons.

On an initial search, all i come up with is Tractor trailer, or car. From experience, what are people's thoughts about how difficult it is to learn how to drive. Is it just a matter of being cautious inititally until you gain some experience and confidence? or should i try to find someone in the area that can teach me?


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Old 02-22-2009, 12:59 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Airstream world

You can probably figure out how to drive it on your own....especially if you find some of the threads here that give you tips. Backing up is the trickiest. We were lucky enough to live near by an instructor from Training Locations and it was truly worth the time and money.....but it doesn't appear that they have any training near you. You might touch base with them and see if they know of anyone in your area. Also try to go to a rally of might find someone in your area that would be willing to caravan with you and give you some will find a whole world of wonderful assistance on this forum.....hope to see you down the road....welcome aboard. pj

Paula & Ed
WBCCI # 8252 Air#13593
1982 24'Motorhome (82Ste P)
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Old 02-22-2009, 01:14 PM   #3
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I actually learned to drive a truck & trailer when I was 16. I had bought my own horse, and my dad, though determined that I would finance the horse completely on my own, was a softie and decided to buy an old rusty truck and horse trailer for me so I could drive my friend, our horses, and myself to all the horse shows. Although my dad never once towed a trailer himself (that I know of), he did a HUGE service for me. Before he would let me haul the horses, he took me to an empty church parking lot close to our house and made me drive it around, just to get the feel of it. In fact, he made me learn to back it straight in a parking stall before he'd let me go with it! Of course, a 2-horse trailer is much smaller than most Airstreams so cornering is a whole different skill you need to learn, but believe me, an empty parking lot is your friend! Just take it slow, get the feel for it, and be cautious on your first trip. You'll get the hang of it in no time. :-)

Jay (KB8VMO)
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Old 02-22-2009, 01:41 PM   #4
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Hello Kim,

Welcome...Trailering is not difficult, it is an easily master skill, but mistakes can be expensive. The good news is that most of the things one needs to know are common sense based, and are available through other resources...Such as this forum.

If you‘ve never towed a trailer before you’re not alone. I believe many here jump into RV ownership under the same circumstances. The good news is…The bigger the RV…The easier it is to tow. The key to success is having an appropriately rated tow vehicle (TV), a quality hitch, brake controller, and an understanding of how to setup your system in a way that works for you. There are many knowledgeable people here who will gladly answer specific questions you may have.

Here is my take:

Towing can be broken down into 5-basic actions, some of which are natural to normal driving:

1) Before You Go: Check TV and RV systems, including but not limited to: Fluid levels, tire pressure, brake controller operation, light functions. Then make sure the hitch setup is correct for your application, and any lubrication points (if required) are addressed.

2) Straight Line Driving: No big difference from normal driving. Just remember that many RV’s are wider than the TV. They are also susceptible to crosswinds and drafts from larger vehicles... With proper TV and hitch selection the effects of winds and drafts will be minimal.

3) Turning: The turn radius of a trailer is always less than the radius of the TV. As such wider turns are required when towing. The longer the trailer, the wider the turn radius.

4) Braking: Simply put…Stopping when towing typically requires more distance. Properly functioning trailer brakes are critical to safe towing. I try to double my following distances when towing, and anticipate stops whenever possible.

5) Backing: I venture to say that most trailer damage occurs during the backing process. The good news is...the longer the RV, the easier it is to back. RV’s are big, and most of the time backing vision is limited to using the left and right side view mirrors, which seems intimidating. The good news is that this is an easy skill to master. It is not difficult, but does require practice to become proficient. The easiest way to learn is to practice…practice…practice. Oh and did I mention…Practice. The best place to practice is in an empty parking lot. I use the painted lines as a guide, and practice backing in a straight path. Once you develop confidence in straight line backing, set up some curves using plastic cups as a guide. Then practice. Use a spotter, and work together as a team. When you get tired, take a break and come back another day.

Keep the questions coming, and keep us posted to your successes.

Best of Luck,


"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Old 02-22-2009, 02:12 PM   #5
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Trailer driving skills

Greetings Kim!

Welcome to the Forums!

I will make a suggestion that may be a bit unconventional, but might help. To get some practice towing a trailer prior to taking the plunge with your Airstream, have you thought about renting a tandem axle U-Haul for a weekend to practice? While it would only be 1/2 the length of your Overlander (27'), it would give you the chance to practice turns, backing, etc. Local rental of a U-Haul trailer is quite reasonable, and if you can master backing the tandem U-Haul, your Overlander shouldn't prove a problem as it will be less abrupt in its reactions.

Good luck with your venture!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 02-22-2009, 02:19 PM   #6
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Here's a link

to some basic RV towing information: RV Towing Tips - Home page ... there's a lot of information here.

But you can easily (?) learn on your own ... IF you take it slow and easy to start out. Most important tips I can offer are these:

- make SURE that your tow rig is compatible with your trailer in terms of hitch setup, wiring, brakes, etc. If you have any doubt, a nearby RV dealer can at least help, and a nearby Forums member can probably help a lot ... if you think you need help, just ask!

- wheels, tires, bearings, brakes and hitch are all mission critical. Failure of any of these can lead to disaster ... check them out carefully.

- MOST (though not all) tire failures are the result of low air pressure ... a few dollars spent on a reliable gauge, coupled with REGULAR pressure checks can save your bacon.

- when backing, go SLOWLY. A lot more slowly than you think is too slow. I have a pair of cheap, rechargeable walkie-talkies ... one in the hands of partner behind you (and off to one side) can save a lot of grief.

Good luck!

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Old 02-22-2009, 02:32 PM   #7
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One more thing

Our RV instructor asked us if we knew how to spell "Back". His answer was "SLOW".

He also told us how to park at Target so no one could box us in (far away from the door as possible close enough to a curb that no one can park in front of you and angled a bit so you can pull out).

Another thing was to watch for unwritten road signs---like places where others have scraped guard rails, etc.---you will know that at least one other had a problem take it easy......

The other suggestions are good ones......especially practicing in the parking lot.....pj
Paula & Ed
WBCCI # 8252 Air#13593
1982 24'Motorhome (82Ste P)
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Old 02-22-2009, 02:50 PM   #8
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The main thing that comes to my mind is don`t forget it is back there.
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Old 02-22-2009, 03:17 PM   #9
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Hi there, your best bet is to jump in there without any fear. My Brother just bought a 31 ft 1971 Sov and he was always nervous of the thought of driving on the 401. Well he followed me up to London ontario, I'm pulling a 34ft limited and before i knew it there he was passing me ready to go a wee bit faster (airstreams in my opinion are the easiest towing trailers). I would love to see your trailer as we are not far from you during the winter anyway. We own a campground in PEI during the summer and during the winter we are in Alexandria Ont, not 1 hour from you. Anyway you let me know if you would like any pointers or even meet for a coffee somewhere to discuss Airsteams..... we ALWAYS have time for that.
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Old 02-22-2009, 04:37 PM   #10
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Many good things already said. Here's my additions:
  • Your first several times towing, keep your speeds down. Learn merging, handling, turning, and braking at these lower speeds first. If you're used to driving 70+ mph on highway, try towing at 55 mph. On non-highways, even slower. Don't be in a hurry to arrive safely. Find your comfortable towing speed later rather than sooner.
  • The trailer may track just inside of your vehicle path in a turn. This is especially important on right turns, where there is usually less turning clearance due to signs, poles, and people located on the curb. Practice your turns in a parking lot or other area where you can drive various speeds without obstacles. Learn how to drive a bit deeper into a turn. Watch the trailer in your mirrors while turning. Turn while applying the brakes. See, feel, and learn.
  • Allow both of you to experience backing the trailer and being the helper. If one of you is always the helper, the helper will never really understand what the driver can see in the mirrors and where best to stand and provide assistance. Figure out how to communicate left, right, back, stop, etc in a manner you both understand.

Your confidence in towing will grow very quickly. A couple of trips is all you'll need.

Good luck and enjoy your Airstream.


1976 24' Argosy
1973 International Harvester Travelette 1210 4x4 'Bernard' 164" WB
1997 Georgie Boy 30' SuperDuty v10
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Old 02-22-2009, 05:01 PM   #11
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little trick


Here's a little trick I learned in a watercraft class:

Most people drive with their hand on the TOP of the steering wheel when cruising down the road. The reaction is intuitive that if you want to go right, you move your hand to the right.

When backing the trailer, put your hand on the BOTTOM of the steering wheel. When you want to go right, move your hand right.

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Old 02-22-2009, 06:04 PM   #12
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2 things to think about when backing up.

1) Know where your axles are in the rear view mirror. This is the pivot point of the trailer. This is where you'll line up the TT side with where you want to park. Watch out for the rear overhang. This is the part of TT that's behind the rear axle. It can go out over the grass (or into a site marker, tree, or a tall rock) at a site while backing in if the site is narrow.

2) G.O.A.L. Get out and look. Don't be embarassed to get out & make sure there's enough room. look up for tree branches & power lines. Pull up ahead if necessary to straighten out. I'd rather come over & laugh with you at your 12 tries over a beer than quietly feel sorry for your latest battle scar.Don't be afraid to ask for help. An extra set of eyes behind you is great insurance to have.


Can't stress enough to take your time. If you get frustrated, get out & take a short walk before trying again.
"Sometimes I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." Mark Twain

AIR 22749 WBCCI 2349 NOVA TAC TN-6
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Old 02-22-2009, 06:08 PM   #13
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When I started towing about 8 years ago I was very apprehensive at times.

One thing I would do is practice wide turns WITHOUT the trailer. Whenever I was driving my truck I would swing wide on any turn I took.

Any bit helps.
Roger & Roxie (rore62) Smith (Air#178 - WBCCI#1646)
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Old 02-22-2009, 07:39 PM   #14
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I am still currently looking for my AS. I have settled on older, no, newer. Smaller, no larger. Larger means bigger maybe small. I love reading these posts and learn something new every day!

I would like to add my 2 cents about towing, I used to own a 20' sailboat, have driven a Ryder truck with car trailer from Maine to NM, towed a U-Haul 6x12' from FLA to NM, and currently tow (on a regular basis) a 10' utility trailer, a Ford pickup bed trailer, and a 24' car hauler. I totally agree with everyone who has written, take it slow, and be patient. When going forward and turning a corner, say left-hand turn, aim the TV to the far right side of lane you want (I think "big swing"). Turning right, don't cut the corner short, as you normally do when turning, but aim to the far left side of the intended lane.

As for backing, I have a great teacher. Don took me out into a deserted field and we set up the desired location for the trailer. He walked beside me as I backed and he talked about cutting the wheel too much, not enough, etc. He had me do the wrong things, and the right things. Doing it wrong, without pressure, is a good lesson. Stop, get out, see what the trailer is doing. Also, realize that if you give yourself extra backing room, you'll be happier.

One last word, being female, I do get tired of folks who try to "help". LEFT! RIGHT! MORE RIGHT, etc. Once you practice, and gain confidence, just get into "the zone" and put your trailer where you want it. I found that having alot of extra help sometimes rattled me more than people just being quiet. My partner will watch for me, especially when I'm near the stopping point, but will otherwise keep quiet. Practice, practice. :-))

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