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Old 02-28-2015, 12:12 PM   #1
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TRAILER NEWBIES... Firsts to Remember

My first trailer, a 23 foot Airstream, was my first experience towing, other than some UHaul trailers. Putting the tow vehicle's transmission into DRIVE, I departed the RV Dealer's lot... a hearty farewell.

A hearty farewell from the DEALER... for me it was an event to remember. Firsts in towing an actual trailer. After making a wrong turn from the RV Lot and ending up in an apartment complex parking lot, I learned to navigate some tight turns. Not by choice, but by accident. Mirrors were finally discovered as an important tool of towing. The passenger's mirror with the optics distorted was not much help, but I did navigate out of this mistake and off to the RV PARK where we had paid up for the rest of the year for storing the trailer when not using it.

(1) FIRST and actually the most important first. BACKING UP. You will discover that backing up requires some... practice and sweat equity. Lots of sweat. Little equity. Oh yeah. Those of you pulling a 34 foot Airstream can snicker a bit, but a longer trailer is tame compared to a 16 foot Bambi in reverse. But... in either case you will need someone to watch your "rear end".

(2) SECOND. After you have figured out the First Experience, you actually are ready for the THIRD first.

(3) THIRD. Loading your Trailer. The first trip will include many things that will not be used... ever. Eliminate those on the second trip. It seems everyone, including us, load up three weeks of food for a one week trip. I guarantee that you will stop at more than one restaurant while on this first trip. Weight is critical... so read up on the weight of water per gallon. Traveling dry, empty fresh water tank, can improve your gas mileage and you can pick up water pretty much anywhere. Carry a six gallon jug in your tow vehicle in the event you need water. It might be after the first year of FIRSTS, you will discover that some things are not necessary when you are going from A to B in eight hours. Yes... some of you want to tow all of the Bells and Whistles.... sure, go ahead. I don't. So I will skip Fourth through Sixth firsts...

(7) SEVENTH. Tools. Bring an electric screwdriver. A small socket set. A hammer. A phillips and straight edged screwdriver. As soon as the tires are rolling over the pavement... parts began to come loose and screws dropped during the building of your trailer appear from crevices and from under cabinets. Eventually you will settle into a smaller assortment, but be prepared.

(8) EIGHTH. When your gasoline gauge begins to drop below 50%, begin to think about topping the fuel tank. If the next town is 100 miles away... you do not want to be a hitch hiker, leaving your trailer. Or worse, dropping your trailer off on the side of the road to get to a gasoline station. Either way... there will a FIRST stupid thing, we all have done something we regret. Like... maybe not checking the AIR in your spare tire.

(9) NINTH. Take any advice with a "grain of salt". Whatever that means, just consider the What, IFs and Buts of being away from home and the tons of supplies and tools left in the garage.

The most important First is the FIRST. Backing up your trailer. Please, lets hear more Newbie Firsts. Newbies will not usually ASK, as they want everyone to think that they are proficient towing. Guys are the worst. Why entertain the experienced at an RV Park while you can practice an hour to back into a 35 foot concrete slab at the Trailer Storage lot? You can practice and be less visible to those of us that had been similar victims in the past. It is just a matter of .... FIRSTS.

We all have been a NEWBIE and experienced those FIRSTS. What was yours?
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Old 02-28-2015, 12:57 PM   #2
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Old 02-28-2015, 01:04 PM   #3
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I'll tell you a first. My dear husband of 34 years turns into a creature that I do not recognize when I am behind the wheel backing up the AS. I would rather do it alone at this point just to dodge that creature.
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Old 02-28-2015, 04:55 PM   #4
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TRAILER NEWBIES... Firsts to Remember

Then tell him to back it up!


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Old 03-01-2015, 09:34 AM   #5
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How will I learn that way? I take it out solo a lot and I need the practice backing up. In his defense he's better now than he was in the beginning, I guess that takes practice too.
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:14 AM   #6
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Backing up... Boogie

Oregon Ms is really offering a real life explanation of the relationship of a couple when one is backing up and the other has the responsibility of giving hand signals to the driver.

It is among the Newbie trailer owners that a real, first class conflict can blow out of proportion. The "Backing up the Trailer" ritual. It can be extremely frustrating for both parties.

I could not direct my wife to back our Airstream into a "slip" at a campground. It would take me a number of times to get the hand signals coordinated. Since I do most of the driving, a mutual agreement of sorts, we have an unspoken language of signals from the back side of the trailer and myself, as the driver, making the final decision if the trailer and tow vehicle are in the best position to get this done.

I try to explain to a couple who are first learning to coordinate the backing up of a 16 foot or 34 foot Airstream for the first year... to take a deep breath and understand that being inexperienced, should not nor need become frustration. Some... you hear them at an RV Park yelling at one another. These tight spots require a lot of patience.

At least traveling onto BLM or National Forest the options to park are much greater and the space is in acres and not feet.

Practice where you are not going to back into another trailer, tree, picnic table, light pole, water pump, etc.. It takes a lot of practice and if people are watching... they have already gone through all of this. Don't feel you are being judged critically by the others... watching. They understand. We all have been at this juncture in the Airstream Backing Up Boogie dance in public.

When the driver turns a corner too tight and high centers on the curb... it is too late to be humble. It is plain dumb. Be calm. Understand that the driver and the observer both play a part in this Dance. Neither are wrong. It just takes time and you will be confident that each trip, you both will get better and it saves the frustration of being a ... Newbie.

Oh... yes. The backup camera in the vehicle. It might work for you. For me... I trust my wife more and the camera... just a nuisance. Others might find it a blessing... I never have needed it.
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:18 AM   #7
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Great thread! Looking forward to seeing what folks post here....learning so much from this forum!
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:30 AM   #8
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Driver's Side of the Airstream View

(10) Tenth and my last post.

When you have an option to turn left or right in a tight area... the driver's side view is always easier. As you turn you also get to see how the trailer is clearing obstacles, especially at gasoline stations and their concrete/iron post protections.

Same on roads off the grid. The driver's side is the easiest to watch. If there are going to be any scratches of bushes or tree limbs on your trailer... it will almost be 99%+ of the time it will be the RIGHT SIDE. You just cannot see the right side as well.

Be aware of this thought. If you are buying a used Airstream... look over the RIGHT side of the trailer. AND the rear body and bumper. These are the most difficult areas to see from the tow vehicle.

In areas you are tight... have the passenger observe along the road holding back brush, even if it requires bush trimmers to open up some space by clipping the culprits. The brush dragging the sides of your trailer are not that serious, but the first light mark will get your attention. You are doing yourself a service and those who follow in the future.

If you want to be safe for your entire life, it will be absolutely boring. Eliminate risk before they become real. Once body damage has been done, it is too late to avoid. Airstreams show damage much "better" than SOB's. You just cannot cut out a section and replace it like fiber glass when dented. After eight years, fifteen years... scratches from brush are not even noticed. Airstreams clean up nice, when buying used. If you are concerned by these minor flaws on the trailer's finish... pay two or three times the money and get new. Then you can beat the trailer up yourself and understand that faint scratches were not such a big deal after all.

Imagine that most Airstream owners do not use the trailer more than four weeks out of a year. They are virtually new after five years or more. I have seen ten year old trailers that look and smell like new. Be aware of this. Used can be a dream come true when everything is working and time in use had been minimal.
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:46 AM   #9
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Wow, that's good advice. I'll take all the advice I can get.

I'm new to Airstreaming but not at all to RVing. Now I realize that my confidence in this regard just might be my downfall.

Another first for me....first time out I parked (in a pull through of course ) and confidently hooked up the water. LUCKILY after turning on the shore water I realized (on time) that I had hooked the hose up to the black water tank flusher (which I had never had before) rather than the house water inlet. When I think of the possible consequences of that mistake I cringe.

I had to take two steps back and remind myself that I'm on a whole new learning curve.
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Old 03-01-2015, 12:22 PM   #10
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TRAILER NEWBIES... Firsts to Remember

Spot on re: backing up.

I've recommended this before but what the heck - DW and I took a weekend long Safe RV Driving course the weekend after we bought the trailer at a local Commercial Drivers License (CDL) training center. Maybe 80% of the course was backing up, into tight spots, parallel parking, swinging the rear a few inches left and right to wiggle in to a spot, obstacles in FRONT of you that you'll hit if not watching while backing up, etc. Great investment in my opinion.
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Old 03-01-2015, 01:52 PM   #11
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Newbie advice...

I think the longer the trailer, the easier it is to back up. The best practice is to keep backing up into your driveway...if you have the area to practice. Try back up from both directions, and use 2 boards- 2" x 10" x 8 to back up your trailer onto the planks as your target. Eventually, you will be able to amaze your neighbors, as you back up onto your boards (to prevent tire sink holes on your driveway) first time every time!
Tom in Ellington, CT
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Old 03-01-2015, 02:47 PM   #12
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Hello

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveSueMac View Post
Spot on re: backing up.

I've recommended this before but what the heck - DW and I took a weekend long Safe RV Driving course the weekend after we bought the trailer at a local Commercial Drivers License (CDL) training center. Maybe 80% of the course was backing up, into tight spots, parallel parking, swinging the rear a few inches left and right to wiggle in to a spot, obstacles in FRONT of you that you'll hit if not watching while backing up, etc. Great investment in my opinion.
Steve/Sue... send me email... tpstauffer@aol.com
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Old 03-01-2015, 02:58 PM   #13
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Old 03-01-2015, 03:04 PM   #14
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One of the best tips I received was to hold the steering wheel at the bottom when backing the trailer - just turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. This way you don't have to think in opposite mode.

In four short months, I've managed to make several noob mistakes:

Make sure the refrigerator doors are locked in place when towing. You won't forget after the first time and grape juice has spilled all over the floor.

I tie a red rag onto the open windows that are in normal walking traffic around the AS. My forehead seems to always be right at the level of the open windows.

I was re-adjusting the trailer one night. During the middle of the night, I kept hearing the AS creak like an old boat. I finally sat up with a bolt - I remembered I had been distracted and forgot to lower the hydraulic stand after unhitching and the trailer was resting on the stabilizers! It's easy to forget easy steps at night when you're just trying to get settled inside.

Make sure you chock before you unhitch. Obvious I know, but when you're a newbie and you're excited in spending your first night in your AS, it's easy to forget the obvious.

Some sites have a picnic table with a roof adjacent to the slot. Make sure you can open your trailer door before unhitching.

We like to store our heavier items in boxes on the floor over the axle when towing. We place a bungie cord in front of the boxes to keep them up against the rear bed (28' International) when braking.

Don't forget to close the vents when going to bed or leaving the AS when you know rain is in the forecast.

Keep an eye on the gray water level indicator. The rising black water level is easy to notice in the toilet. The first indicator you need to empty the gray water tank is a filled shower stall.
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