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Old 06-29-2011, 07:07 PM   #1
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Advice For Maiden Voyage?

We are picking up our new Airstream (2008 Safari SE 20) in 2 days and are so excited! Neither of us has ever pulled a trailer and it will be a 4 hour drive home. I am more than a little nervous. Any advice would be much appreciated!
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Old 06-29-2011, 07:21 PM   #2
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You picked a 'great' day to begin your towing career! The Friday before a three-day holiday can be challenging, to say the least!

My advice would be to try and not run into anyone... - sorry couldn't resist...

On a more serious note, it's good to learn to be aware that your trailer is 'back there' and may need more room when making turns, especially any tight, LH turns - don't get caught short!

Also, when on secondary roads with narrow bridges - make sure you leave enough room for the trailer's curbside wheels to clear those 'tight' crossings - you almost have to force yourself to 'remember' that the trailer is wider than your tow vehicle, and watch those 'tight' roadway situations...

Since we have the 55 Max towing speed here in California, I try to stay right around that speed all the time on our freeways - I just let those truckers pass me by - 55 MPH is easier on the equipment, better fuel mileage, and you get to see more of the countryside at a more leisurely pace...

Just take it easy till you get the 'feel' of things - there's many of our out there, and we all had our 'first' time towing...enjoy it!
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Old 06-29-2011, 07:23 PM   #3
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I generally try to get the manual before I pick up a new vehicle of any kind and try to review it before collecting the vehicle. Probably a bit late now if you haven't done it already!

The dealer will almost certainly have someone to give you a walk thru and demonstrate all the appliances, hook up etc.

I woud try to really take full advantage of that and don't be afraid to ask too many questions. It may be going overboard, but could be quite useful if one of you has a videocam to record all that you are shown and told. If you have no previous experience with a trailer, it will be a lot to absorb!


Two winters ago, in South Carolina, we had people pull up in a brand new motorhome at the next site to us. They had just bought the unit, and the dealer - not too far away - was going to send someone to the campsite to show them the ropes.

Well, the guy never showed up, and when the owners called the dealer, he apologized but had no-one else to send.

So they came knocking on our trailer door! The poor folks didn't even know how to plug the motorhome in to shore power.

I'm surely no expert on motorhomes, but between us we managed, though it took a couple of hours!

Try to ensure you get the manual with the unit if at all possible, it will have a wealth of useful info.

I'm sure you'll have a great time and all will go fine - and if you have a few minor hiccups, that's just all part of the fun!

If you do get stuck trying to figure something out, no doubt you will have many willing teachers wherever you stop for the night!


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Old 06-29-2011, 07:30 PM   #4
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Take it easy would be my advice.

If you're new to towing like I am then you'll take everything wide and everything slowly; you'll get there in the end and in one piece that way.

One lesson that I've learned is that it generally takes you longer to get where you're going than you think it will. So, save on the stress and allow more time than you think you'll need. I works for me!
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Old 06-29-2011, 07:32 PM   #5
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Since I don't know your experience I will start with basics
  1. confirm tow vehicle has capacity to tow the weight of the vehicle (rule of thumb load 80% of the vehicles maximum rating)
  2. make sure you have a load distribution hitch and know how to set it up.
  3. you will need extension for your side view mirrors if your tow vehicle does not have extended mirrors
  4. before you leave with the trailer inspect wheel bearings (if it has been used recently they are most likely ok)
  5. before you leave with the trailer inspect tires for damage and dry rot (cracks), and check cold air pressure
  6. check brake lights, turn lights, and running lights
  7. as you leave with the trailer adjust the brake function (does your tow vehicle have a brake controler, if not you must have one to make the brakes work)
  8. if you are near a large empty parking lot or a neighborhood, drive around and get the feel of it before getting on the highway
  9. plan for extra time and drive slow on you first few trips
  10. HAVE FUN!!!! you will be ok
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Old 06-29-2011, 07:39 PM   #6
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wow, we were right there with you several months back. A couple of first time basics in addition to what you probably have already heard about brake controllers, hitches, equalizer bars, decent mirrors, etc...
The first time is a bit scary for a few minutes, LOCK THE DOOR. Check awnings and then take your turns a bit wider, keep a longer distance in between you and the vehicles in front, start stopping earlier. If you have places to do it, stop after 30 minutes or so and walk around, stretch out your fingers, they will be tight look at all connections (touch them), put your hand on the wheel centers and feel the heat, if one is significantly hotter, you may have a problem with a wheel bearing. Look inside to see what came loose. LOCK THE DOOR. Check the awning. When you pull out, you will feel better, stop again in another half hour or an hour. Walk around. After that, you will feel like a pro! Airstreams feel so natural behind you.
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Old 06-29-2011, 07:54 PM   #7
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That's a nice Airstream model, great for camping and traveling. Good advice above, take it easy and get the feel of it. Slow for up and down grades, when turning corners and changing lanes you need more room, watch those mirrors.

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Old 06-29-2011, 09:52 PM   #8
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don't forget to look left, right, straight and UP! memorize the HEIGHT of the trailer.
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Old 06-29-2011, 11:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by casa3805 View Post
The first time is a bit scary for a few minutes, LOCK THE DOOR. Check awnings and then take your turns a bit wider, keep a longer distance in between you and the vehicles in front, start stopping earlier. If you have places to do it, stop after 30 minutes or so and walk around, stretch out your fingers, they will be tight look at all connections (touch them), put your hand on the wheel centers and feel the heat, if one is significantly hotter, you may have a problem with a wheel bearing. Look inside to see what came loose. LOCK THE DOOR. Check the awning. When you pull out, you will feel better, stop again in another half hour or an hour. Walk around. After that, you will feel like a pro! Airstreams feel so natural behind you.
Keep the keys in your hand, on the outside of the trailer, wire a set to your arm, Locking the Door is to keep the door from blowing open and bending. Check the awning dogs again, awnings love to unfurl even after you're sure the dogs are tite. Plan on the umbilical wire not making good ground connection or not being cooperative the first time. Something will be probably be wired backwards.
I'd plan on spending the first day going clockwise around the block of where you're picking the Airstream up. Come back to the parking lot, check things over again. Go around the block again. or three. Then when you're comfortable with the new little things of driving around the block, you can add more traffic and merging and gridlocked holiday traffic.
Next, Tell us your stories at Cassini Ranch in the spring.
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Old 06-30-2011, 05:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richinny View Post
don't forget to look left, right, straight and UP! memorize the HEIGHT of the trailer.
Good thought! I keep a sticker in our truck centre console with both the max clearance height of the truck and the trailer in both metric and ft/in dimensions.

Brian.
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Old 06-30-2011, 06:32 AM   #11
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BEACH-ing the trailer

block the trailer wheels before you unhitch.

we came up with BEACH to remind us to:

Block the wheels
Electrical - unhook the trailer lights from truck
A - Ahh, can't remember
Chains - take tow chains off
Hitch - crank the hitch up and pull the truck away

when we unBEACH to drive away, it's just reverse order.

You do fine. Traffic travels in packs, so you'll find that a whole bunch of people with pass you, and then you'll be all alone on the highways. Unless you take the backroads, and then you're all alone from the beginning!
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Old 06-30-2011, 06:34 AM   #12
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Thumbs up Welcome Aboard....

Four hour trip home....

Stop after the first 1/2hr, do a thorough walk around, check everything...
a zip-tie around trailer connector will help eliminate separation anxiety. If something doesn't feel right... stop and confirm. Relax and evaluate trip progress.
As others have said, time will make it second nature, Slow and steady.

Stream Happy...
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:09 AM   #13
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Thank you all so much!

Wow! I am blown away at how kind you all are to take the time to help me through our "maiden voyage." Now I know that what they say about "Airstreamers" is true! We did get the mirror extenders and are having the hitch and brake controller installed tomorrow. The people we are buying the trailer from are throwing in the weight distribution hitch (this goes on the trailer, not the TV, right?), the ball, and HOPEFULLY, the manual! I have tried to find one online but haven't been successful yet. We are such complete newbies that we are going to have to learn the whole 360 - how to flush the tanks, how to hook up the propane, etc. Owning an Airstream has been a dream of ours for years, and I cant' tell you all how excited we are. Thank you all so much for welcoming me to the Airstream family!
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:16 AM   #14
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Check and recheck before pulling off and do it again after an hour or so on the road. Gives you a chance to relax.

Try to keep your smiles small enough to fit inside the TV and enjoy.
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Old 06-30-2011, 08:02 AM   #15
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Old 06-30-2011, 08:03 AM   #16
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Advice For Maiden Voyage?

Greetings Mrs. Bale!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Airstreaming!

I might add the following to the suggestions that have already been posted:
  • Prepare for potential emergencies
    • Trailer Brake Controller
      • Level Control - - adjust the degree to which trailer brakes "lead" tow vehicle brakes
      • Power Control -- adjust the power sent to trailer brakes (helps to determine how firmly the trailer brakes apply)
      • Manual Application Button -- used to apply only trailer brakes (some controllers will have remote manual controls that allow application from near steering wheel)
    • Breakaway Switch
      • Be sure that your dealer demonstrates that it is operational and that you know how to test its functionality
      • Be sure that you know how to properly connect the lanyard that connects the device to your tow vehicle
      • Be certain that you know how to properly cross and connect your coach's safety chains
    • Sway Control
      • Be sure that your dealer demonstrates how to properly connect and adjust your trailer's sway control if it is not "automatically" handled by the hitch system
    • Highway safety "breakdown" kit
      • Triangular warning signs or road flares
      • At least two wheel chocks for trailer
      • Jack rated for the weight of your coach
      • Lug wrench that fits your coach
      • Rug or mat to kneel on while changing a flat
      • Rain poncho for personal protection in rainy/snowy weather (the brighter the color the better)
      • Brightly colored safety vest or sash that will make you more visible as you move around outside of your vehicle
    • Be certain that both you and your spouse have read up on the preferred method to react to some typical situations that can become an emergency without proper driver reaction
      • What to expect when semis or other large frontal area vehicles pass you and how to react to the sensation
      • Precautions to take when towing on grades - - both up and down
      • How to react should your trailer begin to sway
      • How to react should you have a flat/blowout on either the tow vehicle or trailer
    • Be certain that both you and your spouse understand how to secure the following prior to travel
      • Exterior access hatches and doors
      • Dump hose storage tube if so equipped
      • Patio and/or window awnings
      • LP Gas tanks including how to close the valves
      • Stabilizer jacks
      • Electric cords, water hoses, and waste hoses
      • Rock Guard
      • Trailer door and windows
      • Roof vents
      • Tank dump valves and cap
As the old saying goes "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", being prepared for potential emergencies is an insurance policy against dangerous situations turning into a full-blown emergency. I mention these items only as a means of increasing your security and understanding of the dynamics of towing your coach. Knowing the methods for handling dangerous situations will help to decrease your reaction time and reduce the chance of having the circumstances turn into a full-blown emergency.

Enjoy your new coach and safe travels on your first adventure!

Kevin
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Old 06-30-2011, 08:26 AM   #17
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Make sure your steps are up and the stabilizers have been cranked up and don't forget to make sure all the roof vents are closed.

Also if you haven't ever towed before, the towing mirrors will take a little getting used to because when you are looking at the mirrors that let you see further back down the road behind the trailer and someone who has been tailgating you inside the range of the mirrors decides to pull out and pass it can be a bit disconcerting to have a vehicle come seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly fill the regular part of your mirrors.

While you do need to be cautious on turns, I found that my 23 Safari pretty much tracks in the same wheelpath that my Tundra makes, so if I havent' run into anything with my Tundra than it is probably unlikely that Im going to run into anything with the trailer. Others can correct me if Im wrong on this, but I found that making turns wasn't as big as issue as I had feared it might be and my previous towing experience was a pop up.

Also don't judge whether you are going to like towing based on the first couple of times you do it because it may take a bit for your weight distributing hitch to be set up to the optimum. Plenty of threads can be found here on that piece of it.

As you have found, this Forum is a great resource with many, many helpful people.
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Old 06-30-2011, 09:49 AM   #18
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Maybe it has already been mentioned, but I think that particularly when you are new at it, checklists can be very helpful.


I used to use several, including:

one for winterizing the trailer
one for de-winterizing
one for getting the trailer ready to move after breaking camp
one for putting the trailer back in storage after a trip.


There are just so many important things that can be so realiy forgotten and lead to damage.

Such as forgetting to crank the TV antenna down.

I haven't used these checklists now for quite a few years becasue I think I know it all. Now and then I'm proven wrong!

I do maintain a pretty big checklist for packing the truck and trailer when we go away for our winter snowbird trips - everything from clothing items to entertainments stuff & "toys" to tools I might need.

I just print out a fresh copy a few days before we depart and we tick stuff off as we get ready. Easy to modify and update the lists to if on the computer.


Brian
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Old 06-30-2011, 12:38 PM   #19
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like others have noted - take it slow, you'll get there.

also - before moving the AS - walk around it one way - repeat the walk going the other way. you'll be shocked at what you might overlook the first time.

if you are traveling with someone - have them do the same thing after you. they might spot something you missed [did you untie the dog from the rear bumper - stuff like that].

also - my mantra - first step when stopping - place blocks!
last thing before leaving - remove blocks!

happy trails!
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Old 06-30-2011, 12:44 PM   #20
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OMG the dog

You jest but on our last trip about 15 minutes after a rest stop on the trip home DW says did you put the dog in the car . . . I knew I had untied the dog from the bumper and put her in the crate in the back seat but there was a few seconds of panicked feeling until DW was able to peer into dark crate to ascertain that black dog was indeed sleeping peacefully.
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