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Old 11-14-2004, 08:12 PM   #1
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tow practice and other observations

i am just now home from my day of towing. both encouraging and discouraging.

for the encouraging stuff: i was proud that i lined up my van hitch to the trailer right on the money...only took a little tweaking. the actual towing, turning corners, weaving in and out the other lanes at the rv park, pulling into the gas station, was a piece of cake. nothin' to it.

really discouraging was the backing up. sheesh. when to adjust, how much to adjust...well, i just didn't get the hang of it. i know this was my first time and i shouldn't feel so discouraged but....

and i wonder if i need bigger mirrors. i can't see anyone behind me unless they're waaaaay back there.

we didn't go on the freeway...out here near the Columbia River Gorge it is really really windy and i don't yet have my sway bars so i passed on that bit of training.

it was dark when we returned so i got all the systems hooked up but i left the trailer hitched to the van. because i need to get some things checked out on the trailer, i thought i'd like to keep it hitched until i hit the road on friday. any negatives about doing this? (well, besides the fact that someone can hotwire my van and tow me away from here!) i'm at a little bit of a downard slant - can i correct this bit of imbalance while hitched? as you can see, i'm a bit clueless.

gosh, i wish i didn't feel so david byrne/talking heads right now: MY GOD, HOW DID I GET HERE?!
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Old 11-14-2004, 08:30 PM   #2
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Annete, about leaving the van hitched to the trailer, you can do so, it would be better for both if you used the tongue jack to take the weight off the back of the van, and you can (maybe) raise the front of the trailer enough to correct the nose down angle you have. Just don't raise it so far up you start to lift the back of the van, it will put a strain on the jack, and the tongue of the trailer.

As for backing up, to quote a movie I just saw with good advice, take your hand, and place it on the bottom of the steering wheel, and move your hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go. A little turning on the wheel goes a long way on the trailer.
Terry
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Old 11-14-2004, 08:37 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by argosy20
Annete, about leaving the van hitched to the trailer, you can do so, it would be better for both if you used the tongue jack to take the weight off the back of the van, and you can (maybe) raise the front of the trailer enough to correct the nose down angle you have. Just don't raise it so far up you start to lift the back of the van, it will put a strain on the jack, and the tongue of the trailer.

As for backing up, to quote a movie I just saw with good advice, take your hand, and place it on the bottom of the steering wheel, and move your hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go. A little turning on the wheel goes a long way on the trailer.
Terry
Thanks, Terry, tomorrow morning when it's light I'll play around with the tongue jack and see what I can do.

I did use the hands on the bottom of the steering wheel method...i think it's the "little turning goes a long way" bit of advice i was needing
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Old 11-14-2004, 09:06 PM   #4
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Backing up takes some getting used to. Don't be too discouraged at first. My husband does most of the backing up, and he is a real pro at it now. The first time he tried, I thought we were going to be in real trouble! I, however, am still pretty useless.

You probably know what to do, and with practice will get the hang of how much to turn and when to start turning.
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Old 11-14-2004, 09:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts
Backing up takes some getting used to. Don't be too discouraged at first. My husband does most of the backing up, and he is a real pro at it now. The first time he tried, I thought we were going to be in real trouble! I, however, am still pretty useless.

You probably know what to do, and with practice will get the hang of how much to turn and when to start turning.
yeah, stef, it's good to know that even guys have trouble backing up at first

and, terry, i couldn't stand it so i went outside in GALE FORCE WINDS (another good reason to leave the trailer hitched to the van...it won't blow away!) and lowered the jack...or extracted it whatever it's called and now i feel much better. only raised the jack a little, just enough to take the weight off the van. thanks.
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Old 11-14-2004, 09:38 PM   #6
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tow practice and other observations

Greetings Annette!

Congratulations on your acquisition and your successful first journey. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged about backing your coach as it is a hard learned lesson - - and one that has to be revisited each season if your experience parallels mine (I always dread that first backing assignment each Spring).

If you haven't seen the movie The Long, Long Trailer, it chronicles the 1953 honeymoon adventure of a young couple, Stacy and Nicky (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) in their new New Moon travel trailer. Every time that I see the film, I think back to my first trip towing my then new 1980 Nomad with my '65 Dodge Coronet 500 Convertible and remember experiencing many of the same things that Nicky did with his first towing experiences (everyone should experience towing a travel trailer with a convertible that has its top down - - the experience is unforgettable).

If you don't have extensions on your tow vehicle's mirrors, you almost certainly need mirrors with greater extensions. Even with my Vintage Overlander, I found even the typical slide-on extensions to be insufficient. In the end, I have found the McKesh Mirrors to be indispensible - - I have two sets one modern for my Suburban and one Vintage for my Cadillac (the Vintage mirror heads are chromed while the modern mirror heads appear to be powder coated) - - I have added the convex spot mirrors offered by McKesh to both left and right mirror on each set. These mirrors have wonderful reach and insure that you have the best rear view possible.

While you didn't experience difficulty getting your hitch aligned, if you are a Free Wheeler there will likely be a time when this doesn't happen. I have used a "Hitch-Helper" mirror very similar to the Hitch Up Mirror for more than 20 years - - it makes for simple sure hitching each time as you can see both the coupler and ball mount through your rear window and in most cases in your rearview mirror as well. Hitch Spotter also offers a similar product.

In regard to leaving the coach hitched to your van. I agree with Terry, you need to raise the tongue to remove some of the weight from your tow vehicle. You might want to disconnect the trailer's umbilical cord as well as an insurance policy to prevent the coach from draining the tow vehicle's battery should there be a problem with one of the coach's 12-volt circuits. Also since the coach isn't level, you will want to avoid trying to operate the refrigerator as off-level operation on the Vintage Dometic refrigerators can result in expensive problems.

Good luck with your coach!

Kevin
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Old 11-14-2004, 10:08 PM   #7
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For your first time sounds like you are going to be a pro!

We towed our 20' boat for years on a tandem trailer - and you can see all around - but backing up always took that extra....oh yes opposite if hand on top same if hand on bottom, not too much turn at each go or you will be driving more forward than backward (to straighten her out each time).

When we picked up the GT last year - same length approx. as the boat but on a single axle but a big bertha on the width end of things - meaning you can not see a thing unless you have eagle wings for mirrors - tee hee.
It was a whole new ball game and we had to learn how to back up all over again- Both of us. The side mirror system worked great and we always got out and checked out the situation to get a mental note of where the trees, and vehicles were.

We have a really long narrow driveway with trees either side so if we are not straight we can get some nasty scratches. Besides making my life easier by chopping alot of trees down this summer. I did a lot of practicing up and down the driveway - took all the time in the world, even getting in and out of the car a 100 times just to see how I was doing. A darn site better than last year.

The funny thing is we don't think it is just like riding a bike yet....if you have not done it for a while, you really have to think hard the next time and do lots of correction - I am sure when we start hitting the camp sites it will be just like trying to land the boat just right on the bunks/rollers and centred. It takes a few runs.

Good luck - you will improve - just remember always take your time - and NEVER worry about what other people think, or rush because others are waiting - it is your tailer, your spot and if they were behind you that means you got there first - and if they did not want to wait they should have got there earlier - tee hee hee.

Have fun!!!
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Old 11-15-2004, 03:08 AM   #8
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Doing great!

Annette, doing great! I know what you mean about those winds - as we left the Cascade locks, it started up (even more the more east you go). Take your time, and just take deep breaths, everything will work out fine. I have a friction sway control, and it really helps with the sway. However, I will say that my spring bars and sway bars can sure get noisy when driving around turns, it sounds like an old barge or ship behind me (CREEK!).

As far as backing up, I've been known to 1 - send my wife out back to yell at me if I'm about to hit anything. 2 NEVER NEVER back up if you can't visualize what's behind you (don't ask me how I know!! ) 3) Don't be afraid to hop out and looky see when backing into parking spaces - you never know what you're about to hit!

On another note, will you be bringing your Vespa? They look so cute, I'd love for my wife to look at yours (it may help me later!).
see you soon,
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Old 11-15-2004, 09:26 AM   #9
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i love you guys (and gals)! it really helps to know that others have struggled with this backing-up thing and mastered it. i know i will, too.

whoever invented pull-through rv sites was a genius!

i thought the whole process of shutting down systems and hooking things back up again would be a hassle but it wasn't too bad (and i did it in the dark). my only concern is that i'm not sure i have the sewer hose back on tight enough so i thought i'd drain the grey tank as a test...see if water spurts out then i'll know. better that than...

Marc, i will have the vespa with me. you and your wife can take her for a spin....and anyone else who wants to.

oh, and Kevin, i did see "the long long trailer". isn't that a requirement for trailer ownership????? and it's interesting what you said about not being level being a problem with "vintage" dometic refrigerators. mine is new...installed in 2002...so i wonder if that is less of a problem?

GT, thanks for the input about your backing experience....ha! how many driveway trees did you hit while you practiced backing up? are those the ones you removed?

thanks again for all the words of encouragement.
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Old 11-15-2004, 11:04 AM   #10
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tow practice and other observations

Greetings Annette!

Quote:
Originally Posted by nettepdx
oh, and Kevin, i did see "the long long trailer". isn't that a requirement for trailer ownership????? and it's interesting what you said about not being level being a problem with "vintage" dometic refrigerators. mine is new...installed in 2002...so i wonder if that is less of a problem?
The new Dometics are less particular about absolute level, but still need to be close to level. The two usual statements regarding the desired "degree" of level are either (1) If the coach is comfortable for day-to-day living, then level is acceptable. (2) If the level when placed on the floor of the freezer is within a bubble of level you are within range. Personally, given the cost of a new Dometic (mine was $1,200 in 2001), I usually strive to have my coach as level as is possible - - usually no more than 1/2 bubble off-level.

Good luck with your coach!

Kevin
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Old 11-15-2004, 11:18 AM   #11
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You can do it. I remember the first time I backed a boat trailer down a ramp. By golly I put it right where I intended it to go. Jumped out to hook up the gas tanks and water was rushing into the boat. I discovered that I had not put the water plug back in. Somebody was watching over me, I also had forgotton to un hook it from the trailer so I was able to pull it out before there was any damage. Took about an hour to drain the water out. Hands on the bottom of the steering wheel is great advice. I learned that here. Here's a piece of advice that I adapted from boating. When docking the boat, approach the dock at the speed you'd want to hit it. When backing a trailer I back at the speed I'd want to hit whatever's back there which is very slowly.
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Old 11-15-2004, 11:58 AM   #12
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Annette
I have the extended E-350 and it took awhile to get it down. One thing I did find out is that sometimes you can't pull into a sharp drive, but you can back into the same drive with a standard hitch. Go figure. Maybe a Hensley hitch you could get around this one limitation I have found. But I have no Hensley, so I back in.
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Old 11-15-2004, 12:20 PM   #13
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All good advice...

I have an E150 and have the same mirror issue as you do, Annette. I cannot see what is behind me unless they are way back, but I find everytime the road curves I get a good look at what is behind me from the mirror on one side or the other. I also look for shadows on the ground. I wish they made a nice set of extending mirrors for the vans like the F150s had!

Definitly get a set of the little spot mirrors for regular driving. I've missed running over several tiny cars who were hiding next to the van in traffic because I spotted them with those mirrors.

Marc, until you mentioned Cascade Locks, I hadn't put 2 and 2 together that you were the other Seattle family at the rally. I wasn't there but I set up the photos on the unit webpage. http://www.wbcci-or.org/oct_04_rally.htm

Oh, and we didn't see the Long Long Trailer until our second year of trailering, which is good because I don't think I would have talked Dave into the whole adventure if we'd seen it first!
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Old 11-15-2004, 07:34 PM   #14
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Annette,

You GO girl! Don't be intimidated about backing up. JUST GO SLOW! And I mean s..l..o..w. You will get this thing. I think you have already done the hard part- getting out on the road. Hitching up, backing, and everything will come to you and soon enough you will feel like an old hand at this stuff.

Good tips from everybody:
  • Jump out to check the area EVERYTIME before backing up.
  • GO SLOW!
  • Hand at bottom of steering wheel and turn in direction you want trailer to go.
  • When backing, pull forward a bit every once in a while to straighten the rig. This helps in manuvering.
  • Don't stress. You can do it!
  • Hitching aides help a lot. Either a mirror or the balls on a magnetic stick. I just line up the balls and bingo, I'm hitched. Don't need anybody's help.

The McKesh towing mirrors from Hensley are the best. I highly recommend them.

Good luck, Annette and most of all ENJOY yourself. Keep us posted on your progress!
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