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Old 08-08-2006, 12:25 PM   #1
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Trailer Clearance

Hello all,

My wife and I have just purchased a used '06 28' Safari SE (first TT ever) and an '05 Excursion diesel tow vehicle to take our family of 5 on the road. We are very excited and are looking forward to getting the rig in the next couple of weeks

One problem I just ran into (not literally) is the ground clearance for the trailer. I have a 2400 sf building that I want to store the trailer and tow vehicle in -- the only problem is that the building drive is fairly steep. I took some measurements on the trailer when I saw it this weekend -- the plumbing on the LHS, the rear stabilizer jack and the rear bumper all looked like candidates for dragging. I took out an optical level and shot elevations last night on the drive, and from what I can tell, the bumper will definitely drag -- but it is a near thing.

My options seem to be tear out a brand new driveway and try to repour at a different slope or do something to the trailer. One person suggested putting heavy duty casters at the rear of the trailer in case it did drag -- that way it would roll instead of scrape. This is an appealing idea -- it would cost much less than redoing a drive.

Has anyone done this and is it a good, bad or just plain old dumb idea?

Thanks for your help.
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:44 PM   #2
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Hi bradjbolt--My experience has been that the bumper is usually the contact point, rather than the rear stabilizer jack. How about a low tech solution. Mount a small piece of 2x4 with beveled ends at the contact point below the bumper. Then when you make contact with the drive just slowly drag the A/S over the high spot. Should work with no damage to the drive or A/S. Sure wish I had inside storage for my A/S.--Frank S
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:47 PM   #3
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Another possible solution is to use a greater drop on the drawbar on the rear or front, which would raise the rear of the trailer. This might be enough to allow you up the driveway. Since you will be moving the trailer at low speed, you won't need any weight distributing equipment.

Bill
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Old 08-08-2006, 01:04 PM   #4
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wheels?

Although adding wheels to bottom of the bumper is a popular feature on SOB's I wouldn't think further reducing the available room by roughly 4-6" would be worth the trouble.

My '03 Safari has a piece of frame angle (cut at an angle) welded to the bottom of the frame, just forward of the bumper on each side. This has hit only once in a pretty steep service station drive. Yours probably has the same "skids". I'd just let 'er slide up on those if you only needed a few inches.

Although you have a longer trailer, I would think that a temporary adjustment in the hitch height and/or letting some air out of the t/v rear tires might help. Then you might end up dragging the tongue jack, spare carrier (done that) or sewage hose (done that too) if too low in front....

I too wish for covered parking and would do everything I could to get that beauty in there!

My previous house's parking spot for my trailer required me to raise the rear slightly to clear a curb but then level once over...I solved that by using my Kubota tractor and a receiver hitch assembly on the 3 point hitch...just raise and lower the front of the A/S as needed...great, now you've got to go buy another toy!
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Old 08-08-2006, 01:16 PM   #5
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More low-tech options...

If entry to garage is straight, you could also just buy a couple of 2x10's, and lay them out under where wheels start to need a boost to raise rear end. Rolling over single board would raise rear bumper about 3" until tow vehicle gets to board, and second board would double that.. Would require some skill in backing up, but the cost of several boards is less than re-paving driveway or rebuilding scraped metal things under trailer...

By all means, have a helper with loud voice or CB/FRS Radio to act as spotter and yell at you if bottom is going to scrape...

John McG
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Old 08-08-2006, 02:56 PM   #6
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welcome

Hello,

I go along with the majority, an artificial (boards or ramps) method for raising the rear is by far the least expensive and with a little practice will become second nature. Just to add a bit of caution, the Airstream is not designed to have additional stress put on the rear of the frame by using casters or rollers. The frame could be damaged if excess weight were put on it.

If you are looking for a more permanent solution, try adding an asphalt berm on the existing driveway, like a smoothed out speed bump, to assist the trailer into the storage. There is no need to restucture the entire driveway.

Best of luck,
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Old 08-10-2006, 10:14 AM   #7
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Thanks for the feedback

I appreciate the welcome and the responses. Good ideas -- the main issue I have is I want to be able to use the Airstream often, and I want to be able to move it in and out quickly and easily.

I talked to a dealer, and he stated that the Airstream has a 4-wheel independant suspension and should be able to handle a couple of inches lift in the rear via skid plates or castors -- as long as the tires continue to carry a lot of the trailer weight.

Plus -- I will be doing this dead snail slow.

I'll let you know how the idea progresses.
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Old 08-10-2006, 10:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bradjbolt
I talked to a dealer, and he stated that the Airstream has a 4-wheel independant suspension and should be able to handle a couple of inches lift in the rear via skid plates or castors -- as long as the tires continue to carry a lot of the trailer weight.

Plus -- I will be doing this dead snail slow.

I'll let you know how the idea progresses.
Ask him if he will take responsibility if he's wrong. You need to be really careful here since you really don't know how much weight is too much or when the tires are carrying too little. Those aluminum panels will crinkle quite easily if that frame flexes the wrong way. My recommendation is to forgo the castor idea.

Jack
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Old 08-10-2006, 10:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bradjbolt
I talked to a dealer, and he stated that the Airstream has a 4-wheel independant suspension and should be able to handle a couple of inches lift in the rear via skid plates or castors -- as long as the tires continue to carry a lot of the trailer weight.
I don't claim to be an engineer, but it sounds like a sketchy plan to me. If you do it remember to say "hey guys, watch this...."
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Old 08-10-2006, 11:01 AM   #10
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BTW, welcome to the forums. There is a wealth of advice on this forum from the "been there, done that" crowd. I would heed their advice and look at either of the ramp modification solutions that have been offered. Having seen how little it takes to create rear end sag/droop, I would be dis-inclined (pardon the pun) to expect the rear bumper to absorb any of the vertical stress of dragging across concrete. Good luck.
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Old 08-10-2006, 01:10 PM   #11
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bradjbolt, Just another idea if it is a departure/ entry angle problem would it help to back the trailer into the drive instead of pulling the AS into the drive?
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Old 08-10-2006, 03:40 PM   #12
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Hello bradjbolt and welcome to the Forums!

On my 25' I could drag the steel rail at either rear corner entering many service stations if they have anything of a slope to the entry and those little 2-3" curbs at the gutter. It gets dicey and I have to take it dead slow.

Pahaska had those rollers on the back of his 22' CCD if I recall -- even posted a picture once. It drew a verbal 'raised eyebrows' from Inland Andy, saying that it was a very bad idea.

Please re-read Jack Canavera's post and try to find a different way.
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Old 08-10-2006, 04:16 PM   #13
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In and out

Getting in is only half the problem. If you have to back out, you will find that the steel on the back of the trailer tends to dig in. I have a steep driveway and construction trailers when they built houses around me have put big gouges in the asphalt road in front of my drive. They drag a bit when they pull in to turn around and then plough the asphalt when they back out.

The wheels I put on the 22' only projected 1/2" or so below the drag loops on the bumper, so they didn't appreciably raise the trailer, they just prevented digging in. There are photos of them from years ago on the forum that can probably be located with a search. Once I doped out the perfect approach to the driveway which meant turning in the cul-de-sac 1/4 mile away and coming in the other way, I almost never touched the wheels.
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Old 08-14-2006, 07:47 AM   #14
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I really appreciate all of the feedback -- the years of experience represented on this forum is amazing. As to what I will do -- I will not be able to tell which way to go until I get the trailer in two weeks.

I think the most I would do is similar to Pahaska's setup -- setting the wheels to mimic the function of the skid plates on the bumper. Pahaska did you ever see any damage from the wheels?

However, I agree with the majority opinion that it is best not to stress the trailer at all. If I have to modify the drive I will.

I have attached a photo of the barn.

BTW -- the plan has always been to back in. The problem area is at the first part of the drive. The bumper skid plates should kiss the drive before the tires leave the asphalt.
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Old 08-14-2006, 07:54 AM   #15
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Here is another shot of the concrete. I cannot modify the city street -- so it is either change the slope of the drive or go with the temporary lumber idea that has been mentioned. My rig will be blocking a city street while I am backing, so whatever I do has to be simple and quick. The more I think about it the more I feel the board idea can work.

This rig has a Hensley hitch. Does anyone know if you can crank down on the hitch and raise the backend?

Thanks again for the suggestions. I have seriously considered all of them and appreciate your input.
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Old 08-14-2006, 08:27 AM   #16
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Hi bradjbolt--Your pictures are great, makes it easier to see your concern. In reading your thread it seems you may not have tried to back in yet. If not give it a try to see if you do make contact, as where the contact points are on the A/S and the drive are important in determining a solution.

Looking at your first photo, seems to me, you might be able to back in over the curb and grass, to the side of the drive, then straighten out on the upper part of the drive as you start to go through the door.--Frank S
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Old 08-14-2006, 10:48 AM   #17
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Hi Brad,

When I decided to have an RV pad poured next to my house I made a big mistake and didnít bring the trailer up to the house so the contractor could eyeball it. The driveway bypasses a large elm tree by only three or four feet and, since he didnít want to damage the tree roots there was a rather sharp incline for the twenty-five or so feet after passing the sidewalk. I was pretty sick the first time I backed my 34 foot trailer up the driveway; it really gouged the new concrete. To make a bad situation worse, the PO had installed a receiver hitch under the rear bumper of the trailer.

I got by for a while by using some planks as suggested by someone in an above post. I considered a caster wheel in the receiver, casters on each side of the frame, etc. Then I thought better of it and had the receiver removed which helped, but it still was a problem. One thing that helped a lot at the time was to come in at as extreme an angle as I could, then cramp the wheel quickly to straighten out the trailer, then back the rest of the way to my parking space (my pad and drive combo are in excess of seventy-five feet). Since all this maneuvering made me hate to take the trailer out, I decided to bite the bullet and have the problem area (about twenty-five feet of driveway plus a six foot wide sidewalk) redone. It cost more to fix the boo-boo than the total cost of the original seventy-five feet, but Iím glad I had it done.

From what I can tell by your pictures you may not have much of a problem with your twenty-eight foot trailer length. Your Excursion will be high at the receiver hitch so it will be mandatory for you to remove your hitch torsion bars to achieve maximum drop at the hitch ball (thus raising the rear of your Airstream) before you attempt to back it in. If you drag too much you might get by with approaching at an angle from the street, then quickly straighten the trailer. This helps even if you donít get both sides of your axles on the driveway before you have to straighten the trailer. However, based on my own experience, if it is still a hassle, bite the bullet and take out the sharp angle. If you donít, youíll not enjoy taking the Airstream out for spontaneous trips.

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Old 08-14-2006, 03:06 PM   #18
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brad

i have a very similar problem as my drive has a steep apron on it. the easyiest solution to the problem is to not have any excess weight in the trailer. empty the tanks and remove any heavy items before you put it into storage.

i also have an inexpensive drawbar with about 4 inch drop and a 2 and 5/16 ball on it i use for parking the trailer. it is aproximately 2 inches lower than my regular hitch. by using both methods i am able to get across my driveway apron without dragging anything!

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Old 08-14-2006, 09:01 PM   #19
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Hello Brad -- Seeing your setup gives me one idea from other experiences. With non-towing situations in a single vehicle I have been able to clear objects on a diagonal I never could have cleared going straight up or down. This could involve modifying the approach and more difficult hook entries to the garage -- not much different than what I do all the time in a storage area with narrow lanes.

Short of that I like the board idea. And I really like john hd's idea of a hitch bar just for backing with the ball set low. A Hensley is the ultimate anti-sway device. On the other hand if you unhooked the weight distribution aspect of its function, the trailer-tow vehicle could drop at the hitch and raise the tail ... . At least that's the way it is with my Reese. Any Hensley owners out there to comment on this thought?

What is the width and height of that door?

[on edit: I re-read some previous posts. Kudos to genearnold for coming up with the idea first about relaxing the WD bars.]
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Old 08-14-2006, 09:35 PM   #20
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Brad,
I must admit I have garage envy..... From your description I was picturing a much steeper entry than you described.. I'd try it with a real slow angled entry and straighten and square it off at the last second..what I'm saying is looking at the garage door while standing on the street, start from the left of the drive back it in and aim the rear like you are going to park it on the dirt to the right of the garage door this way you cross the highest point of the driveway rise at an angle (which will help protect the lowest hanging part, the waste dump pipes on street side/drivers side) (If you can't get the highest point over the angle you'll never get the lowest point over) bring a couple of trusted spotters for the first run and TAKE YOUR TIME you won't hit anything if you go slow and have trusted spotters. If you have a mobile phone with speaker phone have your spotter call you and put yours on speaker phone so you can keep your hands on the wheel then you don't need to worry about traffic noise as they yell and scream at you from outside. Who cares if you block traffic they'll just be looking at your new big shinny rig saying wow that's a beauty! Good luck.. Nice home for your new rig.
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