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Old 07-25-2011, 07:10 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by A W Warn
Everyone starts where you are, at the beginning. Tomorrow is another day. Be calm and have positive thoughts! Don't feel bad if you have to repeat and repeat the setup and start over. Last time it took me four times to back in the driveway and I've been towing more than 40 years. You will get less nervous with experience as you get to know your trailer.
I couldn't agree more. Using the bottom of the wheel when backing is a tried and true technique. The plastic trash cans are a great tool for practice. Personally, I think if you master backing a couple trailer lengths in a straight line, backing around obstacles will come a bit easier. You can see and watch one side of your rig; use the road's edge or other landmarks with relation to your tires and trailer's side wall to gauge how parallel you're coming. Your spotter is responsible for all that you can't see and must remain in your vision. If your spotter disappears, STOP. While you're concentrating on everything back there, remember to keep an eye on where the front fenders are heading also.

The truckers make it look easy, but they practice every day! I also believe shorter trailers are harder to back than longer ones.

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Old 07-25-2011, 07:10 PM   #30
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First Trip Failure

Even after towing travel trailers
for more than 30 years, my greatest dread is any back-in space with limited side clearance. If I weren't able to store my coaches on my farm with ample "wiggle room", I would definitely have taken my Airstream dealer up on his offer to fabricate a front hitch on my Suburban for easier parking of either coach. I still consider adding a front hitch to my Suburban, but it might spoil me and lure me away from utilizing my Cadillac as a tow vehicle - - and it is so much more fun to Airstream with the top down on the tow vehicle.

Unitl very recently, I always towed solo so found it exasperatingly difficult to follow somoneone's hand directions. My usual practice has been to make full use of the "see-through" feature of my Vintage coaches along with a good set of McKesh mirrors on my tow vehicle -- to which I add frequent stop-and-check operations if the clearances are uncomfortably tight. Next on my list of needed projects is to replace the smoke tinted center panel on my Minuet's rock guard with a clear piece of Lexan so there is less obstruction of the "see-through" feature on that coach. I have also found that my frustration level is usually in direct proportion to the number of hours that I have spent on the road . . . if my day of travel has been more than 300 miles, the spot better be pull-through as my parking frustration tolerance goes down tremendously with each mile traveled beyond 300.

Good luck in resolving your parking issue!


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 07-25-2011, 07:39 PM   #31
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If you cannot back in straight, then back in from the side such that the driver can see the tail end of the trailer, not the "off side."

It would be easiest if you have enough space to do so to try and back straight in.

When backing, the driver should go slowly, and watch the back end of the trailer to see that it is going where he/she wants.

If not - then grab the BOTTOM of your steering wheel and move it in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go. The sooner you correct its undesired direction the better.

IE - want the back of the trailer to move to the left side ?

Then grab the bottom of the steering wheel and move it to the left - that is, clockwise rotation. A simple rule and easy to remember!

It gets confusing if you sometimes look in your mirror and sometimes look out the window or back over your shoulder!

It is good to have a second person on the ground, and cheap FRS radios are handy, but even with the radios make sure they stay in view of your rear view mirrors so they can wave like hell if you are about to hit something.

Even though I always use my better half to help me back into a spot, I will often stop part way and walk back to survey the scene myself just to be sure I understand what I am dealing with and note any potential hazards!

Also be aware that when you are backing, the trailer cannot change direction instantly - it takes some distance of reversing before it will change direction significantly, especially with a 30' trailer, and you have to be aware of that. You may be better to pull ahead and try again. My wife still doesn't seem to appreciate this fact!

These are just things that I have learned over the years - haven't damaged any trailers yet - touch wood (or aluminum?)

As others have said - just practice - you will do just fine and soon be a dab hand at it, maybe even enjoy the challenge! It is however true that some sites can be pretty tough for a large trailer. S far we have always managed, but at times I have been damn close to giving up and asking for another site! I'l gladly take a pull-through site for a few more $$ if available!

The absolute worst situation is when you half a half dozen well-meaning campers all around giving you directions - usually conflicting!

In one instance, I was at my wits end, and literally had to tell me wife to go explain to them that I knew they were trying to help, but that they were just making me nervous, and unless they wanted to do the job for me, would they please just leave me to my own devices! They seemed to understand and we had a good laugh afterwards when I apologized!

Brian & Connie Mitchell

2005 Classic 30'
Hensley Arrow / Centramatics
2008 GMC Sierra SLT 2500HD,4x4,Crew Cab, Diesel, Leer cap.
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Old 07-25-2011, 09:00 PM   #32
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Many people at campgrounds who "help" you back tell you to move the wheel as if your hands are on the top, not the bottom. Ask them what they mean—which way do you want the trailer to go? Then tell them you hold the wheel on the bottom, not the top.

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Old 07-26-2011, 09:28 AM   #33
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Thumbs up

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the great advice. At least no one else was around to see us trying to park. We did pull forward numerous time, but probably not far enough. As the spotter I do need to stand so that my husband can see me in the mirrors. We will try again in another couple of days.
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Old 07-26-2011, 10:17 AM   #34
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The key is practice, practice, practice.... I've backed my steam launch down a ferry ramp, onto the boat, and curved into our assigned spot with fifty people watching, in one go, no stopping... palms only slightly slippery that time. The Airstream is definitely more difficult to back because visibility is poor; on anything but a very slight curve, the outside rear is blind. Practicing where the only consequence of getting it wrong is pushing a cardbox box or bumping into a plastic cone is a very good idea. The other thing that takes time is learning about the upper corners of your 'stream; the things are much taller than other types of trailers, and overhanging obstacles (roof overhangs, tree branches, etc) are always a threat. If you're backing by yourself, there is absolutely no substitute for getting out often and looking. I often find I need to ask
helpers to just alert me to clearance issues rather than getting explanations of how I should be turning the steering wheel.

I have recently added 5" convex mirrors to both sides of our truck; this helps both going down the road and backing. The whole control reversal thing just takes time to get used to; those who've flown radio controlled models know this well. Happily, with a trailer, one can always stop and take a deep breath instead of crashing.

If you have a long tow vehicle (like our F250 Crew Cab or even worse, an long bed F350 Crew Cab), there _are_ indeed limits as the the places you can back into, because the turning radius of your truck is too large. It is in these cases that a front hitch can be invaluable, because with the steering wheels in the middle the overall rig will do a much tighter turn. This is a last resort, though; it's a pain to chock, unhitch, swap towbar locations, re-hitch, un-chock, etc.... but it is indeed sometimes the only way. I have backed very unwieldy trailers into very tight spots with the front hitch.
However, if you find you can get the trailer out with the hitch in the rear, you could have backed in as well.

- Bart
Bart Smaalders
Menlo Park, CA
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Old 07-26-2011, 10:31 AM   #35
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I have to disagree with the failure part. Everytime you do anything with your Airstream, positively or negatively, is part of learning. I have been in Airstreams all my life, the last 12 towing. You learn from EVERYTHING and you WILL get better. You will look back and reminisce how difficult you thought backing up was. I think I actually prefer back-in spots to pull throughs now. I usually park my truck (solo) by backing into parking spots also. Just practice whenever you can.
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:09 AM   #36
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Communication Confusion

Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
Many people at campgrounds who "help" you back tell you to move the wheel as if your hands are on the top, not the bottom. Ask them what they mean—which way do you want the trailer to go? Then tell them you hold the wheel on the bottom, not the top.

Or like one of my camping friends: telling me to "turn your wheels to the right". Whaaa? WTF? I know this is inate to some but the best directions for me are something like "push the trailer to your left".

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Old 07-26-2011, 12:51 PM   #37
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Come to England and practice manouvres in a 26 foot Bedford TL with impossible gears.. reversing a 26 foot trailer..with an audience of 15 or so fantastically experienced macho lorry drivers having a break in our cramped motorway services..all staring..bored out of their brains..nothing else to do..what one can accomplish under these circumstances is simply amazing..It could have the opposite effect for some but Sheer panic and the fear of looking a twerp worked wonders for me.. matter what..I cannot..cannot for the life of me..reverse a trailer under 6 feet..Ive shunted back and forth..and red faced..unhitched it..
I take a bow and remove my hat to any manwoman who is capable.
When I owned a Saab..which was a nifty little thing..I reversed very quickly into our drive with a small trailer on the back..thing was..I forgot it was there..Clouseau i.e. my true love was on his hands and knees
reconstructing the crime..took a whole 4 minutes before he started yelling..

If your lucky enough to have an accomplice at your rear..
Walkie Talkies are just the ticket..right hand down left hand down..
definite instructions though..Limp wristed squeeks from the rear doesnt inspire confidence..and use your mirrors..Practice using your mirrors
in your car ..
There you have it..Bobs your uncle..once you dont have to think too much youve cracked it..the harder you concentrate the more it wiggles the wrong way..
Your so lucky and have so much room over there..deserts and all manner of things..shunt it around..I can never remember if deserts is one or 2 esses..anyway..the sandy bits..the other is pudding isn't it ? you know..dessert..
Im off ..too tired for most..time for a Cider and a Film..Good Luck and cheerios..
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Old 07-26-2011, 02:01 PM   #38
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You can spell it either way, but desert is arid, dessert is tasty.

Short trailers are harder to back with.

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Old 07-26-2011, 03:46 PM   #39
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a few decades ago I used to work at a large U-Haul yard. I remember using a variety of trucks to back a variety of trailers around corners and back down long rows with other vehicles and trailers on each side (enough room for a person to walk on each side as well).

Now I only back up my trailer a few times a year (& am 30 years out of practice!) and I often have a H of a time.

I have tried the hand to the wheel bottom -then do what they say
the hand on the top with the "Steer to the Mirror" method.
These all work, there is no substitute for both guide and driver, than practice. I practice alone and with guides when I can. Several times a summer I back that trailer past a race care and a ski boat, in a machine shed - & believe it or not - a lot of machines. I generally have two to four feet after I make the curve through the door.....Trust me I never do it the first time.

The best advice I read in this thread was to move forward and straighten out if you even have a doubt. I do it, I would rather be successful than smooth
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:55 PM   #40
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A good friend and fellow Airstreamer told us the story of his parents backing up with walkie-talkies.

It was the end of a long day traveling, everyone was tired and patience was short. The wife was behind the trailer giving corrective directions on the walkie-talkie. The husband was doing his best to squeeze the trailer into the tight spot. After a long pause with no directions from his wife, he wondered where she was. His next comment into the walkie-talkie was "Audry, please say anything, even if it is just goodbye".

We still laugh at that story when facing a particularly challenging campsite.
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Old 07-26-2011, 04:40 PM   #41
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I fulltime alone - and so I back alone. Men GENERALLY seem to find it easier, but if I, a left-handed dexlesic can do it, anyone can.


HAND at BOTTOM OF WHEEL, move hand direction tail should go -BETTER


Handy Idea - take a near empty dish detergent bottle, fill with water, shake. Go to your "begin to back up" spot. Make a soapy wet LINE on the dirt/asphalt leading from the back axle of the trailer to where that wheel should rest when successfully parked. (This helps you make sure you're pulled far enough forward) Then back over the line to the destination. It's what stopped me from jacknifing every time.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 07-26-2011, 07:14 PM   #42
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Probably the best "help" you can ever get at a campground is the person that simply stands quietly, and yells "Stop!" when you're about to hit something. Believe it or not, that is much more help than 15 people all trying to tell you how to back.

Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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