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nearlyretire 08-31-2015 01:04 PM

Never owned a trailer what does it take to get up to speed??
Looking at buying a Sport 22 FB in the next 3 years pending my retirement. This will be a first for me and I know that I have a lot to learn about tow vehicles, hookups, tire pressure, steering, backing up, sway and everything else. Is there anyone on this forum who originally jumped into this lifestyle knowing nothing about trailers (i.e. never owned one before, didn't grow up in a household that owned one, never owned a tow-class vehicle, never worked on cars or got grease under their fingernails, etc etc)? And if so, how long did it take to come up to speed and then how long after purchase did it take to learn to safely drive, steer, backup, maintain the vehicle? I am certainly able to read about, study etc everything I can, but I know that reading manuals etc. just won't translate when rubber finally meets the road. Thanks!! :innocent:

WaLee 08-31-2015 01:22 PM

So, i can check every box on your naiveté list except grease under the fingernails. I bought a 23 safari about a year ago. Fortunately it was well maintained and in nearly nee condition.
Getting up to speed happens fairly quickly. My recommendation since you are talking 3 years out is to rent a trailer or two. Take them out for a long weekend and get a feel for towing and how RV systems work.
Match your tow vehicle to the trailer and stay within specs on everything as a newby.
Read everything here. You can spend hours getting the benefit of all the experience here. ( all the free advice can get expensive if you do every suggested "upgrade")
Mist important is getting a solid trailer, hitch and TV setup. Then take it out on the road. Go to a big empty parking lot and practice backing and tight maneuvering. Once you have the basics it all falls in line.

Go camping ASAP once you get your trailer. Get right into the water.

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KJRitchie 08-31-2015 01:34 PM

I had a micro motorhome back in the 80s but got out of RVs in early 90s and didn't buy my first trailer, a 2009 Casita 17' Sprit Deluxe until 2010. Towing seemed to be a scary to me so we went small to learn the ropes. I lived in DFW and bought it in Kansas so I had to tow it home having never towed anything. It was scary mostly because of my mindset. On the small tow lane highway I encountered my first semi approaching the opposite direction coming at me at 60 mph. I clenched the steering wheel and waited for the inevitable. The truck went by me but nothing happened. I was still driving in my direction at 60mph and hadn't been pushed off the road. After about a 100 miles I became less nervous and more confident. Got home safe. For the next few weeks I practiced backing in an empty school parking lot. I got better at it but still looked like a beginner. You live in a pretty populated area. I wouldn't want to tow something for the first time on a busy freeway.

A trailer is a house on wheels so you have to understand the basics of each system; electrical, plumbing, gas, the refrigerator, hot water heater, furnace, AC. Most of this can be learned from reading the manuals, not they are much good, looking at youTube videos and reading these forums and asking questions.

Hitching and unhitching. My Casita didn't have a weight distribution hitch but my Airstream requires one. I had to learn how to hitch and unhitch. Hitching and unhitching if done incorrectly can result in damage to your vehicle, trailer or you.
I done some stupid things in this arena which I never did with the Casita, like leaving the hitch pin out once and when I pulled away the Airstream pulled out from my truck. The result was a broken electric jack, some dents in my propane cover and my truck bumper. I won't do that again.

Like anything else you have to perform maintenance. Some members do it all, others so some and let a shop do the rest and the rest have a shop do it all.

So if I can get through all this anyone can and probably do a better job.

There have got to be some members that live near you that can help you.


ericpeltier 08-31-2015 01:39 PM

Just read everything here for a month or two, and you'll be able to argue about hitches, 3 or 4 stage converters, Payload, solar, generators, and GCVWR with impunity. ;)

SteveSueMac 08-31-2015 01:51 PM

Hi there - welcome and congrats on your impending retirement!

My background sounds very much like what you describe.

I devoured these forums for a year before driving my trailer and as I've said in many other threads, my wife and I spent our first weekend in an RV safe driving class - including getting set up at a local campground the Saturday night of the weekend and breaking camp that Sunday morning.

That didn't make us pros but it sped up the learning curve tremendously.

During that first season of camping I probably got 80% of what I needed to feel confident through trial and (lots of) error, reading and talking with more experienced campers (we joined our local unit of the WBCCI and folks there have been great about sharing their knowledge with us).

I highly recommend the professional driving training and then getting out there and camping. In a matter of a few weeks, you'll likely have the concepts "click" for you and then it's continued practice and improvement on all the nuances (I'm still learning 3 years later).

If I can do this - I'm confident anyone can! Good luck!

RangerJay 08-31-2015 01:57 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Very basic tips for a comfortable and safe start to your towing life might be:
  • Recognize that hauling a trailer is a different experience than hauling a boat, pop-up or utility trailer.
  • A rule-of-thumb is to not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle by more than 80%.
  • A good hitch (weight distribution and anti-sway), good brake controller and appropriate tires are all vital parts of your towing comfort and safety.
  • The more you push or ignore the 80% rule of thumb the more important the quality of the hitch, brake controller and tires become.
  • Don't compromise on mirrors - if you are thinking about the strap on extensions to your current mirrors then you are compromising.
  • Find or make your own towing check-list to keep you on track when getting ready and hooking up - after a while you won't need it but it will help you through your learning curve.
There are lots of other tips you are going to get - but I do believe that if you have the basics down for a comfortable and safe start the rest will sort themselves out as you go along - right down to the best coffee maker ...... and how to mix the perfect martini when on the road .....


richw46 08-31-2015 02:16 PM

I hope you have that countdown calendar checked off every day, don't get behind. :) I kept a calendar for 7 years and down to the last 6 months they still didn't believe I was leaving.... but I did. :D OK, so 14 months later I went back, part-time, from home (or wherever I happen to be), but I'm still mostly retired.

I pulled boats, flat beds and box trailers for 50+ years and when I got the AS I thought I could pull or back a trailer pretty good. But like Kelvin, pulling an AS is a different animal. I had to bring ours back about 180 miles, white knuckles all the way. I came down I-40 towards Knoxville at rush hour, snow was still on the ground back here in Kentucky. With boats I never had to worry about clearance. When we pulled up out front, there was a 2' long branch in the claw of the awning. Not sure where that came from :o.

The previous owner (PO) had done the hitch for me and I watched, but when I got home it was OJT for me. I think I made several camping trips before we went to Florida for a month. I got to tinker with it there for a couple days and finally figured it all out.

So even if you have some experience, a house on wheels is very different. Hang around here, read up, sign up for an RV class somewhere, expect to have some grease under the fingernails and keep that retirement calendar checked off. :wally: [One other thing, buy used, not new. In 2-3 years you'll want to get a bigger one or get out of that lifestyle. No sense in taking the big hit on depreciation.]

richw46 08-31-2015 02:42 PM


Originally Posted by RangerJay (Post 1677512)
...... and how to mix the perfect martini when on the road .....

Now you're talkin'


Originally Posted by RangerJay (Post 1677512)

The trailer is nose down, does that mean there won't be any chance of sway? :rolleyes:

RangerJay 08-31-2015 04:26 PM


Originally Posted by richw46 (Post 1677536)

The trailer is nose down, does that mean there won't be any chance of sway? :rolleyes:

No sway - but actual steering is a tad iffy .....


remphoto 08-31-2015 05:06 PM

Good suggestions here (well except towing an AS with a Beetle ;) ). Our first trailer was a 30' SOB and found I picked up the basics pretty quickly. But we made a few mistakes which became "teachable moments." Fortunately, the only thing injured was my pride (well except for a tree I backed into -- that one was expensive). Just read and practice. Also make sure you have a spotter when backing up and remember to make wide swings when making turns. Everything else will come naturally.

John&Vicki 08-31-2015 05:30 PM

I really admire your humility and willingness to learn. Towing a large and heavy vehicle is a lot more complicated than hoping in the car and running to the store for a loaf of bread. Unfortunately, in this turnkey world of ours, a lot of folks just hook 'er up and roar down the highway. Towing is not difficult but there are many procedures to follow and details to learn. Towing is a lot like flying - 99.9% of the time it's routine and boring, but you need to have your ducks in a row when that .1% pops up. Proper equipment, proper setup, proper procedures help to keep the odds in your favor as much as possible. And that's just the towing part.

Camping savvy appears to me, after only two years with my Airstream, to be infinite - which is fun. There are endless tips and tidbits that help you to get the most out of your experience, in addition to your own Aha! moments. It seems I learn something every time we go out.

You can pick up all of the book learning you need here. Then translating it to the real world just takes a little hands on experience. The way you're going about getting into this wonderful activity in itself guarantees that you will have a great time.


helmsman 08-31-2015 06:12 PM

Hello Newlyretire:

Lots of good advice on here! -- You sound like you're interested but need a nudge in one direction or another.

My suggestion would be to follow the advice of those who have recommended renting a travel trailer for a few days first. I checked the internet and discovered several companies in your county that will rent an 18' travel trailer to you for around $75.00 per day.

Along with that I looked at San Diego County Campgrounds and suggest you look at Sweetwater Summit campground $30 or $35 a night depending on whether you want partial or full hookups. You will only need to drive two to three hours to get from your city to this park.This campground is about 15 minutes away from the San Diego Zoo, Balboa park and it's many museums, Midway Aircraft carrier tour, Old Town, etc.

The company your renting from will make certain your vehicle and towing equipment is up to towing their trailer. They will make sure you are able to tow their trailer. They don't want you to wreck their trailer.

This may seem expensive, but you will have a good idea if you wish to continue following your dream.:)

Al and Missy 08-31-2015 06:18 PM


Originally Posted by RangerJay (Post 1677512)
Very basic tips for a comfortable and safe start to your towing life might be:
  • Recognize that hauling a trailer is a different experience than hauling a boat, pop-up or utility trailer.
  • A rule-of-thumb is to not exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle by more than 80%....


I think (hope) RangerJay meant to say not to exceed 80% of your rated towing capacity.


RangerJay 08-31-2015 06:36 PM


Originally Posted by Al and Missy (Post 1677616)
I think (hope) RangerJay meant to say not to exceed 80% of your rated towing capacity.


You're right - maybe that explains the VW Beetle challenges .....



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