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Old 03-31-2008, 08:44 PM   #1
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2019 27' Globetrotter
Chapel Hill , NC
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 22
Someone please talk me down-- i don't want an SOB!

Hi everyone!

It was an innocent phone call to a friend. OK, more specifically, a friend who rolled her SOB last summer. It was a Suburban 1500 with sway bar & weight-distributing hitch & nice trailer brakes. (She said they spent a good chunk of money on that stuff.)

She researched the safety of trailers on (bought the cds) and decided on a Sunnybrook. She was travelling at a reasonable speed, a big truck passed, and kablam, she was hanging upside-down from her seatbelt (kids in the back). No one was hurt, everyone was shaken.

That said, she's no chicken, and will be back on the road in a new camper. When I said I wanted an Airstream, she said they weren't safe, and that they (as opposed to pop-ups) took a lot of maintenance, and that you're just paying for the name.

While I respect her, I do disagree. But can someone back me up here? I've never actually towed anything, and at 5'0", even driving a gigantic TV seems a bit crazy.

Can someone please give me an idea of what kind of maintenance I might expect yearly on a good-condition vintage (60s or 70s) trailer? I know, I know, they're all different, but just an idea of what I have to do....?

And I thought that Airstreams were actually safer than SOBs. Am I making that up because I want to believe it?

I was actually considering the idea of abandoning the AS search for a pop-up today. Please, somebody help! ;-P


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Old 03-31-2008, 09:14 PM   #2
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we've had other threads on this 'group' here...

from scanning your other posts it's not clear IF u have any rv/camping experience or HOW u plan to use an rv...

and have concerns about towing issues, as u started a thread on this issue already...

so here's another thread...

forget the "cool factor" regarding how 'streams look...

and sort out YOUR needs and expected usage of any camper thing.

RENT a moho and go rv'ing for a week.

decide what u like and don't like about it.

buy a BOOK or rv travel (rv'ing for dummies or the idiots guide to rv travel) and study ALL the styles, issues and so on...

or go ahead and buy a pop up, tear drop, t@b, casita or other little vessel...

or since u are only 5 foot tall, something like a rialta...

here's ONE!

spend a season or 2 camping, using and ENJOYING that vessel...

there will always be silver tubes for the future.

DON'T spend a lot of money NOW on a product that isn't understood or on an activity that u may not like or do much.

that may not be what you hoped to read here, but there are LOTS of ways to go camping and enjoy the rv experience...

all of the true things that i am about to tell you are shameless lies. l.b.j.

we are here on earth to fart around. don't let anybody tell you any different. k.v.
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Old 03-31-2008, 09:21 PM   #3
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We have owned pop ups and a sob 5er. Well the pop ups were fun but limited to reasonably good weather but the with the sob I was chasing leaks all the time...and the water damage was potentially much more than an AS because the frame was wood. As for the sob pumps, appliances, heaters and so on are the same manufacturers AS uses. Now your friend was 'blown' off the road......need I remind all of the less wind resistance of an Airstream!
Neil and Lynn Holman
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Kirk Creek, Big Sur, Ca. coast.

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Old 03-31-2008, 09:53 PM   #4
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We are supposed to be polite here.... so

I won't respond to your friend's comments with the first 10 or so words which come to mind.

First, I've only towed two SOB's for a total of less than 300 miles - both cases were for women whose husbands had been injured and couldn't tow their RV's home. Secondly I've only been Airstreaming for 3 years. I'm almost 60 and I too had some doubts about the advisability of being on my own on the road.

OK, difference towing between Airstreams and SOB's - To refresh a quote from an earlier post, the two SOB's I've towed behave like psychotic rotweilers - and the Airstreams act like fuzzy kittens.
  • Airstreams are a lot lower to the ground than almost all SOB's. The average SOB is built with the axles and wheels below the floor - the Airstream has a lower center of gravity and that alone makes it less subject to tipping over if you do something minor like let the curbside wheels drift off of the pavement and onto the berm at speed
  • that rounded shape lets air literally stream around the unit. A good weight distributing hitch is still a grand idea, but you don't get as much sideways sway when a semi passes you as you do with a SOB.
  • it is both fortunate and unfortunate that there are no special licensing requirements to tow an RV - I've seen many dangerously ignorant setups in the last three years. "Accidents waiting to happen" may be a hackneyed phrase, but it's true. You CAN tow unsafely for weeks or even years, but eventually some minor thing added to those bad practices and you're in a ditch hanging upside down by your seatbelt... or worse.
Simple advice. Learn. Do a lot of research. Make sure you know how to do the basics right. Inflate your tires properly and check them every time. Make sure your trailer is towing evenly - not nose up or down. Distribute the weight evenly between the roadside and curbside and keep heavy items in lower storage lockers to make your rig more stable. Make sure you have enough weight on the tongue of your triailer and that your brake controller is working optimally. Slow down, especially when going downhill. Stay out of heavy traffic on your first few trips. Stop when you're tired (you've got a handy bed to rest in!). In marginal weather, PARK IT!

About the tow vehicle - remember your tow vehicle doesn't just have to TOW your trailer, but it has to STOP it safely even in a panic situation! BIG Brakes, a long wheel base, and a robust transmission may be more critical to overall safety than engine size. Know how to prevent a jacknife - and mentally practice it. (Use the trailer brake controller to lock up the trailer's brakes while gently accellerating the tow vehicle. Hard on the trailer tires, but will literally yank your rig straight. Make sure your brake controller is installed where you can easily REACH it. Most are below the dash and if you aren't six feet tall, your arms may not be long enough to reach it. I mounted mine on top of the dash where it's as easy to reach as the radio. Don't be afraid of a big tow vehicle either - it's just a matter of getting used to drving it (and getting up into it!).

Hey... You're not that far from me. You do have several forum members and an Airstream dealer in your area. But if no one local can help you get your toes wet, PM me and I'll try to show you some of the basics.

Welcome again.


Virginia Beach, VA
Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 03-31-2008, 10:36 PM   #5
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Liz...welcome to the Airforums!... My advice: make your own decisions about what's best for you... Research: it will be worth it... Rest assured that you are not alone in "wanting" an Airstream...we are all right there with ya, trust me! And we love 'em with a passion, new and old. But make sure it's right for you and right for how you want to use it... Shop the options and see what's available... and decide whether you are more interested in a newer model or an older one...

We had a small motor home and decided to switch to an AS...we will never go back... All RVs have their fair share of repairs and maintenance, and different types of RVs have different sets of common problems, but at least with an AS when you're several/many years down the road, you will still have a worthwhile and roadworthy AS if you take good care of it...that can't be said for all RVs...

I personally (emphasis on "personally") feel that towing an AS with the proper set-up and tow vehicle is easier and safer than most other large RVs I see coming down the road at me... Accidents are possible no matter what or how you tow, but I certainly feel safer with an AS following me...just my opinion.

Good luck with your search and decision and again, welcome to the Forum!
TB & Greg and Abbey Schnauzer
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Old 04-01-2008, 04:54 AM   #6
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ANY RV or travel trailer will require a lot of maintenance, but there are several things that a SOB unit has that requires maintenance, that an Airstream doesn't even have. A rubber roof immediately comes to mind. That has to be treated yearly, and probably replaced after a few years, and they are a pain in the dump valve to do.
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Old 04-01-2008, 05:19 AM   #7
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1979 31' Sovereign
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Youngsville , North Carolina
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Welcome Liz.. Since you seem to have caught alumafever know that we all have it. I was infected 3 years ago. I am located just outside of Raleigh in Youngsville. I purchased a 1978 International and spent a year repairing and restoring it. What a great experience. Finially got to go camping and it was better than I ever imagined it would be. If you go on craigslist you can see several 60's and 70's streams that are for sale. this forum contains a weath of experience and knowledge not available elseware. I could not of tackled my stream with out it. Drop me a line and I would be happy to talk to you about my experiences abd show you my stream. Good luck

P.S. Have yet to hear of a cure for alumafever... but who wants one!!
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Old 04-01-2008, 07:12 AM   #8
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I guess it's true if someone says the maintance on an Airstream verses an SOB is higher over the life of the unit cause the Airstreams life span is multiples longer than most SOB's. My 34' Coachman is about to fall apart and it's 10 years newer than my Airstream, technically the Coachman is at the end of it's life span, thus no more required maintance!
And yes, the Airstream tows much better
Hi Ho Silver RV! Vernon, Sarah, Mac the Border Collie(RIP) -
A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
and a 26' '63 Overlander, Dolly
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Old 04-01-2008, 07:37 AM   #9
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Liz, with minimal maintenance you can make an Airstream "campable." But once you're in, you get infected with fix-it-up-nice virus. All you want to do is make it nice, and while you're doing it you wonder "why and I not camping?" And then you go camping and find five things you'd like to fix... (emphasis on like, not need)

As to towing, I tow with an F-250 diesel, so the tow vehicle weighs a lot. But I have had more than experience running down the highway when semis were rolled over by the wind in the median and I really didn't feel much buffet at all. I even stopped at a rest stop out in the middle of Utah in a screaming wind storm, where the truckers walked over and asked me what the Airstream secret was--they'd seen only the few Airstreams going by, everyone else with a trailer was stopped. The answer is the sharp corners and straight edges of the SOBs cause flow separation, which is an unstable (and significant) pulse of pressure on the sides, causing sway [and maybe rollover]. Try towing a SOB past a semi at high speed, then do it with an Airstream. You will see a world of difference. The Airstream isn't completely immune to wind effects, but it is greatly reduced.

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Old 04-01-2008, 07:54 AM   #10
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Very interesting thread about pulling trailers. I am heading in the home stretch with completion of my very first airstream camper (first camper ever). I have no experience pulling a camper. The only thing I have ever pulled is a 13' landscape trailer. My concern is trying to get out of Atlanta traveling 285 and 75 north. Terrible traffic which gives me white knuckles even when I am driving a car. I have seen travel trailers swaying back and forth on he high way and I have seen them turned over.

My goal is to practice pulling this 27' trailer early Sundy mornings before anybody gets up. I will be pulling this during the summer and I will put 1000 miles on it. Much to learn about being an experienced safe airstreamer on the road.


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Old 04-01-2008, 08:14 AM   #11
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2007 28' International CCD
Windermere , Florida
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With the proper tow vehicle, and, precise hitch set up, you hardly even know that you are towing when you pull an AS.
But, it takes time to get the hitch/bars just right.

2007 28' Int CCD.
2011 F 250 Big Honking Diesel
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:21 AM   #12
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My only comment pertains to the relative safety of towing Airstreams VS SOBs. Airstreams do have some towing advantages such as superior aerodymamics and lower centre of gravity over many SOBs ... BUT any trailer, regardless of brand, can be set up safely for towing. Don't let your friends unfortunate experience "sway" you in that regard.

Bottom line is that you should ONLY choose an Airstream if it's what you want -- not because you think it's safer than SOB. It's not. Towing safely always comes down to how the rig is setup.

Gary & Debbie
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:50 AM   #13
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Columbus , Indiana
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We started out in a quality pop-up. As far as towing, we took ours on the highway a couple of times and at regular highway speeds it tended to bounce around a little, not serious bouncing, just bouncing. So we made a decision to keep it off the highway. If you do local-ish camping, or are not traveling more than a couple of hours away, staying off the highway is not a problem at all. We've seen them on the highway, and if you do that, slow down a bit to reduce sway and bounce.

The A/S tows beautifully. But there is not one thing wrong with starting out in a pop-up. Many of us did!
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Old 04-01-2008, 09:41 AM   #14
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Mansfield , Massachusetts
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We started camping in a tent, then a well made Pop Up, graduated to an SOB and purchased our first AS late last summer. I have towed them all, in all kinds of weather, and the AS tows like a dream when compared to the others. That being said, if you start with a Pop Up, and there is nothing wrong with that, we had so much fun in ours and never had a lick of trouble with it, make sure you get a load leveler hitch and don't follow the recommendations of any dealer that says you don't need one. Tow first, with the camper dry, as air pockets in the fresh water tanks can increase sway and bounce. We had our SOB for five years. After two and a half we found that water damage required the full replacement of the floor, side walls on one side, and interior cabinets. That did not fix the problem because it became apparent that the leak never went away when the same damage occurred again during year four. AS's are not perfect, but we are looking forward to less troubles in the upcoming years!
I forget who posted the advice about mentally practicing the anti jack knife maneover, but it was great advice!
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Old 04-01-2008, 09:50 AM   #15
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"Can someone please give me an idea of what kind of maintenance I might expect yearly on a good-condition vintage (60s or 70s) trailer? I know, I know, they're all different, but just an idea of what I have to do....?"

It is rare that a unit from the 60's or 70's will be (road ready). Plan on investing 3,000 to 5,000 getting it in road worthy condition. Axel's,tires,brakes,bearings,batteries,converter, are all most likely shot! (regardless of what the seller says)

AC, furnace, Water heater, Fridg, all suspect!

If you start in on the floor and frame....?

Regardles of what the seller say's, restored with new floor is MORE than"New carpet/linoleum"

Good luck, you've started your search in the right place.

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Old 04-01-2008, 11:21 AM   #16
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Liz, if no one has sent you to this video yet, you need to go to and click on the "why buy?" tab and just watch the side by side comparision test. Send your totally mis-informed friend there too, who probably means well, but has NO IDEA what they're talking about. I think Pop ups are cool, but I haven't seen one that can compare to an Airstream, it's apples vs. oranges.

Wish I could be more encouraging regarding renovation of a vintage unit, but you'll need either a nice pot of money ($10K if you are incredibly lucky, 15K, 20K and up if you're not...) or decent building & renovating skills (or have some really good friends who have them.) As one who is over the 'hump' on a bath re-build:

I can tell you it is MORE WORK than you will (optimistically) estimate in the beginning. But I've always been the "fool" who "rushed in" and eventually its paid off...if you can handle the mini-bouts of depression in the middle of it all...

good luck! keep the faith...nothing comes close to an airstream..
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Old 04-01-2008, 11:51 AM   #17
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Liz - Welcome to the Forums. You've found a wealth of good information here already. You should know that there are a lot of ladies injoying the RV life, single or married. You don't need a man to get on the road. A great suggestion - rent you a pop-up or SOB trailer and try things out. You can go to a Walmart or mall parking lot to get some towing experience. Set out some "witches hat" cones and practice making 90 degree turns and backing up your RV (simulating backing into a spot in an RV park). Driving in city traffic? I've found just using my turn indicator will let the car behind me know I need to change lanes and they will usually allow me to do so. As others have said, ALL other RV trailers have their own tow characteristcs, but there is NOW
I love that old time rock & roll.
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Old 04-01-2008, 12:02 PM   #18
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Liz - Welcome to the Forums. You've found a wealth of good information here already. You should know that there are a lot of single ladies enjoying the RV lifestyle. You don't need a man to get on the road. A great suggestion - go rent a pop-up or SOB trailer and try things out for a week or so. You can go to a Walmart or mall parking lot on a Sunday morning to get some towing experience. Set out some "witches hat" cones and practice making 90 degree turns and backing up your RV (simulating backing into a spot in an RV park). Driving in city traffic? I've found just using my turn indicator will let the car in the next lane over & behind me know I need to change lanes and they will usually allow me to do so. As others have said, ALL RV trailers have their own towing characteristcs, but there is NO question that Airstreams are superior. The best suggestion I've seen so far? Analyize your own needs and talk to as many RV'ers as you can. Attend an Airstream rally in your area - believe me - you'll get ALL your questions & reservations addressed. Then make your own educated decision. The appliances such as AC's, water heaters, refriderators, etc. are all made by the same manufacturers.

Good luck in your adventure & let us know what you decide.
I love that old time rock & roll.
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Old 04-01-2008, 12:55 PM   #19
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Liz, I think a lot of folks have told you that their roots really came out of tenting or pop-ups. We were in that same mold. Obviously every one of our camping units, albeit a tent, pop-up, SOB, and Airstream taught us valuable lessons about what we liked and disliked.

Personally while having an Airstream first thing probably would have had it's own merits, I spent a lot of time learning the basics, both from camping itself and on the towing side of the world. Each increment was built on a want for things that we felt would improve our camping experience. The nice thing about going this route is that you haven't made the "big jump" which allows you to either fall back or say, "this is not for me".

So while you can save the money and go for an older unit, you have to understand if you are also ready to jump into the maintenance game. It might be a bit more than you are ready for, especially if you have no experience.

Come to our Forums rally's in whatever you can afford. You don't have to own an Airstream and the folks who do have them will show you the good and bad. Sometimes it is very much worth waiting for.


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Old 04-01-2008, 07:06 PM   #20
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2019 27' Globetrotter
Chapel Hill , NC
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Just what I needed to hear!

Thanks everyone! Let me properly introduce myself... I'm Liz, almost 37, married with 2 small children (almost 5 and 1). I went to a small college in Bar Harbor, Maine which allowed me to get all over Acadia National Park. I also got my SCUBA certification in ME...brrrr. I lived in a tent for a month or so back in my younger days.

I've done some tent camping as an adult, and I camped in a camper as a child with my family. I don't have a lot of experience fixing complicated systems, but I'm a pretty good guesser on the less complex jobs and I can follow directions if they're out there to be had...and I don't mind hard work.

I love nature, hiking, kayaking, biking, whatever... and the outdoors and there are so many places I want my children to see, explore, and experience (and me, too!)

Having said that...I do mind putting money and time into something I don't feel passionate about. I find it hard to warm up to the SOBs. An Airstream seems like an investment (maybe even more soul than money), and I think I'm OK with taking that on. I would think it's kind of like pet ownership: on paper it just looks like you're doing extra work to clean up hair and dirty paw prints, etc., paying extra bills for vet and food, and hoping they won't chew on the woodwork when you're out, but really, the positives outweigh the negatives a thousand times over. And many are intangible...

OK... my romantic musing aside... thank you all for the facts, the wisdom, and the offers of help. I'm taking notes--seriously. I really hope to meet you in person one of these days. I just hope I'll be towing an Airstream and not sleeping in a minivan because I was too chicken to take a leap of faith. Nah...I'm not much of a chicken...

I'm off the ledge. My friend did get much info from rv org, so the post referencing that site was very helpful. We're now serioius about a 22-24 foot trailer, an adequate TV, properly set up, and a small bank account for yearly upgrades.

Keep your fingers crossed for us. We're in heavy duty search mode now...

Liz :-)
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