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Old 03-01-2019, 08:31 PM   #1
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2004 28' International CCD
Austin , Texas
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 28
First Time Towing

We're about ready to buy our first trailer (28'), and neither of us has any experience with towing. The trip from the seller to home will be about 1,000 miles. Debating whether to have it delivered or drive it back ourselves. We've done our research and know the mechanics of towing on paper, will have a sway bar and towing mirrors of course. Appreciate any feedback.
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Old 03-01-2019, 08:52 PM   #2
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2007 27' International CCD FB
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It'll be a steep learning curve for sure! Private seller or dealership?

A lot of this depends on the condition of the trailer, your tow vehicle, and setting up of the hitch.

What condition is the trailer in? Is it road-worthy and ready to go? Or has it been snowballed for awhile? Tires, batteries, brakes all in good condition?

What's your tow vehicle? Hopefully you have a solid and reliability tow vehicle, with a brake controller installed and working. The smaller your tow vehicle, the more work you're going to have to do to ensure the lashup is correct and the rig will be stable.

What kind of hitch? Is this something that is coming with the trailer, that's already setup? Hopefully the seller can help you with it, but don't rely on it as many don't fully use or set them up properly. If private seller, ask them to measure their hitch height on their vehicle. Measure yours. This should give some idea of drop shank height needed. Once you figure out the actual hitch, do research and get comfortable on how to adjust it, specifically how to adjust height and increase/decrease WD tension.
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Old 03-01-2019, 08:56 PM   #3
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Google “RV Safe driver training” and see what you can find beast you. Some CDL (commercial driver license) centers do it. Good luck!
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:01 PM   #4
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2004 28' International CCD
Austin , Texas
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 28
Thanks for replying. We're buying from an AS dealership. The trailer is in great shape, road ready. Have a 2018 Ford F-150 with Max tow package we bought in anticipation of buying this size trailer. Brake controller is already installed. Thinking we'd purchase the hitch from the dealership and have them help with initial setup. We're wondering how many others out there learned with a trial by fire approach while towing home their first trailer.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:01 PM   #5
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2016 27' Flying Cloud
Greenfield , Indiana
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Don't forget good mirrors and don't be in a hurry. It'll take some practice and time to get used to the handling and braking. At least double your following distance too.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:04 PM   #6
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2004 28' International CCD
Austin , Texas
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Thanks, SteveSueMac. Have every intention of taking a safe driving course once we get home. Every course we've found requires you to have your own trailer when you take the class.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:06 PM   #7
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Austin , Texas
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Thanks, Hyo. Fortunately the drive is a straight shot down I-10 through West Texas. Not anticipating a lot of traffic, but will definitely be taking it slow
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:18 PM   #8
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2019 25' Flying Cloud
Hendersonville , North Carolina
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First tow

Take your time. Hopefully dealer will set up hitch well enough to get you home. As you get more miles behind you confidence will build. Still, take your time. Welcome to the Airstream world!

I have almost 2 million miles driving Class 8 semi tractor trailers. Yet, I was still a bit nervous doing my first tow with our 23D Airstream. Towing will become more easier as you rack up the miles. Happy travels.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:48 PM   #9
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2017 30' International
Charlotte , North Carolina
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Don't go far the first day. After spending a night or 2 at dealership, go a bit to nearby campground.

Take tools to adjust the hitch. All dealers don't get the hitch set up right. Ours didn't tighten up the shank bolts and had the trailer nose down.

After a day of settling paperwork and going over the trailer, setting the hitch and TV up was a big hurry.

I started towing little tire and tool box trailer behind my race car, then race car on a open 16 ft car trailer, then 16 ft Shasta travel trailer. That first short trip from dealer to campground with 30 ft Airstream was serious stress. Writing a check for something hooked to my truck that was more than my first house was part of it.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:52 PM   #10
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2004 28' International CCD
Austin , Texas
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Thanks, uraljohn. Appreciate the encouragement and the welcome!
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:54 PM   #11
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Austin , Texas
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Thanks, Al. We were tempted to drive back right away. Good to know about the hitch setup, too. Much appreciated.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:59 PM   #12
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Hillsburgh , Ontario
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Make sure to do things to reduce your anxiety.....gas up the TV before picking up the trailer, instead of trying to find a gas station with enough access to facilitate truck and trailer.

Remember to completely re-evaluate gap judgement for entering traffic, or stopping distances. If someone beeps at you, wave a friendly hand at them and don't worry about it; take your time.

Check tire air pressures on TV and trailer, because you don't want a blow out.

If unsure......stop....get out and check for clearances, (remember height clearances are most important, as your trailer will be taller than your TV).

As you drive the route to pick up the trailer, note areas, (rest stops, big parking lots at roadside dinners), that would allow you to practice pulling off the highway and re-enter the highway in a safe manner. This will build your confidence, and give you an indication to the changes in TV performance your trailer will have on your truck. However remember to spot low lying branches OR height restriction beams.

Goodluck and remember to breathe.

Sidekick Tony
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“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.” "Harry S Truman"
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:12 PM   #13
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Austin , Texas
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Thanks, Tony! Appreciate all those tips. Taking some deep breaths now.
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:13 PM   #14
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Santa Ynez , California
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If time permits go to rental yard or whatever and rent the longest flatbed trailer they have and spend a day dragging it around as well as backing it up.
A flatbed gives a good veiw of what is happening 20 feet back while maneuvering.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:19 PM   #15
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2004 28' International CCD
Austin , Texas
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Posts: 28
Thanks, Al. We were thinking about doing just that, so it’s good to know we’re on the right track.
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:29 PM   #16

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Welcome Aboard!! 🥂👍

Video all interaction with the dealer during orientation, take notes also if so inclined, don't be shy with your questions.
There is no such thing as a stupid question...especially about an Airstream.

Don't rush anything.

"Any nation that can survive what we have lately in the way of government, is on the high road to permanent glory."
Molly Ivins

“Change is the new normal, if nothing changes, nothing is normal, everything changes, everything is normal.”

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Old 03-01-2019, 10:43 PM   #17
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2018 25' Flying Cloud
Portland , Oregon
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Your F150 likely comes with backup assist which is god’s gift to backing up. You’ll need to attach a sticker to your trailer’s frame. There are threads about that process on this forum. I had to attach the sticker on a separate piece of metal as shown. That was just taped on for testing obviously. It’s on there for real now.

Have the dealer install a good weight distribution hitch, not just a sway bar.

F150s come in a lot of different payloads depending on options. Your trailer will put a thousand pounds or so onto the truck. Make sure you have enough payload capacity for that and passengers. That’s on the door sticker of the truck. Mine is right at capacity with a 25’.

Before you get far, you’ll want to practice backing up in a empty parking lot. Walkie talkies area good idea. Lots of threads and Youtube videos on that’s well.
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Old 03-02-2019, 12:02 AM   #18
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2019 26' Flying Cloud
Morristown , Tennessee
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Before I picked up my trailer (I had a 600 mile trip home) i used Google Earth to find a large empty parking lot where I could practice. leaving the dealership was nerve-racking, but after a few blocks in traffic I was able to relax. I spent a few hours in the parking lot, getting used to backing, and using the mirrors and camera, figuring out how far to turn the wheel to obtain the desired effect. My one take away from that was, go slow.....
The first campground was a pull through, and no problems, I can do this, right? The second campground, I missed the turn, and after miles down this 2-lane road, had to commit to turning around in someone's driveway. Let me tell you the anxiety of doing a K-turn in a driveway with traffic in both directions. I just thought about the parking lot, and did it in one try.
After that event, I am a kick-ass tow vehicle driver, and can do anything. (But I do use Google Earth to scope out gas stations along my route.)
good luck.
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Old 03-02-2019, 03:23 AM   #19
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Sunset Valley , Texas
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Hey there Runtime,

If you’d like, contact me and we can get together and do some practice towing or at least you can watch my steps for hitching up and towing. I have several trailers that we could try out. I live near the the Tony Berger Center and there is a very large parking lot there. I’m talking about utility and cargo trailers, 16’ and up. It’ll definitely help you get your feet wet.

Also, I-10, while a straight shot can be daunting at times with potential cross winds and speeding semi trucks so don’t underestimate it. Depending where you live in Austin you’ll likely think to come in via 290 through Fredericksburg, yes? While not a horrible drive, there are a crazy amount of deer as well as weekend traffic in the hill country.

So much of towing is a learned behavior so it’s hard to say what you should do but a couple things I’ve ingrained in myself while towing throughout the years:
- fill up at 1/2 tank, especially in West Texas.
- do a walk around and physically touch components every fill up (doors, awning arms, wheel hubs, coupler etc...)

There is much much more, but it’s a start.

You coming from Phoenix or somewhere? 1000 miles you said. There are several cool spots to stop and stay along the way. Take your time and enjoy the trip because that’s what travel trailers are for, right?

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Old 03-02-2019, 06:49 AM   #20
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2019 30' International
Pennsylvania , Pennsylvania
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I had the luxury of working on a farm when younger, giving me some towing experience with farm equipment, but never towed a trailer on the road.

My simple recommendations are these.

Use your mirrors when making right and left hand turns, watch the trailer as it comes around behind you.

Find a place that is safe to back that puppy up. Backing up is great fun if you have a wide open space to learn.

For the most part, your tow mirrors will likely be as wide as the trailer. Check 'em and see. If they are, then it stands to reason, when going straight, if your mirror didn't hit anything, the trailer ain't gonna hit anything.

Going around right turns on narrow roads, I often hug the center line. Remember the trailer tracks inside/tighter than the truck's path.

Go real slow through toll booths, real slow.

Obey speed signs, especially on road curves and exit ramps. I've found if the sign say 45, and I do 45, it's pretty comfy going around. Slower is always better when new to towing.

You've seen that placard on the back of tractor trailers? "this vehicle makes wide turns"?

Swing it wide! Yep, some times you have to use the other lane to make that turn.
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