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Old 10-23-2005, 05:39 PM   #1
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Smile how to backup a trailer

I'm looking at an Airstream Safari 25' - beautiful trailer - my only concern is backing it up - both into RV spaces as well as my own driveway / carport. When I've towed trailers before - I never figured it out - is there a trick to it - I'm guessing I oversteer because the trailer seems to jack-knife against the car. Thanks.
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Old 10-23-2005, 05:47 PM   #2
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What you need is practice. I pulled onto a empty Sunday parking lot on a Sunday with two plastic trash cans and brooms. I backed and backed and eventually figured it all out. Obviously each trailer is a little different, based on their length and where the wheels are placed.

The secret that makes it easy is to put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Turn the wheel from that hand, in the direction of where you want the rear end of the trailer to go. Eventually with practice you will be a pro.

Jack
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Old 10-23-2005, 05:50 PM   #3
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Backing a Trailer

A basic tutorial on how to back a trailer can be found on the U-Haul website

Here is what they say....
* It's easier to back up a trailer if steer with your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. This way you don't have to turn the wheel in the opposite direction you want the trailer to go.
* While backing a trailer, if you can see more of the side of the trailer than the front you are in danger of jackknifing.

Hope this helps....and by the way, have someone standing near the rear of the trailer when backing who can give you hand signals to help you.
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Old 10-23-2005, 05:54 PM   #4
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If you have your husband standing behind the trailer, be careful of those hand signals!
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Old 10-23-2005, 06:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cindy_TX
I'm looking at an Airstream Safari 25' - beautiful trailer - my only concern is backing it up - both into RV spaces as well as my own driveway / carport. When I've towed trailers before - I never figured it out - is there a trick to it - I'm guessing I oversteer because the trailer seems to jack-knife against the car. Thanks.
Cindy,
Don't be intimidated by backing your future trailer. It can be learned and practiced like all other things in life.
Some say that longer trailers back up easier then shorter ones.
My wife and I got some walkie-talkies, and she uses one to guide me while I back the trailer in it's spot. Thi usually works very well, as I don't have to look for hand signals.
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Old 10-23-2005, 07:19 PM   #6
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Smile Remember objects in the mirror are closer ...

You know its not so bad, I think its better with fewer helpers (witnesses). Jack's idea of an empty parking lot on a Sunday is great. When in doubt, get out and look around... you go girl!
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Old 10-23-2005, 08:10 PM   #7
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only drive forward for the first 6 weeks!!

ok not really...

hi cindy and welcome to airworld.

when i moved from a class a to a trailer i too worried about the backin' up issue....all my experiences with moving/utility trailers included 'mac the knife/jack the knife episodes.

also i'd read that the longer trailers were easier to back,
so i ordered the longest one available.... and added the hensley hitch which further moves the trailer away from the truck by about a foot and allows the driver to get to about 84 degrees before problems....


then i picked the unit up on a friday and stayed at the dealership till monday!!! there were lots of empty parking lots and streets on sat and sunday. so i would pull out for awhile drive around, back up, turn, make big u turns and circles and so on....

i used plastic buckets and cones and trash cans and finally other trailers in the dealers lot.....for target practice.........i also took short trips on to the interstate...just one exit and then back to the dealer for more circles...

each session was 30-45 minutes

followed by cpr and oxygen therapy...

when my heart rate was under 100 and
my blood sugar was over 100 i'd have another go.....

really drivers ed for dummies.....parts 1-8

the afternoon was worse than the morning session (my sophomore time)
but the next day was much better....and by monday i was ready for action....

so don't worry just practice some near the dealership inventory!!!!!

cheers
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Old 10-23-2005, 08:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcanavera
What you need is practice. I pulled onto a empty Sunday parking lot on a Sunday with two plastic trash cans and brooms.
Jack
What Jack said. My only suggestion would be to rent a cheap u-haul trailer (enclosed) instead of doing for the first time with the Airsream. Take it to a parking lot and get use to how it works. Then, when you have the hang of it, then do it with the RV.

I started with a boat and after about 9 years with the boat, the RV was no problem.
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Old 10-23-2005, 08:26 PM   #9
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Cindy

I agree with jcanavera, keep your hand at the bottom of the wheel and move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to move. Its takes some practice. And most importantly always remember - take it slow and you can always pull forward and try it again.

Steve
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Old 10-23-2005, 08:43 PM   #10
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Good Idea!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertwinkie
What Jack said. My only suggestion would be to rent a cheap u-haul trailer (enclosed) instead of doing for the first time with the Airsream. Take it to a parking lot and get use to how it works. Then, when you have the hang of it, then do it with the RV.

I started with a boat and after about 9 years with the boat, the RV was no problem.
I'm still struggling a bit with backing - I have a tendency to oversteer! EASY does it definitely works better. I totally agree theres a lot less tension worrying about backing a scruffy old U-haul... so I say go for it.

Tin Lizzie
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Old 10-23-2005, 10:05 PM   #11
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Ditto exactly to Silvertwinkie & PaulaFord on the U-Haul idea. ... everybody else too for the hand on the bottom of the wheel trick.

It wasn't that long ago I used a very large parking lot at the local tech college on an empty sunday. There weren't many curbs and only a few light poles. I used the painted rows as a grid only. Orient in line with some reference on that grid and pull forward until you are straight.

Lessons:
1. Back up while keeping the U-Haul in a straight line.
2. Back up while gradually turning the trailer 90 degrees. After you do this a number of times, you'll be able to see the needed distance decrease some. There's no hard goal at this time. You don't need to have the tow vehicle straight when you've got the trailer where you want it. Only after you are able to turn it a predictable amount while backing should you begin to orient to distances and aim for a parking spot to put it in.
3. Don't expect all of this to happen right on the first session. You will want to go back again until you see reasonable results at least some of the time.

Best wishes and keep the wish alive. You've found the most helpful forum possible and that's a great step. You are most heartily welcome!
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Old 10-23-2005, 11:28 PM   #12
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I have found if I arrive at the campground after sunset, and must back into the campsite, there usually is a tree involved and an 80% chance that it will be raining.
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Old 10-23-2005, 11:51 PM   #13
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Ahh -- Good one! Either dark or rain make it so hard to see what you're doing. Together? Deliver me! You really have to practice that communication with a partner, and then it won't work right until mucho experience together.

Whether trying to put the ball under the hitch or backing into a difficult spot, it is very common to start what I think will work and then jump out of the truck to walk around to see if it's what I really need.

You can put yourself into some binds that you can't readily reverse by driving forward. Always consider whether unhitching (get some good chocks!) and repositioning the angle of the tow vehicle might be a choice.
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Old 10-24-2005, 05:51 AM   #14
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I have seen walkie talkies being used between driver and ground guide. It sure beats yelling through an open window with the rain pouring in.
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Old 10-24-2005, 11:49 AM   #15
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While using a U-Haul can get you some basic concepts, I can tell you from personal experience that a U-Haul, dependent upon it's axle configuration will react differently from your Airstream. Nothing can replicate doing it with the real thing, hence my suggestion about the big empty parking lot and small plastic trash cans with brooms in them. You won't break anything on an Airstream if you run over a soft sided room sized trash can.

I'll add my dittos to the use of 2 way radios. Patty and I switched to that form of communications years ago after watching what I call "campground follies" of others yelling and waving their arms.

Another tip which will almost insure you a smooth back in is to be sure you pull your trailer well beyond the entrance of your campsite prior to backing. I've watched countless folks who pull their trailer bumper to the boundary of their site, then having to almost jackknife the trailer to get it in, and then subsequently pull back and forth attempting to get their TV and trailer in a straight line.

The secret is to pull well enough forward of your campsite to allow yourself to angle in. If you do this right your need to do extreme turns will be limited and your trailer will stay more in control.

Jack
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Old 10-24-2005, 07:18 PM   #16
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Friends of ours bought a trailer and he scheduled four hours of trailer driving lessons for his wife with a local driver ed place (I think trucks). They came to the house and off she went driving the truck and trailer with the instructor. Four hours later she came back and backed that puppy down their long driveway with a turn in it at that. She's now by far the better parker of the two (much to his chagrin but he won't take the course). He says it raised her comfort level hugely, he figures he saved huge bucks not having to repair either damage or ib "sorry honey meals out", and too boot they got a bit of a discount on their insurance.
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Old 10-24-2005, 07:51 PM   #17
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The first day of my CDL school bus training, the instructor said I was handling the bus quite well for a rookie. I explained my technique to simply be that if the oncoming traffic wasn't moving towards the berm on their side of the road, I wasn't close enough to the center of the road.
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Old 10-24-2005, 08:03 PM   #18
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In a prior life.. when I was very young, I learned to back by going straight! Place your tow vehicle in a straight line with the trailer behind you. Now back up keeping the vehicle combination in a straight line. Slow ... very slow, never touching the gas unless required. As the vehicle combo starts to change from straight learn to interpret why. Move forward to regain your straight direction.

Always use your mirrors and don't give in to looking over your shoulder.

Once you can back straight you're ready to turn. The lesson of straight back has already ingrained some control. Move the wheel left.. watch the trailer move right. Follow it in.

Inserting the trailer into a campsite or parking space is a matter of looking for the right opportunity while you are leaning. Start with a very simple left hand insertion. This means you will be passing your target site on the drivers side. Backing into this side allows you to see the tail end of the trailer from your drivers side. Small corrections are the rule. Move forward to cancel over corrections. You only need to see the drivers side of the trailer as you have already asertained that the trailer will fit into the site as you passed. Look for land marks to keep you square as you back in. Check the nose of the tow vehicle from time to time to avoid obstacles. Once the trailer starts to turn in correct your steering to "follow" in. Pull forward to correct over turning.

Blind side (right hand insertion) is for advanced learning and requires a spotter in the right location to be done without wrinkled aluminum.

I learned to back 45' trailers into blind, narrow lanes in downtown Toronto as a young truck driver. Practice makes perfect. Wide open spaces with lines help to get you ready for the tree lined sites, some of which are only for the brave or experienced.

Often at camp sites if you spend a lot of time looking things over and scratching your head a retired or vacationing truck driver will come to your rescue. I have volunteered at boat ramps and camp sites all over North America for many happy and sweaty folks.
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Old 10-24-2005, 08:25 PM   #19
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Blind side (right hand insertion) is for advanced learning and requires a spotter in the right location to be done without wrinkled aluminum.
If you equally practice backing to both right and left, you will lose tendencies to prefer only one way. Getting in my driveway (dicey!) and parking in my storage garage both involve "blind side" turns as Glen describes. I can see necessary changes much earlier when I remember to directly visualize the right or curbside tires of the trailer as they are making the turn. It tells me where they will be next so I don't have to try to correct after the fact.
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Old 10-24-2005, 08:28 PM   #20
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The only further advice I will give, is to take it easy on the steering. A tiny move of the wheel will equate to a large swing of the rear of the trailer. It's like Brylcreem, a little dab'll do you.
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