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Old 11-18-2015, 07:46 PM   #1
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2011 16' Sport
Berkeley , California
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New Bambi owner. Know nothing about towing

Hi everyone. We're proud owners of a 16' 2011 Bambi. I have a 2006 4Runner V8 Ltd for towing (Toyota says 7,000 pounds... Bambi is 3,500). Drives reasonably well from what little experience I have (have driven about 20 miles with it).

I know NOTHING.

1) The guy we bought the Bambi from said we criss-cross the safety chains so if the tongue came off, it would rest on the chains. Correct?
2) He also said to rotate the chains so they shorten and are not dragging on the ground. Is this the right way to do it?
3) Really, the #1 issue is the brakes. The vehicles hitch is all factory. I don't understand what a brake controller is and whether I need one. The guy at the RV place said to read my manual (was not friendly or helpful), but it doesn't mention a thing about it. When I apply the brakes on the 4runner, doesn't that apply the brakes on the Bambi? Do I need a controller?

Thanks so much!
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Old 11-18-2015, 08:02 PM   #2
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You received good advice on your questions #1 and #2. Regarding brakes, you absolutely need to have your trailer brakes hooked up or you are in great danger of an accident in a hard stop or when descending a steep hill. That requires a separate brake controller be installed. The brakes on a Bambi are electric and the controller apportions the currect amount of current to the brakes to activate them. Without a controller, your trailer brakes are not working at all. A hitch installation shop can install the proper controller. But, please do not attempt to tow your trailer without the brakes being hooked up or you will find the trailer pushing your vehicle in directions you do not want it to go.
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Old 11-18-2015, 08:05 PM   #3
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

First off, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

As to your questions,

1. Yes, the safety chains should be crossed.

2. Yes, you can rotate the chains to shorten them. You can also add a screw on link to shorten the chain.

3. You must install a trailer brake controller in your tow vehicle to make the trailer brakes operate. The trailer brakes will not work at all without a controller.

You should also consider adding a weight distribution/sway control hitch system.

Brian
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Old 11-18-2015, 08:11 PM   #4
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Wow, congrats on your Bambi
#1. Yes cross chains
#2. Twist chains if to long. But not so much that it causes turning problem
#3. Brake controller. You need one. Look online for one that will work best for you tow vehicle. Break controller is what "controls" the "gain" or amount of voltage that goes to you trailers breaks. This controls how hard your trailer breaks grab when you TV breaks are applied. The gain can be adjusted to optimize your towing and stoping.
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Old 11-18-2015, 08:20 PM   #5
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True beginner.. Welcome aboard!

There are tons of YouTube videos... Check out http://youtu.be/CCSevhxQzXc
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Old 11-18-2015, 09:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tunnelboy View Post
Hi everyone. We're proud owners of a 16' 2011 Bambi. I have a 2006 4Runner V8 Ltd for towing (Toyota says 7,000 pounds... Bambi is 3,500). Drives reasonably well from what little experience I have (have driven about 20 miles with it).

I know NOTHING.
...
3) Really, the #1 issue is the brakes. The vehicles hitch is all factory. I don't understand what a brake controller is and whether I need one. The guy at the RV place said to read my manual (was not friendly or helpful), but it doesn't mention a thing about it. When I apply the brakes on the 4runner, doesn't that apply the brakes on the Bambi? Do I need a controller?
You should get a trailer brake controller like this Tekonsha and mount it under the dash; the one in the link comes with an adapter harness to wire into your brake switch with little or no additional hard-wiring required. If your 4Runner came with the factory 7-way trailer plug connection, then this should enable your vehicle brakes to control the trailer brakes. The P3 controller (I have one in my 2013 Tundra) is configurable for the size and weight of your trailer so it can be very smooth.
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Old 11-18-2015, 11:09 PM   #7
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Wow that was quick! Thank you all VERY much. The Youtube video was good to see. Will get a brake controller for sure (thanks for the recommendation Alumineer).

The sway control topic seems like a HUGE can of worms here. I just searched it here, and everyone has different opinions of brands, styles, and whether it's even necessary for a 16'. I'm lost on that one. FWIW, we live in the Bay Area, but bought this thing in San Luis Obsipo (~250 miles south). We rented a pickup truck and hauled it back via Hwy 1. It really towed very smoothly and there was no evidence of a tendency to sway on the windy roads or even rough roads.

Now we do plan on some mountain driving (Sierra's), but generally not super long trips. Maybe 200-400 miles max. I don't know if that plays into it.
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Old 11-18-2015, 11:42 PM   #8
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Tunnelboy,

Welcome!

I have a 16' bambi with a weight distribution hookup. You won't need much. I think you will find that shifting some of that tongue weight forward to your front tires will give you some extra control for steering and braking (btw, what others already said about getting that brake controller!)

Take your time getting to know your new trailer and practice some towing before your first real outing, especially that whole backing up thing.

Enjoy and have fun!

Stan
Salt Lake City
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Old 11-19-2015, 12:11 AM   #9
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In addition to towing set up, here are some other factors that I, also a fellow noob in regards to towing, considered...

1. Even with a brake controller, one must adjust to towing mode by increased anticipation and situational awareness. Focus on braking sooner than normal and give yourself a greater cushion for stopping.
2. Buy a Garmin or GPS unit for the dash or windshield. The newer models show number of lanes coming up to an intersection which helps you gauge how many lane changes you need to make before your turn.
3. Some people don't need them but I added towing mirrors to our Tundra.
4. Carry a tire pressure gauge and use them before extended trips for the day. You may even need two to handle different pressure maximums for truck and trailer. (You should also carry a small air compressor, easily found on Amazon.)
5. Make sure you walk one last circle around your trailer to inspect before taking off.
6. Make sure you chock right after leveling and removing them after hitching up.
7. Bring a cordless drill and socket to raise/lower the stabilizers faster.
8. Make sure you raise your stabilizers before raising/lowering your receiver onto the ball.
9. Make sure you can open your trailer door from under a campsite awning before unhitching.
10. When backing up the trailer, grab the steering wheel at the bottom and turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. This way you don't have to think in reverse direction mode.
11. Load up your iPod with more songs. Trust me, you'll need them.
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Old 11-19-2015, 04:58 AM   #10
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Regarding sway and weight distribution need, you might want to do what both our AS dealer and hitch shop suggested and try towing without it first and determine how it pulls and how much it lowers your truck's backend. Not having it simplifies hooking up and the complexities of setting it up properly. We have towed thousands of miles without on our Honda Pilot/Bambi 16 but YMMV.
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Old 11-19-2015, 05:06 AM   #11
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Even if you decide on no weight distribution I would still go with sway control.
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Old 11-19-2015, 08:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by remphoto View Post
Regarding sway and weight distribution need, you might want to do what both our AS dealer and hitch shop suggested and try towing without it first and determine how it pulls and how much it lowers your truck's backend. Not having it simplifies hooking up and the complexities of setting it up properly. We have towed thousands of miles without on our Honda Pilot/Bambi 16 but YMMV.
Very true!
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Old 11-19-2015, 08:37 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by westcoastas View Post
In addition to towing set up, here are some other factors that I, also a fellow noob in regards to towing, considered...

<snip>
7. Bring a cordless drill and socket to raise/lower the stabilizers faster.
<snip>
Caution: be careful to not over extend the stabilizers, or to jam them up when retracting. You'll not be happy when it takes a couple of hours to get it free again. Maybe this point should be titled: Learn From the Mistakes of Others.

Also, get some leveling blocks or 2x8 segments to get the trailer level, and to serve as landing pads under the stabilizers.
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Old 11-19-2015, 08:51 AM   #14
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I would also add the following: buy a decent torque wrench, the necessary extensions, and a SIX POINT SOCKET that fits your lug nuts. Check the torque on your nuts in the pattern and foot lbs. listed in the owner's manual at least once a month. The six point socket is key; a conventional 12 point socket will make a mess of the lug nuts.
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Old 11-19-2015, 10:14 AM   #15
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Using the "Lego blocks" which are plastic, allows the foot of the stabilizer to slide around. A square of 3/8 exterior plywood works great on top of the Lego block. Sliding minimized. Also, I "treat" the plywood with home version bug spray... It keeps the "picnic" ants and roaches from climbing to your AS. So far it has worked!!!

Wash hands after "landing" your AS.... Lots of reasons...
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Old 11-19-2015, 10:22 AM   #16
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Congratuations on your new Tiny Tin! (aka Bambino, Bamster..... Have you got a name yet?)

Our rule of thumb is that if the chances of something going wrong are small but the consequences of something going wrong are huge, we take the precaution. Rarely we've seen a trailer fish-tailing on the highway, but it happens.

So yes, we drive with sway control. But you might want to detach it for serious backing or turning.
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Old 11-19-2015, 10:58 AM   #17
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Welcome to the world of AS. You are going to like it. Towing Highway 1 is an experience, so you have some under your belt. Good start.

We are new to an RV as well. There are lots of folks who are new just like you. You are not alone, so ask those questions.

Contact Bay Area Airstream and get on their E-mail list. They held a free seminar last Saturday which discussed winterizing and general questions from the floor. The you-tube videos are great, but the individual experiences of a group of AS owners is "Priceless" We learned that liquid spills could flow into the trailer from the storage compartment, because it is the same level as the interior floor. We learned that the area around the storage compartment is prone to condensation, because it is not directly heated. We learned that we may need to get a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the trailer. We learned that the heat pump would remove moisture, while the propane furnace will add moisture. We learned to keep an eye out for moisture forming on the front wall between the bed and the shell. All that came from folks who attended the event.

You might consider joining WBCCI. The Greater Bay Area unit was quick to contact and welcome us. They seem to have an active group.

Yes, look into a WDH. Understand the difference between weight distribution and sway control. Most folks think the smaller trailers do not need much, but if you plan to drive as fast as most folks do in CA, it's a consideration you need to address.

Also consider the age of your tires. A blow out does very expensive damage to an AS. Tire maintenance/replacement is important and not difficult or expensive. The problem is that tires with a lot of tread depth can be past their sell by date or damaged by a road hazard hit. They fail from the inside out. And keep them balanced. Vibration is not good for rivet life and we have some really bad roads in CA.

If you don't know when the grease in the hubs was last serviced, it's a maintenance item that should be considered. It's is a good time to inspect the brakes as well. The best controller won't help out of adjustment or worn brakes.

A lot of folks do the maintenance on their trailers themselves. Knowing how the systems work makes you more self sufficient on the road and will help resolve simple problems that might keep the trailer in the driveway.

Again, welcome to the group. You are going to like the smiles.

Pat
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Old 11-19-2015, 12:30 PM   #18
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There are lots of things to learn, most by using common sense. I see most of your questions have been answered so I will touch on a subject you didn't ask about.....leveling your trailer. If you have an absorption refrigerator like Dometic or Norcold on board your Bambi, you should never let it stand unlevel while it is operating for more that 15 or 20 minutes. Doing so will shorten the life of this expensive piece of equipment. By leveling, I mean the refrigerator itself, within the inner bubble space of a level placed in the freezer in two dimensions (fore and aft and side to side) you will ensure the longest possible life of the reefer under otherwise normal circumstances. Don't worry about unlevel conditions while in motion as these situations cancel each other out as you move to, fro, and side to side. I mentioned two dimensions to level. Airstream for years provided a small circular bubble level for this purpose. You can get one from any RV store for a few bucks. I have bubble levels on the outside of my trailer for reference but I check my little round one on the counter above the reefer every time I park. If I stop for anything like food or gas and can't get level easily, I switch the reefer off until I am ready to go again.

Welcome to Airsteaming. I would also encourage you to go to wbcci.org to find out how to join the international Airstream club. There are many folks there who want to meet and help you enjoy your camping experiences.
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Old 11-19-2015, 12:34 PM   #19
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The best hitch

Welcome to the group. I do have experience with more than one type of hitch. And I can HIGHLY recommend the Andersen hitch. It is a weight distribution hitch as well as an anti-sway hitch.
It is a elegant masterpiece of engineering!
#1 The part of the hitch that is attached to your tow vehicle weighs only 28 pounds. Easy for one person to mount and unmount.
#2 The Andersen hitch provides automatic sway damping based on tongue weight. Nothing to adjust.
#3 The Andersen is available on the Internet for $450. UPS can deliver.
#4 You can backup the trailer without having to undo the anti-sway assembly as is required with other hitches.
You will love this hitch.
Bill
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Old 11-19-2015, 02:23 PM   #20
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Welcome and congratulations on your Bambi. I would STRONGLY recommend that you find and attend an RV Boot Camp. The Escapees RV Club run an excellent Boot Camp (other groups also offer them). In RV Boot Camp you, and about 200 other "newbies" will have the basic systems found on modern RVs explained and demystified. Mistakes made with RVs are often expensive and sometimes dangerous. Folks can attend a Boot Camp even before / without an RV. Escapees usually run their Boot Camp from Friday afternoon through Sunday noon. Mark Polk at RVEducation101.com has a DVD series on RVing. I was lucky enough to get many of the titles from my local public library. I bought other titles I was interested in. The DVDs run about $20 for each topic. Chuck Woodbury publishes an eNewsletter: RVTravel.com. It's free to subscribe (donations are appreciated). Using GOOD check lists will help keep you safe. You've found a great forum here. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Again, WELCOME!
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