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Old 06-15-2021, 09:38 AM   #1
Rivet Master
Ray Eklund's Avatar
2019 27' International
2014 25' International
2006 23' Safari SE
Fort Saunders , Wyoming
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,349
Bumper Drag Skids and Curb Feelers... are not the same

There are many caveats in towing your Airstream than a manual provided with your trailer... could ever include. That is why none are included. YOU have to discover them the easy way... which is by doing it the hard way. Sometimes at great cost to the new owner of a 'perfect Airstream' now with damage.

Cars decades ago had 'curb feelers'. To protect the white walled tires, I assume. They worked. My Dad had them and when they contacted the curb it sounded like someone sideswiped the right side of the Studebaker. Yellow with the bullet nose.

Your Airstream below the rear bumper has a left and right 'skid plate'. I would call them Plow Plates as they will dig into dirt and gravel like a plow. On concrete and asphalt they can be bent, distorted or wear that one inch bend at the bottom to a sharp edge if you drag it often and frequently on smooth concrete.

How do you prevent Bumper Drag? Often, educated by experience and then it is too late. Or is it too late? Not today. If you read this short 'thesis' I am offering how I learned towing the 23 foot Safari with the first skid drag.

Service Stations are the worse and most frequent way to drag your skid plate or plates. You can SEE the previous drag marks in asphalt as they leave grooves. Concrete leaves scrapes and grooves for those who really dug into the concrete.

Angles. Going UP a dip is EASY. Returning AT the same place, you may discover that Going DOWN a dip you traveled earlier your skids may dig into the ground and possibly take your bumper and BEND IT FROM THE CENTER area... the last part to clear.

Imagine that a culvert is not symmetrical. Going one way is NOT the same returning from the other direction. Going up and clearing may be coming from the other direction and dragging... the exit.

As your Trailer Length increases... the risk Increases. Bambi 16 footer... not so much. Get into the 27 foot to 34 foot... YOU Will Learn to AVOID making a serious mistake... even if it is just... a little bit... tight and then STUCK solid. No backing up or going forward without attracting attention of sight seers.

If your driveway slopes enough... you could be in a pinch to come or go. Leveling blocks, 2x12x24" planks (longer or shorter) and other options can be tested and resolve getting into your garage. Angles from road to driveways confound many and not even considered until... you discover it by... accident. The 16 foot was sweet. The 27 foot is stuck on the street and needing something, but what to do?

Always be aware of dips and steep access to anywhere. Have a passenger watch to make certain you are clear. Get out yourself to verify if necessary. You can damage your frame, your bumper, bend your skids....

A soft drag will grind metal off the bottom of one or both skids. You got off lucky.
When buying a trailer, run your fingers along the bottom of the skid plate. Our 23 foot had dragged the paint off on a dirt road of the skid bottom... once. That was an eye opener never considered.

A hard drag will do that and possibly bend the skid, that can be bent back if not too bad.

A serious drag... you can be stuck. Cannot go forward without causing more damage. Cannot back up without causing more damage. Now you have to THINK your way out of this problem. Get some leveling blocks under that side, or both sides to gain some clearance is the best and at times, the only option to prevent serious damage.

A 3 inch Dexter Lift and 16 inch Michelin tires help... but do not get too confident. This is not a 100% cure all for dragging.

IN a pinch, maybe reduce the tongue pressure on the hitch by sliding the stabilizing bars out of the way on an Equalizer Hitch. You have to consider all options. Maybe having to DIG a dirt road with a groove to reduce the drag.

A consuming time effort is to READJUST the HITCH, or buy a shank and ball that will lower the angle from the tow vehicle and raise the rear of the trailer. This would take hours and the Service Station owner is not going to be happy... with your situation blocking his station. Work this out with them... first. This is a last effort to correct a mistake YOU made. Not the station.

The FIX will be expensive if you just want to Hit the Peddle and DRAG your way out. Don't.

Any Service Station with BAD ACCESS is not worth entering. The previous Grooves are other trailer owners bad judgment. You are the Captain on this heavy Ship of Aluminum and wheels.

You, in a pinch, can BACK OUT rather than pulling out forward. Consider that in a serious situation. No body will remember you, but will talk about it for years.

The learning process can be... easy or not. Your judgment is the cure and experience is the teacher. Drag a bumper off once... $700? Again? $1400.
Human Bean
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Old 06-15-2021, 12:13 PM   #2
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Can't agree with you more.

The question I have, that unable to find an answer too, is the following:

I have a total of four (two on each side) of these small, what appears to be "slide-in-locations" under the rear corners of my 1996 34'. It almost looks like you could attach small flags, curb feelers, etc... To help while backing into a tight space.

Any thoughts as to what they are or are used for on the trailer?

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Paul Waddell
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Old 06-15-2021, 12:45 PM   #3
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2019 27' International
2014 25' International
2006 23' Safari SE
Fort Saunders , Wyoming
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,349
Wheel mounted Skid Plate Option used in the Past?

I believe it was to slide in a WHEEL on a bracket. When you dragged, it would "roll you out of trouble".

The problem may have caused Frame Damage or bending of the back of the Frame. Now the skid will Bend, but damage may have already happened as this extreme energy has to transfer somewhere. Either Bend the Skid... or the Frame or the Storage Compartment.

Just my thoughts without chasing down trailers and looking at their Rear Ends. Falls into the Medical Profession of Airstream Mechanics.

People WHO suggest mounting wheels onto the back skid area. I think these people should show everyone how that works... and demonstrate how SAFE they are on THEIR Airstream.

I am sure they read this Thread. How do these work? Why does Airstream Jackson Center NOT install wheels?

Any comments about wheels on the skid plate area?

I had the same kind of skid plate from 2006 onward. This would go back awhile and no doubt there has to be a DATE when Airstream dropped the wheel concept.
Human Bean
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Old 06-15-2021, 01:27 PM   #4
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2019 27' International
2014 25' International
2006 23' Safari SE
Fort Saunders , Wyoming
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,349
Before we purchased a home or built this last one with an Airstream Trailer to park... if the LOT does not allow a generous grade into the RV Garage... we walk. Well, run... but with grace.

A neighbor never owned a RV or a Trailer before. He buys this BUS RV Mega Pop Out tank and... the slight angle from the street into his RV Garage would drag the front end. He had to add lumber to get clearance.

He sells it. Gets a Super Mega Jumbo Cargo RV Tank and has inflatable bladders to raise and lower this thing. They go bad. He takes it in. They...

Well you see the picture?

This same strategy appears when some Disconnect their Airstream on a Steep Slope, the trailer bends the electric jack 90 degrees, wheels begin to rotate, picking up momentum and the hitch connection plows a furrow until it abruptly stops, bending the frame. Yes, I am a sorry example of a Human Bean... but they do not listen. Nor take good advice. THEY are the Director or the Manager at work... and make decisions for... you.

After this disaster, you cannot easily, without the Electric Jack, elevate the front to attach the Ball and Hitch. Poor me. Lousy electric jack???

"I do not need any chocks. Walmart's chocks are not that sturdy." I like Walmart chocks. They will hold a 27 footer, or three in a row on a fairly level lot easily.

I was ignorant in 2006 with the first Airstream. I learned by understanding or by making mistakes in dips in a road and level roads. You had better know what you are doing before you Become SMART after doing dumb mistakes.

I got off easy. Tents do not roll. Airstream trailers do not have an Emergency Brake. Our electric lift in the front of our Airstreams never broke down, never bent and always worked. Anyone who bent their Electric Jack... let me guess.

I was out in the back yard 'picking up' after our two Blue Heelers. Even Blue Heelers have their preferred places. Break time for me to make comments on the Airforums. I keep to my Threads so not to upset others, on purpose.

You should too. Add some experience. Thanks for getting through this. Any comments are appreciated. Others want to learn IF we help describe HOW we became so... whatever.
Human Bean
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Old 06-15-2021, 02:09 PM   #5
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1988 34' Limited
Mobile , Georgia
Join Date: Jul 2019
Posts: 90
We're in the process of renovating our '88 34' Limited. It's almost done. We drug it from the panhandle of Texas to Georgia and I didn't think once about approach angles into service stations . In hindsight I'm surprised we didn't drag considering the axles were wore out and only provided approximately 1/2-1" of travel depending on which axles your asking about.

The new axles lifted the trailer almost 3", I will still be watching approach angles to service stations etc. One of the bumper drag skids is bent on the tip, now I know why.

Thanks for reminding me, we'll be on the road in ~2 months.
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Old 06-16-2021, 09:37 AM   #6
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2019 25' International
Washington , Washington, D.C.
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Wow! Thanks for discussing this. Having read your thread, I think it's been dumb luck that I've not done the dreaded drag (yet). Filling up at the end of the day when I'm detached has probably helped. The F-150's 36-gallon tank usually lasts me until I camp as I don't like to drive more than 300 miles a day. Thanks again.
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Old 06-16-2021, 10:09 AM   #7
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Fenton , Missouri
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Tail drag is a reality and I've learned over the years to quickly size up any gas station stop. The key for me is if I see that tell tale dip prior to a hill to a station, I'll pass it by. It's not worth it. Much like an airline pilot, if the landing doesn't look good, do a go around. Sometimes depending on the station approaching it from a different direction provides some different entrance and exit options, which can minimize the dip.

The other error is crossing that dip too fast which can make that back end of the trailer drop a little lower than normal. I've found in some cases by going very slow you can traverse these areas by not dragging. You come close but you don't drag.

The last serious drag I had was with a 30' SOB I was towing back in the late 90's. I was up in Estes Park and was exiting a campground road that had a steep angle. I was going downhill. The road was a compacted gravel and dirt road. I never noticed a problem going up. As I'm creeping down I suddenly ground to a halt. I put on the brake and got out of my tow vehicle. Looking closely I realized that the rear axle tandem was just barely off the ground. I was dragging on the two skid bars on the rear of the trailer. Thankfully the ground was soft so the skids were not bent. So I got back in and carefully moved forward. The ground gave way to cushion the skids and about 2 feet the rear tandem got back on solid ground. Very scary, no damage to the trailer or the under carriage.

That was my first and last serious contact with the ground. Since then I've had maybe one scrape with the Classic. That was at a McDonalds where I was accessing truck parking and there was a dip that I thought would be close. I crawled through it and I barely touched the ground. No damage but never stopped there again until I put on the 16" wheels. Now I can clear that dip without scraping.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56 S/OS#15
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 06-16-2021, 12:15 PM   #8
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2006 34' Classic S/O
Fort Worth , Texas
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The real long term downside to all of this is that tail dragging not only wears the skid(s), but eventually leads to "rearend sag." The frame pushes up on the floor, but the rear corners(s) do not return to their original position. The bottom of the rear skin is bent. The process keeps repeating itself. The earliest telltale sign is the lower rub rail tends to separate at the top and graudually opens up. If you have a rear cargo compartment, the door will eventually pull apart and fly open. I almost lost my 50 amp surge protecter. When I stopped it was sitting on the open door.
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Old 06-16-2021, 08:31 PM   #9
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2016 25' Flying Cloud
Trenton , Georgia
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 317
Ray, I learned this lesson on our first trip out west from our home in GA in 2016. We were trying to find a campground in Natchez Trace SP in TN on our way home in the dark and I made a sharp U turn on a wide, uneven section of dirt road. I didn’t even realize it at the time but a few days later I notice the profile from the side of the bumper supports (skid plates) did not match each other.
After crawling under for a better view, one side was neatly rolled under to the inside. No paint abrasion or dirt. Only thing I can figure it caught a log or something on that side during the turn that just bent it. The bumper is fine otherwise and figure I would just make it worse by trying to bend it back! Live and learn but thanks for making folks aware. I enjoy your posts.

Dave & Carolyn
WBCCI #2584
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