I started Airstreaming 3 years ago - and I went fulltime on day 2. That is also the first time I towed (Thank you again 53FlyingCloud for not soiling yourself or my upholstery while teaching me!).
Having someone CALM who respects your basic intelligence and wants to help you hone your skills really helps. Vacant lot practice also helps.
You shouldn't be frightened but it is important to know WHAT hazards you may face and HOW to react. Here were my priorities:
- Knowing what a brake controller is and how to adjust it is key. Your brake controller should be checked frequently - because your tow vehicle's breaks wear and it's important to keep the trailer/tow vehicle's brake performance working to compliment each other. Generally your trailer's brakes should be a bit "grabbier" then your tow vehicle's. If you have to do a panic stop, the trailer can work like an anchor. If the tow vehicle stops first, the trailer's inertia starts pushing the tow vehicle, or the trailer could jacknife.
- Knowing everything about hitching up that you can possibly learn, and know how to maintain your hitch - is possibly more important than the brake controller. Just this weekend I embarassed a camper parking across the lane from me. I approached him carrying two huge wrenches and I gently said, "HI, I want to play with your nuts"... Of course it took him a few minutes to see that his hitch ball was so loose that the lock washer was'nt even compressed. He'd never checked the hitch to notice that his hitch ball was tight, or that he had the hitch angled correctly, or that his WD bar tensioners were fast to his A-Frame. After I was through I greased his ball. He'll never be the same.
- Taking it SLOW and avoiding heavy traffic especially the first few times out cannot be overstated. If you're on a two-lane and there is a good parking lot or rest stop to pull into and let the nuts pass you.. do that frequently.
- NEVER tow agressively. Be super courteous and pay ATTENTION. Leave the cell phone alone. Don't even turn on the radio the first few times you tow.
- Study the forums (repeat step 4 at least weekly).
Learn "best practices" and mentally practice for when something goes wrong. There are always more than one solution to a problem - but one usually stands out as clearly the most effective. Our business is a telephone answering service, so teaching staff how to think about handling common household emergencies is important. There was a recent thread about propane fires that prompted me to do a test of my staff's knowledge. I asked - "How do you put out a grease fire on a skillet on your stove top?" Several said "throw salt on it" or "throw flour on it" - and a few real dumbrowskis said "put it in the sink and pour water on it" (OMG). Then I said how about "PUT A LID ON IT and turn off the heat".
I actually had one of my senior people say that her mother had picked up a burning skillet and tried to carry it outside. She was the "throw flour on it responder". Even she instantly agreed that putting a lid over it would work faster and with less danger of splash burns. Shows you that everyone can learn something new.
Learn baby Learn - then get out and have some fun in your new rig.