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Old 06-18-2021, 09:44 AM   #1
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How hard is backing up the 16’ Caravel?

Zero experience! Should I go get a utility trailer and practice on that first? Even a utility trailer is at least $1000. I could use that 1k toward the RV you know.

Thanks
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Old 06-18-2021, 10:08 AM   #2
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Hi

First off *relax* this is not as crazy as some folks make it out to be. I've played with trailers on and off for 50 years or so. Listening to all the folks here moan about backing up had me scared to death before we got ours. Once I tried it the first time, no more worries.

If you have never backed a trailer before, practice in a great big empty parking lot is a great way to start out. If you are itching to try something, your local U-Haul will happily rent you a small trailer for the day. No need to buy anything you don't need.

In general the shorter the trailer, the quicker it turns. Small (as in very small) adjustments make a big difference. When things get out of whack, just pull forward and try again.There is no reason not to. You *never* are in to much of a hurry to not have time for another pass. I don't care who is waiting or yelling at you about the melting ice cream .... it can wait.

It is likely that a U-Haul will be shorter ( less distance from the ball to the wheels) than your 16'. If anything it will be harder to back it up. That's not entirely a bad thing in terms of a learning experience.

Relax !!!!

Bob
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Old 06-18-2021, 10:31 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Kyle007 View Post
Zero experience! Should I go get a utility trailer and practice on that first? Even a utility trailer is at least $1000. I could use that 1k toward the RV you know.

Thanks
*****
Find a neighbor with a riding lawn mower. John Deere with their trailer is a great one to practice with. I know, I use to mow our five acres, when living in Colorado. Tell them you will mow their lawn if they let you practice backing up, afterwards.

Mowing in a straight line was difficult, as there were Trees, as well. I still cannot not back up the 'mower trailer' any better than you will. Eventually you will save up and get a 30 footer. Much easier.

You will understand what 'Jack Knife' means. I found out on my own. It has nothing to do with the Cub Scouts, either.

You will discover that a utility trailer is more than even Uncle Bob or a Neanderthal can handle. It is like backing up a three wheel bicycle. Much cheaper and practical, until you say Hell with It.

Like Uncle Bob said. Get the trailer. Practice at a Government Building as no one is there to park, anyways. If you have a long curved driveway... that is enough anyone can handle.

Get the trailer. Avoid places where you HAVE to back up. Multiple Turns work as well.

Otherwise, do not take that advice and become the 'entertainment' for the hundreds watching this Greatest Show on Earth. Offer signed photographs. You will learn. You will make a lot of money. You will learn humility, like most of us who learned the EASY WAY.

Have your WIFE do it. They are smart and are use to looking into a Mirror.
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Old 06-18-2021, 11:06 AM   #4
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lemonsqueezy

Ray is right ! I have a New Holland Tractor and a trailer and lots of land=perfect for learning. If you want to learn, and have a good attitude it easy-peasy lemonsqueezy. If you're going to use your rig, start off backing straight and then up your game. Try to make it fun (smile). Just go slow and its always a good idea to have a spotter. Maybe an empty school or church parking lot to practice. Have Fun
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Old 06-18-2021, 11:16 AM   #5
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Good advice on renting a U-Haul. I think you can rent a 6x12 trailer for about $50 and get some practice. You can also practice with your new Caravel as mentioned above in an empty parking lot. You'll become proficient faster than you think.
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Old 06-18-2021, 01:50 PM   #6
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Practice with your trailer in an empty parking lot. Go slow, small movements.
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Old 06-19-2021, 04:47 AM   #7
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Thank you everyone! You all are very encouraging and funny at the same time. So the consensus here is that no need to spend $1000 on a utility trailer. Go rent a u-haul trailer for one day just to get the feel of it. Then practice on the real thing at an empty parking lot to be an expert?
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:05 AM   #8
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I think that’s a good plan. And I’ll add one more thing - it requires a great deal of backing up with a trailer to become an expert. I’ve backed trailers for years, and I still make mistakes. It’s no big deal. As mentioned above, if you are backing up and the trailer isn’t going where you want it to go, then pull forward and try again. If you’re not sure exactly where the rear of the trailer is going, then remember your GOAL (Get Out And Look).
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:15 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Kyle007 View Post
Thank you everyone! You all are very encouraging and funny at the same time. So the consensus here is that no need to spend $1000 on a utility trailer. Go rent a u-haul trailer for one day just to get the feel of it. Then practice on the real thing at an empty parking lot to be an expert?
Hi

Indeed, you *can* skip the U-Haul part. It's up to you. Whatever calms you down is a *good* thing to do. Panic is not a good thing in any situation. You do see this when folks are backing up. We all make mistakes. You can panic and go nuts, or you can pull out and try it again. You need to be calm ( and humble) enough to pull out.

Just what do I mean by pull out? It may mean pulling out of the campsite and going around the loop again. Been there / done that. It may mean pulling forward a ways to straighten things out. Done a *lot* of that. It may mean going back to the office and telling them that site isn't going to work for you. I've seen multiple folks who *should* have done that.

This isn't an "abandon ship" maneuver. There are no women and children being put at risk by a do-over.

That big slob over there with the beer may well be me thinking "that looks just like what I did coming in here ...". When he comes over to "help" be very careful about what he says. That may have been the 6th beer in the last hour or so ....

Bob
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:39 AM   #10
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

I agree with most of what has been said, but I may differ on practicing on a small trailer. I have quite a bit of experience with many types of trailers. I have found that the smaller trailers can be more difficult to back than the longer ones. It has been my experience that the shorter the distance between the rear axle of the tow vehicle and the axle of the trailer, the more difficult it is to back up. The shorter that distance, the more immediate the reaction of the trailer to the the steering input of the tow vehicle.

My advice would be to use your Airstream to practice backing in a large open parking lot. Having a few orange traffic cones would be helpful to create target points to get a good feel for how the trailer is reacting. Remember that the trailer goes in the opposite direction of the tow vehicle's steering.

There is a learning curve to this trailer backing thing, but it is not launching rockets. With a little practice, you will be as expert as the rest of us.

Brian
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Old 06-19-2021, 07:59 AM   #11
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My favorite description of backing into a spot at a right angle...https://www.artofmanliness.com/artic...er-like-a-man/

The first time you practice this maneuver do it on the left so that you can see the trailer. Get yourself a couple of traffic cones for your practice runs in the empty parking lot.

We bought our AS while visiting our son in Virginia (from Texas) and hadn't really planned on making a purchase. But the trailer was there and so were we. I was nervous about backing the trailer into my son's driveway. My backing skills acquired on a farm were very rusty. I visualized the maneuver from the web site mentioned above, picked up the trailer, took it to a parking lot, practiced twice before security chased us away, and headed to the driveway.

Roadway was about two car widths wide with big ditches alongside. Mailboxes to dodge. I nailed the turn on the first try. I had more trouble backing it straight than making the turn but big trailering mirrors would make that a lot easier.

Drove home 1500 miles. Our driveway required a 90-degree turn on the right side to get into the cul-de-sac, then immediately another 90-degree right-side turn to get into the driveway. Both turns are blind because of a high wall that wraps around the corners as the house sits on a rise above the wall.

So I parked the trailer on the street a couple of nights to lose some sleep over the impending, frightening event. By losing sleep I mean that I got almost no sleep worrying about it.

The worry was wasted. I backed into the cul-de-sac fairly easily then sat there a while thinking about calling it a good day's work but then thought that I was unlikely to get any more sleep that night than I had the previous two nights. So, I made the second turn without issue. I did get out and look around a lot.

Different methods for turning the steering wheel work for different people. Pick the one that suits the way you think. I point the back side of the TV front wheels in the direction I want the trailer to go. I hasn't become second nature yet but I suspect that at some point in the future I won't have to consciously think about it.

You'll be fine.
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Old 06-19-2021, 08:56 AM   #12
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100% agree, the shorter the trailer (wheelbase) is, the more difficult they are to back up. This also applies to the tow vehicle, the shorter the wheelbase, the more difficult to back a trailer. It will take time to gain confidence and skill, if you want to get a head start by all means go for it in what ever manner you can arrange. Before I offer my experience and suggestions, I should state that I have been backing up trailers of various size and shape since before I had my drivers license. It came to me pretty easily, I think how quickly one picks up the skill does vary widely, so keep that perspective in mind. It is definitely a skill you can acquire, so don’t sweat too much, just have patience and be willing to practice. Using a flatbed, or empty boat trailer gives you best visibility, using an RV or similar box shape trailer you want a spotter to watch your backside. Always. And be sure you can always see your spotter !! My final thought for you is your best value will be to maximize practice time with the exact tow vehicle/trailer. Practice with something “close” in size is good, but a small delta in axle placement can mean a large change in behavior. As you build experience, you will realize it’s primarily about anticipating where your trailer is going, and adjusting the tow vehicle steering angle before you get too far out of shape. Best of luck ... and try not to get agitated with yourself in your early hours.
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Old 06-19-2021, 09:17 AM   #13
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Right is Left, Left is Right OR Left is Right, Right is Left?

Twelve responses to back up a 16 foot Airstream.

Buy a bicycle. Get one of those two wheeled trailers that go behind it to carry a puppy or a young child. Try to back up. It is difficult, as well.

Do like Wally Byam. Same bicycle and maybe a 19 foot Airstream. Practice like Wally... he is a professional. He no doubt needed to make rest stops at busy Service Stations. That part of the demonstration must have been deleted. I looked. Nowhere to be found.

Zero experience. Try it Once... 100% experience. Better than anyone who has posted to date.

Try backing up with the Trailer NOT attached in a straight line. Can you do that? If not, practice until perfect.

The trailer is not going to be any different, EXCEPT, if you want to go LEFT it will go RIGHT. You want the trailer to go Right, the Trailer will go Left. Yes... confusing. We all have been there.

No one has explained that with the trailer not behind your vehicle. Left is Left and Right is Right. With a 16 foot to 34 foot Airstream attached... Left is Right and Right is Left.

Imagine the confusion I had the first time. 100% of the time just crazy. I checked to see if the tires were inflated, or was the trailer level or were the cookies ready that were baking in the oven? Lots of things going on and NO ONE brought this subject up.

Dealers or Sales People do not tell you as well. You pay for the Trailer. They hook it up on the lot. The Sales Crew wave as you depart. They all go inside and begin screaming... with laughter. You will be sweating gallons by the time you enter the Highway.

Backing up will come easy or not. Do not worry. Look at me. I was like you before towing a trailer. Wait until you begin to fill it full of stuff that you never will use... that is more important.

Ignore the previous posts. Mine are meant to ease you onto the Road of Airstream Happiness. After 15 years... I am trying to build some confidence to leave our driveway. You could have a serious accident in your sleep and believe it. Maybe later this Summer I will actually tow the Airstream on our Street. Maybe, not.

When you are swerving all over the road... no one will bother you. If you are learning to back up... trees and walls are the problem, not traffic.

Learn to back up without a trailer and then add the Trailer later. Remember once the Trailer is attached: Left is Right and Right is Left ONLY if you steer when backing up USING the Bottom of the Steering Wheel. If you prefer backing up with trailer in tow using the TOP of the Steering Wheel, Right is Left and Left is Right.

Or is it....? You will do just fine. We all started out Perfect. Then degenerated into what you see in your side mirrors... a sad scene, indeed.

Jack Knife will be a term you will hear, often when a Newbie. Your name is not Jack, is is Kyle. I did a Greenhorn Adventure in Colorado for Newbies. They did it better than I could. I was envious. Women made me look like a girly boy...

When you are learning, your nose will itch. Do not pick your nose in public, if you can avoid it. It will mess up your lefts and rights.

Enjoy your trailer... and suffer like we all have. Don't buy those stupid strapped on side mirrors. Your side mirrors on your vehicle will work real find, but the view is distorted on the right. Remember... Your Left and Right's. Label your hands with the optional steering wheel backing up system... dark ink. Easier to read. Mine are magic marker.
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Old 06-19-2021, 09:47 AM   #14
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Left is Right

To further expound on this important nugget of wisdom: when holding the steering wheel at the bottom, the trailer will swing in the direction you move the wheel. If you move the wheel to the left, the rear end of the trailer will swing to the left. This was taught to me by a snotty 20-year old when we bought our 1967 17-foot Caravel. And, as mentioned above, little movements with the TV equate to large movements with the trailer. I’d like to suggest walkie talkies for easier backing. Yes, cell phones can work too until you hit a state/national park with zero cell service. It’s easier, more efficient, and less grumpy-making to have smooth communication with your spotter!
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Old 06-19-2021, 11:18 AM   #15
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Yea…..What This Guy Said!

Quote:
Originally Posted by moosetags View Post
I agree with most of what has been said, but I may differ on practicing on a small trailer. I have quite a bit of experience with many types of trailers. I have found that the smaller trailers can be more difficult to back than the longer ones. It has been my experience that the shorter the distance between the rear axle of the tow vehicle and the axle of the trailer, the more difficult it is to back up. The shorter that distance, the more immediate the reaction of the trailer to the the steering input of the tow vehicle.

My advice would be to use your Airstream to practice backing in a large open parking lot. Having a few orange traffic cones would be helpful to create target points to get a good feel for how the trailer is reacting. Remember that the trailer goes in the opposite direction of the tow vehicle's steering.

There is a learning curve to this trailer backing thing, but it is not launching rockets. With a little practice, you will be as expert as the rest of us.

Brian
It just takes a little practice. For what it’s worth, I’ve been driving big trucks over forty years now and I can put a 48 or 53 foot semi trailer anywhere it is physically possible with inches to spare with little effort. When I hook to my 24 foot AS with my pickup, I look and feel like it’s my first day! If there is the remotest possibility of bumping something while backing into a spot I will ALWAYS have somebody watching!!!
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Old 06-19-2021, 12:27 PM   #16
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I did not see this in the replies if it is there I apologize for the repetition. A trick that works for me is putting your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. It works great but as said the shorter the trailer the quicker it responds.



I'm 67 and this was my first trailer. I still have an issue where at some point my brain switches back to my "no trailer skills." I pull forward go around the block to clear my head and start again. I take the attitude if someone is critical, the heck with you if you can't take a joke.



I will repeat what others have said, find an empty parking lot and practice. I would take a few boxes along to set up a space and practice. The first time the boxes were a little unusable when I was done. :-)
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Old 06-19-2021, 01:05 PM   #17
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Kyle be careful. If you are struggling with the 16 footer, and get it worked out... you will be a professional with a 25 foot.

Read some of these Posts word for word. I did. Most pass up long posts as they give people leg cramps and confuses the electrical impulses to the brain.

Anyone who can describe how to back up a 16 foot anything in three sentences... is not who you want as a co pilot in your trailer.

Trailers are designed NOT to BACK UP easily. Once you leave the Dealership... you are unable to back up and return it. Once off the Lot... it is yours.

A FIFTH WHEEL is for those who like it... easy. It will not work for a Mercedes or Porsche... and 1200 kinds of vehicles.

The best source of information... ask someone to demonstrate for you.

Once you get the backing up of the trailer worked out. You will have to relearn how to back up the Tow Vehicle without the trailer attached.

These people posting are ALL under 100 years old. I am pushing 12,000 or more. I owned Airstreams when they were only... Air. Trust me... well, don't.
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Old 06-19-2021, 02:19 PM   #18
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Do not go cheap.on tow mirrors. Get ones that you can adjust electrically from inside the cab. Backing from the right should be avoided whenever possible, but can be done with electric mirrors.
A trick when you don't have a spotter... get a 100 ft. bright yellow rope (or rope lights if you have to back in after dark). Lay it on the ground where you want your trailer's back wheel to track as you back in. Keep the tread of your back tire just inside the rope and GO SLOW.
Volunteer Spotters (OMDJC) They want to be helpful, but most are only useful if they will stand in the road and stop idiots on bicycles, golf carts and mini cars from trying to go past the rear end of your trailer while you are backing. Your left...my left problems abound. Clockwise vs. counter clockwise is safer if the kid can tell analog time.
And always, when turning your steering wheel LESS IS BETTER. More than 1/4 turn just guarantees a big correction in the opposite direction will be needed.
It is always a joy to see an empty space directly opposite the one you have been assigned. Pull into that one, then back straight across the street! (Don't even try this on a holiday weekend... the guy who has reserved that one is right behind you and has a shotgun rack in his truck!

Paula
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Old 06-19-2021, 02:21 PM   #19
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Backing up is sort of a perishable skill. I’m always an “expert” at the end of a long trailering season versus at the beginning. Then the winter hiatus seems to take its toll on my muscle memory.
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Old 06-19-2021, 02:22 PM   #20
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This may come n handy, as others said hand on bottom of steering wheel. Turn steering wheel upward to the direction you would like trailer to direct to. Almost immediately turn steering wheel in opposite direction to counter input you started with. 16’ trailers will react immediately. Also depend on yourself , get out of vehicle often, spotters may not be looking backing up as a three dimensional activity, sides, above and below.
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