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Old 09-27-2012, 07:43 PM   #1
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So how do you back the thing up?

This one is for all of you experienced 5th wheel pilots.

According to our log, I've backed our 5th wheel on to a site 20 times since taking deliver last Mar. Most of the time I've done ok, but sometimes I find myself wanting to move the trailer a little to the left or right, usually so we would avoid hitting something with a slide.

The question I have is a basic one. (I think?) When trying to reposition the 5th wheel a little to the left or right, (and assuming, backing up is not an option...) is it better to pull straight and jog over to the new position or jog over firat then back up straight?

We had a travel trailer for 15 yrs and for the life of me I can not remember what I did, but what ever it was I rarely had a problem. Clearly a 5th wheel is different..I just don't know in what way....but it seems like I have more problems with small moves rather than big ones.

Any Ideas??
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:28 PM   #2
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me personally I immediately turn the truck to the new location while pulling ahead "assuming you have enough pull ahead room" then by time the 5er gets back inline you can back straight up in the new location .
I think theres a lot of variables when trying to back up that no REAL answer is the same every time .


or you need this !
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:47 PM   #3
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:49 PM   #4
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I bought a large model tractor trailer toy and played with it till I could visualize what I wanted the rig to do and where the pickup had to be pointed to make the trailer go where I wanted. If you get one with movable front wheels you can see what you need to do with the steering to get the butt of the camper to move a few inches left or right.

I did it because getting my camper into our driveway without hitting our Japanese Maple and our lawn light was a 30 minute operation.

Now I can two or three manueuver the tires right onto the 12x12 concrete blocks without worrying about hitting the tree or the light.
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Old 09-29-2012, 12:57 AM   #5
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Herk:
That actually does help a lot. I used a scale model (1:48) 5th wheel w/ truck that is part of my model railroad layout. And I can see what you mean.

What a great idea. I get to try it for real next weekend. Hopfully I will do better.

Thanks
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Old 09-29-2012, 11:42 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by SimchaSabre View Post
Herk:
That actually does help a lot. I used a scale model (1:48) 5th wheel w/ truck that is part of my model railroad layout. And I can see what you mean.

What a great idea. I get to try it for real next weekend. Hopfully I will do better.

Thanks
Old Army saying: (I think from when Hannibal crossed the Alps)

If its dumb; but it works. It ain't dumb.
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Old 09-29-2012, 03:04 PM   #7
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Speaking of dumb:

About 5 years ago, we left after work to go to a US Forest Service campground some 60 miles away. I figured we could be there just before dark and everything would be ok. Then came an unexpected detour on the trip that sent us around the world to get to the road I needed to be on. Finally arrived at the entrance gate just before dark to find a sign accross the gate "CLOSED FOR THE SEASON"! Well @#$%!

Plan B was a state park 30 miles away. I knew of a short cut that might shave off a few miles, we'd still be dark getting there but wouldn't be as late. Yeah, I saw the sign "ROAD CLOSED AHEAD" but I thought "that can't be right". I was wrong. After a mile, yep, there was a huge mound of dirt blocking the road. What to do, what to do! I'll just back up into a driveway or a road and turn around right? Where are most state parks? Did I mention before we were originally going to a Forest Service park? OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! No drveways because nobody lives out there. And no connecting roads. I had to back up over a mile, in the dark until I could find a driveway to back into to turn around.

So backing into a campsite is not one of the harder things for me to do.
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Old 10-01-2012, 10:02 AM   #8
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HI

Watch these series of videos. They are for tractor trailers but its the same thing.

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Old 10-01-2012, 11:32 AM   #9
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Trick # 1 = One trick is just before you are finished doing your pull up/drive forward, turn your truck so the nose is pointing to the side you want your trailer to move over to. When you do this, you will magically be able to see the entire length of your trailer so backing up then becomes much easier. Look at youtube video picture above for example. truck nose is pointing left of center so it allows driver to see down entire left side of trailer.

Trick # 2 = GOAL. Get out and look! When in doubt, put truck in park and get out and look. What you see in your mirrors and what is happening in reality are two different things. Seeing mirrors AND reality will help you judge what to do next.

Trick # 3 = Use ALL of your mirrors. When backing, look left forward and right. Keep scanning both sides to see all of your mirrors. When in doubt, stop and use GOAL.

Trick # 4 = spotters often suck. They may be worse off at backing up then you are. IF so, they may do you more harm than good. They mix up hand signals, they are poor judges of how little you can actually turn your trailer in the tight space you have, etc. Get used to backup up all by yourself. A spotter's job is to keep you from crashing into something .

Trick 5 = practice, practice, practice. Walmart or other huge parking area such as a shopping mall very early in the morning, during middle of week when nobody is around. Use orange rubber cones about 1 foot tall. You can run them over with no damage to your RV. Pretend the cones are the tight RV camping spot you have to fit into. 30-60 minutes of low stressed practice time all by yourself will really pay off down the road. Stay away from light poles when practicing.
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Old 10-01-2012, 05:51 PM   #10
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Very helpful hints..I mean tricks. I plan on doing some practiicing this weekend. and will take them along.
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Old 10-01-2012, 06:15 PM   #11
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Trick # 4 = spotters often suck. They may be worse off at backing up then you are. IF so, they may do you more harm than good. They mix up hand signals, they are poor judges of how little you can actually turn your trailer in the tight space you have, etc. Get used to backup up all by yourself. A spotter's job is to keep you from crashing into something .

A good spotter is invaluable. I had a guy in Ft. Myers, FL, at the Red Coconut Campground, guide me through the park barely missing vehicles, campers, trees, etc. For my "site", they actually park me across 3 smaller sites, and it's not easy to accomplish. Although I consider myself quite adept, he guided me within inches of obstacles, that I could not have done alone. I swear I was going to hit a tree, take out a car, and flatten a shrub, but he told me I wouldn't and I trusted his guidance. Thank you Steve!
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Old 10-01-2012, 06:41 PM   #12
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Another little trick is to put your hand on the BOTTOM of the steering wheel when backing up. The trailer then goes in the SAME direction as your hand when backing up. Example: when your hand moves left, so does the back of the trailer.... when your hand moves to the right, the trailer also moves to the right.

Also, if you get a little catywhompus in a tight space, drive forward to straighten up the entire rig and then try backing up again more slowly.

The biggest trick is to not hit anything you can't see... hopefully your spotter will see them first and let you know before doing anything stupid!

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Old 10-01-2012, 06:44 PM   #13
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Those tricks are right out of school for learning how to drive a big rig 18 wheeler semi. They all apply to driiving a 5th wheel. I took the CDL class a couple years ago and it has helped me drive my RV in soooooooo many ways.

The orange cone thing...........My CDL teacher told us we had to pay him 1 dollar for every cone we hit when practicing backup up. I gave him a $20 and told him to shut up as now I have you on retainer. We both laughed are asses off and used the 20 bucks for a pizza after class.
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Old 10-01-2012, 07:06 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by joelek View Post
Trick # 4 = spotters often suck. They may be worse off at backing up then you are. IF so, they may do you more harm than good. They mix up hand signals, they are poor judges of how little you can actually turn your trailer in the tight space you have, etc. Get used to backup up all by yourself. A spotter's job is to keep you from crashing into something .
I fired my sister as my spotter. She didn't understand why I didn't want her on a phone while directing me. Later she kept saying "no, turn it the other way" followed by "No, the other way" and followed again by "No, you are turning it the wrong way - turn it the other way". In my book turning is either left or right but with sis I ran out of options.

At the beach I had to parallel park between a wall and big rental trailer with slide outs. I had good spotters but non had any RV experience. They wanted to keep turning tightly and said I wouldn't jack knife but from experience I knew otherwise it was possible. They got me in a snug spot so I was happy.

Practice is the key.
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Old 10-01-2012, 07:20 PM   #15
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My spotter (DW) kept saying left or right... Sometimes confusing depending on where she was standing... is that your right or my right

Finally had to resort to nautical terms of starboard & port side... solved that problem.
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Old 10-01-2012, 07:29 PM   #16
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Once I was able to get my DW to not worry about the direction of the TV front tires and to just tell me which way the camper needed to go, I was able to do a reasonable job of backing the 5er. Still have a ways to go, but getting better at it.
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Old 10-01-2012, 08:22 PM   #17
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With a spotter it is important to keep them in your mirrors at all times so they can give you hand signals.

Now to the 21st century.

We have for many years used 2 way(walkie talkie) radios to guide me into a site. The BOSS stands behind the trailer as I slowly back in. It is not important that I see her as it is that I hear her. I get out of the truck, show her where I want my wheels and she tells me where to go. She needs to watch the blind side(the side I can't see as the trailer turns away from my mirrors). She tells me right or left, which is the way the backside needs to turn. If I can get the trailer situated properly before backing, I can usually back in, pull forward once to straighten up and then back up to the exact spot I need to be. One more time out of truck to make sure, unhook and set up.

Enjoy!
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Old 10-01-2012, 08:42 PM   #18
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I have read lots of good tips and suggestions. Wish I had found this site earlier but that's history now.

Before I get off my soap box I have a little more to share. While getting used to a truck didn't happen over night I did find it easier to use my own vehicle instead of borrowing. I also learned to back up slowly and make small adjustments while watching how the trailer responded. I used the one hand at the bottom at the steering wheel but find it easier to keep the other hand off so I can see where I have my steering hand positioned. Having real tow mirrows help a lot but getting out and looking is the most important tip.

I have reached a point where I can park my tt at the storage place without any help. Being a solo RVer has some challenges and not having that second set of eyes are one of them.
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Old 10-01-2012, 11:16 PM   #19
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agreed to all. if i use a spotter, their only job is to make sure i don't hit something. getting straight is my job. as a kid, i taught myself how to back up trucks/trailers with years of experience from hot wheels/matchbox/tonka toy action. then after high school, told a truck company "yeah, i can drive a big truck and back it up..not a problem". road test went well and i hired on. thanks to those toys teaching me. here's a trick though, my last 5th wheel was a tandem tow rig(don't get mad it was a Fleetwood Prowler,,i've seen the light now and am a Forest River supporter forever NOW!), try backing that up. it can be done, simple mathematics really, but the trick is to go sssslllloooowwww..slower than slow.
but now i'm glad i went to a toy hauler. this forum is awesome.
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Old 10-02-2012, 06:34 AM   #20
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We have for many years used 2 way(walkie talkie) radios to guide me into a site.
Timex is old school - takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Used to use the walkie talkie gig at Sturgis and on the lake/fishing when cell phone coverage was very poor. If you do get cell reception, try this. Spotter calls driver on cell phone. Driver answers call and puts it on speaker phone. Cell phone goes into cup holder.

No hand signals, no need to see spotter in mirror, just tell me if back end of trailer needs to go left or right. Tell me well before I hit something. Also spotter look up for tree branchess, wires, poles etc.

I also use Timex's method of once you are close, pull ahead to straighten up truck and trailer. You can then do a final fairly straight backup into your spot as you should then be able to see it with your mirrors.

The one thing we all agreed on...........practice, practice, practice.
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