How long did it take you to feel comfortable?

Submitted: Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 11:45
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We're picking up the caravan in a little under 3 weeks time. I want to plan a 10 night trip down south for late September/early October. The caravan park we want to go to has 1 site left so I'm thinking booking now might be a good idea, the thing is- I'm worried that I wont feel comfortable towing/parking. It's a 2-3 hour drive on mostly highways so possibly a good practice run. It's not a drive thru site but a slab. How long did it take you to feel comfortable parking/reversing and what not?

BTW- I've never towed anything before, except flat towing a car (which I've been the tower and the towee).
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Reply By: Member - Rosss - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 11:57

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 11:57
If you have never towed anything before the best thing is find a shopping centre carpark that's empty on a weekend and get yourself some practice, once out there on the road no-one will give you an inch just because you're a learner, you will end up as one of the statistics, this is a classic example of where there should be some sort of endorsement on a licence to show that drivers know what happens when towing. Sorry if this seems harsh but after spending 30 years out there in transport I have seen countless accidents looking for somewhere to happen and some that have happened due to wrong loading or inexperience.
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Reply By: Member - David M (SA) - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 12:42

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 12:42
Despite what some people think Lee it's not rocket science. Practice makes perfect.
The time taken to reverse next (close) to a slab will depend on how many people are watching.
Dave.
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Reply By: Member - Wayne B - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 12:49

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 12:49
Any chance someone could video it and we all watch
Sorry only joking - good luck !!
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Follow Up By: tazbaz - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 08:28

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 08:28
Yes, I like to watch!
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Reply By: Lucko - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 12:53

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 12:53
While I certainly agree with the above advice, you will find that many/most caravan parks these days will assist you reversing onto your spot (ask when booking). I've even seen one place where the park owner/manager parked the van for the people.
Have a look in the Yelow Pages for driver/ towing educators and do a course with one of them. Not being confident reversing quickly takes the edge off the pleasure of vanning.

Mark
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Follow Up By: R Send - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 20:23

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 20:23
"reversing quickly"

OR

"quickly takes the edge off"
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 13:05

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 13:05
Lee,

What David & Ross said, Plenty of practice, and do it at a carpark somewhere where there's plenty of room, and not many people about.

Also take some plastic cones, or buckets with you, to act as "hazards" while you reverse.

Then when you are comfortable, go and try a few parks at night, quite a bit harder then.

An experienced truckie told me, as advice for backing 40' trailers and dollies, "Less is More"

Good luck,
Bob.
Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: new boy - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 15:22

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 15:22
Agree with all the above no one has mentioned but SWMBO needs to go as it will be a joint venture.On one of our 1st outings (just before the pending divorce) an old bloke came over to Bev and said the driver cant always hear you or see you so A. always stay in his mirrors and B. use simple hand signals we,ve been happy ever since and she does a great job of A site parking and B putting me over the tow ball.
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Follow Up By: Member - Chris_K - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 17:56

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 17:56
C. Get a small UHF radio so SWMBO can talk to you about which direction to go....as long as they know their right from left. Common occurrence with us is..."no I meant your other left".
:)
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Follow Up By: The Original JohnR (Vic) - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 10:27

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 10:27
If drivers use Low Range to reverse they may amaze themselves at their speed of skill development. Lower speed is a lot easier to correct directional wrong decisions.

Get out of the car to look where you are to go, the distances to judge. Your partner in reversing, assuming he or she participates, needs closer adjustment, but also to be confident you aren't going to reverse over them.

Travelling away a few weeks ago, we had in one cvp, the person directing to the site, want to direct me into the spot. I think I am a bit more proficient than was expected having driven and reversed odd shaped trailers for half a century!
Cheers,
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Reply By: member - mazcan - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 13:29

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 13:29
hi LeeJ
one site left ---doubt that
while your telling us that on here its probably already been booked !!!!??
as far as towing and reversing goes there are tow clinics that you can go to learn the basic fundamentals
some caravan yards that care about their customers conduct them or should know where you can go to one

except I have no idea where you live and where the down south area is you are referring to
which state of Australia you live in ??etc

as has been said on here thousands of times the more imfo you give us related to the question you ask will get you a better informed answer in most cases

if its not possible to get to a towing clinic as suggest above

go to a shopping center car park or a quiet industrial area on the weekend
and practise reversing into a drive way and or a marked parking bay
from the right and the left several times practise makes perfect and builds confidence
until you get the hang of how quickly the van will become jack-knifed if you turn too sharp this will depend on the lenght of the vans a-frame short a-frames lock around more quickly than longer ones

(( when reversing from a straight in-line position

just remember when you pull down on the right side of the steering wheel the rear of the van will go in a left direction

pull down on the left of the steering wheel the rear of the van will go to the the right)))

you will become knowledgeable in what position the vans needs to be in relation to the bay or driveway you are trying to reverse into
once you nut that out every thing is a whole lot easier --- simular to parallel parking in the street it's all about position before attempting to start ---start in the wrong position and you will stuff-up every time
always be aware of where the nose of your vehicle is as its easy to swipe something with the front end while concentrating on the reversing mirrows and the rear of the van
a small set of 2 way radios are a great help and don't cost much and have been known to save a lot of shouting/cursing /swearing /hand waving and rude signage and van park entertainment

don't just learn to back-up from one direction as quiet often in caravan parks you maybe required to reverse from either left or right side
you also need to become very aware of where the rear of your rig is when looking in the rear view mirrow to overtake or change lanes otherwise you will very quickly have a different shaped van which wont be to your liking give plenty of indication don't just put your flicker on and jump lanes
make sure you have a good set of towing mirrows as they will be your saviour
hope this imfo is of use
cheers and happy vanning
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Follow Up By: Colcam42 - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 16:44

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 16:44
All good helpful advice for a "newbie", got to start somewhere eh?
Col
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Follow Up By: rotor138 - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 21:37

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 21:37
One thing to add to the turn left steer right is that you need to learn to use your mirrors when backing. If you see too much of the van in the left mirror steer that way and same with the right.

Good luck as others have said practice makes perfect, don't be scared of it get out there and give it a crack!!!
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Reply By: bluefella - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 16:00

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 16:00
G'day Lee
If you can't get a bit of practice in before you go, take your time mate try not to get frustrated it don't help, scream'n at the boss is even worse, I hope the mob your buying from gives advice on the correct setup for your vehicle in regards stability control. If you get to the park and feel you not up to it, ask for help, be up front about your skill levels. You'll be right mate. ALL of us were in the same boat as you. Just starting out.
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Reply By: Lyn W3 - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 18:08

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 18:08
Hopefully the dealer is honest enough to make sure the tow and the van are adequately matched and safe to tow.

I remember a couple of years ago a couple picked up a brand new tow and van in Brisbane and within a couple of k's both were upsidedown on the freeway.

My suggestion would be to have someone experienced tow it home for you with you as a passenger to get a feel for it.

As for parking and backing a single axle is much easier than a dual axle.

Good luck!
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Follow Up By: Nickywoop - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 21:46

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 21:46
Sorry Lyn,

I'll lay money you have never backed anything other than a single axle in your life.
The best rigs are the ones with the most axles to respond to the steering wheel. I've backed singles, tries, B'duds, and dogs.
The best being tandems.

Regards Nick
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Follow Up By: Lyn W3 - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 08:16

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 08:16
Nick,

Actually I've driven both extensively and I find it easier to back a single axle into tight spaces. It reacts much quicker to turning as the trailer rolls easier, this is compared to a dual axle where it tends more to be a push with slower reaction due to the one axle scrubbing out.

Now i would agree if you have a long length and a turntable under the front it's easier.

Same reason a fifth wheeler is quite easy to back as the pivot point is over the drive axle of the tow.
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Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 12:39

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 12:39
hi lyn w3
the bloke your referring too was advised by the dealer that he should fit the brake controller before leaving the sales yard and offered to do it
but the buyer said he would do it after he drove the 60 odd k's home north of brissie
someone changed lanes in front of his rig just a short distance up the rd
he hit the brakes and it all jack-knifed and a-over-t it went ignorance is bliss
the d-head and his wife are lucky they are alive
don't know if his insurance paid up but he didn't deserve a pay out imho
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Reply By: Rockape - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 18:50

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 18:50
Lee,
Calm, calm, calm is a good start. No radical changes of direction or lanes is another one.

Double check everything when you hook up and drop the van off.

As stated practice makes perfect and even then sometimes you will have a bad hair day. Also, there are some very rude people out there that will stare as someone is trying to reverse their van. Just stay cool even if you have 10 goes to get it in.

I was pulling into a spot last week and the guy behind was having trouble. He said it was the first time he had towed, so I said I am going to get out of your way and you take as long as you like. I then towed my van about 100 metres away and just waited for him to get it right. That night we had a good few cold drinks with them.

Walk in and have a look at the site, take note of obstructions and make a plan as to how you are going to attack it.

There maybe some good instructional vids on youtube. Just put in backing a caravan, I am sure many will come up. Read as much as you can as well. Exploroz have some info. Just go to articles and type in caravan in the search.

When hooking up be careful if people are talking to you. It is easy to become distracted and you may forget to do something.

If you are holding up traffic, find a safe spot and pull over.

Remember everyone who pulls a trailer had to start somewhere.
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Reply By: Member - Coldee - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 19:02

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 19:02
My dad drove trucks for a living and he gave me some good advice.
When backing turn the wheel towards where you don't want to go.

Theory is simple. Getting the muscles and the brain to work together takes practise and that is the bottom line. No short cuts.

I saw a gadget at Wauhope last year. It was a caterpillar track engine you put under the tow bar when the van is not on the car and it pushes the van back or forward. Runs off a car battery and is steered and controlled by a hand held console attached by a lead to the motor. He reckons a lot of park owners and van retailers use them. Never seen them before or since.

My dad's advice is cheaper.
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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 19:59

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 19:59
We were all there once Lee so don't worry too much just take it easy and make sure you get there in daylight! Even if you have to go the next day as night time is ten times harder in a tight space. Make sure you have proper mirrors and even a camera out the rear. Stop as often as you need to during the manoeuvre to check your progress. Also I find reversing via the drivers side gives you a better view of the turning van.

All the best and let us know how you go.

Kind regards
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Reply By: Member - John F (VIC) - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 20:14

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 20:14
Hi Lee a couple of tips when backing is to use your mirrors.
(1) When reversing in a straight line use your external mirrors and see the van in the mirror heading to the right turn your steering wheel to the right. If you see the van heading to the left turn your steering wheel to the left. Be careful not to over steer as it will throw you completely out. Generally if you pick the direction fault early you will need to slightly turn the steering wheel.
(2) If you are going to back the van next to a concrete slab it is best to have the slab on your right side when backing so that you have full view of where the actual slab is.
As Ross suggested find some open space and practice and I am sure your will get years of enjoyment out of your van. Good luck.
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Follow Up By: Member - Heather L - Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 21:36

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 21:36
I've had to learn to tow & back the van on my own since my husband died 6 months ago, now off around Oz for next 3 years so guess my answer to your ? is 6 months.
All of above is great advice and two more invaluable bits:
1.Get stabilizer bars - nothing inside van has moved an inch and no sway.
2.Put your 4WD in low range & let it slowly park the van - especially on steep slopes.
I will never have spatial awareness of back height of van so happy for the 4 o'clock audience to help make sure I don't back into that invisible tree. Love the reversing camera my son put in - spoils the blokes fun when I back straight onto the tow ball!
Travel Safe.
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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 07:44

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 07:44
All good advice here. Never be afraid to ask for help getting on to a site. Park owners are happy to help - they don't want to lose their power poles! We have been in a park where the vans are routinely put on some sites with a tractor - we sat and watched one chap entertain everyone because he was too proud to accept the help. After half an hour and a major 'domestic' his wife stamped off to the office to ask for the tractor! Not a good start to their holiday!

We have all started somewhere. One thing about caravanning - everyone can look like an idiot sometimes so people won't be too critical! Make sure you do not try to travel too far on the first few days - tiredness is an enemy and a hazard. Get to the park before 3 o'clock and avoid the arrivals rush so you don't feel you are holding others up and office staff have time to help in a relaxed way - and there are fewer spectators around. Good luck! Lynne
John & Lynne

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Follow Up By: Member - John and Lynne - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 08:06

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 08:06
As to your first question - the more you practice the sooner you get comfortable. Take things slowly and stay calm. When backing take it easy and use hand signals - no shouting! If you are holding up traffic pull over. After a couple of trips you will be fine. Lynne
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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:27

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:27
While people are towing for the very first time they always forget that the van will not follow you around a corner. They take a short cut and the wheels follow a shorter track, sometimes up over gutters if you are forgetful. They are lazy buggers so you need to give them a little more room to play with. Especially when sign posts, trees, telegraph or electical poles are on the corner. But don't fret, you will get the hang of it.

Remember this and take a wider track around corners. How big? You will learn that as time goes by. Just remember that it is wider when cornering.

I only mention this as advice to a real "greenie".

Now go to the carpark and do a little practicing. As said, it is not rocket science.

Phil
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Reply By: Member - wicket - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:49

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 09:49
And when you think you have mastered it head down to the Toolebuc caravan park, it has to be the smallest tightest park your ever likely to find.
If you can reverse there in one go you will have attained your diploma
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Follow Up By: Member - wicket - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 11:10

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 11:10
that should read Tooleybuc.......on the Murray
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Reply By: The Bantam - Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 10:34

Friday, Aug 02, 2013 at 10:34
As others have said practice makes all the difference.

So does having a PLAN.
You need to have a system that is thaught out in advance.

AND always "Get Out And Look" before you try to back in any where....look at the space and plan how you will get in there.

I'll drive in till the rear of the van is level with that tree, then I'll start backing up till the rear wheels are level with that mark in the concrete, then I'll bend it up, when its getting close to straight in the space I'll straighten up and follow it in.....all going well.

A system and a plan.

You need to know the break points....that is where both the tow vehicle and the trailer pivot and how far, it can or needs to be bent up...how far various bits swing and overhang......and how bent up it is before its unrecoverable and you have to go forward.

all rigs have a point where when bent up the tow vehicle steering can no longer follow the trailer around without it jack knifing.

It might be easier to start learning with a box trailer, where you can see over it and how all the corners behave.

even playing with a ride on mower and the yard trailer can be far less stressfull.

Remember for many people the hardest space they will ever back into is their own driveway...so there is a good place to start.

Don't forget the practice extends to setting up the trailer once parked.

So a day spent towing it around the block backing it in somewhere, setting up, making a coffee, pulling it down and doing it all again will be time well spent.

Ya gota have a system and a plan.

And tow it half an hour down the highway and back before you go anywhere serious.

cheers
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Reply By: railrocker - Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 at 19:53

Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 at 19:53
If your van and tug are over 7 M, it is a good idea to fit a " Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle" sign to the left rear of your van, they cost about $20 at truck parts suppliers. wit one of these, you can straddle the line between the far left turning lane and the next one to the right. Sure makes turning left, a lot easier.
I used to deliver steel house frames, 6M tray truck and 6M trailer, some loads 3M wide, down the Westgate and through the tunnels and out the Monash, all good fun, once you get the hang of it
Have fun and don't stress
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