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Help! I can't figure out how to backup my new 5th wheeler


Seeria

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So we bought a 5th wheeler, had it delivered couple days ago but for the life of me I can't figure how to back it up. We're driving a f350 long bed crew cab with a 32ft fiver. I've watched several videos. Practiced, practiced. It seems the only way to get it backuped right is to have tons of room! Let us face it, campgrounds don't exactly give a ton of room. I'm frazzled and staying in parking lots for the moment. What the heck am I missing? Any tips for our setup?

 

 

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You should get some great advice on this subject...there was another thread about the same topic a while back and lots of folks had some very good tips. I have never had any problems backing long cattle trailers or boat trailers but I have never tried a 5'er so I am no help at all.

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Practice, practice, practice. The 5th wheel does not respond much with slight turns of the tow vehicle. Once the tow vehicle gets past 10 or 15 degrees the turn will happen much quicker and start turning very fast from there. You will have to start thinking "ahead" of your turn to compensate because you need to start straightening out your turn or tow vehicle well before it looks like the trailer needs too so you can get ahead of the "curve" . Thats probably more confusing than helpful, which is why you just need to do it. Go on a weekend and find a big empty lot, set out some markers a few feet wider then your trailer on both sides, set up about 3 "cones" 5 feet apart on both sides so you get some depth and can see how your backing is effected. You will pick up getting the trailer between the first set of cones pretty easy but you will see more importantly how soon you need to start your corrections to keep backing the trailer in without hitting the next few cones. Sorry if I confused you more, hope this helps. Also, dont get frustrated, its a learning process and it will click for you with time.

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Hold the steering wheel on the bottom. Move your hand in the direction you want the rear of the trailer to go. Have your spouse give directions over the cell phone. She needs to say move the trailer to the drivers side or to the passenger side. This way or that way won't work. If the directions aren't clear, stop all movement and tell her you have no idea what she is saying. Do not move until the directions are clear. Then trade places. Most women are natural at backing. Do not get upset or excited. Take your time. When at the campground listen only to your spouse. It is your house and they have a vested interest. Your spouse needs to tell you to stop and wait until the interruptions go away. Then continue. They mean well.

 

When I pulled into the rv park today I was positioning to back in. Another person pulled up to my front wanting to get by. I just applied the air brakes and sat there until they figured out that I wasn't going to move for them. They moved and I backed in. Had to pull up and go back again because I didn't like my position to the grill. Too close. Don't worry about hoe long it takes you. You will get it.

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Since reading about the "Z Method" a couple of years ago I've been using it and it has made backing our fifth wheel much easier. Specifically, it gets the rear of the trailer started in the correct direction and starts things turning much more quickly.

 

http://michigantraveler.org/2013/01/22/z-method-for-backing-a-5th-wheel/

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Just my thoughts...this is how I taught my wife to back ours....

1) start by learning to back it in a straight line (200 to 300 yards). Start with the rig perfectly straight. Go slowly, watch your mirrors, when you can see the side of the unit you need to "Gently" adjust until you cant (otherwise you will get the unit all out of kilter).

2) Once you have mastered #1, and only when you have mastered #1, start with the rig purposely out of line (turned varying degrees of angles). Back the unit and recover (straighten it out) and then continue to back straight.

2) Once you have mastered #2, and only when you have mastered #2, start practicing on back around a corner or into a parking space (with lots of room around). You may be surprised by how much you learned from #1 & #2 that is applicable to this step. Start with forgiving expectations and once you get that start trying to tighten up the spots (smaller spots).

 

It will probably take multiple sessions. Try to find a empty private place and bring along a healthy dose of patience, Don't allow yourself to get frustrated or embarrassed. Backing is kind of like playing a instrument. - you need to be able to play the note(s) without thinking about it - it should just come natural. You can only accomplish that by practicing over and over.

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And while your spouse may be better at backing is okay. For the life of me I never got backing around a corner down.( a huge embarrassment to my trucker brothers and nephews) I could direct Ron easily and see in my head exactly which way Ron needed to turn the wheel and what to do when, but doing it myself was nerve rattling.

However backing the MH is a piece of cake and Ron is the outside director. We use huge agreed upon hand signals.

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So we bought a 5th wheeler, had it delivered couple days ago but for the life of me I can't figure how to back it up. We're driving a f350 long bed crew cab with a 32ft fiver. I've watched several videos. Practiced, practiced. It seems the only way to get it backuped right is to have tons of room! Let us face it, campgrounds don't exactly give a ton of room. I'm frazzled and staying in parking lots for the moment. What the heck am I missing? Any tips for our setup?

 

 

 

If you've only had the fifth wheel a couple of days, you haven't had enough practice! ;)

 

As others have said, it takes a lot of practice...practice, practice, practice...to learn to back a fifth wheel. You've been given a lot of good advice here, but if you still have problems after much more practice, consider taking a driving course.

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During all your practice and actual backing maneuvers at a campground, never hesitate to stop, get out of the truck and walk around the entire rig. It can help you to see the big picture better AND gives all concerned (driver and spotter) a minute or 2 to cool off in case emotions are running high.

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Most campgrounds now have Pull through sites. :rolleyes:

Get one of those sites.

For overnight stops pulling a toad. That is all I use.

For over 15 years of Full time I never have had to unhook for a overnight stop.

Campgrounds that don't have a pull through get pass by for the next one down the road that does.

Have used back in's only for a week or longer stays.

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Just owned it a couple days? No worries. I've owned ours over ten years and still some times have a problem backing into a site. No one watching, no problem first try. Someone watching three or more tries. :D

 

Seriously I do what Ronbo (Ron) does. Hand on the bottom of the steering wheel turn it the way I want the rear of the trailer to go. Instead of cell phones my wife uses hand signs. I don't see her I stop. She is an excellent spotter.

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Here's an acronym for you that every truck driver I've talked to uses, GOAL ... Get Out And Look.

 

When I first started backing our trailer I took note of the trailer's pivot point (tires on the ground). From there, any turning of the steering wheel in the truck pushed the nose over one direction or the other.

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Since reading about the "Z Method" a couple of years ago I've been using it and it has made backing our fifth wheel much easier. Specifically, it gets the rear of the trailer started in the correct direction and starts things turning much more quickly.

 

http://michigantraveler.org/2013/01/22/z-method-for-backing-a-5th-wheel/

 

I like it! I'm going to give this a try (at least I will if I can visualize it enough to give it a try).

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Just my thoughts...this is how I taught my wife to back ours....

1) start by learning to back it in a straight line (200 to 300 yards). Start with the rig perfectly straight. Go slowly, watch your mirrors, when you can see the side of the unit you need to "Gently" adjust until you cant (otherwise you will get the unit all out of kilter).

2) Once you have mastered #1, and only when you have mastered #1, start with the rig purposely out of line (turned varying degrees of angles). Back the unit and recover (straighten it out) and then continue to back straight.

2) Once you have mastered #2, and only when you have mastered #2, start practicing on back around a corner or into a parking space (with lots of room around). You may be surprised by how much you learned from #1 & #2 that is applicable to this step. Start with forgiving expectations and once you get that start trying to tighten up the spots (smaller spots).

 

It will probably take multiple sessions. Try to find a empty private place and bring along a healthy dose of patience, Don't allow yourself to get frustrated or embarrassed. Backing is kind of like playing a instrument. - you need to be able to play the note(s) without thinking about it - it should just come natural. You can only accomplish that by practicing over and over.

 

 

I've never seen or heard of this method before, but if I were teaching someone how to back any trailer, this is where I would start. In my opinion this would be a great way to learn trailer backing.

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I like it! I'm going to give this a try (at least I will if I can visualize it enough to give it a try).

 

It works remarkable well. Even in campgrounds with narrow roads the maneuver does a great job of getting the back of the trailer pointed toward the campsite. The thing to remember is when the directions say to turn "hard" left or right, it means all of the way to the lock. The more of a zig-zag you can accomplish, the more the rear of the trailer will be pointed into the site. On wider roads I find that once I've finished the maneuver I can just back on in, using the angle that I've already accomplished without additional "jacking".

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As said...PRACTICE and them PRACTICE some more. When I was getting my wife to drive our truck and 5er, I would take the trailer to a large church parking lot on Saturday and let her drive. Take some boxes or anything to use as markers to designate a sharp corner or a back in site and let her practice. Much better to practice there rather than backing over a camp pedestal.

 

Once yo get used to the 5er, you will be able to put it into spots that you would have though impossible up to that point.

 

Even with pull throughs, some of the campgrounds do not provide much room for a larger 5er and you will have to run off the paved areas to get into a site.

 

Ken

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There is a lot of good advice up here, but to me it sounds like a GOOD instructor is what would be the most beneficial. Find yourself a local truck driving school and see if you can get one of their people to do a little moonlighting on the weekend. Cones in a large parking lot, or you may even be able to use their facilities for a fee.

 

The only other advice I can give you is to go get a toy 18 wheeler (Hess has them, not sure if all year) and play with it on the family room floor using shot glasses or something that size as "cones"...... visualizing the whole process from above can be very helpful.

 

Yes, GOAL, the moment you're not sure what's going on.

 

Having a spotter can be more of a hindrance than a help if you (and they) don't know the process. I have helped people park, but the way I did it is that I told them to NOT look in their mirrors, or anywhere else for that matter, and only listen to me saying "Turn wheel left.....stop.....back up slowly.....stop......turn wheel right.......stop......back up slowly......stop" etc etc. But that won't teach you anything.

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Practice practice practice as everyone has said. For about a year we would only go to RV parks where we could get a Pull Through. Now it doesn't matter I've figured out how to back it up even in the tightest of spots. Good Luck.

james

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Thanks a million for the info, everyone! I'll test it all out hmm sometimes this week after we get the 5th & hitch working again.

Yes, today is one of those days. Flat tire. O.O

Then, we noticed a pin was on the truck bed. It appears to come from the hitch receiver.

So we figure we can't get it back in so we'd unhitch and call a mobile tech to come help out. It appears we can't unhitch either because a pin snapped off in the release arm. O.O We're stuck here with no water, no gen fuel, no hookups while we wait to see if the tech can fix this without costing us a fortune. I'll post a thread about it. Maybe someone has suggestions.

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If your F350 has 4x4, try using the LOW range to maneuver. It will give you smoother and slower power and control in the process.

 

Low range 2x2 is great for just easy surfaces where a little more control is desired.

 

I fully recommend the SMITH driving system. Here are some links: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&es_th=1&ie=UTF-8#q=the%20smith%20system%20driving&es_th=1

 

This is a standard part of professional driver training courses regardless of the vehicle and it is a verified risk reducer. More on it is available on YouTube.

 

Remember that like flying an airplane, turning in a truck/trailer combination is a matter of setting a curved line by first turning the wheel for a few seconds then straightening it back out to continue that curve. If you hold it turned your turning angle will get sharper and sharper until you can't recover. Build your own rhythm: turn- straighten-see result-turn-straighten-see the result, etc. Until you get the feel for it you will be too focused on the details to see the big picture of what is happening and how much it lags your own actions. There is no such thing as too slow.

 

One other suggestion: Truck drivers are taught to "use all your space". This means be aware of how much usable space you have and always make use of it. For instance, when going around curves on the road, drive to the high side of the curve with your front wheels and this will keep your trailer wheels out of the shoulder. When making a sharp right turn in town, drive to the outside of your space out into the intersection and make your turn from there rather than following the curb. Sometimes this is hard to remember so just remember to always use all your space while driving and you won't be dragging your trailer over pedestrians, curbs or other things in the gutter. In double turns, always use the outside lane and stay to it's outside line.

 

Just a few things. you will get it, honest.

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Thanks again everyone! We got the hitch fixed and that gave me a bit of time to practice straight back up and curb parking. Looking for a place that can give me more room and curves to do. All the advice is great! Hand on the bottom of wheel is a big help and the Z is one we'll try. This will take time, I see that now. Definitely a practice x10 to get progress in ability.

 

Oh and we took out the big tape and bumper to bumper the 5th is 35'10" Elkridge e30, plus the rack on back. Truck is 16' (guessing, crew cab with 8' bed). Ford350. Hitch is a Reese 16k. I've driven dump trucks, 30' boats, pulled 13' popups, 16' travel trailer, 25' class A, class c 30', but never have I done something this long!! Or tall. Definitely Tall.

Practice practice practice, and do it again.

 

Thank you!!

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