Last week I went to get our Airstream after three months of storage in a local lot. Since we're in warm and sunny southern Arizona and it hadn't been out of sight for long, I expected the Airstream to be pretty much as I left it.
For whatever reason, the batteries were completely dead when I arrived. The battery disconnect was in the correct position ("STORE") but nonetheless there wasn't enough power left to operate the power hitch jack.
In fact, the batteries were so dead that even connecting to the tow vehicle power wouldn't get the jack working.
This meant I needed to find the manual hitch jack tool (which comes with new Airstreams). It took a minute to find it amongst all my other stuff, and as I was searching for it I realized that if I didn't find it I'd be completely stuck and unable to take my trailer home.
Add to all that the fact that heavy rains in the previous few days left me standing in 2-4 inches of cold water while I tried to diagnose the dead batteries and operate the hitch jack with a wrench. (Thank goodness for waterproof boots.)
This unpleasant experience got me thinking: What should an Airstreamer have with him or her when pulling an Airstream out of storage? If things go sideways like they did for me, which tools and equipment are helpful to get yourself out of a jam?
Here's a short list of suggestions for you:
Voltmeter: an essential tool for checking battery voltage when you have (or suspect) dead batteries. When the Airstream's batteries are dead, the Battery Disconnect switch won't operate and thus the Airstream's built-in battery voltage display won't work.
Fuses: if you show up to find a blown fuse, having one on hand will save the inconvenience of running to the hardware store. It's smart to have spares that match all the sizes in your fuse panel, plus one for the power hitch jack fuse (in the battery box). We include all of these in our Maintenance Essentials Kit.
Flashlight: useful for inspecting the underside and inside the trailer if the power is out and the lights don't work. I also carry a headlamp, which is great when I need to light up an area and have my hands free to fix something.
Lubricants: the two I always have in the trailer are heavy grease for the hitch ball, and silicone spray for the latch in case it has become stuck from disuse. Learn more about lubricants here.
Tire gauge or TPMS: to check the tire pressures before you attempt to move the trailer.
Air compressor: to add air to tires as needed. If you don't have a power outlet available in your storage spot or in your truck, you can use a 12 volt air compressor connected to a cigarette lighter plug–it's just going to take a lot longer to fill the tires.
Tire changing kit: if you find you've got a completely flat tire, adding air may not be a viable option. Always be ready to swap a tire if you need to.
Wrenches: to tighten hitch parts, or (in the case of a Hensley Hitch) to raise the screw jacks, as needed. Make sure the factory-supplied wrenches for the stabilizers and the power hitch jack are also on board in the Airstream.
Beach towel: used for multiple purposes. To soften the ground in the event you need to get under the Airstream. Mop up rainwater leaks inside. Or wipe up excess grease if you don't have paper towels or rags handy.
I keep all of these things in my Airstream at all times, because they might be needed during a trip, too.
Finally, I'll recommend the most important thing to bring with you: patience. Most of the time picking up the Airstream from storage is straightforward and uneventful. That only makes it harder to keep cool when things go unexpectedly, sometimes bafflingly, wrong.
When you're expecting smooth sailing and things go sideways, it's easy to get frustrated quickly. A deep breath and a break to go consider options is often the best move.
By the way, if you are wondering what happened to the batteries to make them go dead in three months, stay tuned. I'll have another blog on that topic later in 2022.