Backing a trailer can be difficult and intimidating on your first try, or your second, or your third… By learning and practicing proper backing techniques you too will be able to drop the shift lever into reverse without feeling a sense of dread.
Like Real Estate, It’s About Location, Location, Location
Take your trailer to a large open location like a quiet parking lot to practice. If the lot doesn’t have painted lines marking out parking spots, use traffic cones or plastic bottles to help mark out spaces.
A Good Spot Wasn’t Just Dick and Jane’s Dog
If you travel with a companion use them as a spotter. Determine some specific hand signals and procedures they can use to help guide as you back your trailer. You may want to be careful what signals you use if you are in gang territory… The spotter can also coach you via two-way radio. The spotter must stay in a position that is visible to you at all times.
It All Looks Great in Hindsight
It is extremely important that you check out the area where you will be backing. Look for any objects that may be in the way. Including low hanging tree branches.
Put Yourself in a Good Position
Steering can be confusing when backing a trailer. An easy way to steer the trailer in the correct direction is to position your hands at the bottom of the wheel. Slowly move it left as you’re backing to make the trailer steer left. Slowly move the wheel to the right to steer it right. Steering the trailer in the direction you want becomes intuitive.
Spend some time learning how your tow vehicle and trailer maneuver and how quickly they turn and recover when backing. Get familiarized with using your mirrors when backing and practice some hand signals and methods with your spotter, if you have one.
Now It’s Time to Get It Right
Once you are accustomed to the way your trailer maneuvers, it is time to practice getting it “between the lines” of a marked parking space, or an area outlined with traffic cones or plastic bottles.
Remember, ending up where you want to be is easier if you start in the right place, which is forward of the parking area. Your best starting point will depend on the type of trailer you have, as well as how long it is.
If a turn is required, try to back from the left side (driver’s side). Backing from the left will allow you to see where the trailer is going. Backing from the right side (passenger’s side) presents a blind side that makes it almost impossible to tell where the trailer is going. With your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, move it left to steer the trailer to the left, and move right to steer it right. Turn it hard in the direction you want to start turning and slowly start your turn. Once the turn is well in progress and the trailer is aimed at the intended area, turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction so that your front wheels align with the arc formed by the trailer and vehicle. You want the vehicle to follow the trailer. Don’t wait too long or you can jack-knife.
As you continue backing, watch the alignment of the trailer to the parking area. Keeping your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, make small adjustments left or right as needed. You might need to stop and get out to check your progress, especially if you’re backing from the right. Don’t try to over correct with large turns. Two major errors in backing a trailer are turning the steering wheel too much, and holding it in the turned position too long. In either event, it may be necessary to pull forward and start over.
If you start to get off track, pull forward and adjust. As you continue backing, straighten out your vehicle to align it with the trailer, and then just ease on in.
Taking time to practice is key. Once you feel comfortable with handling your trailer you can move onto maneuvering in the “real world”; driveways, campgrounds, boat launches, etc.
- If possible, pull across the road to get a straighter shot at where you want to back your trailer. If there is room, swing wide and pull up ahead.
- If you can’t get a straight approach, backing in a gradual arc is easier than trying to make a sharp turn.
- It is much easier to back to the driver’s side.
- Pull far enough past the entrance to the parking spot to allow your trailer room to begin to turn. A good rule of thumb is to pull about ten feet further past the spot than you think you need to.
- Stop occasionally and inspect the area behind the trailer. If children are present ask somebody to watch behind the trailer. It is a good idea to place some orange traffic cones along the path you want the trailer to follow when you’re backing. If you decide it’s not necessary to mark a path you do need to place some type of object in your view where you want the back of the trailer to stop.
- Pay attention to what’s alongside the tow vehicle when backing. Some objects may be so low that you cannot see them from the driver’s seat, and when maneuvering the trailer into position you could hit something with the tow vehicle. Spotters should keep an eye out for the tow vehicle and not just the trailer.
- Backing a trailer at night poses the additional challenge of being able to see where you are going, and who or what you are about to run into. Implementing an auxiliary rear lighting set-up, like the White Night Rear Lighting System, makes life much easier.
- When backing your trailer take your time and relax.
What’s the strangest or funniest thing you’ve ever seen, traveling the highways and byways? (Remember to keep it clean folks!)
Are you a racing fan? Then share your stories with other fans, from the “pits” to the “skyboxes”!
Tell everyone your best fish “tales” here!
Welcome to the White Night community! Feel free to post any comment that doesn’t fit into the other categories here.