How to Backup a Trailer
Backing Up a Trailer
To back up a trailer properly, there a few different tips and tricks you can follow, such as placing you hand at the 6 o’clock position on the steering wheel, looking over your shoulder, visualizing your vehicle pushing the trailer and making wide turns.
For most people, one of the most dreaded things about towing is backing up a trailer. Drivers do all kinds of things to avoid it. The following tips are intended to help you get started. Remember, backing up a trailer takes lots of practice.
Before you begin, make sure your trailer lights work!
5 Tips for Backing Up a Trailer
Tip 1: Hold the steering wheel in the 6 o'clock position.
With your hand in this position, it is much easier to visualize which way to steer your trailer. Moving your hand to the left will cause the trailer to go left. Moving your hand to the right will steer the trailer to the right.
Tip 2: Look over your shoulder if you can.
If your view is blocked by your trailer, roll down your windows and make sure you have a good view through your side mirrors. Face forward and use your side mirrors to keep track of your trailer's movements.
Tip 3: Think of your vehicle pushing your trailer.
Try not to think about them as one complete unit moving together. As you back up, visualize the back end of your vehicle pushing the coupler of the trailer. Think of it as a person pushing the handles of a wheelbarrow. If you want to turn the wheelbarrow to the right, you have to move the handles to the left and vice versa.
Tip 4: Make wide turns initially but go slowly.
To steer the trailer, you have to steer the vehicle, and some inexperienced drivers tend to turn too little. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but making wider turns will become more familiar with practice. One note of caution: do not move too quickly and do not exaggerate your turns so much that it causes the trailer to jackknife.
Tip 5: Do not jackknife the trailer.
This point is worth repeating. A jackknifed trailer can cause damage to both the vehicle and the trailer. When backing up, go slowly and correct excessive turns by steering the tow vehicle the same way the trailer is moving or by pulling forward and trying again.
Backing up a Small Trailer
When backing up a shorter trailer, the trailer will swing around faster with the slightest turn of the steering wheel. Long trailers are comparatively easy to back up. It is vitally important to take your time. Make small adjustments with the steering wheel, and don’t reverse too quickly.
Keep this principle in mind when towing your own trailer, and be especially cautious when towing an unfamiliar trailer.
How to Backup a Travel Trailer
Travel trailers are characteristically longer trailers, making them less sensitive to steering adjustments when backing up. To back up a travel trailer, you will need to make more exaggerated movements and you’ll need more space.
Travel trailers are also comparatively tall trailers and typically block your rear view. As such, you may wish to purchase tow mirrors to extend your side view.
How to Backup a Trailer Using Mirrors
If your view out the rear window of your vehicle is blocked by your trailer, you should install tow mirrors to extend the view of your existing side mirrors. To back up using the side mirrors, go slowly and check both side mirrors repeatedly as you reverse.
Remember your view through the side mirrors will be mirrored, so you may feel somewhat disoriented at first. Use the tip mentioned above, placing your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. Whichever way your hand moves, that’s the direction the trailer will go.
How to Backup a Trailer into a Driveway
Backing up into a driveway or any confined space is always more challenging than backing up in a large, open area. However, it also has its advantages. When backing up into a driveway, you can use the edges of the driveway as visual guides for your trailer.
Before you back in, make sure the street is clear of other vehicle. As you back up, be alert of obstacles such as telephone poles and mailboxes. Remember to go slowly and begin again as often as needed.