How to Back Up a Trailer…Like a Man!

by A Manly Guest Contributor on February 6, 2012 · 72 comments

in Cars, Manly Skills

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Colin Braun.

So, you borrowed your father-in-law’s boat for your weekend at the cabin, or you bought a RV to take the family camping for this year’s vacation. You got to where you were going and realized you now had to back up to get that trailer where you needed it. Maybe you hadn’t anticipated this (but really, how did you expect to get that boat in the water?), or maybe you didn’t think it would be a problem. How hard could it be? It’s not like you need a special license to do it, and you’ve seen other guys at the boat launch do it, and they look like lesser men than your manly self. Right?

A few years ago, during a break between years at university, I got my truck license and went to work driving a big rig. What man hasn’t wanted to get behind the wheel of one of those machines? They’re big, they’re noisy, you can see over everyone else, they can haul just about anything, and they have a horn to rival a locomotive. The part of the job I didn’t count on when I started was the fact that I would be spending a large amount of my time in reverse while going around corners. I was not exactly what you’d call a natural at backing up. In fact, I almost lost that first job because I had such a hard time. With some coaching, and a lot of nervous practice, I eventually became quite good at it, and now I can back a trailer around corners and into little garage doors on the first shot.

Reading this article is not going to substitute for practice, but it should prepare you to start. The principles are the same whether you have a 53’ tractor/trailer rig or a rented 8’ U-Haul.

A Solid Approach

Backing a trailer into a specific spot at a specific angle is mostly in the set-up. Like most things, preparation is key.

First things first: roll down your windows. Driver’s side and passenger’s, and it doesn’t matter if it is raining. If you have a passenger, it is best to kick them out before you even approach the actual boat launch, driveway, or campsite. You are probably going to want a spotter anyway, and they will either distract you or block your view if they stay in.

Forget about your rear view mirror, and don’t turn around and try to look out the back window. Chances are, you can’t see much over your trailer, and who cares what the front of that trailer is doing? You want to make sure your side mirrors are adjusted properly, because they are going to show you where the sides of your trailer are, allowing you to deduce what the back is doing. It may be more showy to do the big turn around and hug the back of the seat thing, but how much cooler to pull up and back that baby in without turning around? Appearances aside, it really is the proper way to do it. Proper mirror adjustment means when your rig is straight, your trailer is visible in about the inside third of your mirror. It is good to be able to see your trailer tires. This gives you a good view of where you are going and how you are doing.

Now you are almost ready to approach. For the sake of a consistent example, let’s say you are backing a camper into a campsite. It is coming up on your right-hand side. Stop short and get out of your truck. Go check for obvious obstacles that you will have to avoid. Don’t forget to look up. Even if you have a straight shot to the back of the site, will you clear all the tree branches? This sounds like retentive health and safety advice, but backing over a stray chunk of firewood or someone’s leftover wire roasting stick is going to be a rough start to your weekend. Try to make a mental map of where the picnic table is in relation to the fire pit and the back of the site. Pace off distances if you need to (you do know how wide your camper is, don’t you?). Have your passenger(s) stand near major obstacles so they can shout if you are too close. You may not always be able to see them, but your windows are already rolled down, right?

The Right Set-up

The moment of truth is at hand. If you do this next part wrong, it doesn’t matter much what you do after. Get it right, and you will look like a pro. It is the S-turn. You are in a forward gear with your campsite coming up on the right. Get that vehicle over to the right as far as you can without hitting something or rolling into the ditch and pull up alongside the entrance. How far along you go really depends on how long your rig is and what kind of hitch you have, but probably somewhere around when your truck bumper is coming up on the far end of the entrance, you want to swing out left. Don’t go all the way. Before you drive into the left side ditch, crank it back to the right. This will make the smaller angle between the truck and trailer be on the right-hand side. Stop with your truck somewhere around midway between road shoulders. Congratulations, your trailer is ready and begging to be backed into the sweet spot.

The Moment of Truth

The next part is where everyone gets nervous. People will offer “helpful” advice here, about how the steering wheel works in reverse now, but I’ve seen people start thinking everything in their vehicle works backwards and forget which pedal does what. So, take a deep breath and imagine you are a kid playing with toy trucks. You will probably need to make your turn angle a bit sharper, especially if you have a narrow entrance or a longer trailer. To accomplish this, turn your wheels as though you were going to steer to the left if you were going forward. Don’t turn it all the way. Put the truck in reverse, and let off the brake. Stay really calm at this point and constantly ask yourself “Is the right thing happening at this instant?” If the answer is yes, don’t change anything. As soon as the answer is “No,” stop. You aren’t going fast (I hope), and hopefully you didn’t choose a busy spot for your first attempts.

So, you are in reverse, with your wheels pointed left, causing your trailer to turn sharper. You won’t be able to keep that up for long before you fold your rig like a jack knife. It only takes a little distance to do what you need here. It is kind of like putting a crease in a piece of paper, where you only need that instant of pressure to kink it over. After that, you can lighten up and it will stay. So, after a couple feet (literally), start turning the wheel to the right. Think of following the trailer with the truck. My trainer always told me once I had the kink to “follow the trailer around.” Turning your wheel to the right will begin to straighten out the whole rig. I always think of it as “unsteering.” How soon you do this, and how sharply you turn depends on the relative sizes of everything. One of the biggest mistakes people make in reverse is over-correction. If the trailer starts going one way or the other, don’t crank the wheel all the way over. Unless you are in a really technical spot, needing to crank the wheel more than 180 degrees probably means you need to pull ahead and try again. Never shout when a whisper will do.

Words of Warning

Throughout this exercise, keep an eye on what the front of your truck is doing. Watch for ditches and obstacles. I once blew a steer tire on a set of stairs because I was too focused on the back end. This is another reason to back up like a man, using your mirrors, not wrapped around your seat trying to see out the back window.

Don’t be afraid of taking multiple runs to get into your spot. Obviously it is better to take a few runs and get it right than to hit something first shot. Some spots require multiple runs no matter how good you are. Also, don’t be afraid to put it in park, get out, and walk around to see what the back end is doing and how close you are to that fire pit. I did this constantly, even once I had some skill and confidence.

A word is necessary here about having someone “guide” you into a spot. Don’t. Having people to help is great, but give them specific jobs. Just like you have a limited perspective from the driver’s seat, they will have a limited perspective on what the far side of the trailer is doing. Tell your helper something like, “Stand so you can see my face in the side mirror of the truck and let me know if it looks like I’m going to hit the fire pit.” If they can’t see you, you can’t see them. Give them a specific signal that is verbal (your windows are still rolled down, right?) and visual. Inexperienced guides will usually run eagerly to the back of the trailer and start waving incomprehensibly while standing somewhere you can’t see and then yell after you’ve run over the picnic table.

Please practice this before you get to the boat launch with your new boat. Get your wife or your kids to come out and practice spotting you while you back up. How great will it be to pull up and have everyone know what to do? Don’t be that guy with the shiny new boat weaving and winding your way down the boat launch stressing everyone else out.

This isn’t comprehensive, but it’ll get you started. Comment if you’ve got a good tip.

Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lee in Florida February 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Give me one of those camper/boat thingies, and I’ll learn to back it into a shoebox. That is too cool!

2 Corey February 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I learned how to back up a trailer at 14 at the boat launch to pick up my dad in the boat. He always said to put my hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and then steer link normal. If you want the trailer to go right, push the steering wheel right and if left, then left.

Worked like a charm for me but after I got the set up right, which took a lot of practice.

Good article all around!

3 Josiah February 6, 2012 at 6:46 pm

This is one of those valuable skills my granddad taught me when I was 12-14 or so, and it really does come in handy because, as I’ve found out repeatedly, most people really don’t know how to back a trailer up properly!

I think one of the keys is to only make small adjustments to the wheel so you don’t cause a jack-knife situation.

Also, once you get the trailer started in a certain direction, you have to remember to not overdo the turn — you have to adjust the wheel and follow the trailer the rest of the way around the curve.

4 Brent Pittman February 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I’m terrified of backing up anything with a trailer. I’m bookmarking this just in case I ever have to.

5 Jacob February 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Easy trick I ever learned!!

Put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Wherever you want the trailer to go, turn the steering wheel in that direction. Learnt that from my family of truck drivers and boat owners!

6 Tyler Smith February 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Attach a trailer to your car, and just give it twenty minutes of practice. The neighbors will scratch their head, and you’ll look like a goober as you pull in and out of your driveway, but you’ll never worry about having to back something in ever again.

Great article. Thank you.

7 Matt February 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

With our family business (authors, speakers, and publishers), we travel most of the spring and summer to conventions. I learned to back our family’s 10 foot enclosed trailer early on, and I’ve parked our van+trailer (a 35 foot long rig) all over the US, including in a parking garage in downtown Phoenix. Backed the trailer inbetween rows of police cars!

8 Jay February 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Good article! Practice, practice, and practice is key… Off topic, but what kind of boat IS that? I’m curious where you found the picture.

9 Mike February 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Good article, once you learn how to do it right, backing up a trailer isn’t all that hard. I can’t count how many times I have cringed watching guys jackknife trailers.

10 Ann I. Ball February 6, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Perfect timing! I was just watching some old Top Gear episodes about floating cars and waterproof caravans.

I’m totally geared up for spring and summer lake fun,

11 Chris E. February 6, 2012 at 8:31 pm

The best advice I ever got was when I worked as a route driver for a major beverage company. One day I couldn’t get my pup trailer (23ft trailer) backed into a Wal-Mart dock, it was my first week with my CDL, a milk truck driver of 30 years finally came over and gave me his words of wisdom. The #1 thing he told me was make micro adjustments with the steering wheel. Put your hand at the bottom of the wheel and keep it there, then which ever way you move your hand your trailer will follow. Once I got used to that it was no problem.

12 Orrin February 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm

A 1 axle trailer is easy, try a 2 axle wagon (rear axle is fixed, front turns) and then try it with 100 bales of straw/hay. Good stuff.

13 montanaclay February 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Even better than putting 1 hand on wheel, put both hands near bottom of wheel palms up. Want trailer to swing right? Pull on right hand. Want trailer to swing left? Pull on left hand.

14 Joe Shaffer February 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

When possible it’s always easier to back around a driver’s side corner. If that makes sense. Blind-side backing(passenger’s) like in the article is much more difficult with a severe lack of vision.

Hand(s) on the bottom of the steering wheel, watching your mirrors, NOT looking over your shoulder, move your hand to side that you want the trailer to go.

With practice it becomes quite simple. Oh ya, and never press a bad/dangerous situation. You can always pull forward and start again.

15 Dan February 6, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Best advice I’ve gotten is if you see the trailer in a side mirror, turn the wheel to that side & it will disappear.

16 Daniel February 6, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Great article. I learned to tow & back up trailers from my grandfather. It is one of those skills that every man should possess, and always impresses my wife.

The hardest trailers to back up (in my opinion) are the ones that weigh next to nothing, such as my teardrop camper (500 lbs). Those tires don’t have much grip on them due to very little weight and do not like to turn as much as a heavier trailer. Hopefully, some day I’ll have an Airstream!

17 Kory February 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I was going to say what a few wise men have already commented hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn your hand the way you want the trailer to go. Small movements of the wheel can make major changes to the trailer. I learned this in the Army and it hasn’t failed me in anything I’ve ever had to back.

18 Sparticus February 7, 2012 at 12:16 am

I have a 27ft camper. It took quite a while to learn how to back that thing up. Now when we come home with it I can get it back in the yard first shot right where I want it every time. Also learned that the further away the trailer tire are, the slower the trailer turns. My little ATV trailer turns quick as to where the camper turns slower. Something to keep in mind.

19 chaz February 7, 2012 at 3:46 am

I find this a little hard to describe, but for me it works this way: I when the front wheels of the car are turned, there is an curve that the car will reverse along. If this curve goes directly through the centre of the trailer axle, the trailer will continue along the same curve as the car. If the curve goes “inside” the midpoint of the axle, it pushes the trailer straighter, and if it goes “outside”, it tightens the curve.

I think the people who reverse trailers for a living (farmers, truckies etc) have this mental picture, rather than any rules about which way to steer. But eh rules are a good way to start.

20 mack February 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

i’ll never forget the time at spokane, in january, snowing hard, looking for a place to park on the street, busy traffic. there opens up a spot just long enough for my dad to parallel park his full size pickup, and the 20′ trailer attached to it. He put it in there like it was nothing.

21 Adam February 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

“A word is necessary here about having someone “guide” you into a spot. Don’t.”

This right here. Unless the spotter is also a seasoned trailer handler, its going to get ugly.

One thing I noticed while trying to teach my wife to back up an empty boat trailer, she kept stopping and adjusting the wheel while stopped, which made for huge over-corrections. I told her to more the wheel a little at a time and KEEP MOVING (slowly). That way she could actually see where the trailer was going as she made steering input.

22 Wes February 7, 2012 at 9:01 am

Another good note: The smaller the trailor, the quicker it will turn on you. So while you think you might buy a small trailer at first to learn with before moving to a longer trailer, you’ll actually have an easier time with larger trailers.

23 Steve February 7, 2012 at 9:10 am

One advantage to having been raised on a farm was learning to back just about anything. I’m not sure I’d be able to put a four-wheeled wagon in the barn anymore, but backing anything on a trailer is a great skill… and when you’re called upon to take the wheel and help a ‘city slicker’ out… the feeling is nearly narcotic!

24 Tim W February 7, 2012 at 9:33 am

I’ve had to backup a few trailers to docks before, one of the actual drivers told me first off, “Just remember G.O.A.L. (Get Out And Look) whenever you are unsure of where you are.”

25 Patrick February 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

If you’re using an inexperienced helper, the only thing they need to do is be able to yell “STOP” when their trigger is met. Watching the picknick table? Just yell “STOP” if you’re too close. A reset can then be done. If they can perform that job competently you can even make your 12 year old helpful.

The only hard part is our tendency to yell other things, like “Woah”.

26 TR February 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

Great article. You guys need to do a similar article on driving a box truck! Last time I moved, I almost got in a fist fight with a bus driver because I got my 26′ box truck wedged between a parked car (which wasn’t there when I pulled in!) and a dumpster pulling out of a loading dock, and he couldn’t get past me.

27 Moeregaard February 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

If you’re right-handed, turn and look over your left shoulder; do the opposite if you’re a southpaw. It’s just easier. If you’re towing with a pickup, open the beer-can window in addition to the side windows. You can hear your spotter better this way. Also, drop the tailgate so that you can see more of your trailer–especially when backing an empty trailer into the water for boat retrieval. If your trailer is living in the last century and still has incandescent lamps instead of LEDs, disconnect the electrical so that the brake lamp bulbs don’t break when they see water. Finally, never rely on the parking brake alone once the trailer is in the water. Nothing is more embarrassing than launching your truck with your boat. These tips have served me well, whether launching my 14-ft. sloop or my 1954 14-ft. runabout.

28 stepcoach February 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm

got the backing/insertion thing down (but great description – I use the bottom of the steering wheel, too), but my main comment is: Where can I get me one of those groovy boats?! I love those things – want me one!!!

29 Rodney February 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Great article. I have never been good at backing trailers…if it was a small u-haul trailer, if it was empty, I would unhook it and push it in to place. If it wasn’t empty I was screwed. I will now have to give these instructions a try. Thanks!

30 CameronSS February 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

When I was very very small, I had one of those chunky-tired Dirt King tricycles, which my dad built a trailer for. By the time I was allowed to steer the garden tractor with a trailer (around 7yo) I already had years of experience. When I moved on to the car, piece of cake.

Downside of this early training is I have no idea “how” to back a trailer. I couldn’t possibly explain the process. I just innately know how.

31 Euan February 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

a good way to learn is in a tractor, thats how i learnt to drive basically but trailer is especially good because you have a hand throttle and crawler gears so you dont need to bother with pedal or clutch control if you drive a manual, but also because you can see exactly where your rear wheels are so you can get a feel for how far you can go before you jacknife, also generally in a tractor you’ll be somewhere that its not going to matter of you get it way wrong and back up into something.

32 John Wilson February 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Glad to see Joe already caught that the article is showing blind side backing. Blind Side backing should really be avoided by beginners, heck even the pros avoid it. It’s way easier to do it from the Drivers side.

But if you can do it this way then you’re probably good to back any which way.

33 Bryan February 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I like Corey learned to back a trailer by using the “hand at 6 o’clock and move your fist in the direction you want the back of the trailer to move.” Works like charm.

34 jsallison February 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Didn’t have much problem backing a 53′ trlr attached to a semi… A 12-15′ ammo caisson hooked to a twice and a half, on the other hand… Trust me, short trailers and long prime movers get you in trouble a lot faster than long trailers and short prime movers. But I became the local caisson-backing cod the hard way. And didn’t lose a bullet, or guy.

Want a real test? Try backing a military 3/4 ton trailer hooked to an M551 or M113 (tracked AFV’s). Your ground guides only sorta know wtf wrt the trailer.

35 Jd February 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Just put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and the tail end of the trailer will go in the direction you move your hand.

36 JCRogers February 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm

As a former truck driver, I can do those maneuvers with a 53′ trailer. I was the best backer in my class.

37 JT February 8, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Last summer my mom insisted on me backing up our 32 ft camper onto our lawn ( so up a curb). i hated it it took me 30 minutes but I’m glad she did now because I can back up like a trucker amd I’m 16

38 Whit February 10, 2012 at 12:29 am

Don’t over compensate!!!! The amount that the trailer turns grows exponentionally, not in a linear fashion. Remember this to avoid the dreaded jack knife.

Also, the trailer (the entire vehicle) essentially pivots on the wheel facing the direction that you are trying to reverse towards. Get that set where it needs to to go in your new direction. And make sure that your vehicle has room to rotate around that point.

39 Jon Los February 10, 2012 at 2:07 am

I’ve often wondered when the manly art of backing up trailers was going to be addressed. I would seem that it is one of those skills, like filling out tax forms, that is simply ignored by our institutes of learning, only to be learned while doing it wrong, with the attendant consequences.
Now, backing up one trailer is manly. How about two, or even three! Suddenly, “hold the wheel at the bottom” becomes redundant.
In this video, a unique video resume, our hero who goes by the handle Dingosgotmybaby, will show us how it’s done….
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0NRIRIBlr8

As we say in the biz, we dock by faith, not by sight!

40 Adam February 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

Glad to see this, as I’ve recently placed my boat on a dry dock and trailer. Until now it’s been on the water and ready to go but I got fed up with the barnacles…

The few attempts I’ve had of backing the thing up have shown the trailer just loves to dive towards a jack-knife situation, so I deffo need practise at it.

I think I’ll set aside one afternoon and just drive around and around a car park in reverse, aiming for parking spots etc.

As for the “hand at the bottom of the wheel” thing, I don’t give that much credit, as you’re not really developing any skill at the move. Those kind of rules immediately get forgotten the moment something goes wrong or you get distracted.

41 Dave February 10, 2012 at 9:15 am

As a 12 year old I learned how to back a 4 wheel farm trailer with a load of loose hay into the driveway bay of my grandparents barn. The Ford 8N did not have power steering and if I didn’t keep it moving it was near impossible for me to turn the wheel. My grandpa just watched, not saying a word, and after a couple of tries it clicked into place. The good thing was that the tractor had unrestricted vision and no rear-view mirrors. I’m now 76 and bet I could still do it!

42 Roland February 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

Grew up on a farm and worked my way through college driving tractor-trailers. A couple more tips:
• Warn your helper that his only purpose is to watch for obstacles and tell you when to stop. If he orders you left or right or hollers “Mawm back! Mawm back!” he will walk home and you will never invite him again.
• If all you have is a popup camper, just unhook it and push it in by hand. It could save your marriage.

43 voice940 February 10, 2012 at 10:53 am

Also, know the difference between single-axle and tandem-axle (two axles underneath) trailers. Single axles have a tendency to react more to your steering than tandems. Personally, I think I have more control with tandems than single axles – but there are a few people out there who prefer single.

44 Spense February 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Remember there is a big difference in backing on pavement and backing off-road. Most tires are meant to travel on pavement so they behave normally on this terrain. Backing in gravel, mud, or loose sand is much more difficult. Smaller movements in steering are preffered because the tires won’t dig into the terrain. If the tires start to dig in, they will push the earth up to the side walls of the tires and prohibit fluid movement. At this point, the best thing to do is pull up and start over.
Also, sometimes it is easier to move a bit faster when backing (as opposed to riding the brake or just letting the gears barely turn without using throttle, especially off road). The reason is that it is sometimes easier to correct more quickly because you see results earlier. If you move too slowly, you may not notice the trailer drifting to the side as soon, and again, the tires won’t have a chance to dig in to the earth.
And remember to not only look at the sides and rear corner of the trailer but also look at the tires (if you can see them under the fender.) This way you can see the ground underneath the tires if you are off road, navigate any obstacle you must get near with the tires (such as a curb, ditch, or stump) and if you see too much or too little sidewall you can adjust sooner.

45 Chuck February 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I regularly back a 30+ foot travel trailer into a rather tight space. To get the trailer to the exact spot I want I use a bright colored weighted rope I lay on the ground. The rope can be observed from my truck mirrors. I use the rope to guide the trailer wheels from my mirror. Following the rope means I know I am on track to the designated spot. Running over the rope doesn’t hurt the truck, trailer or rope (too much). Bright orange rope/line is best in low light.

46 Annie February 11, 2012 at 1:42 am

Wish we had this information before we borrowed a trailer one weekend (fair time ago, but still vivid in my memory). Reversing was not our strong point, and we ended up gouging our rear bumper bar with the trailer. So the trailer was caught in the rear bumper bar, and the only way out, was the way it went in! More damage.

We have been scarred for life with trailer reversing, and haven’t used one since!

But it does provide us with hours of entertainment watching others do it – and do it badly!

Hope you can come and visit our camping site & attached blog.

47 JG February 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Length matters in this sense.

The longer the trailer, the easier it is to back up.

Try backing up a tow-behind log splitter; much more difficult than backing up a 20ft boat trailer.

48 Jim Denny February 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

OK now send us info on backing a set of doubles.!! Ex CF Driver

49 Lex February 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Having been raised on a farm and pulling all types of trailers for years, the best advice I ever got was from my dad who said, “Always try to park in way that you don’t have to back the trailer.” You can’t always do it, but you can prevent a bunch of messes that way.

50 Bob February 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

Wow…I could have used this years ago when we first got our trailer. Come to think of it, I can still use it! Great post

51 Ravin February 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I’ve been an EMT for the last 10 years and I have driven my fair share of ambulances, while they are not hauling anything the regs we have at my Squad are similar to the tips you provided:
1. have your partner ‘spotting’ you (of course, in real life this isn’t always possible)
2. the spotter should remain in the field of vision of the driver’s side mirror. If the driver can’t see the spotter out the driver’s side mirror, the driver is supposed to STOP.
3. don’t be afraid to go slow. If you’re blocking the road, who cares, it’s not like the people honking can go through you – they have to wait for you to get out of the way. So take your time and get it right; better than doing it quickly and damaging the rig (ambulance) or worse, someone else’s property.

52 Susan February 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm

My Dad drove a truck & trailer rig for a few years and I learned from him. Like others have said — put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and then steer like normal. It still takes practice, though.

53 david rainey February 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm

i had to back a trailer on a regular basis in my army days. your comments about people waving incomprehensivly is a great point, but try telling an e8( master sergent) to buzz off you are only messing me up!

54 John David Galt February 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm

If you don’t have somebody to spot for you, don’t even try it without at least several hours’ practice in an empty parking lot. Or stop every 18 inches, get out, and look.

This is how big-rig drivers learn to do it.

55 Addyson Nevin February 19, 2012 at 4:31 am

I cannot thank you enough for the blog article. Awesome.

56 Brad Campkin February 22, 2012 at 11:34 am

Well written, having been in the RV towable industry since 1973 I would say this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on this subject. Knowing when to “follow it around” in the “S” turn takes some practice to get the timing just right, also like the article says “starting in the right spot” will make or break a smooth back up. I will pass this on!

57 Brad Campkin February 22, 2012 at 11:35 am

Well written, having been in the RV towable industry since 1973 I would say this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on this subject. Knowing when to “follow it around” in the “S” turn takes some practice to get the timing just right, also “starting in the right spot” will make or break a smooth back up. I will pass this on!

58 Brad Campkin February 22, 2012 at 11:35 am

Well written, having been in the RV towable industry since 1973 I would say this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on this subject. Knowing when to “follow it around” in the “S” turn takes some practice to get the timing just right, also “starting in the right spot” will make or break a smooth back up.

59 Brad Campkin February 22, 2012 at 11:36 am

Having been in the RV towable industry since 1973 I would say this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on this subject. Knowing when to “follow it around” in the “S” turn takes some practice to get the timing just right, also “starting in the right spot” will make or break a smooth back up.

60 Brad Campkin February 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Having been in the RV towable industry since 1973 I would say this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on this subject. Knowing when to follow it around in the “S” turn takes some practice to get the timing just right, also starting in the right spot will make or break a smooth back up.

61 Rich February 26, 2012 at 9:25 am

Okay. That’s how you back a single axle trailer. Now let’s try backing a double axle wagon type, such as farm hay wagon or those wagon-style horse trailers that were popular in the 1950′s and 1960′s. They had zero tongue weight, and could be pulled by a medium-sized car. A tractor company told me it was the backing up, more than anything else, that doomed them to history’s dustbin. But we farmers still back up four-wheel wagons,

62 Andrew Parsons November 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I learnt to back a trailer when I still riding a trike the had a trailer with it and I’ve been doing it ever since

63 john November 20, 2012 at 10:36 pm

At first practice with a long trailer, not a short one.
Get really good at going straight backwards for a long distance.
See how slow you can go and still keep it straight.
Do these three things first and you will learn to “follow the trailer” as mentioned above.

64 Mr. Nutter December 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Great discription of the S turn. Its all about the set up. Had to learn this quick when I started working on a feed lot in college. Cock the trailer in the direction you want to go and chase it in, dont think about which direction you are turning the wheel. In order to chase the trailer into the spot you will naturally steer it correctly.

65 John February 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Hi Colin: Great article; I have found that the easy explination is to face forward,hold the bottem of the steering wheel looking in the mirror and move the bottem of the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. Everything else is length of the trailer ,length of the tow car/tractor and if it dosen’t look right stop pull up get out to look and back slowly to give yourself a break

66 Sarah March 22, 2013 at 4:23 am

Great article. It goes perfectly with our own which talks about how to hitch up and tow a trailer. This is full of some great detail and extra tips. Thanks for sharing.
Here’s ours if you fancy a read.
http://www.inspiredcamping.com/caravan-towing-tips-and-reversing-advice/
Sarah

67 Howard Williams April 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Forgive me for being a little over a year late but, as I say, “if you haven’t read it yet, it’s still news to you”.
I saw the question twice but, throughout all sixty-six comments, there appeared no answer identifying the boats in the photo. I’m guessing the era was the first half of the 60s due to the clothing and auto styles. I recall an amphicar at about the same time this little houseboat appeared.

68 Ray Burr May 1, 2013 at 9:32 am

Nice article, I remember when I picked up the new fifth wheel, the sales guy said best thing to remember is back up slow, because of the length the fifth-wheel will be slow to respond and if you are going too fast you won’t have time to correct the path of the trailer. That advice always stuck with me.

69 R. Worrall June 23, 2013 at 8:25 pm

That boat is a Combo Cruiser, made of Royalex plasti , I believe, around 1970. I was eight.

70 Mike Loshe July 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Great tips! Funny story…I have been searching for car trailers for sale for months with no luck what-so-ever. Finally I stumble upon just what I was looking for, with an unbeatable price. So I buy the trailer and head off home to show my wife. I get home with no problems and decide to back it up into the drive way (mind you this is my first time towing anything). Lets just say I cut the wheel too fast and the trailer ended up sitting in the front garden.

71 Yvette July 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I am currently attending a tractor trailer training center. It’s easy to straight back a trailer. I have difficulty with the 45 and 90 degree backing. I get so discombobulated trying to do those maneuvers and wonder if I will EVER “get it!”

72 dutchwoman January 27, 2014 at 2:41 am

I should probably confess first that I am not a man! However, I can off-road like a man and park like a man and fit through a space with an inch or two on each side like a man so I figured I should learn to reverse a trailer ‘like a man ! So…. all my womanly duties perfomed by 07.00 hours ha ha ha , I usually sit down to confront my daemons. Today’s is – how to reverse my little sofa-carrying sheep trailer into my drive which is narrow, on a bend and at an angle. Great start huh ! Oh and it’s a blind side turn ! Having lain awake worrying about it half the night – upholstery class is today – I think I will go out and practise. It all makes sense on paper so here goes! if you don’t hear from me again….. I’m in that ditch, picnic table round my neck………! cheers

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