backing up

So you just bought a new trailer and you are learning how to drive with it? Things seem pretty easy at first. The trailer just tags along and follows you wherever you go. Now put the vehicle in reverse and try to maneuver the trailer into a parking spot or up to a specific place on a loading dock. Reverse driving with a trailer is not quite as easy as forward driving, but with practice, it will become second nature. Here are a few tips on how to back up your trailer with ease.

When a vehicle backs up with a trailer attached the trailer never seems to follow the path it is expected to. Drivers with a lot of driving experience can even be often confused by an uncooperative trailer while backing. It takes a lot of experience to be able to back up a trailer. For an autonomous vehicle with a trailer, backing with a trailer is a really big challenge as it places additional constraints on the system’s path of travel.


You should also understand how the wheels are working to become a trailer backing ace.

  • Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. Back up slowly. Because mirrors cannot provide all of the visibility you may need when backing up, have someone outside at the rear of the trailer to guide you, whenever possible. 
  • Use slight movements of the steering wheel to adjust direction. Exaggerated movements will cause greater movement of the trailer. If you have difficulty, pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again.

If being helped by someone outside the vehicle, which is always a good idea when backing a box trailer through left turns, you should discuss signals before proceeding. The best method is for the helper to stand in front of the vehicle and to point which way the nose of the vehicle should be maneuvered.


Step 1. Be sure that the trailer, or some part of the back of it, is visible to you as you drive. If the vehicle is taller than the trailer, attach something to the trailer on one or both of the back corners that extends up high enough to be seen by the driver. A flag or colored post would be perfect for this task.

Step 2. Have your trailer hitch installed professionally. Remember, when you are driving in reverse, the trailer will travel in the opposite direction of the way the steering wheel is turned. If you are backing up a trailer and it turns way too far, don't panic, just drive the vehicle forward until the trailer straightens out. A helpful tip for backing into driveways is to drive past the driveway or entrance on the same side of the road as the entrance until the trailer has just passed it. You should turn the vehicle at the end of this approach so that it is facing the opposite side of the road at a slight angle. When you begin to back up, you will notice that the trailer maneuvers much easier and doesn't have as far to travel to make the turn. You will need to turn the steering wheel towards the direction of the opposite side of the road as you back up. This approach will help to keep the vehicle from having to venture off-road in order to correctly angle the trailer. Just be mindful of traffic in both directions as you attempt this.

Step 3.  For practice, find a parking lot with few or no cars to practice driving in reverse. Weekends are a good time for this. Take along some obstacles like road cones to set up different scenarios and learn the best way to approach each one. Also practice driving backwards with a trailer in a straight line and learn how to judge distances. If you spend much of your time driving the trailer by yourself, it may not be a bad idea to install a sensor on the back that will detect when an object is within a certain distance of the back of the trailer. If there are people around, it doesn't hurt to ask someone stand behind the trailer to help you as you back up. Most people won't mind offering a helping hand.

other articles that may interest you
towing terms
tow hitch
weight ratings
sway prevention
trailer tires
tow vehicle
weight distribution
scale weights
trailer wiring
trailer towing
tongue weight
trailer sway
loading the trailer
general maintenance


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