How to Back Up a Trailer

by | Jan 25, 2021 | Traffic School

If you have never tried backing up a trailer, you might think it looks easy. If you have tried reversing one, you know that it certainly isn’t as simple as it looks!

Backing up your trailer can feel quite counterintuitive and takes a bit of practice to master. However, there are some tips that will get you off to a good start the first time you get behind the wheel to try it out.

If you need to learn how to back up a trailer, we’ve got a list of backing tips to get you primed for success. Read on to give yourself a leg up.

How to Back Up a Trailer Step By Step

Before you strap yourself into the driver’s seat, check out videos and images of the backing process to give yourself an understanding of how it works.

Once you’ve gotten the idea, you’re ready to get behind the wheel and give it a shot. Here’s your step-by-step guide to safely backing up a trailer.

Step 1: Set Your Mirrors

Before you start moving, make sure you can see what you need to see. If your trailer is particularly wide, you’ll want to put some towing mirrors to help you keep an eye on the action.

Set your mirrors up so that you can see as wide a view as possible while still seeing the back edge of your vehicle. Stop and adjust them as needed.

Step 2: Position Yourself Well

If you’re backing up at an angle, you can use the swoop method to put yourself in a good position to begin.

This method involves swooping toward your parking spot as if you’re heading straight in, then turning away and pulling forward until the rear of the trailer is near the spot. This gives you a less acute angle to follow while backing up.

Similarly, if you’re reversing straight, try to pull straight away from your destination so that you can back directly in without turning.

Step 3: Back Up Carefully

Use your mirrors to see where the trailer is heading. If your trailer is going too far in one direction, turn your steering wheel in the same direction to correct it. Remember, the trailer moves in the opposite direction as your vehicle.

Begin straightening out as you near the final angle. Get out to check your progress often in the beginning. With practice, you’ll be able to sense your placement without getting out of the vehicle.

Trailer Backing Tips

  • Practice makes perfect! If you can find a large open space to practice your maneuvers before you have to do the real thing, it can be a big help.
  • Hold your steering wheel at 6 o’clock. This can help because the trailer goes in the same direction as the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the trailer to go right, you simply turn the steering wheel to the right.
  • Start slowly! Go very slow to begin with and don’t be afraid to get out and check your progress.
  • Size matters! A short trailer reacts more abruptly to your maneuvers while a long trailer is more forgiving.
  • Reset as needed! If you get into a tough spot, go forward and set yourself up again.

Safe Driving

When you’re learning how to back up a trailer safely, these trailer backing tips will get you started.

However, backing up isn’t the only task to prepare for when using a trailer. Towing a load changes a number of things about the driving experience, such as stopping distance, acceleration, and shifting lanes.

Employing defensive driving tactics is especially important when you’ve got a trailer attached. Learn more about our online defensive driving courses in your state state here.

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