How to Back a Trailer
|March 28, 2017||Posted by Melinda under Equine Endurance, Trailer|
Backing a trailer is an essential skill as I was reminded over and over and OVER this year. Whether you have to put your trailer into a back-in only angled parking spot at the barn, make a “U” turn at a T intersection, navigate a tight ride camp, or turn around in your best friends driveway – knowing how to back a trailer is something you can’t afford to put off any longer.
There is 1 simple trick and 2 skills you need to master NOW.
I’m not going to lie. Certain truck/trailer combinations are easier to back and maneuver than others. My standard-cab long bed pick up + trailer was an absolute dream and I could wiggle my three-horse ANYWHERE. The Dodge MEGA cab 4 door turns-like-a-cruise-liner truck paired with any size trailer is an exercise in patience and near misses as I constantly mis-judge the semi-truck like room it needs to maneuver. BUT, the concepts are exactly the same. You are going to have to practice to get a feel of *your* particular rig, but my “trick” and the execution of the 2 basic skills is exactly the same whether you have a goose-neck, bumper pull, long bed, short bed etc.
Don’t try to figure out the physics of how the truck is doing X while the trailer is doing Y. Just do this.
Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel.
As you are backing up, move your hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go.
If you need the back of the trailer to move towards your driver’s side door, move your hand that direction.
If you need the trailer to move towards the passenger side door, move your hand that direction.
Congrats. You now have all the knowledge you need to do the 2 basic skills that make you look like a bad ass in 99% of the situations.
(PS this works whether you are looking over your shoulder or using your mirrors. Keep your hand at the bottom of the wheel and move it towards the direction you want the trailer to go. That’s it!)
Skill 1: Backing up in a straight line
The goal is to do this:
Invariably, this ends up happening:
To correct the trailer and continue moving in a straight line, just move your hand the opposite direction of the trailer to bring it back into line. In the drawing above the trailer is being naughty and is going towards the driver’s side. I want it to go straight, so I move my hand towards the passenger side to make the back of the trailer move that direction.
Continue to make little corrections to counteract the trailer’s goal of running itself off the road. Voila! you can now drive the trailer forward AND backwards.
Skill 2: Backing the trailer around a corner
If you can back around a 90 degree turn, you can do *anything*. You can turn around on a residential street at any intersection (while staying in your own lane and minimally disrupting traffic). You can back into a parking spot at the barn (even if you only have a foot on either side between other trailers in your “spot”). You can position yourself at the trailhead ideally so that you are less likely to be blocked in, and can leave quickly if needed.
Backing the trailer around a turn is exactly like backing up in a straight line, except you are going to let the trailer turn gradually before correcting it back into a straight line.
Here’s what you are going to do:
First you are going to back in a straight line making small adjustments until you come to the corner.
The exact moment you need to do this depends on your truck-trailer combination so that’s why you need to practice – however if you waited too late or too long to start making the turn just stop, pull forward and try again.
In this scenario I need to make a turn towards the passenger side, so I move my hand towards the passenger side and allow the trailer to move in that direction.
If the trailer is turning too fast or too sharply, just move your hand the opposite way to move the back of the trailer back the other direction.
At some point the trailer is going to complete the turn and be oriented the right direction. Yay!!!!!!! You don’t need it to keep moving towards the passenger side, so now it’s time to move the trailer back towards the driver side until everything is straight behind the truck again.
Remember how to move the trailer towards the driver side? Move your hand towards the driver side.
As you bring the trailer back into line towards the driver door you will eventually end up straight with the trailer in line with the truck. Now, you don’t need to bring the back of the trailer towards the driver door any more so bring your hand back to center, or move it back to the passenger side if the trailer tries to come too far towards the driver side and you have to counteract it (what usually happens).
Now it’s time to go find a big open area and practice.
What if none of this makes sense?
Even if it’s hard for you to visualize on paper, I want you to go out and just try it. Don’t think about it. Put your hand on the bottom of the wheel and start backing up. Move your hand towards the passenger door so it’s in the 3 o’clock position. Watch how the trailer moved the same direction. Move your hand towards the driver door in the 9 o’clock position. Watch how the trailer starts to move in the other direction. Don’t crank the wheel wildly back and forth, don’t move your hand from the bottom as you swing it from one direction to the other.
You CAN do it!!!!!!!!!