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 and trailer combinations are easier to maneuver and back-up than others. My standard-cab, long-bed pickup combined with a bumper-pull horse trailer was an absolute dream. I could wriggle my three-horse trailer anywhere. The Dodge mega-cab, 4-door, turns-like-a-cruise-liner truck paired with any-sized trailer is an exercise in patience and near misses. I constantly misjudge the semi-truck room it needs to maneuver, but the concepts are exactly the same for both. You are going to have to practice to get a feel of your particular rig, but my “trick” and the execution of the two basic skills are exactly the same whether you have a goose-neck, bumper pull, long-bed truck, or short-bed truck.
Don’t try to figure out the physics of why 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 in that direction.
Congrats. You now have all the knowledge you need to do the two basic skills that make you look like a bad-ass in 99% of the situations.
By the way, 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!
Now let’s talk about the two skills you need to master.
This post is included in “Go Ride Far.” Don’t worry, I’ve decided to keep this post available on the blog in its entirety, because I felt like this information was something that should be readily assessable. Scroll down to keep reading.
“Go Ride Far” is a collection of revised and updated posts, as well as new content that focuses on what I wish I had known prior to my first endurance ride. (original release details here)
For the price of the fru-fru coffee ($3.99) the ebook covers:
- How to easily and intuitively back a trailer
- Take control of your conditioning and training
- Recognize and fix a “bonk”
- The never before told story of Dr. Mel’s first endurance ride
…and more from the running, riding, writing veterinarian and Singletrack Press!
Paperback versions ($9.99) are available from Amazon, or if you are in the US and want a signed copy directly from me ($10+$2 shipping) contact me at [email protected].
If this post has helped you and you can spare it, please consider putting a dollar in my PayPal ([email protected]) or Venmo account, or donating through facebook messenger (facebook.com/drmelnewton) to help cover the cost of this site.
Now for the rest of the post…..
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 in the opposite direction of the trailer to bring the trailer 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 forwards 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 of clearance on either side between other trailers. You can position yourself at the trailhead so that you are less likely to be blocked in, and you 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 our plan for what we want to happen.
Now let’s do it.
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 start your corner depends on your truck-trailer combination. That’s why you need to practice. However, if you waited too late to start making the turn just stop, pull forward, and try again.
In this scenario you need to make a turn towards the passenger side, so move your hand towards the passenger side and allow the trailer to move in that direction.
If the trailer is turning too fast or too sharply, move your hand the other way to move the back of the trailer towards the other direction.
In the picture above, the trailer is moving too sharply towards the passenger side. I correct this by moving my hand towards the driver’s side. This will slightly straighten the trailer and keep it from jack-knifing.
At some point the trailer is going to complete the turn and be oriented in the right direction. Yay!!!!!!! You don’t need the trailer to keep moving towards the passenger side. 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.
This is why you can’t think about it too hard. You are actually straightening out the truck and trailer. By doing this, the truck is actually moving around the turn to come into line with the trailer, but you don’t have to worry about that. All you have to remember is that you don’t need the trailer to move any further towards the passenger door; now you need the trailer to move towards your driver door so that everything is straight again. So just move your hand towards the driver door while backing up. Like magic, everything will come into line.
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. If the trailer tries to come too far towards the driver side and you have to counteract it (what usually happens), move it back to the passenger side.
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. The trailer straightens behind your truck and then continues to move towards the driver’s side door. Don’t crank the wheel wildly back and forth, and don’t move your hand from the bottom as you swing it from one direction to the other.
You can do it!!!!!!!!!