How to Safely Back Up a Trailer or Camper

How to Safely Back Up a Trailer or Camper


Backing up a trailer, camper or boat into its proper position is not that difficult once you get the hang of things.  The trick is to practice and allow your confidence to develop.  Let’s look at some techniques that can help to increase your learning curve and minimize accidents.

Be in Control

The first thing to do is remember that you are in control of the process.  Not the person sitting behind you, not the person guiding you from outside, not the terrain, obstacles or traffic.  You are the one behind the wheel, and you need to be confident that you know what you’re doing from the get-go.  Take your time, use smooth movements and don’t let outside factors get you nervous our put you under pressure.


Place your hands at that 8 and 4 o’clock positions on the wheel respectively.  You will find that it is much easier to control the steering wheel in this position.  It is also easier to turn your body and head frequently as you look at the mirrors and out the windows because your arms are out of the way. 

A good trick to remember is that the object that you are pushing back will turn in the direction of your downward hand movements.  If your right hand is going down to turn the wheel, then the object will go right.  If your left hand is going down, the object will go left.  Another way to think about it is if the right side of the wheel goes up and the left side goes down, the object will turn to the right.  If the left side goes up and the right side goes down, it will turn to the left.

You should also keep in mind that there is a relationship between the angle of the turn and the speed you are going, the size and turning radius of your vehicle as well as the trailer or object you are pushing.  Consequently, you will need to adjust your movements as well as spacing as you work with different equipment.  The size of the object and length of the chassis behind you will also dictate how much space you need on either side when trying to park something in a confined area. 


The easiest way to learn how to center the chassis you are pushing is to identify boundaries to the left and the right of where you want it to go.  Use your mirrors to look at the edge that is visible inside of the turn and calculate whether to increase or decrease the steering.  Using this method will also help you to quickly identify whether or not you need to pull forward and start over.  Don’t worry about fine-tuning the positioning until you’ve backed the vehicle between the left and right boundaries.  Then you can pull out slightly and make minor adjustments as you reverse again.


The best way to get the hang of this process is to practice in a spacious and empty parking lot or piece of land.  Set up some cones to serve as markers to gauge distance as well as to serve as markers for the left and right sides.  If you don’t have cones, use sticks or poles with makeshift flags to mark the spots.  Then, start backing in. Keep trying until you nail it a few times and feel confident.  Then move into a more congested or restrictive environment and try it with real-world obstacles.  The point is to work your way up until you’ve gotten used to the feel and process so that you don’t panic when the time comes to do it for real.

Two more pieces of advice:  First, avail yourself of a helper who can guide you as you back up.  Second, consider putting a hitch on your front bumper and pushing the chassis of the object forward.  This trick is a lot easier and safer.  If you do the front-push method, turn the wheel in the direction that you want the object to travel. 

Try these tips out for yourself and see how easy it is to master backing in a trailer, camper or boat today.  You will be surprised at how quickly you will build up your confidence and become a pro in no time.

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