One of the toughest challenges to master in a vehicle knowing how to back up a trailer. I am almost 50 years old and my teens do this skill better than me. Knowing the proper way to do this will save them money all through adulthood. Thankfully their father knew how to do it well and taught them too.
To back up a trailer, you’ll need to preplan your route and be aware of your vehicle’s position in the environment. It’s easy to get focused on the trailer and forget the front of the vehicle and then accidentally clip an object.
It’s also easy to get so worried about the front of the car that you forget to swing out and drive onto a gas pump. Don’t ask me how I know this. You need to know where all parts of the vehicle and trailer are at times. You also need to predict what you need to do to make the trailer do what’s expected. Now you know why this skill needs lots of practice.
The longer the trailer, the slower and less responsive the motion will be, and essentially the easier the task is; however, a longer one takes a lot more planning and space.
Get set up in the vehicle so that you are comfortable and can see clearly in all mirrors. While mirrors are useful and you’ll need them, I recommend that you do most of your observation by looking over your shoulder, or leaning out of the window. We have a back up camera in our vehicles. I caution the children to remember that the back up camera isn’t going to work once the trailer is attached.
If you drive straight backwards, quite quickly the trailer will start to go to the left or to the right. If you need to continue to go backwards, you’ll need to correct this. The best way to correct this is to understand how to reverse a trailer around a corner. Easier said than done sometimes.
While in reverse, slowly steer the car the opposite way from where you want the trailer to go. This will cause a pivot that will allow the vehicle to turn one direction, and the trailer in the other.
If you now continue your direction, this pivot will get larger and larger, like the closing of a pocket knife, until the vehicle and the trailer collide. To prevent this, you will now need to turn the opposite direction, following in the direction of the trailer. You’ll soon discover that you can tweak the turning it by turning your wheel and making adjustments.
If the trailer starts to veer off too much, or head in a direction that you don’t want it to, simply pull forward until the it is straight again and try once more.
For those of you with student drivers, now is the time to take their driving skills to the next level. Backing up a trailer is definitely not easy, but learning the basics can give your young drivers a big boost of confidence.
This skill is a great occasion to talk about the character traits of patience, teamwork and caution.