It’s understandable that many trailer owners, especially those new to towing, baulk at the thought of reversing. With our step-by-step guide on how to reverse a trailer, we look at getting your trailer into a 90-degree parking space.
1. Kick your passenger out
If you have an assistant, have them stand on your blind side in a position where you can see and hear them. Establish a clear set of visual and verbal signals so you’re both on the same page.
2. Reverse to your right
Reversing is easier when the driver side of the vehicle is on the inside of the reversing arc (the right side). This allows you to see the full length of the trailer while you’re reversing.
3. Get set up
Wind down your windows. Adjust your side mirrors to show both sides of the trailer. Imagine the centre line of the parking space – with the parking space ideally on your right-hand side, travel at 90 degrees to it until the trailer’s axle just crosses over this imaginary line.
4. Left is right and right is left
A key reason people find reversing a trailer so difficult is that turning the wheel one way results in the trailer moving in the opposite direction. The trick is to hold your steering wheel from the bottom. This means that the direction the wheel is turned now matches the trailer’s direction of travel. That’s how we’ll refer to it from here on.
5. Look where you’re going
Forget using the rear-view mirror. And until you straighten up the vehicle, you won’t see much in the left-side mirror either. It’s best to use your driver-side mirror or look over your shoulder so you can see the length of the trailer.
6. Ease it back
Shift into reverse gear. With your hands at the bottom of the wheel, turn right (turning the front wheels left) as you ease backward. This will move the rear of the tow vehicle out to the left and the rear of the trailer out to the right, thus putting the tow vehicle and trailer into a rightward arc.
7. Follow around the curve
Now straighten up the steering wheel just to the point where the relationship between the tow vehicle and the trailer remain constant, as if reversing in a circle.
8. Straighten up
If you take it easy, the trailer will eventually line up with the parking spot. Straighten the wheels more until both trailer and tow vehicle are in line and effectively 90 degrees to your starting position. Continue to reverse with minor adjustments where needed. If the trailer is turning too tightly, lock the wheel in the opposite direction to correct the trailer’s tail out to the left.
Don’t worry if you need to drive forward and correct – the principles don’t change. You’ll also find that reversing a larger trailer or one with an extended draw bar is easier, as the longer distance between the coupling and axle means adjustments are less drastic.
Next up, check out our guide on the do’s and don’ts of towing a trailer.