How to Back up a Trailer, the Easy Way
By: Drew Hardin
From controlling a trailer in reverse to mastering a ramp, here is how to back up a trailer, the easy way
Just about anyone can tow a boat or travel trailer in a straight line down an open highway. It’s negotiating the exit ramps, narrow roads, traffic, gas stations and parking lots that require attention and experience. And no task seems more daunting to towing newbies than backing up with a trailer. Yet it’s a rite of passage that everyone who tows will encounter at some point, especially if you tow a boat and use a ramp to launch it.
Backing up a trailer becomes a lot easier in a new 2018 Ford F-150 that’s equipped with Ford’s available class-exclusive Pro Trailer Backup Assist. But before we examine that electronic aid, let’s explore the reasons why backing a trailer is so challenging, and some low-tech tips you can use – or show your less fortunate friends who don’t have Ford’s latest trailering feature.
Push & Pivot
Two factors contribute to the difficulty in controlling a trailer in reverse. One is the fact that the truck is now pushing, not pulling, the trailer, and the wheels that are steering the truck/trailer combo are at the rear. This makes just about any steering input counterintuitive.
The second factor is the hitch. The typical ball hitch found on most light-duty pickup trucks acts as a ball joint when the truck and trailer are attached. This helps to reduce the rig’s turning radius when moving forward. But when the truck is going backward, the hitch becomes a pivot point, allowing the trailer to go in a direction different than the truck’s. In a worst-case scenario, the trailer pivots all the way around in a jackknife, which can damage the trailer, boat, truck, or all three.
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