How to Reverse a Trailer or Caravan




Introduction: How to Reverse a Trailer or Caravan

About: I live on the outskirts of Melbourne. I love the way I can just look out of my window and see gum trees, hills and bird visitors (kookaburras, magpies, rosellas, cockatoos, blue wrens and many more all visit...

After watching videos, getting lots of advice and heaps of practice, I still didn't get a clear idea of the principles of reversing a caravan. So being a visual person, I worked out some diagrams to help us with steering whilst reversing. These seemed to help, so I thought I'd post them here in case they help others.

The main thing I found when trying to explain to my other half was that it's not a direct action- it's like when you play pool and you want a ball to go to the right, you bump it on the left side. So it's not a direct steering action, it's a nudge.

You end up with a snaking motion, and because it's not direct, you have to continually anticipate in advance and start steering your tow vehicle a couple of meters before you want the trailer to turn....then correct the other way well before you want the trailer to straighten up, etc.

If it goes awry, just pull forward again, line up and start reversing again.

Make sure your partner or "spotter" is clear on what instructions you want. Be careful of using "left" and "right", as the spotter's left and right will vary depending on which way he's facing. Distinct directions such as "Towards me" and "Away from me", with hand gestures, are useful.

The best tip I got was: put both hands at the bottom of the steering wheel - then depending on which way you want to reverse the trailer, bring that hand up (see diagram). Oh, and the main thing is to stay cool!

Step 1: Reversing to the RIGHT

If both hands are at the bottom of the steering wheel, RIGHT hand goes up, vehicle swings back to the left and nudges trailer around to the RIGHT. Allow time and room for the trailer to react.

Step 2: Reversing to the LEFT

If both hands are at the bottom of the steering wheel, LEFT hand goes up, vehicle swings back to the right and nudges trailer around to the LEFT. Allow time and room for the trailer to react.



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    14 Discussions

    I drive a truck for a living and a couple tips.

    1 if your backing into something like a drive way (90). First if possible your drivers side should be on the side of your drive. Next your hitch should be past the edge of the drive way. Then arc out away from your drive until your vehicle is parallel with the drive or as far as you can then turn back a bit to the original direction of travel. This will put your trailer back at about a 45 and depending on the length of the trailer you may be lined up to back in. If not pull forward a little then back in.

    3 replies

    This is the one single most important piece of advice about reversing. You can get your swapped sides right all you want if your vehicle and trailer position is wrong to start with. Whenever possible, try to put the vehicle and trailer correctly on the start of the imaginary arc you're looking to follow while reversing.

    Also, correcting soon and correcting often by simply pulling a few feet forward makes miracles, rather than snaking your way back to where you want to be until you're completely stuck.

    Anyway, read the tips, watch the videos, but then get practicing. Pull out of the drive way and reverse back five times and you'll have a much better understanding of how it works than the internet could ever give you.

    Yes, great advice, thanks... pulling forward is a big help, as is working out the turning arc before starting (I even mark it with witches' hats if there are no handy reference points or if there are obstacles to avoid).

    After hauling and backing a boat up for 15 plus years my advice is; read this article, find an empty parking lot and practice practice practice. I only boat March to November. To this day I do this. The other piece I will add, don't let the people behind you rush you. Mistakes are common for those of us who are not pros. Take a deep breath and concentrate on getting it right. The extra 60 seconds or 10 minutes you use will be forgotten. But the person who backs their boat onto the dock or their trailer into a tree will be fodder for the entire season.

    1 reply

    Very good points- thanks! I especially like the bit about the extra time not counting in the scheme of things!

    great advice. .when I first got my 16 foot boat and was embarrassing backing up..went down the river to lanch...yelled to my buddy if the trailer was deep enough to lanch..he said SURE COME OUT AND LOOK...well the trailer wasn't even in the water. ..truck tires were..but the trailer was jacked knife like an L shaped. ..felt like an idiot

    1 reply

    Haha I guess the first piece of advice is get a buddy that you can trust to be your 'eyes' and guide you... and if something goes wrong, it's THEIR fault, not yours ;)

    ACTUALLY, the number one way to easily reverse something being towed is to install a hitch on your FRONT bumper!

    Then you can steer that trailered boat down the winding access road to the ramp easily. My old Fire Department did this with the designated rescue boat towing truck (1279) and you wouldn't believe how much easier it makes the process...

    1 reply

    (I'll add more backing tips tomorrow)