How to Back Up Trailer in Driveway

by Randall Pierce J.D.
At some point, a trailer likely will need to be backed into a driveway.

At some point, a trailer likely will need to be backed into a driveway.

Backing a trailer into a driveway can be an intimidating task. However, the need for this skill arises more often than many people might think. Failure to master the task can cause damage to the trailer or to property around the driveway. Trailers move in the direction opposite to the way the steering wheel is turned when it is held at the top. Turning the wheel right makes the trailer move left and vice versa, which is counterintuitive to most people. A few simple techniques can make backing a trailer easier and safer.

1. Check the area around the driveway for obstructions and potential hazards. Don't forget to watch for overhanging branches or power lines. Once you begin backing up, you lose most of the visibility directly behind and to the passenger side of the trailer.

2. Place traffic cones or some other marker on the driveway at the point where you want the back of the trailer to be stopped. At least one cone should be on the left side of the driveway so it remains visible throughout the process. Cones can also be used to mark the desired path.

3. Pull forward on the street so that the end of the trailer is past the entrance to the driveway. Position the vehicle in the street to make the turn as shallow as possible. Sharp turns are much harder to control.

4. Back up from the left, or driver side of the vehicle. This allows you to look out the window and track the progress and position of the back end of the trailer. It is difficult to track the trailer from the right or passenger side using only the sideview mirror. It is also less safe.

5. Place your right hand on the bottom of the steering wheel to move it. Move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. From the bottom, moving your hand left actually makes the steering wheel turn right as if your hand was at the top position. The trailer will turn left. This technique eliminates the inherent confusion associated with backing a trailer.

6. Slowly back the trailer into the driveway while checking your progress out the driver-side window. Make small adjustments with the steering wheel and don't hold it turned for too long.

7. Stop and pull forward to make another attempt if you get off track. Each successive attempt will take a shallower turn and should therefore be easier. Get out occasionally while stopped and check both your progress and the area behind the trailer as needed.

8. Stop the trailer at the designated point. Minor adjustments can be made by pulling forward a bit and backing up again.

9. Find a friend to assist you while backing up. Assisted backing is much easier and safer than unassisted. The assistant can give directions and make sure the area behind the trailer remains clear.

10. Practice the techniques, especially if you will have to back up a trailer frequently. Practice first in an open area, and move the practice sessions to the driveway as proficiency increases.

Items you will need

  • Traffic cones

Tips

  • Pull forward and try again if you run into problems.
  • Make minor adjustments with the steering wheel.
  • Check behind the trailer often for objects, children and pets.

Warnings

  • Going too fast makes the trailer hard to control. It might jackknife.
  • Visibility is always limited. Stay aware of your surroundings and progress.

About the Author

An attorney and database programmer in Nashville, Randall Pierce has been writing about sports, legal matters and tech issues for local and regional publications since 1998. Pierce holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., and earned his J.D. from the Nashville School of Law.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images