Trailer-backing is a seemingly mysterious art that is easy to master and essential to the safety of you and your livestock. Being a proficient backer will save you hundreds (or thousands!) in repair bills for your equipment, and will help ensure the safety of your livestock and others around you. Follow these steps to learn to back your trailer.
Find a large empty area where you can practice. An empty parking lot or field with no traffic or obstacles is the ideal training ground for you to begin.
- Back straight, using mirrors. Using your mirrors to back up is critical because in this way you never take your eyes off of your load. You have multiple points of reference (your mirrors) without having to try to turn around. This task teaches you trailer awareness – you will get to know what your trailer looks like in your mirrors when it’s perfectly straight, and what it looks like when it is turning.
- Begin with your truck and trailer straight. To do this, drive forward in a straight line until the truck and trailer are aligned.
- Adjust your mirrors. Make sure you can see your trailer in all of your mirrors. Note what part of the trailer you are seeing – the driver’s side fender, the back corner, etc.
- Put your vehicle in reverse.
- Place your hands at 8 and 4. Imagine your steering wheel is a big clock. When you are driving forward, your hands are ideally in the 10:00 and 2:00 position. To make corrections easier while backing, place your hands at the 8:00 and 4:00 positions on your imaginary clock.
- Begin backing slowly.
- Look in your mirrors. Where is that trailer part you were seeing? Is it out of site of your mirror? That means you are no longer backing straight.
- Make small corrections early, not big corrections late. Your timing will improve with practice. Make it a goal to keep that one trailer part you identified before (the driver’s side fender, for instance) in the same spot on your mirror as it was when you were perfectly straight at the beginning.
- Pull forward, and do it again. See how far back you can go while keeping your truck and trailer aligned. Set a goal for being able to back your truck and trailer across the open area as straight as you can.
- Back in a half-circle, using mirrors. Choose a target in your open area where you’d like your trailer to end up. You could even mark it with a cone. Think about what you will need to do to get the trailer to that point by turning your vehicle’s tires, and which way you’ll need to turn your vehicle’s steering wheel.
- Begin with your truck and trailer straight.
- Adjust your mirrors. Again, note what part of your trailer you are seeing and where you see it in your mirrors.
- Put your vehicle in reverse.
- Place your hands at 8:00 and 4:00.
- Go Left. This is where having your hands at 8:00 and 4:00 really helps. If you want to turn your trailer to a target to your left, turn with your left hand (8:00) and begin turning your steering wheel in a clockwise motion (moving your left hand from 8:00 toward 10:00). This is not an abrupt motion, just turn slowly and smoothly, correcting as you go.
- Look in your mirrors. For a target to your left, you should begin to see more of the trailer fill your driver’s side mirror, and perhaps none of the trailer in your passenger’s side mirror.
- Try to make a nice arc, not a sharp turn. You are hopefully in a pretty safe environment, but that doesn’t make it entirely risk-free. A sharp turn when backing can jack-knife your trailer, damaging your truck and trailer!
- Keep practicing, and practice turns in both directions.
- Serpentine. Sounds impossible? Just link the half-circles you learned in Exercise 2.
- You can set up cones to back around. Place the cones further apart than the entire length of your truck and trailer combined. As you improve, move the cones closer together.
With a little practice you can learn to back your trailer anywhere!