How To Back A Trailer Without Jack-Knifing It

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Trailer backing isn’t as easy as some make it out to be. In fact, it can be very difficult. When backing a trailer many people make the mistake of either turning too sharply or not turning the right way which can lead to the trailer jack knifing on itself. If you’ve been in this predicament before, then here’s a quick guide on how to back a trailer properly without running the risk of jack-knifing it.

Steve Marshall is a businessman, author, adventurer, Land Rover enthusiast, educator and public speaker. He is also the owner of Self Move Hire, a national ute and van hire company.

Step #1: Scooping Your Vehicle

Scooping is the method that you should start with. It’s where you drive past the area where you want to reverse the trailer into and slightly scoop the vehicle in and out of the area to create a better angle to start reversing with.

Step #2: Adjust Your Mirrors To See The Trailer

It’s important to adjust your mirrors so that you can see along the edge of the trailer. This will help you to manoeuvre the vehicle into place better and guide you into the park.

Step #3: Turn From The Bottom Of The Steering Wheel

When it comes to reversing your trailer, this is where the fun begins. To start with, back your trailer slowly towards the area. Keep your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel as this will help to reduce the risk of making sharp turns. When reversing it’s important to remember that turning left on the wheel will make the trailer turn right. Turning right on the wheel will make the trailer turn left.

Step #4: Slow And Steady

When reversing your trailer take it slow. There’s no rush or timeframe that you need to reverse in. When reversing, spin the wheel very slowly in the opposite direction that you want the trailer to go in. Don’t spin too harshly on the wheel as this is what causes it to jack-knife in the first place. Instead, if you feel like you’re starting to turn too sharply stop and drive forward slowly while readjusting the wheel into a forward position. This will help you to line your trailer up better.

Continue to reverse and turn the wheel opposite to where the trailer needs to go. Use your mirrors to help guide you into your space. As you begin to reverse in you may need to turn the wheel slowly the other way to help straighten your vehicle and the trailer up when sliding into the parking area.

Backing a trailer isn’t the easiest thing in the world, however if you take the time, practice and use these tips you’ll be backing in no time at all. So are you ready to try backing a trailer?


    Every guide seems to be based around that mantra: "turn the wheel in the opposite direction that you want the trailer to go in". FWIW, this has never occurred to me as useful advice, though I learnt the skill empirically before reading a guide so perhaps it helps some. It seems to me to be the wrong mental model for the trailer movement - wheel movement relationship.

    Instead, I think of pushing the trailer. Where would I need to be to push the trailer in the right direction? Then move the back of the car to that position. If I can't get the car to that position, then no amount of "opposite steering" is going to help - I need to go forward again. The intuition of where you need to be to push a trailer develops very quickly if you literally unhitch the trailer and try pushing it somewhere. Once that is intuitive, it's not much mental work to replace yourself with the back of the car.

      And wait after you turn the wheel... the trailer takes a while to react. This often makes the driver turn more, thereby jackknifing.

    What ever way the trailer goes follow it. Simple. Try it. You will never ever jack knife a trailer.

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