Reverse with a trailer

Do you get really nervous when you have to drive with a trailer? Afraid to get stuck in tight areas, and forced to back up? Relax, it doesn't have to be such a nightmare! Here are a few tips.

The first rule is: Be patient. Slowly back up and wait for the trailer to catch up. Small steering movements. 


Start by getting acquainted with the trailer. Don’t wait until you’re stuck! Instead, find a large space where you can practice in peace – without an audience! – until you’ve learned for sure and can ‘feel’ your way through. Try not to think too much, just do it!


  • When it counts, plan your driving to place the trailer in the right direction BEFORE you put the car in reverse.
  • Start by driving far enough to get your rig lined up straight. This is half the job.
  • Think of your steering wheel as THE trailer: the top of the wheel is the front end and the bottom of the wheel is the back end.
  • Grip the bottom of the wheel (=back end of the trailer) and start by backing straight backwards.
  • Steer a little at a time. To turn the trailer to the left, move your hand to your left. Small steering movements. To turn the trailer to the right, move your hand to your right.
  • Wait until the trailer catches up (the longer the trailer, the longer it takes) Keep track of your outer review mirrors.
  • Straighten out by compensating in the opposite direction. Small corrections.
  • So remember: Hand to the right > trailer to the right. Hand to the left > trailer to the left.


If you turn to look backwards when turning the steering wheel, remember to keep track of the front end to your towing vehicle. You don’t want to ‘touch’ anybody’s 4WD while you are backing up.

The longer your trailer, the longer time it takes for the trailer to ‘catch up.’ With a short trailer, your steering wheel movements are quickly transmitted backwards.

The most common mistake is getting stressed and then making to strong steering movements. At worst, the trailer will rotate at an extreme angle (jacknife).  The only thing to do then is drive forward to straighten out your rig and start over.


Don't be afraid to ask for help from spotters – one each at the back and front of your vehicle. It is a lot less embarrassing to ask for help than to drive into the side of another car. Make sure that your spotters are standing where you can see them the entire time, and that they clearly signal their directions. 


If the rig is long and the space you are backing into tight – you can make final adjustments manually. If you don't feel up to it, have someone who knows how to do it jump in and give you a hand.


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