I am teaching my Wife how to back up our trailer.
I will be sharing training tips in this post (from time-to-time) as we progress.
Tips for the Trainer:
Be Experienced; If you can not consistently get your trailer exactly where you want it to be in three trys (or less) you don't have the experience to train your spouse (at least not yet). By-the-way, minor forward moves to correct your trajectory do not count as a "try". A "try" is when you need to pull out of the spot and start over.
Attitude and Demeanor; if you can't remain calm, cool, and collected while training your Spouse, your Spouse needs a different Trainer. No Yelling or Screaming is allowed (only exception is "STOP"). Be patient, Backing a trailer is not easy, and it takes time (and practice) to learn this skill.
Training Grounds; Find a large parking lot that is empty , a shopping center or sports complex with lots of room and few obstacles is a good option.
Demonstrate First; Explain exactly where you want the trailer to go and allow your Spouse to watch you put the trailer there (for example: "Our Tow Vehicle (TV) and Trailer are parked in these two parking spaces, I want you to put the trailer (and TV) one parking space to our right two rows behind us"). By-the-way, be certain to train using both sides of the trailer (in the example above, have them back up and place the trailer one space to the left also).
Observe Your Trainee; Observe what your trainee is doing and adjust your approach accordingly, i.e.: One tip for beginners is to place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand in the direction you want the back end of the trailer to go, I observed that this tip was confusing my wife because she was "thinking" about the top of the steering wheel while her hand was at the bottom. Consequently, this Tip was disregarded.
Backing Up in a Straight Line: Do not ignore this skill. Beginning Backer-Uppers tend to make too many course corrections when backing up, consequentially, they wind up confused and frustrated. Find a nice long area without any obstacles and have them place their hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and don't let them move the steering wheel more than 1/4 turn while backing the trailer up. This gives them a "feel" for the trailer and shows them that a lot of course corrections are not necessary. PS: stop them when the trailer gets too far out of line.
Prepare for the Training Session; Sometimes lines in the parking lot are not enough for the Trainee to visualize where the trailer needs to go. We found that a couple of Home Depot buckets set on either side of the targeted parking space really helped the Trainee see where the trailer needed to go, my Trainee kept loosing track of the lines in the parking lot and got confused about where to put the trailer, especially, when she got the trailer turned a little too far in one direction.
Tips for the Tow Vehicle (TV):
Have the proper Mirrors; If you can't fully see along BOTH sides of the trailer and where the trailer tires meet the pavement (on BOTH sides) you need better mirrors. There are "clip-on" mirror extensions that are not too expensive or, you may need to purchase a pair of "towing" mirrors for your TV. In either case you need to be able to fully see the sides of your trailer and the traffic behind you.
Tips for the Trainee:
Be Patient and Relax; Learning to back a trailer is very doable! It is a skill and it takes practice. By-the-way, once you learn to back the trailer, be certain to practice during your Scamping Adventures so your new skill does not get "Rusty". Don't just let your Trainer have all the fun !!!
Plan for Multiple Sessions; You are not going to become proficient at your new skill in one afternoon.
Observe your Trainer; Watch how your Trainer handles different backing situations, watch what the trailer does and how responsive the trailer is to their steering movements. Think how you would do it differently (for the sake of peace, keep your thoughts private until after the trailer is parked, then you can ask questions about the backing session).
Realize That it is Ok to Start Over; Sometimes the trailer just gets too screwed up to continue, when this happens pull out and start over.
Realize That the Tow Vehicle Moves in Two Directions; Sometimes you need to pull the TV forward a few feet in order to correct the trajectory of the trailer. Doing this is very difficult, because, you are focused on going in reverse and you forget that pulling forward is a VALID option to get the trailer pointed in the direction you want it to go.
The Tow Vehicle Has to Follow the Trailer; This could be the hardest thing to learn about backing a trailer. Because, once you get the trailer pointed in the direction you want it to go, now you have to reverse your steering wheel in order to get the TV to follow the trailer. Try thinking about the path you and your trailer are taking by looking at it from above, typically, you steer in one direction, to make the trailer turn, and then you steer in the other direction to straighten out the Tow Vehicle, this results in a Zig-Zag pattern (if observed from above). If you think in terms of the TV following the trailer and you anticipate where the TV will need to be after the trailer turns, you can smooth out your steering corrections, which will result in more of an "S" type pattern vs: the Zig-Zag Pattern.
Check BOTH Mirrors Constantly; You will have a tendency to only look at one mirror while backing the trailer. You need to train yourself to constantly look at both mirrors in order to see exactly what the trailer is doing while backing up.
Happy Scamping !!!