Training for Backing Up a Trailer

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ManWithaVan
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Training for Backing Up a Trailer

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.

First Off...

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.

As always...

Happy Scamping !!!

Scamphound
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Doing it Trainerless

We don't all have the benefit of a trainer.  The best advice I have seen or read and what worked for me is to put your dominant hand at 6 o'clock on the steering wheel, look in the mirror and turn your hand in the direction that you want the backend of the trailer to go.  

Lots of patience!

Snow Gypsy
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Even Without A Trainer

I think this is great info especially about the part of starting over as I guide my husband into sites and when I get to the point that I just throw my hands in the air and shake my head, he leaves and comes around starting over.  It also seems that this break is good for your mental state since it seems that things come together more quickly this way.  Right now we have a pop-up while looking for the molded fiberglass and my husband prefers dual axles since he thinks that makes backing up easier but that doesn't look like the way it will work out when we purchase.  I must learn to handle the new trailer and tow vehicle.  I really want a 4-wheel drive this time with a full nose, not the stub nose.  If one just takes from the OP's advice to start over when the going gets tough, it will save a ton of frustration.

Cathy

Scamphound
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Starting over

I completely agree on starting over.  What's the rush?  I wonder if it is harder with a bigger tow vehicle vs a smaller tow vehicle.  I have a CRV and it didn't take me too long to figure out the backing up into most spots. 

Joy A.
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The key is to take it slow,

The key is to take it slow, make small adjustments to the steering wheel and don't over correct.

It doesn't take much of a change to the tow vehicles wheels to impact where the trailer is going.

I also find it's easier with good mirrors to use rather than someone in the back waving like crazy. I have people wanting to help me back in all the time, so instead of hurting their feelings I just ignore them and let them do their hand signals. After I've backed in I Thank them for their help.

Oh, and I use a chock and/or chocks as a guide. I review the campsite to see where I want my trailer. Then I put chocks where I want the trailer wheels to be. Using my mirrors I can see either one and back the wheel right up to it. This process gets me into the site in one fell swoop.

Joy A. & Olive

2001 13 Scamp "Puff"

Full-timer

2019 1500 Ram Longhorn

SOI #168

 

ManWithaVan
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Trailers with Dual (Tandem) Axles

A common perception is that trailers with tandem axles are easier to maneuver than a single axle trailer.

This is both true and not true.

A tandem axle trailer is generally longer and/or designed to carry very heavy loads (think of a u-haul-it concrete trailer). A longer trailer is (in some ways) easier to maneuver because adjustments made in the tow vehicle take a longer time to translate into a directional change in the trailer (because of the length). With a short trailer, small changes in the direction of the tow vehicle are transferred to the trailer faster. Another way to look at this is that a short trailer is more responsive to the tow vehicle. This is why a short trailer tends to "Jackknife" easily.

The size of your tow vehicle (wheelbase) also effects the responsiveness of your trailer as you are backing up. A bigger (longer wheelbase) tow vehicle will require bigger steering movements to change the direction of your trailer than a smaller (shorter wheelbase) tow vehicle will.

Regardless of the size of your tow vehicle / trailer combination, once you have practiced with your rig you want to become comfortable with backing up your rig in various situations. ( I recently had to back my rig down a street, around a curve and into a cul-de-sac.)

With a little bit of practice and a lot of patience you can become comfortable and confident in backing your trailer.

As Always...

Happy Scamping !!!

As Always,

Happy Scamping !!!

Roger C H
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Backing practice

Or you can practice your backing here: smiley

http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/games/reverse.asp

A charter member of the Buffalo Plaid Brigade.

mk evenson
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fun back-up game

Roger, thanks for sharing that!

Thanks for making us feel so welcome.
If you have a choice, Please buy, "Made in America"

Greg A
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First Attempt

1:40 on my first attempt.  Can't find the utility hookups, must be a Boondocking site.  laugh

What a hoot, I'll be looking for the cursor keys on my steering wheel next.

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ManWithaVan
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Vive la difference ...

Everybody's mind works differently.

As the Trainer and/or the Trainee, you have to keep in mind that what works for you, may not work for your Trainee.

For example: the hint to place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and move that hand in the direction you want the trailer to move did not work for my wife. I could tell (rather quickly) that, that hint simply confused her.

I recently viewed an Online tutorial on backing up a trailer and that person needed to look over their right shoulder in order to not get confused during the backing process. The size and configuration of your rig may limit the usefulness of looking out your back window. I drive a Full Size Van and the only thing I see out the rear window is Trailer.

Personally, I use the outside mirrors exclusively, I sit in the drivers seat, facing forward, and put the Van in reverse, I constantly monitor both mirrors to determine if I am backing up straight. Once I turn the trailer to the point that I can't use one mirror, I then focus on the one mirror that still has the trailer in view.

The point is, be flexible, what works for the Trainer may not work for the Trainee. Trainers need to allow the Trainee an opportunity to try each method suggested above in order to find their own best method.

As always,

Happy Scamping !!!

PS: the Video I mentioned is...

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lzlOfBGr1i4

As Always,

Happy Scamping !!!

Snow Gypsy
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Wheel Base Length

At one time I had it written down but I don't think I still have it  but it was about the relationship between the length of the wheelbase on the tow vehicle and the length of the trailer.  Is anyone familiar with that?  I am going to try to find it.  I might still have it in my notes but at the time, it seemed to be really working with the van/TT that we had being within what the "rule" was saying.

I agree about that where the hand belongs on the steering wheel and direction to turn it because originally when my husband heard it either he or the person explaining it was off.  After several times, I told him that was never going to work.  He does better now and I am actually getting anxious to try in the spring.  

Cathy

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