Can You Back up with a Trailer Attached?

Driving with a trailer attached takes some practice, but most qualified drivers get the hang of it after a short time. Driving in a forward motion mostly mimics standard driving practices, but backing up is a different story. This helpful guide from Easy Car Haulers explains when you can and cannot back up with a trailer attached, along with tips to make the process easier.

Learn more: A Beginner’s Guide to Driving with a Trailer Attached

You Can Back up with Some Trailers, but Not All

Not all trailers are designed to back up. For instance, you can back up with a car trailer but not with a tow dolly (See: Car Trailer vs. Tow Dolly). Most enclosed trailers and car haulers have backup capabilities, but you should confirm this before you reserve a trailer for rent.

Ask Someone to Guide You as You Back up the Trailer

The easiest way to back up with a trailer attached is to have a guide helping you. Ask someone to stand somewhere you can see in your rearview mirror. They can tell you how to adjust the trailer as you move back because they have a different viewpoint. Designate signals ahead of time so that you’re on the same page. Use big hand motions to indicate directions, and use closed fists to say stop.

Understand How Your Steering Wheel Position Affects the Direction of the Trailer

If you put your hands in the standard 10 and 2 positions, your trailer is going to move in the opposite direction as your hands. When you turn the wheel to the left, the trailer will go right. This is a frustrating situation, and some people never overcome this mental hurdle. Thankfully, there is a simple hack to address this.

Instead of putting your hands at the top of the steering wheel, put them at the bottom. With this positioning, your trailer will move in the same direction as your hands. You do not have to think in reverse. You can back up the trailer using your natural instincts.

Position Your Vehicle to Back up in a Straight Line (If Possible)

Backing up in a straight line is easier than backing up at an angle. If you can adjust your vehicle to allow for a straight backup, do so. Take a minute to plan your route to see if a straight-line backup is possible.

Move Slowly but Maintain Momentum

You don’t want to jolt the trailer by accelerating or braking too quickly. Maintain a steady momentum, but move at a slow pace. Think “slow and steady wins the race.” You’ll be able to make smooth adjustments if you move slowly, which will help you park the trailer in the desired position.

Do Not Rely Solely on Your Mirrors

Objects look different in mirrors than they do in real life. You may think you’re perfectly straight based on your mirrors, only to see that you’re at a sharp diagonal in reality. This is why having a second person to guide you is so helpful. If that is not an option, make sure to look over your shoulder as you back up so you can catch issues that may not be visible in your mirrors.

Check Your Parking before You Detach the Trailer

Do not assume you parked successfully. Get out and check your positioning before detaching the trailer. If you need to pull forward and back in from a different angle, do so. It may take a few tries, but you’ll soon be able to back up a trailer like a pro.