Ask anyone who tows a trailer – whether it’s a boat, caravan, camper or a box trailer – and, no doubt, they’ll tell you that reversing is the hardest part of towing; the part that keeps them up at night.
Driving in a straight line with a trailer on the back is easy; reversing, not so much.
There are countless articles out there with advice on the ‘best’ ways to reverse a trailer and that advice, while effective, is generally the same – use a spotter or guide, left-is-right-and-right-is-left, etc. But we’ve gathered some extra little tips and tricks from around the traps to give you the edge when it comes to reversing.
1. DON’T LOOK BACK
Lots of the usual advice on ‘how to reverse a caravan/camper/boat/trailer’ has one thing in common – disorientating the person actually reversing the trailer which is, really, the last thing you want. The advice is usually to use all your mirrors and constantly check your progress over your shoulder but, as you go from looking in your mirrors to over your shoulder, your point of view of the trailer is constantly changing, making it difficult to get a clear perspective.
So forget looking over your shoulder and just stick to your side mirrors. By sticking just to your mirrors, you can lock yourself in the one perspective.
If the trailer is going too far to your right mirror, then bring the right side of the steering wheel down and vice versa for the left. By using this method you don’t need to keep fighting the wheel, let the trailer naturally follow the path and catch it with small corrections when you need.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO LOOK LIKE A NOVICE
Reversing a trailer is 100 per cent a mental game and the hardest part is not letting yourself get flustered while you do it! No one will remember that time you took an extra couple of minutes to get the trailer where it needed to be, but they’ll all remember the time you reversed over your kid’s bike, screaming at your spouse while steam was pouring out of your ears.
So have as many cracks at the job as you need to.
Take your time, and don’t be afraid to jump out of the vehicle as many times as necessary to see what the trailer needs to do, make a plan to get it there, and stick to that plan. You may get a few chuckles from the peanut gallery but no one will care 10 minutes later when you’re feet up enjoying a coldie.
3. GO SHOPPING
There’s a familiar refrain when it comes to advice on reversing a trailer – practice, practice, practice. And while nothing beats real-world practice, learning a new skill in front of the whole caravan park while the sun goes down and the kids are yelling in the back is probably not the best learning situation.
So practice before you go. Head to an empty carpark (if you can find one!) to practice reversing in a safe area and to get a feel for the vehicle before crunch time!
4. WHEN IN DOUBT, GO RIGHT
Obviously, reversing in a straight line is the easiest and safest way to reverse and you should aim to do this wherever possible. But, sometimes, it’s not and you’ll have to turn in reverse. If you find yourself in this situation, try and make sure you reverse to the right, not to the left. If you reverse to the left, you may not be able to see the rear of the trailer, making it a lot more difficult.
By going right, it’ll give you a clear view in both mirrors of the space being reversed into, will make it easier to see the guide and will give everyone have a better view of potential obstacles and other risks.
5. PICK WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
Ask five different people about their reversing style, and they’ll probably all tell you something different. The principles of reversing remain the same but how you understand and interpret those principles is what’s going to bring you reversing success – or not.
Read through the four scenarios below (each works off the same principal but is explained differently), see which makes the most sense to you, and stick to that one in the future!
- If you turn the steering wheel clockwise, your trailer will go to the left. If you turn the steering wheel anti-clockwise, your trailer will go to the right.
- The trailer will move in the opposite direction to the steering wheel. So if you’re turning the wheel to the right, the trailer will go to the left.
- If you see the trailer in your right-hand mirror, turn the wheel right hand down to straighten it up again. If you see the trailer in your left-hand mirror, turn the wheel left hand down to correct it.
- Start with the vehicle’s wheels straight and your thumbs adjacent to each other at the bottom of the steering wheel. Left hand up — trailer goes left. Right hand up — trailer goes right.
MEET THE AUTHOR
An RV journalist working across Australia’s premier caravanning and camping magazines for the past five years, Laura is also a judge at the annual Best Aussie Vans awards. She has been camping in the great outdoors since the of two, when she was packed, by day, into a Toyota LiteAce van and, by night, into a brown canvas tent with her parents and two siblings for an extended trip around the vast playground that is northern Western Australia.