How to Reverse a Boat Trailer

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Skillfully reversing a boat trailer requires lots of practice and patience, but it’s worth it. Here are some tips for how to reverse a boat trailer safely and expertly.

Practice makes perfect

Reversing a boat trailer doesn’t come naturally to most, so it’s important to practice until it becomes almost second nature. Drive around some quiet streets and practice reversing in an empty car park or on vacant land.

It’s all about the wheel

The boat 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.

Plan your move

Knowing exactly where you want to end up and having a plan for getting there is a key part of the reversing process. Be mindful of where you’re going and use the vehicle to purposefully get there.

Don’t turn sharply

When learning how to reverse a boat trailer, the last thing you want to do is jackknife (this occurs when the tow vehicle and trailer bend abruptly to form a ‘V’ shape) your trailer. Always move calmly and steadily, and give yourself plenty of time and space to make any turns while reversing.

Use your mirrors and turn your head

When reversing a boat trailer, be mindful of everything around the tow vehicle and trailer. Use your rear-view and side mirrors, but also look outside your window to keep an eye on where the trailer is headed.

Ask for guidance

If you have a passenger, ask them to get out and help guide you in the right direction. This is invaluable assistance, particularly if you’re still learning or have lots of people or objects to avoid.

Ignore your audience

Having people watch you reverse, especially when you’re still getting used to it, can be nerve-wracking. Rather than getting caught up in what they think or wondering if they’re waiting for you to mess it up, simply ignore them.

Tips for reversing a boat trailer at the boat ramp

Using a boat ramp adds another dimension to your reversing challenge, so try the following tips:

  • Observe the boat ramp rules before attempting it yourself. Become familiar with the ways others do it. Speak to other drivers to find out the challenges they are facing – is the ramp extra slippery that day? Is there a specific trick they engage when using this particular ramp?
  • Set yourself up for success by getting as straight as possible before beginning the act of reversing onto the ramp. After all, you don’t want to be caught on a boat ramp sideways or jackknifing.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so the best way to learn is to get out there and give it your best shot.


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