How Backing Up Towed Vehicles Works

Techniques for Backing Up Towed Vehicles

Towing a camper often requires the driver to back into camping spaces.
Towing a camper often requires the driver to back into camping spaces.
Steve Shepard/iStockphoto

Before you head out on the road while towing a vehicle, you should take some time to practice. Even simple maneuvers become more complicated and dangerous when you tow a vehicle. You have to use caution when making turns, braking, going up and down hills and backing up.

Try to find a large parking lot that isn't in use during part of the day -- a church or school parking lot could work. If it's possible, bring someone else along to act as a spotter. This will prevent you from having to rely entirely upon your mirrors.

When you are ready to practice backing up, place one hand at the base of your steering wheel, also known as the six o'clock position. From this position, the towed vehicle will turn in the same direction that you move your hand: move your hand to the right, turning the wheel counter-clockwise, and the towed vehicle moves to the right.

Remember to use small adjustments when backing up. The towed vehicle's movements will be much larger than the small adjustments you're making to the steering wheel. If you turn the wheel too far, the towed vehicle will make too sharp a turn.

Your spotter can help guide you. Always pay careful attention to your mirrors. Most importantly, take it easy. A slow and steady approach will help prevent accidents or damage to either vehicle.

It's much easier to back up a towed vehicle in a straight line than it is to turn while backing up. If it's at all possible, you should position your vehicle so that you can back up without turning. This will make the maneuver much less stressful on you and your vehicles. But if you can't back up in a straight line, it's better to use a gradual arc rather than a sharp turn. You'll have more control and visibility that way.

When you're done practicing and you're out in the real world, it's also important to take a good look at your environment before backing up a towed vehicle. Don't just look for problems at ground level. There may be low-hanging branches or street signs that you'll need to keep an eye on. That's why going slowly is a good idea -- it gives you more time to assess the conditions around you and make the appropriate adjustments.

To learn more about towing and related articles, hitch a ride to the links below.


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More Great Links


  • Camping-Canada. "Towing Tips." 2008. (Sept. 14, 2008)
  • Green Defensive Driving Course. "Tips for Towing a Trailer." 2007. (Sept. 14, 2008)
  • Gummersall, Bob. "Tow Bars, Brackets and Lights." RVers Online. (Sept. 15, 2008)
  • Motorhome. "Dinghy Towing Basics." Jan. 2008. (Sept. 14, 2008)
  • Nemeth, Mark S. "Back to Perfection." Mark's Fulltime RV Resource. April 22, 2002.Reprinted from Escapees Magazine. May/June 2001. (Sept. 13, 2008)
  • Penske. "Tow Dolly Equipment Instructions." (Sept. 15, 2008)
  • Physics Classroom Tutorial. "Newton's Laws of Motion." 2007. (Sept. 15, 2008)
  • United States Department of Transportation. "Safety Tips for Driving with a Trailer." (Sept. 13, 2008)
  • Your RV Lifestyle. "Ten Towing Tips." (Sept. 14, 2008)