Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

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Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby catinmoon » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:17 pm

HI Folks,
Newbie here. I am the new proud owner of a hand built teardrop (not built by me). My boyfriend and I towed it from it's birthplace in Nebraska back here to So. Cal. I am fine to drive and turn but... it has been MANY YEARS since I towed a trailer (U haul type 5x8) and even though I had the hang then of backing the trailer, I don't seem to remember how to ride the bike, so to speak.

Do you have hints, rules of thumb, suggestions for me about backing a trailer of this size? I would love to hear your suggestions. I live in a fairly rural place so I can find wide open spaces to practice, but I'm the type who wants to have some fallback concepts so I can reason out what I am doing rather than just go and start driving backwards and hope I don't do the dreaded "jack knife".

I am pulling the trailer with a 2004 Toyota Tacoma (the smaller version than the current model) with an extra cab, so the truck while not enormous is a bit long compared to the trailer.


Thanks for any ideas.
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby asianflava » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:23 pm

Practice, practice, practice. I have to re-learn every time I dig the trailer out of the garage.
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby catinmoon » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:43 pm

97867
Here is a picture of the rig taken in Colorado on our way back from picking up the trailer.

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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby jeff0520 » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:47 pm

Hi Stephanie,
I think I can help quite a bit. I drive this at work,
93174
I'm also a certified driver trainer. I have taught a whole bunch of people to back all sizes of trailers. Here's the basic, and most desireable way to back into a space.
1.) Drive up to the space with it on your left hand side. It's important to have the space on your left if at all possible so that the trailer wont block your view as you back around the corner into the space.
2.) As your front bumper passes the space, take a good look at the space. Ask yourself, "Is this space wide enough for my vehicle to fit? Long enough? High enough?" If you are not sure you can fit, go somewhere else.
3.) As the back edge of the drivers door passes the space, cut the wheel to the right hard. You are trying to end up with the vehicle at a 45 degree angle to the space, with the back bumper pointed at the space. Sometimes you don't have the room to do this, but get as clost to that configuration as possible. It just makes things easier.
4.) Now you are ready to back up. You will be mostly blind to what is going on to the right of your trailer, so here is where your careful inspection of the space in step two really helps. You already know the space is wide enough, so you want to hang to the left as you back in. Since the space is clear of obsticles, and wide enough, you are far less lil\kely to have a problem if you stay left.
5.) Put your vehicle in reverse. Place your hands on the BOTTOM of the steering wheel at the 6 o'clock position. As you begin backing, move your hands in the direction you want the trailer to go. Moving your hands to the bottom of the wheel helps you keep it clear in your mind at the moment you need to steer which way is which.
6.) The whole time, have your windows open and listen carefully. The sounds will help you know what is going on. The very first moment you are unsure about where the trailer is going, or what is happening back there, STOP! Put the vehicle in park, and get out and look. Better ten trips to go look than bent up sheet metal.
That's about it. I'd suggest you make a trip to a mall parking lot after closing. Take a few empty two liter soda bottles to use as cones, and practice, practice, practice. I use two liter bottles when I'm training people to back up a tractor trailer. They are cheap. They will stay put with just a couple inches of water in the bottom and the lids screwed on tight. They also have the bonus of making a big POP if you run over them.
I hope that helps :D
Hypno-Toad's Command Post, the build thread! http://www.tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=50384

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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby catinmoon » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:02 pm

thanks, jeff, this seems a bit like parallel parking to me. I once got a round of applause for getting my station wagon into a parking place in front of a tavern, from sone folks who were lounging outside at a music store across the street. But maybe they were just really bored.

That said, this is of course different. I like the popping bottle idea. Thanks for the suggestions.


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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby len19070 » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:37 pm

Practice is the first thing. But #2 is if you have a spotter helping you;

MAKE SURE YOUR BOTH SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE AND THAT YOU ARE BOTH GOING AFTER THE SAME GOAL!


There's nothing more frustrating than backing into a spot (over and over) only to find out your spotter had no idea what or where you wanted to park and its all got to be done over again.

Go over your plan with him/her. Let them know, If they can't see you...then you can't see them. (BTW, the only time I've ever hit anything has been with a spotter!)

Then if they put you in the wrong spot, and only then...you can yell at them.

But seriously, Practice. Then one day out of the blue.....You'll get it.

Happy Trails

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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby catinmoon » Sat Sep 15, 2012 4:35 pm

LOL Len,
"Communication issues" is what inspired my post. I was trying to practice and my boyfriend kept saying things like "turn back" and "the other way" ... he grew up on a farm so to him it is obvious how to back a trailer, but I couldn't interpret his verbal signals, even tho he had good intentions and he knew what he was saying.

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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby bdosborn » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:35 pm

asianflava wrote:Practice, practice, practice. I have to re-learn every time I dig the trailer out of the garage.


x2

I think people can explain it till they're blue in the face but it won't "click" until you get out there try it. Take your trailer to an empty parking lot and practice.

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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby Karebru » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:38 pm

Here’s a few things that help me…
As your making corrections backing up, remember to start easing the steering wheel back towards center as soon as you see the trailer responding. It’s easy to over correct. Especially with a short trailer like a TD. If you do over correct, straightening the wheel and try pulling forward only a few feet. That may be enough to put you back on course, and you won’t have to pull all the way out and start over.
If you get mixed up, (Happens to me every time.) stop, take a deep breath, and think about which direction the BACK of your vehicle needs to push the FRONT of the trailer to keep it on course. Then determine what way you need to turn the wheel to make the BACK of the vehicle do that. Try to picture yourself standing at the front of the trailer, facing it with the hitch in your hands. (You are the hitch ball on the vehicle.) As you push the trailer backwards, moving the hitch to your left will steer the trailer to your right. Moving it to the right will make it go left.
Relax. Take your time, and don’t worry about that guy honking his horn for you to get out of his way. If you try to hurry it will take twice as long. In fact… Don’t go any faster than you would want to be moving if you were to accidently bump into something. And DON’T get embarrassed! 8)
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby catinmoon » Sat Sep 15, 2012 8:14 pm

you guys are all so kind! I am getting some great visualizations that will help me. I took the rig apart to do major cleaning, but I will put it back together soon to work on my backing up.

it seems like a sport -- -you need to develop some sort of muscle memory

Thanks again,
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby bobhenry » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:52 am

[quote="jeff0520"]5.) Put your vehicle in reverse. Place your hands on the BOTTOM of the steering wheel at the 6 o'clock position. As you begin backing, move your hands in the direction you want the trailer to go.[/quote]

This is the single most important part of Jeff's post above.

As I enter my drive way the voice in my head is saying "Tommy's house ( my neighbor)- my house- tommy's house -my house " as I am steering into the drive from the 6 o'clock position on the steering wheel.
Growing older but not up !
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby slowcowboy » Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:33 am

i tow a lot of diffrent trialers on my farm and ranch bussness been through the commerical drivers license test 2 times one for my state and once for the federal boys out of federal motor carrier assocation outfitt in alanta, Ga. I am well famerilera with the cdl test every new truck driver takes.

theres a pretty good chance in most campgrounds or teardrop traveling your not going to have to do a 90 degrea back up so that will put you ahead.

one thing to remmber on such a small trailer in length as a teardrop its going to move a lot faster backing up from side to side than a 48 to 53 foot trailer on a big rig.

so I find even compared to my 20 foot trailers on the farm and ranch at home

that on backing up my 9 foot teardrop you got to keep a moving on the steering wheel.

9 feet is so short it has the abilty to come around in the jack knife poisition rather quickly compared to a much longer trailer.

yea. get a cow pasture or hay feild and set any thing out for a lane of cones. when I was in truck school I substured cattle lick tubes or the plastic cake tubes that are like half of a 50 gallon barrel for the cones on the cdl test.

I would put my 3/4 tone dodge in 4 low and creep though the thing with the cows crowding around me and a horse trailer all day long.

hopefully when practicing in your teardrop you won't have cows in the same pasture!

you will find though that no matter how much practice it will also take experance and acutally on the road practice or haivng to actually do it in campgrounds and so on.

big thing is get your other half to go to the bathroom while you back as you need no personal pressure on you while backing.

I can make all sorts of mistakes even to day backing when I got a crowd watching me!

if you can find a camp site on a campground where you don't have to back,

grab it! espeically if you can pull right though and its close to dark.

I added back up lights to my teardrop for the back into the camp sites after dark or at sundown type of thingy.

don't know how long your teardrop is or how dead center your wheels are on it.

but practice a lot and realize that your just going to have to use it down the road to get experance doing it.

cow pasture pratice won't be all it takes.

and get the other half out of the cow pasture two when practicing you don't need any one with you to practice

its best not to have a back seat driver standing out on the side on the ground shouting dircitions when you back up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

make sure to practice totally alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

run some of your practice cones over and go have fun.

and make sure your bettor half knows that if he gives you dirctions when your camping backing that teardrop up.

that he will soon be in the drivers seat while you take photos of him trying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

slow
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby slowcowboy » Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:47 am

that rig your towing with got 4 wheel drive?

if so drop it in 4 low to practice.

I back up even today with anything in any hay yard or even my local riverton livestock auction yard with a horse trailer full of cows on a daily basis in 4 low.

get the lowest creep gear you got in that tow vehicle.

at a crawl its easy to fix them backing up mistakes and who cares how long it takes to get backed up!

by the way boot the boyfreind out of that cow pasture when your practice.

you don't need personal presure to learn to back up.

that is one of the worst things on a person learning to back up is the personal pressure.

and the back seat on the ground drivers!!!!!!!!!!

tell that boyfreind to vammous while you pratice or no love making tonight!!!!!!!!!!

not kidding. I had a heck of a time in truck school while the instutor was on the ground screaming at me.

I found i could back that truck though the cones with no trouble when he left me alone to do it myself!!!!!!!!!!!!!

also try to hit the camp site with plenty of sun light.

I found on my 2 cdl tests that sun light in early moring and late eveing can make a huge diffrence on backing up.

its heck on a horse trailer two if its evening sun light in your mirrors on the side of your truck.

I often will either back up and park my trailer and load cows in the morings to avoid evening sunlight like right after sun down or just wait till the next moring.

I find rolling the windows down on both doors helps on glare on your mirrors while backing.

and after dark I try to avoid using my mirrors much other than to see I am straight in the lane. if I got a cars headlights falling me. I keep my face out of my mirrors.

get used to using the side mirrors and turn your mirror on your windsheild up so you cant see out of it!

them side mirrors are going to be the big thingy in your new teardrop towing world.

that mirror on the windshield is useless in trailer towing world and it won't help you at all backing a trailer up.

remmber to swing wide when making cornors.

in a wallmart parking lot or a gas station you can still in a little bitty teardrop run a curb over or the gas pump.

slow
Plans. there was supposed to be plans to be followed when I built this thing. Opps! AH, gee, tum,tee tum. I think I forgot about the plans 2 years ago. ------Tow vehicles, 1995 ford explore, 1994 ford ranger, 1993 ford F-150, 2009 4x9 Off road teardrop, on harbor freight greatly modified frame.
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby KBS » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:56 pm

People often say turn the opposite direction you want the trailer to go. This can be confusing. Here's a simpler rule: Move the bottom of the steering wheel the direction you want the trailer to go.

Another helpful hint for your spotter. Have the spotter point which way the trailer needs to go. Having the spotter tell you which way to turn the steering wheel is no help at all. Also, pointing left or right is far better than the "chocolate milk stirring motion" that some spotters like to use. What does a twirling finger mean, anyway? Especially when you're looking in the mirror and you're seeing backwards twirling. I usually have one of my sons spot for me. He knows that I have to be able to see him, or I won't move. It's easy for a spotter to step out of view. I just stop and wait for him to get back in view. Also, remember to look up! Your spotter needs to be aware of the height of the trailer and whatever it might hit overhead (rain gutter, tree, TV cable, etc.). Not a problem with a Tear, but you gotta pay attention with a standy.

Remember, a shorter trailer tongue means the trailer will react quicker to your steering wheel movements. Don't wait until you hear something crunch before stopping to try again. If it's not going the way you want, pull forward and start over.

I often back up without a spotter. I always put a bucket or some other object in the exact spot where I want the left rear corner of the trailer to be. Then I just aim the trailer at the bucket and stop when I hit it.
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Re: Backing a Trailer 101 -- do you have hints for me?

Postby KBS » Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:03 pm

This topic reminds me of where I used to live. There was a large church parking lot behind our back fence, and it was common to see men out there with their wives trying to teach them how to back up the boat trailer. Lots of arm waving took place inside the truck cab. Then there were the teenagers with their new licenses trying to learn how to drive a stick shift. It was more entertaining than any TV show. My trailer-backing goals are just two: Don't hit anything, and don't give the neighbors anything to talk about.
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