How to Park and Back Up a Moving Trailer: A Lesson from a Pro

Nov 9, 2012

Towing a trailer

Stuart Shoen of U-Haul gives expert tips for towing a trailer.

Backing up your car while hauling a trailer doesn’t have to be intimidating. All you need for success are a few helpful tips. Whether you are backing up for parking or loading, it is important to learn the proper technique. Practice makes it easier.

Before You Start Driving

  • Make sure you trailer is attached properly to your vehicle
  • Verify all the safety components are in working order
  • Familiarize yourself with the steering responses between your car and trailer

Try to picture that the trailer is like a wheelbarrow behind the truck. Instead of two handles, it has one (the tongue) that is directed by the hitch ball. In order for the trailer to travel to the right, the push must come from the left; therefore, you must turn the steering wheel clockwise or to the right.

Determine the direction you want the trailer to move, left or right, and maneuver your car so that its back end is pushing from the opposite direction. An empty parking lot is a good place to practice until you grasp these basics.

Backing up a Trailer

Have a spotter outside the vehicle to make sure your path is clear. To get a clear shot of where you’re backing up, you may find it helpful to turn your upper body toward the center of the car, while looking behind you. Always maintain at least one hand’s contact with the steering wheel. Hold this position while looking back through the rear windshield in your car as you back up. Use your side and rear-view mirrors if needed.

If you get stuck or begin to veer too far in one direction,  slow down or stop completely in order to keep the trailer on the right path. If you deviate completely off track, pull the vehicle forward to straighten the trailer out and begin again.

Watch Out For Jackknifing

Jackknifing occurs when you have backed the trailer up too sharply in one direction and, as a result, the tongue is positioned at an angle that makes it nearly parallel to the bumper of your car. If you get into this position, then correct it by pulling forward and straightening out. Do not continue backing up once you are in the jackknife position because you can damage your vehicle.

If you would like a comprehensive lesson on proper loading and driving techniques for towing a trailer, watch this video on

If you have any tips or tricks that have helped you while parking or backing up with a trailer, please let us know in the comments!


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