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  1. #1

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    Learning to back up a personal watercraft trailer

    Hey,

    This is my first time ever towing anything.. but the good news is I have forward down like a champ!

    I can't seem to get backing up down. I've been going to some empty parking lots and using my driveway, but I can't for the life of me get the trailer to go straight back where I want.

    I've been practicing so when it comes to launching, I won't take an hour at the ramp. Any advice/tips? or does it just come with practice?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by K447; 04-28-2015 at 04:53 PM. Reason: Thread title clarity, for future searching


  2. #2
    Back up normally. Don't use the turn the wheel the wrong way advice or any of that.

    Just remember this. If the trailer is too far to the drivers side, turn the TRUCK towards the drivers side just like you normally would. Moving the truck left makes the trailer go right. But all you really need to know starting off, is which side has too much trailer.

    Steer towards the side that has too much trailer.

    Don't use too much steering, that'll just make it harder to figure out which way to go. Go slow so you can practice controlling the trailer back and forth.

    90 degree turn? Once you cut the trailer, you have cut back hard to follow it, or to straighten it out.

    Use your side mirrors only. No rear view mirror. No looking through your rear window. Unless you're stopped, then I'll cheat sometimes, but try not to use those. They're a crutch that'll hold you back.

    Get some meterstick sized aluminum bars from a hardware store. Bolt them on the sides of the little trailer so you can see it better. Some of our work trailers are too small to see in our side mirrors. So I stick those al strips on to add width that'll show up in my mirrors. Mine are magnet mount, I use them for backing only. Don't drive around with the extenders on.

    If you're not alone, let your spotter know the have only one job: To yell before you hit something. That's it. Not to tell you where to go, you got that. A spotter that knows how to give instructions is handy in a tight spot, but unneeded on wide open boat ramps. It just confuses the situation.

    Slick ramp? Don't engage 4wd until the truck and trailer are straight and lined up.

  3. #3
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    Are you moving a single or double? A small single is one of the hardest trailers to back up because they react so fast to your movements. Once you are successful with a single ski trailer you will be able to back up anything. It just takes practice.

    A single trailer is really hard to see in the side view mirrors. By the time you see it in the mirror its almost too late. I have to lower the tailgate on my pickup to be able to see a single trailer.

    Practice practice practice. You will get the feel for it.

  4. #4
    Click avatar for tech links/info, donation request K447's Avatar
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    All sorts of tricks and tips. Which methods will work for you will depend on you and your vehicle. Experiment in a low traffic and wide open area.

    Here are a few tips from me.

    Put one hand on bottom center of the steering wheel before beginning to move in reverse, with steering aligned to straight ahead. Move your hand in the direction you want the back of the trailer to go. So when backing up and the trailer begins veering to the right, move your hand to the left.

    All directions are relative to the driver, when driver is looking FORWARD. So turning the trailer to the 'right' is always the same 'right', regardless of whether you are looking in the rear view mirror or looking over your shoulder.

    Outside observers tend to just confuse the driver with too many instructions. You want minimal instructions until there is actual risk of hitting something.

    Move slowly, just creeping backwards.

    Always be willing to drive forward to correct a trailer alignment problem.

    Keep practicing until you can 'follow the trailer' and guide it in a straight line AND follow it around a curved path.

    If your trailer is narrow or low and hard to see from the driver's seat, consider adding a pair of bicycle flag poles or similar to the trailer. I suggest the bright colored fiberglass sticks with foam balls on top.

    If your trailer has a steel frame there are telescoping poles with magnetic bases that just stick onto the trailer. Put one on each rear corner or fender. Makes it much easier to see where the trailer is and where it is going. Sold at trailer supply stores.

    Once you develop some skill you should find that using your mirrors will provide most of the visuals you need. Turning right around in your seat to look out the rear window or hanging out the driver's door runs the risk of your foot pressing on the wrong pedal. On a launch ramp, that can be bad.

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  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Matrix View Post

    A single trailer is really hard to see in the side view mirrors. By the time you see it in the mirror its almost too late. I have to lower the tailgate on my pickup to be able to see a single trailer.

    Exactly. That's why I widen the trailer so it's visible in my side mirrors. Even those fiberglass corner marker sticks mounted horizontally will do.

    Those are a must have with short trailers. Long trailers are a breeze to back up.

  7. #6
    Xspook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Matrix View Post
    I have to lower the tailgate on my pickup to be able to see a single trailer.
    Ditto. Make sure you can see it and GO SLOW - adjust steering a tiny bit at a time.

    There are a few youtubes out there...









    I can't use my mirrors as some of the videos show due to the trailer being so narrow, thus drop the tailgate.
    Last edited by Xspook; 04-28-2015 at 11:33 AM.

  8. #7
    Q in Arizona's Avatar
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    Like you said...lower your tailgate so you can see it...and here's a little trick I use...find the center point on the ski in your rear view mirror and keep that centered in the center of the mirror while slowly backing up and slowly making steering adjustments. Centered in the mirror means centered to the vehicle. It takes so very little steering wheel movement...as I'm sure you have found out...especially with a single place trailer. When I first went to a double place I was blown away on how easy it is to back up. lol.

  9. #8
    Click avatar for tech links/info, donation request K447's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Q in Arizona View Post
    ...lower your tailgate so you can see it...
    Do we know what kind of vehicle or trailer the OP has?

    I did not assume he was using a pickup truck. Many people use cars or SUV with watercraft trailers.

  10. #9
    Q in Arizona's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K447 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Q in Arizona View Post
    ...lower your tailgate so you can see it...
    Do we know what kind of vehicle or trailer the OP has?

    I did not assume he was using a pickup truck. Many people use cars or SUV with watercraft trailers.
    I have an SUV and open the rear door only when backing in the empty trailer when trailering the ski from the water. When putting it in the water you should be able to see you ski sitting on the trailer no matter what you drive, within a few exceptions I'm sure. So yeah...lowering/opening any rear thing is not really needed when putting the ski in if using my method.

  11. #10
    infamous's Avatar
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    If you're around one day I can give you some lessons and pointers but it's pretty much just practice. Took me a while to get it down. Now I tow/backup a 18 foot trailer for work everyday lol. If you have an SUV keep the rear hatch open if you can and make very small movements with the wheel. Try to to imagine the trailer pulling your truck.

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