What is Pro Trailer Backup Assist?

Jessica Shea Choksey | Aug 30, 2021

One of the primary reasons pickup trucks are so popular is their towing capability. Although pulling a trailer or a boat with competence takes some practice, towing, in general, is a simple and straightforward operation. Until it's time to park, that is.

Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist

As such, one of the trickiest maneuvers, even for long-time pickup truck owners, is navigating a trailer backward into a parking spot. Ford Motor Company offers Pro Trailer Backup Assist, an innovative system that takes much of the complexity—and anxiety—out of parking a trailer while reversing. This system is available on certain Ford and Lincoln trucks and SUVs.

Why Pro Trailer Backup Assist?

Keeping a truck lined up with its trailer while moving in reverse is challenging because it involves two vehicles going in opposite directions from one another. In many cases, the effort takes the help of a second person on the ground to help guide the trailer backward. Even then, it can take several attempts to get it right. Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist reduces human error and eliminates the need for a second set of eyes to back a trailer into a campsite, onto a boat ramp, or into virtually any parking spot.

This system makes it easy for urban dwellers with little or no experience driving a truck with a trailer to plan a recreational trip or vacation to a campground or lake setting. And it gives those who live in rural areas even more confidence in the everyday movement of farming equipment or horse trailers. Pro Trailer Backup Assist is also invaluable for delivering materials and equipment to construction sites.

Setting Up the System

Pro Trailer Backup Assist uses the truck's rearview camera to operate. But before using this system, several setup steps need to be taken. These steps will require the supplied Quick Start setup guide, a checkered sticker provided with the guide, a tape measure, and a pencil. A general outline of preparing the system for use is as follows:

  • Connect the vehicle to the trailer on a level surface. Using a drawbar with the appropriate rise or drop will help position the trailer level to the ground.
  • Line up the vehicle and trailer with one another and shift into Park. This step will require driving straight for a few feet.
  • From inside the cabin, press the Pro Trailer Assist button to the right of the steering wheel to begin programming the system. Follow the prompts in the setup guide to establish the trailer and the correct brake system. The system can store up to 10 different trailers.
  • Per the setup guide, place the checkered sticker on the trailer tongue. This sticker acts as a target that the backup camera uses to track the trailer's direction.
  • Once the sticker is in place, it's time to take several measurements using the setup guide. These include the horizontal distance from the license plate to the hitch ball, the distance from the rearview camera to the center of the checkered sticker, and the horizontal distance from the tailgate to the center of the trailer axle.
  • Input these measurements into the system using the steering wheel's up and down arrows.
  • After confirming the measurements, the system will automatically search for the checkered sticker and highlight it with a red circle.
  • For final calibration, drive the vehicle in a straight line between 4-24 miles per hour.

Ford recommends that setup and calibration take place in the daytime for adequate light. Once these steps are complete, the Pro Trailer Backup Assist system is ready to use.

Operating the System

The Pro Trailer Backup Assist system operates with a single knob to the right of the steering wheel. Its functionality is user-friendly and straightforward.

Once the driver turns the system on and chooses the correct pre-loaded trailer, the rearview camera will locate the checkered targeting sticker on the trailer tongue. The system then activates by shifting into reverse.

From this point, the driver will take their hands off the steering wheel and control the truck's movement with the Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob only. When the driver wants the rear of the trailer to go to the left, they will turn the knob left or counterclockwise. Conversely, the driver will turn the knob right, or clockwise, for the trailer to go right.

Once the trailer moves in the intended direction, the driver may release the knob, but it may be necessary to make minor adjustments to keep the trailer moving along the desired path. The vehicle will automatically follow the trailer's path once the knob is released or moved back to the center position. The driver will continue to control the vehicle's speed with brakes and accelerator until the trailer comes to rest in the intended parking spot.

Warnings and Tips

Although Pro Trailer Backup Assist helps guide a vehicle and trailer in reverse, this system requires the driver to pay proper attention to the vehicle's movement and remain aware of the vehicle's physical surroundings. Ford recommends that drivers utilize their side-view mirrors as their primary visual aids while maneuvering the trailer. Furthermore, the driver should always maintain a safe and consistent rate of speed when moving in reverse and be ready to brake at any point during a backup maneuver.

Summary

Navigating a trailer backward into a parking spot is no easy task, even for experienced pickup truck owners. Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist system makes this potentially challenging maneuver simpler, safer, and less cumbersome.

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