How to Avoid Jackknifing a Trailer When Backing Up Once and For All

While backing up a trailer might seem like an easy task, anyone familiar with ball hitches knows better. The reality is that a trailer usually does the exact opposite of what you want it to do when you back up. Turn your vehicle one way, and the object in tow will shift the opposite direction.

Often this nightmare scenario can end in a jackknife. A jackknife occurs when the trailer behind a vehicle turns back around and nearly touches sides with the car or truck. So, what is the solution?

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about how to avoid jackknifing a trailer when backing up. If you want to purchase a container, then you can check out some local RVs for sale. But first, let us go over what exactly causes jackknifing when you back up a trailer.

What Causes a Trailer to Jackknife?

Trailers often do not do what you want them to do when they back up because of the ball and socket connection on hitches. Most of the time, these types of hitches come in handy when you drive forward.

They allow your vehicle to turn and maneuver through traffic without requiring multiple lanes for merging. However, when you back up, it becomes a different story. Typically, when you back up, you turn the wheel to the right if you want to go left and to the left when going right.

You likely performed this method so much that it became programmed into your brain. However, trailers do the exact opposite when you back them up. If you turn your wheel to the right, the container will move to the right. This maneuver feels so counterintuitive to people that it often causes most jackknife accidents.

Jackknife incidents can cause several damages to the exterior and interior of the RV you carry along. As such, you must make sure that you get insurance, specifically which covers recreational vehicles.

How to Correctly Back Up a Trailer

Before you even begin backing up a trailer, you should devise a route you will take. If you get in the vehicle and start backing up, then you may ignore obstacles or barriers that you should avoid.

Once you get in the car, then adjust your mirrors so that you can use as comprehensive a view of your trailer and surround as possible. Next, roll down your window and position your body so that you get a good look behind you.

Keep your hand on the six o’clock position of your wheel and turn it the direction that you want the trailer to go. Your vehicle will head in the wrong direction, and the trailer will the way you want.

When your trailer reaches the angle you need it at, then begin gradually correcting. This step will shift your vehicle into the direction of your container until you straighten out.

Things You Should Do

Now that we know the fundamentals of how to correctly back up a trailer let us go over some tips for how to make it easier. We highly recommend doing these things when you back up a trailer.

1) Use a Look-Out Buddy

A partner who can guide you while you back up the vehicle will make the process of backing up a trailer much more comfortable. When you back up by yourself, then you can quickly get confused by the distances between your vehicle and the obstacles blocking your way.

The mirror systems on cars do not help this problem at all. As such, a look-out buddy can give you the all-clear and provide you with an extra pair of eyes outside of the truck. However, remind your look-out buddy that they should focus not only on the ground but also above too.

Low hanging trees and other obstacles can be just as dangerous as ground objects. We also recommend using a two-way radio when utilizing the buddy system. This way, you are not yelling over the sound of the engine.

If you do not own a two-way radio, then call each other and put your phone on speaker mode.

2) Back-Up Towards the Driver’s Side

If you can, try and back the trailer up so that it lies within view of the driver’s side. This method comes with two significant advantages. For one thing, you can see rear object much better in your driver-side window compared to the passenger one.

But, more importantly, it allows you to lean out the window on your driver’s side and view the object. We do not recommend backing up on the passenger’s side of the car unless you possess an excellent spotter who can inform you of your blind spots.

Things You Should Not Do

Here are some things you should never do. Otherwise, you hold a severe chance of injuring your vehicle, yourself, or others.

1) Don’t Go Too Fast

One of the biggest mistakes people make when backing up a trailer involves going too fast. Do not treat this process as a regular backing up technique. If you do not know what you're doing, then you can mess up the trajectory of the vehicle quickly.

This mistake leads to accidents and jackknifing. Most trailers are sensitive, and they respond to speed with violent crashes. Take it nice and slow. Try and remain aware of any objects in your periphery whether they are moving or stationary.

2) Don’t Panic While You Backup

It is also crucial that you try and not panic while backing up your trailer — especially if something goes wrong. If your trailer begins moving where you do not want it to go, then do not wildly twist the wheel in the other direction.

This mistake will make everything worse and can quickly cause a jackknife. Instead, gently apply the brakes and pull forward until you trailer reaches a straight position again. Back up and pull forward as many times as you need until your vehicle faces the right direction.

3) Don’t Try It Without Practicing

You should not assume that you can back up a trailer by merely reading an article about it. These things take practice before you can master it. As such, we recommend taking your container out to an empty parking lot and practicing before you try in a real-world setting.

If you own them, then utilize some orange traffic cones and weave around them. The shorter the trailer, the more you will need to practice. A short trailer becomes more responsive than a long one, which makes it quicker in terms of mistakes.

Where Can I Purchase RVs?

Before you can back up a trailer, you need to own one first. One option you can use are sites that specialize in trading recreational vehicles. Or, alternatively, you can go with a site that allows you to rent them for a brief amount of time.

There are plenty of great options out there that allow for buying and selling of RVs. In the price comparison section, you can select different companies and find out which offers the best RV price for you.

Alternatively, if you know which product you want, you can go straight to the travel trailer portal and enter the pertinent information. However, if you find that you can never get used to the ball-and-socket connection of a trailer, then there is an alternative. A motorhome, which combines the vehicle and the cargo trailer, eliminates the annoying back-up issue.

If this type of product interests you, then check out some motorhome prices. But, no matter which type of RV you decide to go with you should always first check the vehicle history report using the products VIN number.

We hope this article helped you figure out how to avoid jackknifing a trailer when backing up. The maneuver is not easy, and like anything, it requires a lot of practice. We recommend taking your new trailer out to an empty parking lot and working at it until you get the change down. Good luck!