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Parking and Backing Up With A Trailer

Driving forward and turning curves are the first things you have to master when learning to tow a trailer. Once you have those down you're pretty much set. The only thing left is parking and backing up with a trailer! This part may seem intimidating but once you learn a few basic concepts you'll have no problem wheeling that rig into the desired spot.

Things that Help

Before you even venture out to a place where you may need to back in and park your rig, you should make sure you're ready for it. This will include adjusting your mirrors and adding any accessories you can to make it easier. The more you can do to add visibility, the better!

Adjusting the Mirrors

Adjusting your mirrors to be able to see the important points when towing is the first step. Some trucks have extendable mirrors that make it easier, and you can get added convex mirrors that allow for another angle of vision. If your mirrors do not extend, you may want to get a towing mirror. This will connect to your current mirror and extend an extra one outside. You need your mirror to not only stick out far enough but it needs to be tall enough so that you can see the top of the RV as well as the wheels. This will allow you to keep an eye out for branches overhead and any curbs that the wheels may be coming close to. Adjust your mirrors so that you can see a little of the side and back corner of the RV and as much of your blind spot as possible. Have someone or something stand in the blind spot area so you know what to look for when adjusting them.


Many RVs come prewired for the addition of back-up and side-view mirrors. This is a great addition that will help immensely and can be a lifesaver at a back-in site or parking space. Check with your local dealership or service center and get a quote on installing them. Even if you're not prewired for it, you can still have them added in.


Get a set of walkie talkies and keep them in your glove compartment so that you can have a mode of communication with a spotter outside of the vehicle! Walkie talkies work everywhere and are louder than a phone. They also eliminate the need to yell to one another as the spotter guides the driver. The spotter outside can see things the driver cannot, even if you have well adjusted mirrors and all the cameras. When relaying directions back and forth, always talk about the direction with reference to what side of the vehicle it's on, driver or passenger. This will never change, however right and left can get a little mixed up when you have two people facing two different directions. Many campgrounds will have a guide service, which will come in handy if for some reason you are alone. This is why you want to have the walkie talkies in the glove box, so you can grab them and use them with whomever may be there. Other RVers know what it's like, so if you get to the site and you have no spotter, go find a site with others that are towing. They may be willing to come and help you out.

Before You Back In

The first thing you want to do is check out your site. Driving up to it, don't worry at first where the rig or your vehicle is in relation to it. You're going to park on the road near it and get out to check out the site. Look for any obstacles you may be facing such as trees, stumps, limbs, large holes, and the like. Next, figure out where your hookups are so you can ensure you get your access panel close to them! Now that you've looked it over and know where you want to put the rig, it's time to get backed in! Drive around one more time if you have to and try to get the site on the driver's side. This will make looking at the area as you back in easier. As you pull up to the site you want to do what is called "the scoop" in the RV world. Basically as you pull passed the site, you want to pull your tow vehicle in toward it slightly and then back away. This will help to angle the back of the RV toward the site, lessening the event of a jackknife situation.

Backing Up – How the Pivot Works

The pivot is what makes backing in a tow vehicle confusing. If you turn the wheel to the right, the rig goes left. If you turn the wheel to the left, the rig goes right! You have to do all this while relying on mirrors that are backward or turning around to look out the window! Here's a simple way to look at the pivot to understand which way the RV is going to go in relation to what way you turn the wheel. If you're pushing a wheelbarrow and you want the front of it to go right, you have to move your body to the left side of the wheel barrow and visa versa. Think of your RV as the wheelbarrow, and your hitch is you pushing it. You need to swing the hitch to the right of the RV to push the RV left, and visa versa! When you look at it this way, it makes the task a little simpler. One thing that helps, is to hold the steering wheel at the bottom. Then just push it in the direction you want the RV to go. This will help you to not have to think so hard about it being backward. Never worry what others around you are going to think! Take your time and if you have to start completely over a few times, do it! All RVers have been newbies at towing at one time so none of them are going to be laughing as they watch you back in. Tent campers may laugh but you can just laugh at them when it rains and you're dry while they run for cover. As you back in, keep an eye on the pivot of the trailer to ensure you don't end up in a jackknife situation. This is where the RV and the tow vehicle are actually touching. It can be a tricky situation that can usually causes damage to one or both, and most likely requires you to unhitch the RV, move the tow vehicle, and rehitch to get out of it. Practice makes perfect so before you set out to your site, find yourself an empty parking lot. Practice backing into those spaces until you're comfortable. You can even add your own obstacles like cones or empty trashcans like they did back when you were in driver's training. This way you can practice working around objects that won't matter if you run them over!

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