How to Reverse a Trailer/Caravan Like a Pro

I know how exciting it may feel once you purchase a new caravan/camper trailer and can’t wait to hitch it up and get out there and enjoy fishing, sightseeing, and solitude that nature can offer. But wait! You’ve just realized you’re completely new to this and at some stage, you are going to have to reverse your pride and joy in a public area and that’s where panic sets in.

I can understand how daunting reversing a caravan for new owners can be. Even some long term owners find it difficult and embarrassing especially in caravan parks where there are a lot of audiences. 

But you don’t have to fear anything at all. Have a deep breath and relax. With practice and a few tips, we’ll have you reversing like a pro in no time.

Fortunately, this task becomes easier with practice and patience on both the part of the reverser and the navigator/guider. The main thing to remember is to take your time and concentrate only on the task at hand and the directions that you are receiving from your navigator/guider.

Tips on How to Reverse a Trailer/Caravan Like a Pro

Tip #1: Learn the terminologies

The best way to start would be learning the terminologies before starting so there won’t be any confusion between the reverser and guide for you to know what it exactly means when the guide tells you to move the van in a particular direction, or to straighten it up. As long as both are in agreement and both completely understands each other, it doesn’t matter which hand signal or direction you will you both agree to use.

Guiders also need to understand that changes in direction can’t be instantaneous and must be planned ahead as part of the process. A perfect communication and understanding before you can start can mean the difference between an awesome holiday, or days of silence throwing needle sharp glares and monosyllable conversations.

Tip #2: Purchase an Ultra High Frequency radio for you and your guider

It is also a good idea to purchase a single hand-held UHF since the driver generally can’t hear your shouted directions over the sound of the engine. This will also help in clearer communication and directions. 

If your tow vehicle isn’t equipped with a console UHF unit, you can purchase two and both turn to a channel not being used by the general caravanning public. The whole park may be entertained by your colorful communications over the radio and worse would be listening to it being played between fellow travelers later in the caravan park amenities block.

Tip #3: Plan ahead of accidents

Accidents can happen when reversing motorhomes, caravans or even camper trailers that’s why you need to keep in mind the following reminders:

    • Plan ahead to use the shortest possible reversing distance.
    • Avoid unnecessary reversing.
    • Use your helper to guide you when reversing.
    • You should be able to see the guide who should have a clear view of the backing path which your caravan, motorhome or camper trailer will follow.
    • If you are unsure with what is behind you, go out and have a look.

Tip #4: Always check your mirrors

Always use your mirrors. (It is important to be able to see the waving hand signals of your guide even if you can’t see anything else). You won’t be able to see through the back window of your reversing vehicle, so make your mirrors your friend on this process.

Tip #5: Practise makes perfect

The guide and the reverser should both take some time and head for a quiet secondary road or car park to spend some time practising how to reverse. This way you won’t feel too pressured when reversing in front of a lot of campers. 

Set up some witches hats and both should take turns in being the guider and reverser. This method will make both of you gain appreciation and understanding with regards to how difficult each others roles are.

Tip #6: Engage low range when reversing

If your are using a 4WD vehicle, make sure to engage low range when reversing or maneuvering your caravan, 5th wheeler or camper trailers as this will prevent rapid movements and makes the whole process much smoother. 

Note: Do not forget to disengage low range once you have completed the process. 

And there you have it! You’ll surely be an expert in no time! Take every opportunity and spare time to practice with your navigator/guider and under no circumstances feel pressured by on lookers. Remember that everyone has the moments of first times. No worries, you will surely be the envy of those who are watching before you know it.

Where Should A Guider Stand When I am Reversing?

Guiders are essential when performing a reverse, so make sure you have one and provide them with these tips:

  • Guiders should stand only in a place where they can see you clearly.
  • Guiders should stand where they can see where your vehicle is going.
  • Guiders should stand only where they have a clear view of the backing path that your caravan/trailer will take

What Else do I Need to Know To Help Reverse A Caravan or Trailer?

For those who want to improve their reversing skills, there are easy ways to remember which way to turn.

  • Place your hands at the very bottom of the steering wheel.
  • The rear of the trailer will turn to the right by moving the steering wheel to the right.
  • The rear of the trailer will turn to the left by moving the steering wheel to the left.
  • Oversteering in one direction will make the caravan turn in a circle. What you have to do is stop and move forward in a straight line until the caravan has completely straightened up following your vehicle’s direction.
  • Make sure that you have enough room to reverse before starting the process.
  • Once you have parked successfully, make sure that the wheels are stable and won’t move, set the caravan handbrake, and the van is at a sitting level before setting up your camp site.
  • Don’t make severe turns. You have to continually assess the angle of the movement that is needed. Keep the right side of the van near the boundary of the entry and you can be assured that the left side is clear from any objects.

Usually, shorter trailers are more difficult to reverse.

Related Questions:

Are there other ways that can make reversing easier?

Sure there are! Some vehicles are easier to reverse by using a trailer reversing aid. Land Rover’s have their reversing aid called the Advanced Tow Assist while Volkswagen have their Trailer Assist. Each have different variations in features but they are similar when it comes to the steering. 

There will be no need for you to turn the steering wheel in a counter-intuitive way because these device will steer the car for you as you reverse. It will certainly take time for the driver to adjust but will be much easier on the latter part.

Another way is to have your caravan equipped with a motor mover which will allow you to move the caravan by remote control. Most of these devices use a small electric motor and rollers that acts on the tyres of the caravan. You just have to unhitch the caravan from the car and the mover will then finish the process.

Is it difficult to reverse a caravan/ camper trailer?

It certainly is especially for first time owners. Reversing a caravan will require more practice, more skill, more patience and more space. Unlike reversing a car, you will have to have someone look out at the back of your caravan since you will not be able to see it. 

It will also take up much more space than a regular vehicle. You will also have to anticipate in advance and start steering your tow vehicle a couple of meters before the trailer will actually turn.

James Mitchell

Hi, I’m Jimmy Mitchell and I love exploring this great country with my wife and two boys. I have a 2015 Sterling LX that is the Mitchell Family camping machine. Lets Getaway is the website where I share things about my trailer as I learn them, and help other camper owners to enjoy their RV even more.

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