15 Tips for Backing up Your Boat Trailer like a Pro

February 28th, 2019 by

Reversing a Trailer


Whether you are just purchasing your boat and trailer or have been trailering one for years, you probably know that there’s an art involved in learning how to back up your new boat trailer like a pro. It involves learning some new habits that may go against everything your mind tells you that you should be doing instead. In the process, you’ll teach your brain some new ways to drive that may not make sense in the beginning, but will wind up getting the job done exactly right.

Directing your boat trailer to go to go back into a specific place, at a certain angle while it’s attached to your car or truck with an articulated hinge is not something you would probably consider “natural.” Even though others may seem to be doing it easily, using a tow vehicle to back up your boat trailer requires a few basic lessons, some helpful tips, and a whole lot of practice. But soon you’ll be backing up your boat trailer at the local launch ramp like a professional, and you’ll be the envy of your friends and neighbors to boot!

In the beginning, you may be facing a situation where you’re required to back up your trailer in a simple straight line. But more than likely, you’ll need to negotiate around a tight corner or slip between or around some obstacles or other vehicles in the process.


Tips to Look Like a Pro

Tip 1

Start practicing in a local parking lot where there’s lots of room to maneuver. Adjust the side mirrors on your vehicle to make sure they’re set correctly from the vantage point of the driver’s seat. You should be able to see the side of the trailer on the inner one-third or half of the corresponding mirror. The outer half should show you any hazards that may be in the way. If you’re not sure you can see enough of your trailer, or around it, add an attachment to the mirror for a wide-angle view.


Tip 2

Turn on your hazard lights. This will alert other drivers that you’re getting ready to do something they may not be expecting and to keep you in their sights as a precaution.

Understand that your boat trailer is going to react when you steer your vehicle is crucial to having a successful backing up session. Remember that when you are towing a trailer, the back of the trailer is going to move in the opposite direction to the way your vehicle moves.

As an example, when you shift into reverse and turn your steering wheel clockwise, pressing on the gas naturally pushes your vehicle back and to the right. However, the boat trailer will go to the left, in the opposite direction. In other words, to move your boat trailer in the direction you want it to go you must turn your steering wheel in the opposite direction of where you would normally turn for your vehicle to go.

Tip 3

To do this correctly, grab the bottom of your steering wheel with one hand at the 6 o’clock position. If you want the trailer to go left, move your hand clockwise to the left. If you want the trailer to go right, turn the steering counter-clockwise.


Tip 4

When you execute backing your boat trailer properly, it’s something to be proud of. The way to get the routine down pat is to practice. Try backing up in various settings and from different angles. After a while, your brain and body will learn how to navigate the simple but essential part of boating.


Tip 5

Park in a safe setting, set your mirrors, and go over the theory of how packing your boat trailer should work before starting out. Always remember that this is not supposed to be a high-speed maneuver. It is intended to be a slow and careful one that requires plenty of patience and understanding the physics of what you’re doing.


Tip 6

Pull up the boat trailer so there’s an ample amount of room on all sides for both your vehicle and the trailer. Make sure your wheels are straight and the trailer is in alignment with your vehicle.


Backing Up


I’m not sure how many times we have seen this with our customers but to avoid a serious problem always make sure your boat bung is in and trailer ratchet straps are off.


Tip 7

Check both of the outside mirrors to make sure no obstructions are close by. Then grip the steering wheel at the 6 o’clock position with your left hand and shift into reverse. Gently step on the gas and keep the vehicle’s wheels straight. The trailer should move back in close to a straight line. Watch the trailer carefully, as well as everything close by, by alternating your vision between the two side mirrors. If the trailer goes in the wrong direction and by drifting one way or the other, move the steering wheel slowly in the opposite direction to make the correction.


Tip 8

As soon as the trailer responds, straighten the steering wheel back to center and then continue backing. If the trailer begins to deviate from moving straight back, make small corrections to the steering wheel until it straightens out.



The difficulty of backing up with a boat trailer is increased when you need to go through a turn. You’ll follow the same principles as you did earlier when backing in a straight line. But this time the process will take more concentration and practice.


Tip 9

Place some cones at a 90-degree angle to simulate an entrance to your driveway or launch ramp. Pull your boat trailer up so there’s enough room to maneuver, then straighten up the wheels to be sure the trailer is in alignment with your vehicle.  How much space you’ll need to drive between the cones depends on the length of your vehicle and the trailer and the location of nearby obstacles, like a curb, other vehicles or buildings. Be sure to give yourself plenty of extra room for maneuvering.


Tip 10

Again, grip the wheel at the 6:00 position, shift into reverse, check for obstacles, and then keep your eye on the mirror on your right side. Press on the gas gently and then move your hand counter-clockwise on the steering wheel and the trailer will turn to the right.


Tip 11

As soon as the trailer begins its turn, bring the steering wheel back to center while keeping your foot on the gas. This will make the vehicle turn and follow the direction of the trailer.


Tip 12

As you progress through the turn, check the front and back of the vehicle often. Glance at the left side mirror to make sure the vehicle is following the direction of the trailer. Make sure that you’re not going to run over any obstacles and slowly finish the turn.


Tip 13

Once you’ve turned to aim in the expected direction, straighten out the steering wheel. Then continue backing up in a straight line following the cones. If you over-steer and get past the 90-degree angle, stop the vehicle. Drive slowly forward reversing your direction until you’ve straightened out. Then continue backward until you’re at the correct angle.


Practice Makes Perfect

Remember that practice makes perfect. You cannot master any skill without practicing, and the same goes for backing up your boat trailer. Soon enough, you’ll feel like a pro and backing your trailer up will become easy. Never fear to make a mistake, and if you don’t get your initial approach exactly right, try, try again.


Tip 14

It never hurts to get help from someone who can watch what you’re doing and make suggestions. Ask them to give you a hand and the entire process may go even faster than you originally thought.


Westshore Marine & Leisure

Tip 15

Our team at Westshore Marine & Leisure is always there for you when you have any questions or need advice about backing up your boat trailer correctly. We want to help you with any customer experience.

With over 85 years of sales & service experience, Westshore is one of the largest power sports dealers in Manitoba and the Prairies. We are one of Canada’s few Tri-Line outboard motor dealer specializing in Evinrude, Yamaha, and Mercury outboard motors. Package this witha new or used fishing boats, Bennington pontoon boats, and Thunderjet heavy gauge aluminum fishing boats no matter what your brand or power preference is we have you covered. Don’t be limited by smaller single line dealers, get the boat and motor package you want at Westshore Marine & Leisure, after all, it’s not a small investment, get what you want.

Westshore Marine & Leisure is located in Manitoba on the north side of Winnipeg. As a family-owned and operated business, we pride ourselves on giving you and your family the very best customer experience possible. Contact us today.