Maybe Get Back - 4 Tips for Backing up a Boat Trailer

Backing a boat trailer can be intimidating, especially at a crowded boat ramp. Sometimes the trailer seems to have a mind of its own. With cooler temperatures and hunting seasons, there may be fewer people at the lake so this might be a good time to practice.

Here are a few tips

  1. Slow and steady.
    Haste makes… the tire fall off the side of the ramp.” There is a little bit of lag time between turning the steering wheel and a resultant trailer direction. I’ve witnessed people panic, rush their decisions and then turn wrong because they failed to give their initial move a chance.

  2. Use the side mirrors.
    I’ve never been one for “magic tricks.” I’m an old dog who learned by backing tractors with no cab obstruction, so I still just look over my shoulder. However, depending on the size of the boat and visibility issues from, for example, towing with a camper, mirrors are a constant source of valuable information.

  3. Make small adjustments.
    Again, allow for the brief lag in reaction time and then do not oversteer. Otherwise, that back end will snake back and forth. Save the slaloming for the ski slopes.

  4. Go ahead and turn it just a little bit… wrong.
    This last one may need some explanation. The problem with backing is the 50/50 guesswork: “Should I turn left or right?” The idea here is to start backing slowly, but then go ahead and turn it such that the trailer starts where you do not want it to go. That way, you KNOW the other way is the direction to correct it. At least until you go too far and then you straighten and repeat the process.

Boat on trailer, ready to back up.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.