How to Back Up a Small Utility Trailer

by Thomas West

A utility trailer is usually a small, single-axle trailer used for general purpose hauling. A utility trailer can come in handy for moving household goods, transporting motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles or hauling lawn and garden equipment. You can purchase inexpensive utility trailers at home or farm centers, or you can rent one by the day at rental centers. Towing a small trailer is quite easy to get the hang of until it comes to backing up. By following a few simple techniques you should be able to back a small utility trailer satisfactorily.


Always use a spotter when possible. Have someone stand where they can see the rear of your trailer when you are backing to make sure there are no obstacles in your path. Make sure the spotter is in your line of vision in case they need you to stop suddenly.


Back slowly. Do not get in a hurry as short utility trailers will jackknife quicker than a longer trailer.


Do not use your mirrors, if possible, when backing, as mirrors show a reverse view and may confuse you if you are not used to backing a trailer. Look out the rear window of your vehicle to check your progress if it is not obstructed.


Place one hand around the steering wheel rim at the bottom. Move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. Make slow, gradual movements. Do not make sudden or quick steering movements.


Stop the vehicle immediately if the trailer starts to jackknife or if the rear of the trailer is coming around to face the front. Pull forward to straighten out the trailer and try your maneuver again. Place your hand on top of the steering wheel and follow the trailer’s movements once it is finally going in the intended direction.


  • check You will be more prepared to back your trailer into a confined area if you practice in your driveway or in a vacant parking lot first.
  • check A good rule of thumb when traveling with a small utility trailer is to park your vehicle and trailer combination in an area where you will not have to back out when you depart. Plan ahead and do not pull forward into an area that will be difficult to back out of if there are other alternatives available. For instance, most highway rest areas have pull-through parking available for travelers who are towing trailers.
  • check When a trailer is jackknifed, usually the trailer tongue will come into contact with the rear of your tow vehicle, and, depending on the speed of impact, may cause major damage to the trailer and your tow vehicle.


  • close Never back up blindly. Know what is behind you before backing, even if it means stopping and getting out of the vehicle to inspect the area you are backing into.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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