How to Back Up a Boat Trailer Like a Pro (Even If It’s Your First Time)

advice, boat trailer, safety, tips -

How to Back Up a Boat Trailer Like a Pro (Even If It’s Your First Time)

The moment you have been waiting for is finally here. You have your new boat, a perfect calm lake, and the fish are jumping. But now, you have to get the boat in the water, and that means backing it down the ramp.

Backing up a boat trailer can be one of the trickiest things to do, especially if it’s your first time doing it. It can even be more intimidating if the boat ramp is overcrowded with onlookers.

But to avoid all the embarrassment and disappointment that come with backing and launching your boat at a bay, beach or river, you need to consider some basic tips on how to do it like a pro.

Here are five basic tips you need to consider when backing up your boat:

1. Have a Strategy in Mind

Before taking your new or borrowed boat to a river or bay (where you may have never been before), it is important to study the road leading to the ramp ahead of time. This will help you devise a plan on how to maneuver with safety while you back the boat.  You’ll come knowing where to start making minor yet important adjustments as you get near your destination. You might consider coming for a practice run during an off-peak time.

2. Adjust Your Side Mirrors Properly

Using your side mirrors as a constant source of information to adjust the boat can be of significant value, especially when you are towing it with a camper or larger truck. Roll down the windows for a clear view of the side mirrors, but don’t turn around and try to look out at the back from outside the window. Proper adjustment of the side mirrors will help you to see the direction the boat is headed and allow to correct any form of slanting. From the driver’s seat, you should be able to see the side of the trailer from the inner portion of each mirror. The outer portion of each mirror should be left open so you can see any hazards.

3. Go Slow and Steady

Going slowly and steady when backing up your boat will not only ensure you avoid going the wrong direction but also ensure your boat or trailer isn’t damaged in case it starts getting too close to a dock wall or other object. You can always feel free to drive forward in order to re-align your vehicle with the road to allow for easier backing up. If necessary, you can have a person outside to monitor the direction of the trailer or better still, you can get out of the vehicle to get a vantage point of where you are headed. 

4. Let Go of Conventional Steering Rules  

One of the things that make backing up a trailer tricky is that when you turn left, the trailer goes right and vice versa. The back of the trailer moves in the opposite direction of your truck. So, backing slowly is key as this backward steering can take some time to get used to. You also want to make sure you go slowly so that you don’t oversteer and jack-knife.

One trick is to keep your hand at the 6:00 portion of the steering wheel (at the bottom). Then, if you want your trailer to go to the left, you turn the wheel to the left from the bottom. If you want the trailer to go to the right, you turn it to the right. This can be helpful for those who have trouble turning the wheel “backward” from the top.

5. Practice

It’s always important to do some practice before attempting to back your trailer at the lake or into your driveway coming back home. You can use such venues as empty parking lots, driveways, and vacant dirt roads for practices. Setting up different obstacles like cones in the process can also go a long way in getting you prepared for a smooth ride.


  • Carol Patton

    Thank you for this great information. I want to learn how to back our boat up like a pro. I love the 6 o’clock hand suggestion. I am going to try that along with practicing in an empty parking lot – which I have thought about doing too.

  • Walter

    You’ve lined up straight to back down that little ramp, you’ve started backing “going great”, And the back of the trailer starts heading in the wrong direction. If your new at backing a trailer, or an old hand with a few years gap at backing, or it’s just a new season. It’s dang unnatural to turn a steering wheel toward the crooked back of your trailer. From my mistakes, and some experience I’ve learned 1. Pick any given Sunday (the good lord will bless you for this one) go to an empty mall parking lot and practice, practice, practice dont forget to take some type of markers, in addition to the yellow paint all over the lot. Use empty milk jugs, or those cheap orange soccer cones the little players use. Get creative, setting up various backing scenarios b/c that straight shot down a ramp will not be there on every outing, I promise. Just pulling up to a ramp requires some minimal backing before your 1st attempt, you will not have unlimited forward space to get your rig straight, a fact. The first thing your going to want to do, is get that new boat on the water and enjoy it. Please save yourself some extreme frustration, and stroke level blood pressures. I start every season on the practice lot, i always begin using the 6 o’clock hand position and then the 10-2 position, and use it during the year. But everyone is wired a little different, and the 6 o’clock position works great. Don’t forget Practice on that lot. And like on land, please Do Not Drink while your in control of any boat. Boating, fishing, and playing in the water safely are 3 of the most fun things in life. Live so you continue to enjoy your fun, and then you can teach someone else when you get older like me. Be safe, and Have a Blast!!!

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