Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moving - Backing Up A Trailer

The last two weeks my life has been completed engulfed with one overwhelming task: Moving. The fact that I own a truck and have owned a truck for 15 years make this task even more difficult for two reasons.

1-because I have the capacity I am willing to move myself with my truck. If I did not have the ability I might rent a large truck and/or hire people to do the moving.

2-because of the truck, I can easily transport and thus bring home large items. "Hey Bill you want a _____? Sure throw it in the back of the truck." That conversation has been had many times. Having a pack rat, just in case mentality does not help either. The combination of that mentality and many hobbies, is a recipe for moving hell.

Several years ago, I did make a purchase that was for the sole purpose of moving. A little 4x8 trailer. I have used it for 6 moves now.

This thing is great. Combined with 4 foot tall sides, it really increases my load carrying capacity. When not in use the sides come off, folds in threes and stores upright on little casters. This item often comes on sale for much cheaper. I added a spare tire, and tongue jack. One major gripe is its difficultly to back up. Never having the experience of driving a trailer, backing maneuvers have always been a daunting task. A small trailer is more difficult to back than a large one due to the fact that it does not want to "come around" very easily. I will share what I have learned with backing a trailer.

Step 1- Initiating the turn. The trailer will move in the opposite direction the truck moves. Someone once told me a trick: Place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. What ever direction you move your hand is the direction the trailer will move. I however can not get use to this. Instead I keep my hand on the top of the steering and move my hand towards the mirror I don't want to see the trailer in. It is just a mental assistance I use.

Step 2- Follow the arc. Once you initiated the turn, the truck must follow the arc started by the trailer. This will require you to direct the truck in the opposite direction from what you used initiated the turn. Then you use the step 1 technique to adjust the direction of the trailer.

If you come close to jackknifing or can not get the trailer to come around, just pull forward and start over again.

This is a total clutch burner if you have a manual transmission vehicle and are backing up hill, like I have been. With alot of practice you might become a pro. But I think this skill is more like skiing; despite any amount of practice, some will never be a pro at it.
Additional note on the HF trailer-Harbor Freight tools, also known as the Chinese Tool Store, has several of these trailers. There are in fact two trailer that look almost identical. The only difference is there load capacity, which is limited by the wheels and tires. The one I have listed has the 12" wheels, and the 1195lb load capacity. There is one which has the same chassis but only 850lbs. It has 8" inch wheels. The wheels and tires are therefor the limiting factor. In fact it is limiting in several ways. The primary being speed. These trailers are limited to 55mph as is all towed vehicles in the state of California. So NO you can not travel down Interstate 5 at 70mph even though that is the posted speed limit. Another lesser known fact is that pressure requirements of these tires. They are high, 50-60 psi, I have seen this type of tire saying max pressures upwards of 80 psi. Fully loaded and under pressure, I broke the internal radials of one tire and created a very dangerous situation once. Keep the tires inflated properly and have a spare.


  1. $ Low helps with the clutch and larger diameter trailer tires help keep the bearings from over heating. :-p

  2. Hey that was supposed to be 4x4 low helps with the clutch.

  3. I don't have manual locking hubs. Thus if I am 4wd low on pavement I get really bad binding, since I am making such dramatic turns. And with the truck so loaded down it is hard for the tires to slip. Afraid I'd do some harm to the drive system.

  4. Jsut read the King of the Hammers articles in Petersons 4wd. Good stuff.

  5. Useful info. Hope to see more good posts in the future. Luxury Cars