There are a few parts of RV ownership – specifically, 5th wheel ownership – that are a bit intimidating. For one thing, it is a significant financial investment to purchase a 5th wheel, so that is an early hurdle that you will need to clear. Also, driving such a big rig down the road can be intimidating to those with no experience, as driving a truck and 5th wheel is a big departure from piloting a sedan. However, the biggest challenge to 5th wheel ownership for most people is going to be the issue addressed in the title of this post – backing up the rig.
Backing up a 5th wheel is a challenge on multiple fronts. For one thing, the rig is rather large, so you may feel nervous moving in backward into an area that you can’t really see. Also, the rig is going to move in the opposite direction as your vehicle, so you will have to learn how to ‘dance’ with the 5th wheel in order to place it in exactly the right spot.
If you are struggling to back up your 5th wheel successfully, or if you would just like to have some tips in mind before trying for the first time, review the points below.
It’s All About Opposites
As mentioned above, you have to think ‘opposite’ when you want to back up a 5th wheel. At first, the fact that the 5th wheel moves opposite of your vehicle is likely to throw you for a loop, but you will get used to this factor relatively quickly. Try to find an open parking lot or another safe place to practice backing up and you will start to naturally respond to the way the trailer moves in reverse.
You don’t need to be in a rush to back up your 5th wheel properly. Take it slow, especially at first, and only keep moving back when you are confident in the direction that you are going. Don’t worry if other people are watching or even waiting – it isn’t worth pushing your 5th wheel into a bad spot just because you are trying to get out of the way.
Have a Spotter
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice that you can receive. If you are backing up your 5th wheel into any kind of a tight spot, have a trusted spotter and use them to direct your movements. If necessary, pick up some two-way radios to communicate between the cab and the spotter with ease. Or, if you prefer not to use radios, develop a few hand signals that you can use to make sure you are on the same page. Of course, you don’t want to back up into your spotter, so make sure you can see them at all times while the vehicle is in motion.
Stay on Driver’s Side
If at all possible, work on backing into spots that are on the same side of the vehicle as the driver. It is more difficult to go to the other side, as it will be harder to see as you back up. An experienced 5th wheel driver may be able to go the other way without too much effort, but stick to the driver’s side until you have confidence in your skills.
Spend Time Practicing
Just like any other skill in life, the only way to master backing up in your 5th wheel is to practice on a regular basis. If you are willing to put in some practice time in a nearby parking lot (or even in your own driveway, if it is big enough), you should be able to develop your 5th wheel backing skills in short order.
Have any tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments section!
9 Comments on “Tips & Tricks: Backing Up Your 5th Wheel”
The first rule to backing up into a site is to not get your wife as the spotter! Send her back to talk to the fellow who has just come over to give you his professional expertise and advice on how to proceed, then while they are talking put the unit where you want it!!!
a good set of mirrors ,properly adjusted ,helps a great deal!!
Great tip Otto, thanks!
My husband and have been doing this for over ten years. We have developed hand signals so we don’t have to “yell” . Number one rule, if you can’t see the spotter, STOP!
Couldn’t agree more!
I often use the orange cones to mark turn points, alignment points and/or hazards to avoid; if you are not sure – get out and look.
Great thinking! Cones are definitely a helpful idea.
Hold the bottom (not the top) of your truck steering wheel and turn it in the direction you want the 5th wheel to go.
Great Tip Ed, Thanks for sharing!
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