How to Safely Backup with a Tandem Axle Trailer

September 12, 2019 by

How to Safely Backup with a Tandem Axle Trailer

Towing a trailer is not easy and can be stressful at the best of times. But backing up a trailer can be even worse, and the mere idea is enough to make some drivers break out in a cold sweat. If you have ever tried to back up a tandem axle trailer you will know exactly how challenging it can be to get the trailer to move in the direction that you want it to go.


The number of axles on the trailer isn’t that important when it comes to backing up, but the design of the trailer hitch plays a significant role in how difficult it is to back up a tandem axle trailer. Most vehicles and trailers are connected via a ball hitch and the ball-and-socket connection enables the trailer to turn with the vehicle. If you had a solid hitch between the vehicle and trailer, you would have an extremely long vehicle with an unrealistic turning circle. The ball hitch provides the manoeuvrability you need but when you need to back up, it feels like the trailer develops a life of its own; it moves off at weird angles and in the worst-case scenario it can even jackknife.

Fortunately backing up a trailer does not have to be difficult or scary, with enough practice you can master the art and get the trailer to do what you want it to.


Backing up a tandem axle trailer does not come naturally and the greatest trick that you can learn is to be patient and train your brain to steer the vehicle in a counterintuitive direction. Remember, when you are backing up and you turn the wheel, you are actually turning your vehicle in the opposite direction from what you normally would. That means if you want to go left, you need to turn the wheel to the right. When you add a trailer to the mix, however, this scenario works in the opposite way. When you want the trailer to go to the left, you need to turn the wheel to the left. The reason for this is the ball hitch; when your vehicle goes left the trailer move in the opposite direction.

The most effective way to back up a trailer is to place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel then gently and slowly turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to end up. Don’t rush the process and make small steering movements then wait for the trailer to catch up. If the trailer is turning to the left when you back up and you need it to go right, then turn the wheel counter-clockwise, and always make small corrections.

Understanding the theory and doing it in practice are two very different things. Before you take your trailer out on the open road and get yourself into a difficult position, go to a large (empty) parking lot or open area and practice backing up until you feel confident that you can do it properly.


If you are an inexperienced driver or have never backed up a trailer before, ask a friend to help you. It is much easier when you have someone that you trust standing outside the vehicle directing you. They can also warn you if you are getting too close to another vehicle or any other obstacle or object. When backing up a tandem axle trailer, the key things to remember are to be patient, drive slowly and make small steering movements.

At McFarlane’s, we have a wide range of new and used trailers to suit all your needs. Call us today to find out how we can help you.