Tips for Backing Up Your 5th Wheel

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.

tips-for-backing-up-your-5th-wheelBacking 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.

Go Slow

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.

Do you have any other tips you would add? Let everyone know in the comments below.




  1. The way I have always done it is to put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the trailer to go right move you hand to the right which actually is turning the wheels to make the tow vehicle go left. This way your hand will always be going in the direction you want the trailer to go. Next time you back your trailer up try it you might like it.

    • I use a back up, full observation, camera.
      Had an accident when the camera came loose from the stick to the windshield, fell, I NEGLECTED TO PUT THE TRUCK IN PARK. As I reached to the floorboard to retrieve the camera, truck rolled back, in reverse, smacked into another RV. Minor bumper damage to mine, caved in the slide out side of the parked towable. This was in a storage area. Now my rates are up for another year!!
      S – – – happens! STOP THAT TRUCK AND USE PARK BEFORE MOVING ONE INCH. This happened in less than 5 seconds.
      No one was around. It’s not always possible to have a “spotter” with a phone handy!
      The other point is, regardless of situation, do the right thing.

  2. Watch your trailer wheels and put them where you want to go. Your spotter will watch out for obstructions.

  3. I review the site with my spotter before attempting the I place a 18 in construction cone where I want my trailer wheels on drivers side then back it in

  4. I have learned that if you pull up to your spot that you want to back into, and it on the driver side, you need to drive as close to that side of the road before backing in, so your truck has plenty of room for front of truck to swing on the other side when backing in. The same goes for the passenger side site, drive as close to the passenger side of the road to back into the spot. I see a lot of 5ers in the middle of the road when they start to back into their site. Plus be at least 5 to 6 feet past the site before backing in. That works for me.

    • This is what the article should have said! I was looking for actual tips… survey site and obstructions, hug the side of the road the site is on, as the trailer wheels pass turn hard toward opposite side until camper is pointing at site, stop, turn wheel hard other direction and begin backing, watch wheels and spotter, don’t be afraid to take your time, pull up and go back as much as is needed, when nearing final spot check level and use blocks as necessary, at this time if your tow rig is in the road, make it a priority to get out of the way, Save shore power and sewer hookups until after you are no longer obstructing the roadway.

  5. As mentioned earlier if at all possible back in so you can see the trailer from the driver side. Use a spotter with a cell phone on speaker.

    Walk your campsite first and decide where you want the trailer to go. Het a fixed point past the campsite that you can use as guidence to line up your trailer

    Keep your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel, if the spotter tells you to go right you turn the wheel right.
    It’s important for the spotter to realise that the trailer does not turn instantly when you turn the wheel.

    Have patience with each other…and with practice it will come

    Cheers Anders

  6. At night, I use an led rope light to line the side of the site. It’s plugged into the electric box so you can position the trailer with the edge of the site

    • Thats a great Idea, after that you can use the rope lighting for something else, in the awning or even just laid on the ground for a pathway to the door, ring a small tree. excellent idea, I have several solar lights, some are bees and some butterflies, some just a light, but the best thin is the solar part has an xtra 10 ft of cord, so it can just be put on top of the RV and the lights can go 10 ft before it gets to the first light.

  7. Take your time. You are the campground’s entertainment. Do not get frustrated. Start over as many times as you need. Circle the park and start over. Remember everyone has to learn

  8. Practice practice patients patients when your backed up to your satisfaction, take a bow to the camp ground gigglers

  9. A CAMERA is only a tool. I relied on one heavily until a year ago. Backing into TIGHT space, very slowly, CAMERA FELL off windshield mount. I reached into passenger floorboard to retrieve it, forgot to put unit into “PARK”, you know the rest:Bang! Won’t be doing that again!😳💩

  10. You know that opposite thing is easily avoided by placing your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. that way if you want the trailer to go to the left ( driver side) you move your hand to the LEFT. And the same is true for going right. No over-thinking involved just move your hand the direction you want the trailer to go. It works for pull behinds as well.

  11. Should mention that you don’t need to turn your front wheels a lot. Just a quarter turn to get the trailer to move the direction you want it to go.
    One thing I learned from a driving instructor when I was going for my commercial license.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here