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Thread: tips on backing up a trailer with mirrors

  1. #1
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    tips on backing up a trailer with mirrors

    Hello all,

    This probably seems like a dumb post to you guys but at this point I need all the help I can get. I have been backing up trailers all my life with a pick up truck. I was a marine dealer for 11 years and backed boats in and out of the darndest holes with little effort. This all being done while looking out the back window of my truck. When I try to back up an equipment trailer with my dump truck using mirrors it is a horror show at best. I think I could do it better blind folded. I know it is going to take lots of practice but are there any tricks or tips that may help speed up the process. I don't have convex mirrors on this truck would they help this process?


    Kevin

  2. #2
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    For sure, get some convex mirrors. They give a much wider field of vision, and are useful when driving also, in helping eliminate the blind spots. Also try swinging your mirrors all the way open on the truck. And finally, always back turning the trailer to the drivers side whenever possible, that way you can always see the back end of the trailer either in the mirror, or by looking out the door or window. Just a couple of hints that seem to work for me. Good luck!

  3. #3
    Founder Steve Frazier's Avatar
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    I was in your shoes once Kevin. I learned backing on a farm tractor and was lost when I first tried it with mirrors. All I can say is practice, practice, practice!!! It will come to you eventually. Just try to remember your looking at a mirror image and have to do opposite of what you actually see.

    I'd be lost without convex mirrors, but you can get into trouble with them too. Just use them as reference to see obstacles that are coming into your path then locate them in the flat mirror to navigate. It's very difficult to use convex mirrors only for backing because things are happening much faster than they actually appear in the mirror. And, "objects may be closer than they appear"!

    Good luck!

  4. #4
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    Thanks guys,

    I usually do try to back so that I can see the trailer out the drivers side window but I figured that was cheating. I found an RV site last night that had a lot of posts about this. One of them mentioned placing your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and turning left for the trailer to go left and right for right. I will give this a try today. Has any one had any experience with cameras such as the big RV's have on them. Maybe I could duct tape one of my old camcorders on the tailgate and set a tv set on the front seat to use as a monitor. Hopefully no else will be in the gravel pit today so I can practice in hiding. Thanks again guys for your input.

    Kevin

  5. #5
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    I found the monitor, on my uncle's RV to be helpful in spotting an obstacle, like a tree or child on a bike. It did not however really enable you to back straight or negotiate curves without using the mirrors. It is more to compliment the mirrors.
    Jesse Fry
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  6. #6
    Charter Member RonG's Avatar
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    This is funny to me but I have been driving and backing trailers for 40+ years by mirror.....lowbeds,dump trailers,real ones not the lawn mower haulers I hear about nowadays and freight boxes as well but the the beast that brings me to my knees is the relatively new on the scene articulated haul trucks or rock trucks as they are sometimes called.
    Now anybody can drive one of these,the laborers consider it a gravy job and I can see why as you have to turn the wheel the same way as you would backing up a car or pickup while using the mirrors so it is a natural function for them.
    I cannot for the life of me get the hang of that so it is a natural reaction like backing a conventional trailer and I embarrass myself every time I find myself in one as happens occasionally on site.
    Well,playing the bass line with a thumbpick and the melody with my fingers took a while to learn too) Ron G

  7. #7
    Senior Member xkvator's Avatar
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    KEVIN
    as Steve said, don't use the convex mirrors except for a quick glance - use the hand on the bottom of the steering wheel method...and don't let the trailer get too far one way or the other...anticipate.

  8. #8
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    The hand on the bottom of the steering wheel seems to be helping. I havn't added convex mirrors yet but will do so as soon as I get to my buddies junk yard and rob some from his storage buses. As Ron said the worst part of it is the frustration factor. Old dogs don't learn new tricks very well.
    Kevin

  9. #9
    Administrator digger242j's Avatar
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    If you want a real challenge, try backing something that's both short and narrower than the truck, like an air compressor. It'll get 30 degrees one way or the other before you can even see that it's turning.

  10. #10
    Senior Member CascadeScaper's Avatar
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    Man you guys hauling equipment trailers all day have it easy. Most are at least 2 axles on the trailer if not 3 with at least 8 tires. I got my start 3 years ago when I turned 16 towing my mowers around on my 10X6 single axle trailer. I still use this trailer for my maintenance route and after 3 years of practice I can put that trailer, let alone any of the 5 bigger trailers we have, anywhere they need to be. It all takes practice.
    Pin it to win it

  11. #11
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    Backing these trailers up really isn't the problem. The biggest problem is that once the trailer starts turning, particularly to the passenger side, you can't see the back of the trailer from the dump truck. That, compounded with the length of the truck and trailer, and the large amount of room needed to correct yourself makes it very difficult to back into tight spaces. The convex mirrors do help, but when the back of the trailer is 30 or more feet away it is almost impossible to judge how close you really are to something. The best way to get into a tight spot is to have a ground guide in front of you that can direct you. Try to keep the guide in front of you so that you can easily see them. I'm convinced that it's everyones natural tendancy to want to guide you from the back of the trailer-where you can't see, or hear, them! It's very easy to damage vehicles and structures, not to mention getting stuck, when backing these rigs up. If help is available, I'm never to proud to ask. If it's not available, and I can't really see where I'm backing, I'll get out of the truck and look as many times as it takes to back it in.

  12. #12
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    Compressors and Wood Chippers present a problem. We added plow guides to the wood chipper that stick out and let you see where it is. Makes backing it much easier.
    Jesse Fry
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  13. #13
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    If I can't figure out this backing up with mirrors thing I'll just weld a trailer hitch on the front bumper and tow it backwards to where I want to go and then drive forward to back up the trailer. If you see a truck going backwards down I95 towing an excavator off the front bumper you'll know who it is guys.

    Kevin

  14. #14
    Administrator digger242j's Avatar
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    Well, if you're going to go to that much trouble, why not weld the hitch to the blade on the excavator? Then you could put the truck on the trailer and tow it to the jobsite. When it was time to back up, you could just spin around so you were looking forwards at the truck and trailer behind you, and you wouldn't need the mirrors at all...

  15. #15
    Charter Member RonG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    If I can't figure out this backing up with mirrors thing I'll just weld a trailer hitch on the front bumper and tow it backwards to where I want to go and then drive forward to back up the trailer. If you see a truck going backwards down I95 towing an excavator off the front bumper you'll know who it is guys.

    Kevin
    Kevin,back in the '50's there was a doctor over in Sullivan that did just that!
    He had a nice new Jeep with a trailer ball welded to the front bumper.
    I was young and poor at the time and I marveled at what money could buy.
    Now I am old and poor and I am marveled at what money can buy.) Ron

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