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Caravan Reversing and Parking Made Easy

For those who want to improve their reversing skills, there is an easy way to remember which way to turn.

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How to reverse a motorhome, caravan or camper trailer

So you've bought that new caravan / camper trailer and can't wait to hitch it up and get out there and enjoy the fishing, sightseeing and solitude that is on offer.  But wait !  You've just realised you're new to this and at some stage you are going to have to reverse your pride and joy in a public area.  Panic sets in.

Relax.  With practice and a few tips we'll have you reversing like a pro in no time.  Reversing your caravan can be very daunting for new owners.  Even some long term caravan owners find reversing difficult and embarrassing, particularly in caravan parks where there is an audience.  Fortunately this task becomes easier with practice and patience on both the part of the reverser, and the navigator/guider.  The main thing to remember is to take your time and concentrate only on the task at hand and the directions you are receiving from your navigator/guider. 

The simple rule of thumb is that steering works in the opposite way to normal, so if you want the outfit to go to the left, turn the steering wheel to the right ('right hand down').


Tip #1  It is always useful for both reverser and guide to settle on terminology before starting - know what will be meant when the guider tells you to move the van in a particular direction, or to straighten up, etc.  It doesn't matter which hand signal or direction you agree to use so long as you are both in agreement and understand each other.  Guiders also need to understand that changes in direction can't be instantaneous and must be planned as part of the process. This communication understanding before you start can mean the difference between an enjoyable holiday, or days of silence throwing needle sharp glares and monosyllable conversations.

Tip #2  The driver generally can't hear your shouted directions over the sound of the engine, so it is a good idea to purchase a single hand-held UHF (or if your tow vehicle isn't equipped with a console UHF unit, you could purchase two) and both turn to a channel not being used by the general caravanning public.  The whole park may be entertained by your colourful communications over the radio, but it could be embarrassing for you listening to it being relayed between fellow travellers later in the caravan park amenities block.

Tip #3  Many accidents happen when motorhomes, caravans or even campertrailers are being reversed.

  • Avoid unnecessary reversing.  Plan ahead to use the shortest possible reversing distance

  • Use your helper to guide you whenever possible.  You should be able to see the guider who should have a clear view of the backing path which your caravan, motorhome or campertrailer will follow.

  • If you are not sure what is behind you, get out and have a look.


Where should a guider stand when I am reversing ?

- only where they can see you clearly
- only where they can see where your vehicle is going
- only where they can see you and have a clear view of the backing path that your caravan / trailer will take

What else do I need to know to help reverse a caravan or trailer?

For those who want to improve their reversing skills, there is an easy way to remember which way to turn.

  1. Place your hands on the steering wheel at the very bottom.
  2. By moving the steering wheel to the right, the rear of the trailer will turn to the right.
  3. Move the steering wheel to the left and the rear of the trailer will turn to the left.

Usually the shorter the trailer, the more difficult it may be to reverse.

Tip #4  Remember to use your mirrors.  (Even if you see nothing else but your guider waving hand signals erratically).  You won't always be able to see through the back window of your reversing vehicle, so your mirrors will be your friend. 

Tip #5  You should both take some time and head for a quiet secondary road or car park and spend some time practising.  Set up some witches hats and both take turns in being guider, and reverser.  If nothing else you will each gain some appreciation for the difficulty of the other's role.

Tip #6  If your vehicle is a 4WD, engage low range when reversing or maneuvering your caravan, 5th wheeler or camper trailer as this prevents rapid movements and makes the whole process much smoother.  Note: Donít forget to disengage low range one you have completed the process.

So there you have it.  You'll be an expert in no time.  Take every opportunity to practice with your navigator / guider, and under no circumstances feel pressured by onlookers.  You be the envy of those looking on before you know it.

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