How to Safely Backup a Pickup Truck (Or a Full-Size SUV)

Considering getting a pickup truck or large SUV and concerned about driving in reverse to back up into a tight parking spot? How about with a trailer in tow? Scary stuff indeed. Here's a few tips that will help you safely backup a truck.

Are you considering getting a pickup or another large vehicle but you're concerned about driving in reverse to backup?

You're not the only one.

Backing up a pickup truck is similar to backing up a regular car - only the vehicle is larger. These days, the easiest way to back up a pickup truck or any other large vehicle is to use "Park Assist" type systems and let your truck park itself. If that's not available - start by getting help from someone until you get a better sense of your truck's size. 

Many people are worried when it comes to moving these huge vehicles in reverse into a tight (or even not so tight) parking space. And if you plan on towing an RV or other trailer, this gets even more complicated. In fact, even experienced RV owners prefer pull-through sites in campgrounds simply because you can get into them without having to back up your truck and RV.

Clearly, pull-through sites aren't always available, and if you're considering driving a larger vehicle and towing a rig, this post may just put your mind at ease. Why? Because there are solutions to the problem of backing up a large vehicle and we're going to discuss them here.

We're going to talk about:

  • Technological solutions like rearview cameras and self-parking systems.
  • Old-fashioned tips for backing up a large vehicle without cameras.

The Challenges of Backing up a Large Vehicle

Whether down a driveway or into a parking space, backing up your vehicle is inevitable. Doing so in a car can be challenging when you’re first learning to drive.

Eventually, it becomes second nature.

If you own a pickup truck or full-size SUV, though, it’s almost like learning to drive all over again. The behemoth size of these vehicles means you’re going to have to take your time and adjust to that bulk the first few times you attempt to back up.  

Accidents happen all the time when doing so. In the United States, 500,000 accidents of this nature will occur annually, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration  (NHTSA). Although that NHTSA data didn’t differentiate which types of vehicles caused the most accidents when backing up, the danger is there anytime.

So why is it so challenging to back up a large vehicle?

Simply put, the sheer size of the vehicle can prove problematic. For instance, pickup trucks have a bed behind them. If you’ve never driven a truck before, it can be tough to adjust to this change. You have to back up in such a way that doesn't swing the rear of the truck wildly and risking a collision with other motorists.

Another challenge is that bigger vehicles often have unique blind spots. It’s hard to see the entirety of your pickup truck and full-size SUV even if you use your rear and side mirrors. With those blind spots, someone else can hit you without you being aware.

Systems That Can Help You Backing Up A Pickup Truck

Today, many motor vehicle manufacturers anticipate the needs of drivers in pickup trucks and full-size SUVs. These manufacturers understand that backing up and maneuvering can be tough in such large vehicles. That’s why they’ve made solutions for a safer driving experience. From cameras to self-parking systems, you’ll have everything you need. In addition, vehicle manufacturers are now required to outfit every new vehicle with a backup camera.

If you happen to have an older truck or SUV that's not equipped with this feature, you can always buy them on the aftermarket.

Rearview Cameras

Rearview cameras are installed near your truck or SUV’s rearview mirror. They can accommodate for blind spots and help you park and back up. Most of these cameras help out with drawing little lines that show you where the vehicle will go, based on the position of your steering wheel. They're amazingly handy and if you own a new vehicle - even a sedan - then you probably have one and understand the benefit.

If you're buying a new truck (2018 or later) it will come equipped with a backup camera.

What if you buy a used truck?

Some older models might have built-in cameras, but others won't. But that's not really a problem. You can buy your backup camera kit and install it. It's not even that expensive, so get the truck you want and if needs be, add the backup camera.

These kits usually include a camera that attaches to your vehicle via a four-pin cable system. There’s also a two-channel video input with connectors included. What's more, these systems often offer "blind spot" monitoring which is another great reason to install them. 

Self-Parking Systems

Self-driving cars are all the rage, but there is still a lot of concern among drivers and the general public. After all, accidents have happened, some of them fatal, so we're not there just yet.

Except when it comes to parking.

While most vehicles can't quite drive themselves yet, many new models can in fact self-park. 

Self-parking is almost miraculous, but it does work.  There’s no stress about not being completely straight in the spot the first time. There’s also no need to worry about being between the white lines, as the technology takes care of it for you and yes, it can easily cope with parallel parking too - 

And the great news is that it's available in large SUVs and trucks too! The system can actually locate a parking spot that's spacious enough for it and then steer you into place.

Because you're still legally the driver, the truck will not "really" drive itself. Instead, you, the driver, will push the gas and brakes. The vehicle will steer and tell you when to do what. Here's a great video that shows what this looks like from inside a Ford F-150.

Using a Second Set of Eyes

If you’re lacking any of the high-tech equipment that makes parking a pickup truck or SUV so easy, you still have options. Worst case scenario, you can rely on a second set of eyes in the form of your passenger. Said passenger will have to get out of the vehicle and position themselves beside the parking space. It’s important that they’re not close enough to your truck or SUV where they could be accidentally hit.

Then, just let them guide you into the spot. You might want to roll down your front windows so you can communicate clearly. Once you’re in the spot, it should be much easier to get out. If you need more help, though, just ask your buddy.

Don't be shy about getting someone to help you park a large pickup truck or SUV. It's better to get help than get a dent in your precious new truck.

How to Back up While Towing

If you thought backing up a pickup truck with a long bed was a challenge, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

If you’re towing a trailer in your truck or full-sized SUV, it’s going to be tough. Like we said, even experienced RV drivers prefer a pull-through site in a camp just to avoid the hassle of backing up a large vehicle AND a trailer. 

Here's the kicker:

You can actually end up jackknifing the entire setup! Which basically means your truck will be almost in the opposite direction to your trailer - while still hitched up!

So, yeah, it can go wrong. But it doesn't have to.

Here, you also have technology on your side. Believe it or not, there are self-parking systems that know how to back up a truck with whatever that truck is towing! Well, almost.

Take a look at how this looks with the new F-150 Pro Trailer Backing Up system -

You still have to steer but you can just follow the system's guidance, making life so much easier!

No advanced systems? You can still get your own backup camera and install one on the back of your trailer. Just make sure you pick a model that has a good transmission range so that you can get the signal inside the truck cab.

Backing up a trailer - without the tech

Drivers have backed up trailers and RV's for decades without rearview cameras and park assist. Clearly, it's doable.

As with most of these things, the more you practice the easier it becomes. Whenever you rent an RV, one of the first things they're going to tell you is to get help from another person when backing up, so do that.

Here are some additional tips to get you started and keep you safe:

  • Watch your hand placement. You want the steering wheel to move with the rear of the trailer. This way, the trailer will angle out with your truck or SUV rather than jackknifing away from it.
  • If you run into a situation where you are jackknifing, then straighten the vehicle by driving ahead slowly. Don’t continue to back up and worsen the problem.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a buddy if you’re stuck and frustrated. Due to the sheer size of most trailer setups, you can bust out the walkie-talkies again.
  • When parking, swoop into place. This means you go forward rather than back into a space. Your driving angle must be acute. Now, swoop your setup out as you get close to the parking spot. The trailer’s rear should sit beyond the intended space. This is okay and actually preferable. Now, moving your hands clockwise on the steering wheel, you can back into the parking space.
  • Another tip to consider is hand placement. When your hands are at the top of the steering wheel, the back of the trailer will move in the opposite direction that you turn the wheel. This gets confusing for even the seasoned pickup truck owners. To make things easier, simply move your hands to the bottom of the steering wheel. That way, the trailer will move in whichever direction your hands move.

The main thing here is safety, especially that of people. Just be aware of blind spots and of the sheer size of the vehicles your moving and get help if needed.

And if you have more experience with backing up trucks and other large vehicles - with or without a trailer - leave us a comment below!

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