Some people have little problem backing up to their horse trailers, dropping the tongue on the ball and taking off for a show, event or trail ride. Then there are the rest of us. We back up, get out and look, pull forward, move over three inches, back up again, get out and look. . . .
We looked at ways to make hitching up alone easier and found there are some tricks to learning how to back up straight. And there are some silent assistants available that can help make hitching up a trailer a one-person job.
The main problem we encounter when backing up to a trailer is that everything is done in reverse: you're driving backward, you're seeing everything inverted in the side- or rear-view mirror. Factor in that you can't see the hitch or trailer tongue from the driver's seat and it's a challenge trying to match up a two-inch ball with a two-inch coupler.
We used experienced and inexperienced trailer drivers to find out what you need to know and what can help you get hitched up without being there all day to do it—and without bashing up the license plate on your truck in the process. Here's what we found:
The straighter you can back your truck to your trailer the faster the final hitching up will be. (Don't try to hitch up from an angle.)
It can help to put some kind of mark in the center of your truck's tailgate (or inside the rear window of your SUV) right above the hitch. Put another mark high up on the front of the trailer (so you can see it in the rearview mirror) right above the trailer's tongue. But because you can't see the hitch, the final coupling is no an easy trick. This is where hitching aids can help.
We looked at three styles of hitching aids designed to guide you to that final hookup.
HITCHING RODS. These are 2- to 3-foot tall rods with magnets on the base, usually sold in pairs. You set one on the ball, or near it, and one on the trailer tongue. Line up the two in your rearview mirror and when they meet, you're ready to hitch up.
We tried two styles: adjustable rods (Align-Quik) and rigid, one-piece Hitchin' Rods (Qworks.) Both worked, but we found the simpler design of the Hitchin' Rods, with nothing to adjust, easier to use. Most of our testers hit the mark every time with them. The Align-Quik rods were good, but required adjusting both the angle of the magnet and the height of the rods.