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Backing up a jet ski trailer is one of the trickiest parts of launching a jet ski, especially if you don’t have experience towing trailers.
If you are a beginner, it could be very stressful especially if the ramp is crowded, which means you may have a huge audience waiting for their turn!
Beyond the embarrassment of the onlookers, doing it wrong can damage the trailer, your car, or even other’s property. Because of this it’s imperative that you learn how to back up your jet ski trailer property.
We, at JetDrift, have gathered some basic tips on how to back up your trailer like a pro!
How to Back Up a Jet Ski Trailer
To back up a jet ski trailer properly, you have to practice first. You have to move the trailer very slowly with tiny steering movements while you watch the mirrors continuously.
Keep in mind that if you turn right, your trailer goes left. Finally, the trailer’s back will move in the opposite direction of your car.
Is it that simple? The answer is yes and no, as the devil is always in the details! If you are looking for more tips on how to back up your trailer more easily, don’t hesitate to read more!
You can save yourself a lot of frustration by practicing first in an empty parking lot.
You can set up different objects like empty milk jugs or soft drink bottles to help you practice. Arrange them in two rows to look like the edges of the ramp. In case of a mistake you will lose just an empty bottle!
Also note that backing up a jet ski trailer on a ramp is not the same as doing it on a flat surface.
Because of this, you may want to practice some on boat ramps on the weekdays when the ramps are much quieter.
We also recommended you find a wide boat ramp without concrete dividers because practicing on a huge empty ramp is much easier, as you don’t have to be afraid of bumping into the dividers or other vehicles.
You can find the closest boat ramps in your area here!
Have a Plan
Once you have some experience with your trailer, make sure you have a plan before heading to the water.
No two ramps are the same, so it’s wise to check it out carefully while you are waiting for your turn. This can help you to create your plan on how to back up your trailer on the ramp, which gives you significant self-confidence.
If you launch your jet ski on the same ramp regularly, it’s recommended that you practice on this ramp on the weekdays to learn how to maneuver properly and safely.
Back Up Your Jet Ski Trailer Slowly
When it comes to backing up a jet ski trailer the most important thing is to always move very slowly, as unreasonable haste may end in accidents and damages.
Additionally, you should be willing to drive your car forward anytime when your trailer needs alignment.
Put the Car in Neutral on the Ramp
Contrary to popular belief, you have to put your car in neutral while backing up a jet ski trailer on the ramp. It’s because in this case you can let the momentum “pull your trailer down” to the water instead of pushing it.
It’s considered to be one of the best practices to avoid jackknifing on the ramp.
It also has to be mentioned that although this works best on the ramps at low speeds, it’s not recommended that you switch into neutral while towing your trailer on highways and roads.
Beyond the speed, the other key point of the process is proper steering. The most important thing is to do very little movement with the steering wheel and back up the car slowly, even if it takes time.
Backing up a jet ski trailer could be tricky as when your car turns right, your trailer goes left, which means your trailer will go in the opposite direction of the car. It could be confusing, especially for beginners!
The best practice is to keep one hand at the bottom center (6 o’clock position) of the steering wheel, while the steering must be aligned to the center. Then, you just have to move your hand on the steering wheel in the direction of where you want the trailer’s back to go.
If you want your trailer to turn to the left, you have to move your hand to the left. But if the trailer turns left too much, move your hand to the right to bring it back.
If you want to do a 90-degree turn, you have to cut the trailer first, then cut back hard to straighten the trailer out or to follow it. The key is always to operate slowly and carefully, not to oversteer as that may end in jackknifing the jet ski trailer!
Jackknifing is probably the biggest concern of many beginners as it can damage the trailer and the car itself. Unfortunately, short jet ski trailers are prone to jackknifing mush easier compared to longer boat trailers.
Using the Mirrors
Once you get some practice you should find that the mirrors are plenty big enough to back up a jet ski trailer.
Especially if you are a beginner it’s not recommended to turn right around to check the trailer through the rear window of the vehicle, as switching between the two different views may easily confuse you.
Moreover, it may end in you pressing the wrong pedal with your feet, which may cause an accident on a boat ramp! But if you stop the trailer you can cheat a little of course, but make sure that the trailer doesn’t move when you turn back to check it.
In general, the best practice is to use the mirrors to back up the trailer, primarily the side mirrors if your trailer is wider. But if your trailer is slim, using solely the side mirrors may not work as when your trailer appears in these mirrors it’s usually almost too late!
Another common beginner’s trick is to find the center point on your jet ski in the rear-view mirror. Then you just have to keep this point in the center of the mirror while making small steering adjustments.
Ho to Back Up an Empty Jet Ski Trailer
It may surprise you, but it’s much more difficult to buck up a jet ski trailer when it’s empty.
It’s because jet ski trailers are generally small so you can’t see them, just the ski itself when it sits on the trailer. Finally, it always depends on the car’s design and the trailer’s dimensions.
Because of this, it’s highly recommended to get some practice backing up an empty jet ski trailer, as it could be a different experience! Beyond practicing, here are some tips on how you can handle an empty trailer easier:
Get a Helper
It is best if you have a skillful helper who can help you with hand signals. A spotter’s instructions come in handy especially in tighter places, but if you’re backing up on a wide ramp, it’s better if the spotter only warns you before you bump into something.
It’s because even if a spotter can be a great help, they also can confuse you with too many signals, especially if he/she has no experience trailering.
Open the Rear Door or Gate
With larger SUVs and trucks it’s usually hard to see an empty trailer. That’s why many owners open the rear door or put the tailgate down while backing up their trailers.
If you can’t see your empty trailer at all in your side mirrors, you can consider opening the rear door/hatch/window to see it.
Trailer Corner Markers
If you can’t see your jet ski trailer in the mirrors, a pair of flag poles may come in handy. These are probably the best and most commonly used items by many jet ski owners.
These devices are simple metal/fiberglass poles mounted to the trailer, which makes it much easier to see where your trailer is going. The best practice is to attach one pole to each rear corner of your trailer.
You can even add foam balls to the top for better visibility, but you also can’t go wrong with a pair of bicycle flag poles.
You can find some models off the self with magnetic straps, but they won’t work on aluminum trailers.
A common solution is to strap a pair of brackets (pole holders) to the trailer, so you can just slip the poles into them when needed.
It’s also good to know that these poles can be mounted vertically or horizontally, based on your needs. If you want to widen your jet ski trailer, just strap the markers horizontally.
Please note that it’s not recommended that you tow the trailer on the road with these poles, as they are just for backing up.
You can also find telescopic poles on the market, which are easier to store in your car when they are out of use.
TowGo is a new device designed for assist in backing up trailers. TowGo features two main parts, the steering wheel sensor as well as a hitch sensor. After installing TowGo, you can check your trailer’s position easily with an app on your smartphone.
It seems that this device is the 21st-century version of the corner markers!
Consider a Backup Camera
If you are still not confident about backing up a jet ski trailer, you can consider a backup camera. It can be a great help if you can’t see your trailer at all from your car. What’s more, you can keep your eye on your trailer when you are on the road!
Put the Hitch Out Front
If you have a truck you also can consider putting the hitch on the front.
Although it’s not a common solution, if you want to launch your jet ski on a narrow ramp, you may find it much easier to move the trailer if the hitch is on the front!
Let’s face it, backing up a jet ski trailer is not easy, especially if you can’t see the trailer at all. If you have difficulties and feel you need help and some professional advice, don’t be shy about visiting a driving school. Their professionals can teach you the basics under safe conditions!
How to Back Up a Double Jet Ski Trailer
Surprisingly, bucking up a double jet ski trailer is much easier compared to single trailers. It’s because these trailers are much wider, thus they are less prone to jackknifing and are much more visible in the mirrors. As a rule of thumb you can back up double trailers in the same way as single trailers.
On the other hand, if the ramp is narrow or you have to maneuver in a tight space, it could be much trickier with a double trailer, so be careful!
If You Don’t Want to Back Up Your Jet Ski
What if you want to ride a jet ski but don’t want to bother with trailering and launching? The first solution is to simply rent a jet ski from a rental shop, which could be financially advantageous if you rarely want to ride.
If you are determined to own a jet ski, you can still keep it in on a marina, where the staff can launch your jet ski with a huge forklift (or other special devices).
The other solution is to keep your jet ski on a floating dock of a jet ski lift, which is considered the most convenient way to launch a jet ski.
No trailering, no waiting for the ramps, no bigger car or truck needed. That’s why these solutions are so popular!
If you want to back up a jet ski trailer like a pro, you just have to follow these simple steps:
- Get some practice first
- Always have a plan
- Move the trailer slowly
- Shift into neutral on the ramp
- Learn how to steer: when the car turns right, the trailer goes left
- Steer with tiny movements to avoid jackknifing
- Use the mirrors primarily
- Consider some accessories like corner makers
- Ask a skilled spotter for help
Also, keep in mind that backing up the jet ski trailer could be more difficult when you retrieve your jet ski, as you probably can’t see the trailer once it’s empty.
Beyond the trailering, don’t forget to detach the trailer lights and install your drain plugs before heading to the ramp.
These steps are the part of the pre-ride check, what you have to do before you launch your ski!
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