Lucinda Belden is the Program Director for MyRVRadio and a travel writer and advisor who has lived the RV lifestyle since 2019. She specializes in topics such as fulltime RVing, working full-time while traveling, traveling with toys, and unique location experiences.
Backing up a fifth wheel is nothing like backing up a trailer or Class A.
If you’re new to fifth wheel towing, this article is for you.
Read on to learn how to back in straight, back in left, back in right (also known as “blind side backing”), and other helpful fifth wheel backing up tips, too.
Why is Backing Up a Fifth Wheel So Challenging?
When you back up a fifth wheel, you turn your wheel in the direction you want to turn. This is like backing up other vehicles, but then it stops there.
For instance, it might make sense that if you have turned your wheels in the opposite direction you want to turn, then back up and straighten your truck wheels, your fifth wheel will go straight back. But that doesn’t happen. Why?
- Because your RV wheels are still in a turned position. Your wheels are not straight like your truck’s.
Some people recommend putting your hands at the bottom of the steering wheel and turning in the same direction as you want the rig to go – you can decide.
Don’t panic. Backing up a fifth wheel doesn’t have to lead to frustration. Here’s how to master common fifth wheel backup scenarios most RVers encounter when parking.
Three Fifth Wheel Backup Situations and How to Handle Them
If you are backing into a spot, you have a few options on how to make that happen. Let’s check those out:
Backing in Straight
The easiest thing to do if you aren’t very experienced is to choose a pull through site where you can drive straight in. And the next best thing to do if you have space, is to pull all the way forward so all your tires are aligned straight. Then gradually back in straight. However if your RV tires are turned, you will not be able to get the fifth wheel to go straight back. Pull forward and try again.
Being able to back up to the left is great if you have a partner traveling with you. It is easy to see them from your window and mirror. Just ask them to stand at the back left corner of the space you are backing into. Here are your fifth wheel backing up left steps to follow:
- Position a partner for extra eyes, if someone is available.
- If you do the hands on top of the steering wheel method, you will pull past the parking spot and turn your truck wheels all the way to the right.
- At this time, you will want your back tires a ‘certain distance’ from the top left corner of the site. I say a ‘certain distance’ because it matters how far your back axles are from the end of your rig. You may be a few feet; you may be ten feet. This you will have to determine with practice.
- Start backing up until your RV is in the jacked position. This is where your truck will look like it is at a wide ‘v’ to your RV. You will NOT be perpendicular to your RV. This will make you turn too far to the left, backing in.
- Now turn your steering wheel back towards the left (your camping spot) and continue to back in. If you have a partner, they can let you know if you are a little too far to the left or right for corrections.
- Use minor corrections to straighten out your RV tires so you can back in straight. This is when it might be easier to use the lower hold on the steering wheel. So, if you need to go a little more to the right, put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn a little to the right (and vice versa). Then slowly straighten the wheel as the fifth wheel corrects itself.
Backing Right (aka “Blind Side Backing”)
Naturally you will do all the above steps in an opposite manner. But if you have a spotter, you will not be able to see them like you can in a left hand back up. It is better in this scenario if you use walkie talkies. Just make sure your walkie talkies don’t have delays on them. It doesn’t work well when one partner is saying, “Stop, stop!” and you don’t hear them right away!
What If Fifth Wheel Backing Up Goes Wrong?
- If you are backing into the spot and you pull too far forward, you will jack early and turn too soon to get in your spot. If you don’t pull forward enough past your spot, you will overshoot your spot and jack too late. This step takes practice with your rig.
- Find the sweet spot of jacking your truck and RV. Once you get a feel for the position of your truck to your RV in the turn, you will be able to back in better. If you do go perpendicular, you be option is to pull ahead if you can and straighten your back wheels. If you can’t pull ahead, it is best to pull back perpendicular to your spot and try again.
- If you reach the end of the turn and can’t get your truck and RV straight together, turn the wheel opposite of its current position and pull forward a little which will help line them up.
More Fifth Wheel Back Up Tips
- Try not to overturn your truck wheels early.
- Remember, the fifth wheel does not straighten out as quickly as your truck.
- This whole process should be slow. Take your time so you can make small corrections.
The key thing to remember is backing up a fifth wheel takes practice. If you can find a wide-open area, it is a good idea to set up an obstacle course for backing in scenarios. Practice backing in until you feel you have some familiar connection points with your rig and your skills. Back in from many different angles and with different obstacle limitations.
You should use this information (or any resources), as a general reference to get you started. Your success depends on practice. It is especially important to practice again before each trip out if you do not RV regularly.