There’s more than one relationship that’s been strained before pulling out of the driveway, all thanks to the supposedly simple task of hooking up a trailer or caravan.

It should be a straightforward activity but it’s full of potential disaster — or at least frustration, angry words, black looks and uncomfortable silences.


While rear-view cameras can simplify the process of backing your four-wheel-drive straight to the coupling, the image can be distorted or affected by sun or dirt on the lens, or hampered by a bend or rise in the driveway. Your best ally is your camping partner providing clear directions.


Before starting, agree to a system of hand signals and ensure the person outside the vehicle is safely standing where the driver can see them in the reversing mirror/camera.


If you’re not familiar with your reversing buddy, you’re a towing newbie or it’s a particularly twisted manoeuvre; grab the handheld CB (or your phone) and give verbal directions that will definitely be heard.


Before starting to reverse, use the trailer’s jockey wheel to lift up the trailer A-frame to the point where the trailer coupling is higher than the vehicle tow hitch (for a ball coupling) or in line with the receiver (for a treg or trigg-style hitch).


Centre the vehicle in line with the trailer and reverse slowly back until your buddy confirms the tow ball is centralised under the coupling. Turn off the engine to avoid choking on exhaust fumes as you make all the connections. Ensure the vehicle is in park (or first gear for manual) with the handbrake applied.


With the relationship- endangering part completed, take your time to make sure the trailer is firmly connected. First, use the jockey wheel to lower the coupling over the tow ball. The coupling will have some kind of locking mechanism or pin that will need to be pulled out as you lower on to the tow ball. Once the coupling is seated in place, release the pin to secure the coupling.


Next connect the safety chains from the trailer to the vehicle. Cross the chains, so if the hitch and coupling part company on a rough track, the chains will cradle the coupling, preventing it from hitting the ground. Nip the shackle bolts tight with pliers to avoid them vibrating undone over corrugations. But don’t over-tighten; you need to be able to undo them at the destination.


Plug in the electrical connections for lights and brakes (if fitted to the trailer). Check the brakes are correctly activated on the trailer. Raise the jockey wheel and lock into place for travelling.


Pull the trailer forward a short distance and check trailer brakes (if fitted) are operating. Have your hook-up buddy confirm all lights, indicators and brake lights are working correctly on the vehicle and trailer.


Double check all connections remained firm after the initial pull forward, then it’s time to lock and load and hit the road with your towable home firmly attached.


Attending a professional towing course to learn tips and techniques for safe towing is money well spent. For more information you can visit the Get About Training website and ask about available WA courses.


© The West Australian

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