Skip to main content

Ask anyone who’s ever backed up a trailer, and they’ll tell you the same thing: if you don’t have to, don’t. Backing up a truck with a trailer, even a small one, is a pain. But now, manufacturers are making new systems for their pickup trucks that can help anyone back up like a pro. Ford’s new Pro Trailer Backup Assist is an option on many big SUVs, the F-150 and Super Duty trucks, but how does it work?

How to back up a trailer

Ford Super Duty towing a trailer
A Ford Super Duty truck and trailer | Ford

Learning to back up with a trailer takes a lot of practice. You’re basically driving two vehicles at once, but only one can steer. Many of us simply tell ourselves, “turn right to go left,” when backing up, but then, if you turn too much, the trailer jackknifes, or you (ok, I) overcorrect, and have to pull forward. It’s even harder when the trailer is tall, or wide, and you can’t see around it.

Smaller trailers with only one axle are even harder to back up because they react so quickly. One of the tricks many of us use is the 6 O’clock method. Place one hand on the bottom of the wheel, and whichever way your hand goes, the trailer will go, according to Ford. But, then, throw all of that out if you’re on a hill, or any kind of incline.

How does Pro Trailer Backup Assist work?

Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob
Ford Pro Trailer Backup uses this knob, not the steering wheel, to steer a trailer. | Ford

Ford knows that even with a lot of practice, backing up a trailer can be a challenge. First, you add some measurements to the system, hook up your trailer, and then push the button. With a knob on the dash, you steer in the direction you want to go, and the truck does the rest, including steering, so that you can park your trailer exactly where you want with your F-150, Expedition, or Super Duty truck.

Once you connect your trailer, you name the trailer and add it to your truck’s onboard computer. Then, you select your trailer’s brake style and the braking force you want, like you would with a trailer brake controller. The system comes with a sticker that acts like a target for the cameras, and you measure some angles and the wheelbase, and input those into the truck. After a couple of confirmation messages from the truck, you’re good to go.

An additional Trailer Reverse Guidance system is available, but it requires you to add and connect sensors to your trailer. The camera in the center screen shows a top-down view of your trailer’s path. The truck’s camera will show you where you’re going. Ram trucks also offer a similar system.

What vehicles get Pro Trailer Backup Assist?

A trailer with a Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist sticker
The black-and-white sticker allows the system to “see” your trailer | Ford

The Pro Trailer Backup Assist system is an option on Ford’s Full-sized Expedition SUV, F-150 truck and Super Duty trucks. It’s part of the Ford Co-Pilot360 system, which is Ford’s hands-free driving technology. Co-Pilot offers a variety of features, including Ford Pro Telematics, for tracking fleet vehicles.


Towing Without a Hitch? Watch Toyota’s New Tractor Beam in Action in This Video