Tongue length and maneuverability

   / Tongue length and maneuverability #1  


Super Member
Mar 1, 2012
Coös, N.H.
Kioti LK3054xs
I have a 4x8 utility tilt trailer that was given to me a few years ago that I mostly use to haul a snowmobile. Does the job, but is the most miserable thing to back. Hard enough to make it go straight, turning is a major exercise in frustration. Goes kind of where it wants, is slow to respond and is very easy to jack knife.
It has a fairly long tongue (probably 4'). Would shortening it help, and if so what would be a recommended length?
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #2  
Shortening the tongue will make it worse to back up. That is the drawback of a short trailer, especially when attached to a long vehicle like a crew cab long bed pickup.

The only solution I know of is practice.
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #3  
My Dad has preached about the merit of long tongues since I was a child. I too have a 6X10 tandem dump trailer that I can't back up to save my life. Pretty short tongue. Worst trailer I ever had for backing up, yet others get in my truck and put it in place first try! Mirrors! Something about mirrors!
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #4  
The shorter the distance from the trailer's axles to the hitch, the faster it responds to steering input (you :D) backing up. Sort of like a short wheelbase vs a long wheelbase. The wheelbase being the (trailer) axle to hitch length.
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #5  
A short, narrow trailer that you can't see in your side mirror is going to be difficult. If the length of the trailer from the hitch to axle is at least similar to the wheelbase length of the tow vehicle it makes it easier as does being able to see it in your side mirrors.
   / Tongue length and maneuverability
  • Thread Starter
I have another trailer, 5x10 that I have no trouble backing (though I can't back worth squat using mirrors). Was just wondering if there was anything I could do to make this one back better.
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #7  
put some fiber glass bicycle poles with flags on the very back of the trailer so you can see it if it does have a gate that you can watch and try not to turn the steering wheel more than maybe the nine o'clock and three o'clock position and back very slow.
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #8  
the easiest thing to backup is a semi tractor trailer with a 50ft trailer. like others said, tow vehicle length vs trailer length makes a big difference. the longer the trailer and the shorter the tow vehicle, the better. Jon
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #9  
A shorter tongue will make it worse. If I can see it, I can back it. If I can't see it backing is extremely difficult if not impossible. I prefer to look out the back window instead of using the mirrors. In any case a pole at the back of the trailer solves the problem ( that's assuming you're not "that guy" on the boat ramp on the 4th of July).
   / Tongue length and maneuverability #10  
I've seen a number of dump truck trailers with an extendable tongue. They stop & presumably actuate some air or hydraulic brake or latch type something, then pull forward. Double walled tongue on the trailer gets pulled out roughly doubling the length. Once they do their business manuvering & dumping the load, they reverse the process. Some latch mecinism is released. They reverse until the tongue is fully collapsed. Re-latch things, then take off. Makes for a more compact unit on the road, but something manuvervable when required.