When backing a small, empty boat trailer down a steep boat launch:

As a novice, I often can't see the trailer in my mirrors, even when the truck tailgate is down. Not being able to see the trailer makes it difficult to keep the trailer straight and avoid obstacles.

Is there something I can do to make the trailer more visible?

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  • 6
    Some general advice... If you can't see the trailer it means you've kept it straight :) If you start to see the trailer in a mirror then turn the wheel toward the mirror that you see it. Pick a spot to backup where you have a clear path to the water and then you won't have obstacles to worry about. When I had to backup mini-buses with raft trailers that was my basic strategy.
    – noah
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 18:37
  • 2
    why do you need a truck to pull a small boat like this? Can't you just use a car? Or even carry it down by hand?
    – njzk2
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 20:35
  • Mount a tow-ball on the front bumper ? People who run caravan (trailer) sites usually have one on each front corner. It gives much more precise control. Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 8:22
  • Not on the bumper @Paul_Pedant. Bumpers are flimsy plastic. It needs a bracket to something solid, such as where the towing eye goes.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 8:35
  • 1
    Are you alone? If not, have someone get out of the car and show you the directions with hand signals.
    – Manziel
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 8:29

3 Answers 3


A common solution for this with small boat trailers is uprights attached to or in line with the wheel fenders. These serve the added benefit that when the bunks are underwater there's a guide to the rear of the centerline of the trailer which is easier to see from the boat.

Preview image from YouTube video "Boat Trailer Guides - Easy Cheap DIY Homemade Guides!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzR0n_f22rk

  • 3
    I've also seen this done inexpensively using bicycle safety flags. Not sturdy enough to keep in place while driving at road speeds, but they won't damage anything if your boat bumps them, you hit an overhang, etc.
    – bta
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 17:20

I'm pretty sure a reversing camera mounted high on the truck cab would be a great help. In my van I've fitted a cheap one from ebay, wireless transmission, screen and camera powered off the reversing light cable. While not as good as a modern built-in camera, it's much more customisable.

Even a parking lens stuck to the rear window of the cab would be good, though the far end of the trailer would get rather distorted.

This could be in addition to the other options, but a couple of vertical visible markers on the mudguard mounts would be really helpful. Lengths of PVC pipe would do nicely, perhaps with the top wrapped in brightly coloured tape. You should be able to find/make suitable brackets to mount them somewhere


I initially ordered some Boat Trailer Guide On Poles that would be bolted to the frame of the trailer:

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But then I realized that they'd be in the way when installed on the trailer frame. I use the trailer frame as a step when getting into the boat when it's on the trailer (to work on the boat when it's in my backyard). The guides would have made stepping on the frame awkward.

So, instead of installing permanent guide poles on the trailer frame, I made some removable poles that attach to the fenders. Removable poles work well for me since I only need them on occasion. (I only install them when using a specific boat launch; I don't leave them installed when driving.)

The poles don't get in the way when using the trailer frame as a step -- not even when installed.

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I drilled a drainage hole in the fender in the middle of the mounting bracket (galvanized floor flange), since water was collecting in the threaded part of the bracket which was rusting out the bracket threads.

I used standard galvanized pipe and black pipe from the hardware store. And I used fibreglass stakes from Princess Auto (no longer available).

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