Look Mom, No Hands… and the boat’s in the water!
Well, no hands if you have the new 2016 Ford F-150 Truck with Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Now this may not sound like a big deal to the average truck owner on the road who hauls items within their cargo bed, but to anyone who trails a boat, travel trailer (like me), or any type of trailer hook up, this is a big deal!
Have you ever been to a lake and watched boat owners launch their boats? Are they checking their mirrors at least 10 times, turning their heads 10 more, and asking a buddy or wife to get out and wave them in to gently get their boat in the water?
As a co-owner of a 14-foot vintage travel trailer, I know the feeling of trying to back into a spot and determining when and how to turn the wheel the opposite of the way you want to go. I’ve come early to a campsite to avoid backing in when the campground is full, and I’ll find any excuse to pull out straight. I have my partner in crime standing behind yelling “10 feet,” “5 feet,” and then, “stop!!! Stop or you’ll go over the cliff!”
This is why I was so excited when Ford said “come on down and test our new F-150 with Backup Assist.” Ford provided us with a boat, travel trailer and flatbed trailer for us to try out their new technology, and I couldn’t wait to get started. The concept seemed too revolutionary to believe, and yet I wondered what took Ford so long to get this feature going. It lets the driver steer the trailer instinctively while the truck takes care of the rest!
How it Works – While you are using the reverse camera to watch the trailer, the driver takes their hands off the steering wheel and simply turns the Pro Trailer Backup knob left or right to see the trailer. The truck steers itself, placing the trailer where you want it to go. The result; “less time to back up a trailer with improved confidence,” it even helps experienced trailer-towers back a trailer faster and with less profanity.
Now please understand there is more to it than just hopping in your truck, turning a few knobs and letting go of the wheel.
Before you put the truck in reverse, there are a few things you need to do. With the tow package, you will receive six checkerboard stickers. You only need one for each trailer but the F-150 can store up to ten trailers in its memory. The sticker needs to be placed on the front of the trailer where the ball hitch will connect so that it is visible from the rear-view camera. Next you need to type in some information so the F-150 knows what it’s pulling. The measurements needed are as follows:
- Distance from the truck’s license plate to the center hitch ball
- Distance from the center hitch ball to the front of the trailer
- Distance from the backup camera lens to the center of the sticker
- Distance from the tailgate to the center of the trailer’s axle
Some of the men who were at the event, those who owned boats or trailers, kept asking me if I thought it was easy to handle. Several have wanted their wives and girlfriends to take the wheel sometimes to back up or steer while they unhooked or did whatever they do I said “It is easy and they should try it.” Heck, I even did it in heels between hook up, measurements, driving and getting in and out.
I will be recommending it to the group that I belong to called “Sisters on the Fly”… this is a group of 6,000 women across the country who fly fish, herd cattle, and travel in vintage travel trailers usually hauled by trucks. Here is the Co-Founder and President, Maurie Sussman, in front of her Ford truck, wait till she finds out about the backup assist for the F-150, she may want to endorse it for the newest members in the group.
I think this is a big deal and worth spreading the word. It will likely add about $200 to the cost of the existing trailer tow package that costs $695. It certainly is very little to pay for peace of mind, fewer accidents, and no screaming at your significant other for turning the wheel the wrong way.