This week I had the chance to test out for myself, the new 2016 Ford F-150 Pro Trailer Backup Assist system which has gotten a lot of attention and color comments in the video we did on it last spring.
Basically, the overwhelming opinion of many of you that commented on our initial presentation on this was essentially, “If you can’t back up a trailer without that crap, you ain’t got no business driving a truck”.
Well, honestly I kind of agree with that sentiment, and am myself quite a damn good trailer backer upper. So, I went to a local demonstration for this new feature with a bit of an attitude and skepticism on how valuable it could really be.
So there I was in a nice new 2016 F-150 trying out this new system which uses the truck’s back-up camera and electric power steering along with a marker you place on the tongue of your trailer to assist the process.
With a knob on the dash, you simply watch your mirrors and the display on the dash and turn the knob in the direction you want the trailer to go. This is different than the standard way of doing it where you turn the steering wheel opposite.
First demo challenge was backing in a straight line. Seems easy enough, but no matter how good you are, you always need to correct and turn as you go. With the system, no wheel or knob turning is needed, it keeps you backing straight not matter what. This I actually kind of liked.
Backing a trailer on the other hand was another matter. My first attempt was the regular old fashioned way, in which I put my trailer right on target on the first try, impressing everyone who was there. I was proud.
The second pass was using the knob. Not as easy at first because it was counter-intuitive to how I had learned to do it. And because the knob turn doesn’t give equal steering inputs as the wheel is flailing back and forth, it takes some practice.
So, I actually found it harder in this case, but I think for people who aren’t already experts it might well be easier for them. And there is one key benefit here, the assist system will not let you jackknife the trailer.
Now, the only missing part of this toy, is a wireless back-up camera for the back of the trailer. You still have to watch your mirrors and judge how far back to go. It will still let you back your trailer right into what’s there, just more accurately.