Why Do Travel Trailers Sway?

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Several of the most common causes of travel trailer sway include:

  • Strong winds to moderately strong winds
  • Suddenly braking
  • Road conditions such as ice
  • Driving maneuvers, evasive or quick
  • Inadvertently driving off the shoulder
  • Tractor trailer / semi-truck “bow wave”

Travel trailer sway is the leading cause of accidents for RV owners. It is also one of the reasons travel trailer enthusiast give up after one or two seasons and place their camper up for sale.

Most accidents occur when you have multiple factors acting on your RV at the same time. For example, you are driving on an icy road and encounter very strong crosswinds. Even the most experienced drivers will have a tough time controlling these conditions.

Here is what travel trailer swaying look like. (Swaying start at about 48 seconds into the video)

Are the factors that can cause a travel trailer to sway be controlled?

The answer is yes, in most cases. A driver can counter the effects of any of the above and regain control of his camper. However one of the best ways to control trailer sway is to avoid it in the first place. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following tips when towing.

  • Drive at moderate speeds. Trailer sway is more likely to occur as your speed increases.
  • Avoid any sudden driving maneuvers such as sudden stops and start. This can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
  • Avoid sudden steering maneuver that might create sway.
  • Slow down when driving over uneven roads, railroad crossing, etc.
  • When passing larger vehicle ease up on the gas to slow down and keep a firm grip on your steering wheel.
  • Be sure to check the tire pressure on the trailer and tow vehicle.
  • Load your travel trailer correctly so that weight distribution is balanced. To much weight in the front or rear will cause sway or tire blowout.

Solutions To Control Or Avoid Travel Trailer Sway

There several manufactured solution to help avoid, minimize and/or control sway on your camper. Let’s take a look at two of the most effective.

Anti Sway Bar

An anti-sway bar creates stability by using the weight of your RV. The bars are installed to the frame and chassis of the camper. By bracing the weight of the vehicle axle on the chassis an anti-sway bar reduces the side-to-side motion of the RV.

The bars also help with steering around curves giving the RV more maneuverability. This is especially true when passing. One added benefit of an anti-sway bar is the reduction in sway helps keep the structural integrity of your travel trailer intact. Too much sway will compromise the vehicle structure which may result in leaks.

There are several kinds of anti-sway bars and the type you use depends on your type of RV. A 5th wheel will use a different type than a motor home.

This Reese Anti-Sway bar is suitable for small campers. Click image for more details.

Weight Distribution Hitch

A weight distribution hitch has the anti-sway bar attached to it. They prevent swaying by transferring the travel trailers weight to the rear of the trailer and its rear axle. They typically use a spring system to distribute the weight of the camper and reduce sway.

Below is the Eaz-Lift weight distribution hitch. You can click on the image for more details.

Curt Weight Distribution Hitch – Click image for more details.

Weight Distribution Hitch Setup Explained

Summary

Travel trailer sway is going to happen to you at one point or another. To help reduce sway practice safe driving and loading of your camper. For additional safety and sway control install an anti-sway bar or weight distributing hitch.