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How to Prevent Trailer Sway When Towing

How to Prevent Trailer Sway When Towing

One of the most common problems associated with travel trailers is trailer sway.

Towing a travel trailer can be the cause of many white-knuckled drivers, especially if the camper starts swinging back and forth on the road.

Today, we’ll talk about ways to prevent trailer sway and what to do if your trailer does start the highway mambo.

Let’s take a closer look!

Eliminate Trailer Sway With These Tips

Trailer sway is one challenge you don’t want to face. And you don’t have to.

Eliminate trailer sway with these seven tips and feel confident that you can safely travel down the road.

Evenly Distribute the Weight

One easy, no-cost tip is to distribute the weight evenly. Why does this help?

When you have an equal amount of weight throughout your travel trailer, the RV rides more smoothly.

If you have too much weight on the tail end, it can sway from side to side and pull your tow vehicle. But if you have too much weight toward the tongue, you can stress the tow vehicle’s rear axle.

So you want to evenly distribute the weight on all axles of both the trailer and tow vehicle.

Pack Your Trailer Properly 

If you realize one end or side of your travel trailer is overloaded, move some things around for travel days. Shift where you store heavier items.

You don’t want the left or right side of your trailer to be overpacked and cause added stress to that side of the axle.

Trailer sway will be harder to correct when your trailer is improperly packed.

Never Exceed the GVWR

The biggest tip to eliminate sway is never to exceed the GVWR. You must know the cargo capacity of your travel trailer and the tow and payload capacity of your tow vehicle. The GVWR is your RV’s gross vehicle weight rating, which means the total loaded capacity with all cargo.

If your GVWR is 9,500 pounds and you weigh at a CAT scale and discover your trailer weight is 9,800 pounds, you need to figure out how to get rid of 300 pounds.

This puts too much stress on the frame of the travel trailer, which can result in irreversible damage. 

If you experience sway with an overloaded trailer, the trailer may have a difficult time correcting itself. Plus, you’re putting a lot of stress on the tow vehicle to correct an overloaded trailer.

Pro Tip: Here’s an easy breakdown of all the confusing towing terms.

Maintain Proper Towing Speeds

Many seasoned RVers will claim that driving slower means better gas mileage.

But driving slower also means driving safer. You should stay in the right lane traveling down the interstate.

Usually, 60 mph is the safest speed when towing.

Driving faster increases the wind friction, and when driving in windy conditions, you want to reduce wind friction as much as possible to eliminate trailer sway.

Use a Weight Distribution Hitch

A weight distribution hitch helps correct sag and sway, thus improving the drive. These hitches ensure a safer, smoother ride. First, it keeps your tow vehicle and travel trailer level. If the back of the truck is sagging, that means you have too much weight on the rear axle.

This can reduce your steering control and braking power.

Second, it also evenly distributes the weight, so you don’t stress the tow vehicle.

The weight distribution hitch doesn’t increase towing capacity, but it does even out the weight and allows you to tow the maximum capacity of the hitch.

Pro Tip: Here’s one of the most popular weight distribution hitches among RVers.

Use Sway Bars

Sway bars go on both sides of the hitch. Whenever a trailer starts to sway, these bars act like dampers and reduce fishtailing.

When driving in windy conditions or when an 18-wheeler passes you on the interstate, the sway bar will provide stability when the trailer starts to sway from side to side.

The tow vehicle will keep moving forward, and the trailer will remain level.

Avoid Sudden Maneuvers While Traveling at Highway Speeds

This tip goes for traveling in any vehicle but especially when towing a travel trailer. Any sudden movements like swerving to miss a pothole or slamming on the brakes to avoid a deer could be disastrous.

When towing, any sudden movements put added stress on both the tow vehicle and trailer. A sudden turn to the right or left on the interstate can cause you to flip over or sway into another lane.

This is why maintaining a safe, slower speed is so important. You have more time to slow down if needed.

What to Do If Your Trailer Starts to Sway

If your trailer starts to sway, there are some tips to keep your vehicle on the road and in your lane. It will take discipline to follow these because some will seem counterintuitive.

But they’re vitally important to getting your tow vehicle and trailer under control.

Immediately Let Off the Gas — But Don’t Press the Brakes

One of the hardest tips is don’t press the brakes. Your first reaction might be to slam on the brakes because you’re startled and want to slow down.

However, immediately let off the gas and let the vehicle correct itself without braking.

If you have trailer brakes, you can apply them gently once you’ve slowed down.

Keep Your Steering Wheel Straight

Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, and don’t turn right or left. Don’t try to overcorrect.

This will accelerate the swaying and make it worse. Instead, keep your steering wheel straight as you slow down.

Don’t Try to Overcorrect the Sway

This goes along with the previous tip. Keep your steering wheel straight, and don’t try to overcorrect. You’ll often want to steer the vehicle in the opposite direction to correct the sway, but this could actually cause you to flip over.

Even a small jerk in the opposite direction can have dire consequences when pulling a travel trailer.

Allow Your Vehicle to Slow Down on Its Own

Going along with the first tip, don’t apply the brakes. Instead, allow the vehicle to slow down on its own. Applying the brakes can cause the trailer to fishtail even more.

Let your foot off the gas and allow the trailer to correct and slow down without any help from you.

After Sway Stops, Maintain Lower Speeds

You may want to pull off to the side once the sway stops. You may feel exhausted and worked up after experiencing severe trailer sway. If you don’t need to pull over, maintain lower speeds.

The slower you drive, especially in windy conditions, the safer your vehicle will be. Even if you’re hours from your destination, don’t drive faster.

Take your time and drive slower.

Check Cargo for Shifting If Necessary

Once you correct the sway, you can find a safe location to pull over. Check the cargo inside and make sure any tie straps haven’t loosened. If the cargo has shifted, you’ll want to reposition it to distribute the weight evenly.

Tighten any straps, check any cargo trays or bike racks, and do an overall walk-around to make sure everything appears to be OK.

Trailer Sway Can Be Dangerous; Avoid It With These Tips

Trailer sway is one of the biggest fears of RVers. White knuckle driving is stressful and makes travel days exhausting. Avoid trailer sway by following these tips.

You’ll drive more confidently, you’ll protect yourself and your belongings, and you’ll protect other drivers traveling near you.

Have you experienced trailer sway before?

If not, is this one of your biggest fears?

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