There’s nothing better than looking in your mirror and seeing the beauty of the landscapes behind you. On the other hand, looking in those same mirrors and seeing your RV swaying back and forth can be a nightmare for you and those driving behind you on the interstate.
Today we want to take a closer look at what might cause your RV to sway so much on the interstate and how you can help minimize it.
Let’s get started!
What Is RV Sway?
RV sway is exactly what its name implies. It’s when your RV sways back and forth on its own as you’re traveling down the highway – like a dog wagging its tail. It can cause some serious issues for you and other drivers while you’re traveling.
Ideally, you’ll be familiar with the idea of trailer sway, so you know how to respond when you experience it. Overreacting when you experience side-to-side motion can escalate the situation quickly.
What Causes RV Sway?
Trailer sway is often the result of improperly loading your RV. Putting too much weight in the rear increases the chances that you experience trailer sway. However, even a properly loaded trailer can still experience swaying.
Driving at excessive speeds or crosswinds can also cause a swaying motion. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather and your speed when towing.
Why Driving on the Interstate Increases RV Sway
RV sway often occurs the faster you’re driving. Interstates typically have some of the highest speed limits across the country. This is why you’re more likely to experience RV sway while on an interstate than on any other road. Combine the high rate of speed with the open road, and it’s the perfect storm to experience sway with your RV.
Just because the speed limit is over 70 mph doesn’t mean that you should be driving that fast. Most RVers will typically keep their maximum speed somewhere between 55 to 65 mph.
This helps reduce the chances of swaying and provides optimal fuel consumption.
How to Keep Your RV From Swaying
If you want to avoid experiencing RV sway while towing, there are some things you can do. Let’s take a look!
Distribute Weight Correctly
One of the best things to avoid sway in your RV is by distributing the weight correctly. You typically want to keep 60% of the weight in your RV in front of the front axles. This helps avoid the rear of the RV being too heavy, which often causes sway.
If you’re often experiencing swaying in your RV, you might look at what the distribution of weight is like in your RV.
If you are towing a toy hauler or using a bumper-mounted cargo rack, you might have too much weight behind the axles of your RV. Try moving some of the heavy objects into the rear of your tow vehicle in front of the axles. Doing so can greatly improve your towing experience and eliminate the sway.
Don’t Overload Your Camper
Overloading your camper can cause a host of issues, one of which is RV sway. Many RVers get nervous about forgetting something for their trip, so they overpack.
However, loading your RV with too much stuff can not only be bad for the suspension, but the increased weight can cause the trailer to sway.
Keep Your Speed Down
You should never be in a hurry when you’re towing an RV. You need to keep the speed down due to the drastic increase in stopping distance.
The faster you drive, the more likely you are to experience swaying.
If you’re correctly hitching up your RV, you likely won’t notice RV sway if you’re keeping it under 55 mph to 65 mph.
Control Your Brakes
One of the worst things you can do if you experience RV sway is to hit the brakes. You may think you’ll fix the situation by braking, but this isn’t typically the case. Hard braking will make things worse. You’ll likely lose whatever control you have, and the trailer could start swaying to the point where you’re out of control and unable to regain it.
This often results in severe accidents, potentially even fatal accidents.
Your best bet is to hold tightly to the steering wheel and maintain as much control as possible. Don’t brake or accelerate, but allow the vehicle to slow down on its own eventually. As you begin to slow down, you’ll steadily start to regain more control.
If you notice the RV sway returning at a certain speed, stay at 5 mph to 10 mph below that speed until you can repack your RV to redistribute the weight.
What Is a Trailer Sway Bar?
A trailer sway bar is an optional suspension system add-on for your RV. The purpose of the bar is to reduce the sway you experience while towing. It does this by increasing the contact between the hitch and the tongue of the trailer.
These bars will dampen and reduce friction between the trailer and the tow vehicle’s hinge point. If you’re planning to tow your trailer regularly or for a considerable distance, you’ll want to spend the extra money to get a quality hitch that includes sway bars.
Correcting Your RV Sway on the Interstate
You can do some things to correct your RV sway while on the interstate. First of all, keep an eye on the weather. This helps you avoid putting you and your RV on an interstate on a windy day.
Depending on your rig, you may start to feel the wind pushing you around and cause the RV to sway once it hits 12 mph to 15 mph. Most RVers will find a place to park anytime the winds are over 25 mph. The sway becomes too much to battle, and correcting the sway becomes very difficult.
If you experience RV sway when it’s not windy, pull over and make sure you’re loading your RV correctly. You don’t want to have too much weight on the rear of your RV.
If you are loading it correctly, you might need to check the alignment of your axles. Slowing down and using sway bars are great ways to correct RV sway while on the interstate.
Take Care of RV Sway
RV sway can be very serious and could cause you to overreact and cause an accident. You must be in control of your RV at all times. If you are having regular issues with RV sway, you need to figure out why as soon as possible.
Whether you need to redistribute the weight in your trailer or add a weight-distribution hitch to your setup, fixing RV sway isn’t always that difficult. You may need to make some adjustments to your setup, but it’s typically pretty straightforward.
Have you ever experienced RV sway while towing?
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The statement that you should not use your brakes is only partially true. When your sway starts to become uncontrollable you SHOULD slowly apply the trailer brakes with the manual override on your brake controller. This will usually greatly reduce the swaying as well as decrease your speed to a safe level. This is also how to safely slowdown in icy conditions.
I have towed several campers over the years and you are correct in saying not to apply the brakes in the tow vehicle when swaying starts. My experience with sway have been corrected by slightly applying the brakes on the towed vehicle using the brake controller. Don’t apply a full amps to the brakes just ease the lever so the brakes apply and the swaying will stop.
I have over 30 years towing travel trailers ranging from 17 ft to 30 ft, single and multi-axle, 4K lbs to 13K lbs. I can verify that speed is the one factor most drivers don’t think about; I’ve see drivers with 30 ft TT’s and 5er’s going 70+ on interstates with the tow swinging back and forth. Needless to say I stay as far behind them as possible. I have been a big proponent of requiring the passing of a license endorsement law that requires at least a minimum of knowledge of how to tow and load. Loading is also important so why do mfg’s design RV’s with big storage area’s behind the wheels, like under the bed? As to stopping swaying I agree that lightly applying the trailer brakes is a good idea if the sway is minimal; however, I also have found that if the sway is extreme, like a gust of wind, that increasing speed by applying a little power will pull the trailer back into alignment than start to slow down. The one thing I know is that remaining calm is very important, over reacting can make things really bad.