You can never take safety too seriously when towing a trailer, and sway bars are an important piece of equipment.
But can you tow a trailer without sway bars? Should you?
We’ve got the details on if it’s legal to tow without them and why you’d want to anyway.
Let’s take a look!
What Are Sway Bars?
Sway bars are a part of the hitching system that connects a trailer to the tow vehicle. The downward pressure from the trailer’s weight onto the sway bars helps reduce the trailer sway many drivers experience when towing.
Trailer sway can be very dangerous, especially if you’re new to towing a trailer. If you experience it and aren’t expecting or anticipating it, you could respond incorrectly or over-correct and cause a serious situation.
Do Sway Bars Make a Difference?
Sway bars can make a tremendous difference when towing. While they may not eliminate all the trailer sway a driver experiences, they can drastically reduce it. However, having a capable towing vehicle is also important too.
In addition to eliminating the sway, the driver will enjoy a more comfortable and stable towing experience. This can help give the driver confidence and peace of mind while driving. The less time they spend looking in the mirror at the trailer behind them, the more they can keep their eyes on the road in front of them.
How Long Do Sway Bars Last?
Many sway bar systems come with limited lifetime warranties, which means they’ll easily last 10+ years if you take care of them. There’s a good chance that if you purchase the sway bars with your RV, they’ll outlast it.
If you’re spending the money on a set of sway bars, check the warranty before completing the transaction. You’ll likely spend a pretty penny on them and want to ensure the manufacturer stands behind them if they don’t get the job done.
Can You Tow a Trailer Without Sway Bars?
Sway bars are not legally required when towing a trailer. However, just because they’re not legally required doesn’t mean they’re not a good idea. We highly suggest towing a trailer with sway bars whenever possible. The benefits of towing a trailer with sway bars far exceed the few disadvantages of towing with them.
Benefits of Towing with Sway Bars
If you’re tired of gripping the steering wheel so tight that they’re turning white the entire time, it may be time to consider sway bars. Let’s look at a few of the benefits drivers enjoy about towing with sway bars.
As their name implies, sway bars reduce the amount of sway a driver experiences when towing a trailer. Depending on the size of the trailer and the conditions, trailer sway can overpower a tow vehicle. The popular saying, “The tail wagging the dog” is a good example of what drivers experience during these conditions.
Driving with a trailer that’s swaying all over the road can be incredibly dangerous for you and others on the road. A swaying trailer can be unpredictable and cause a tremendous amount of stress. Creating an ideal towing environment can help ease a driver’s worries and allow them to focus on what’s in front of them instead of what’s behind them.
Some sway bars also provide some assistance when it comes to weight distribution. Putting too much weight on your tow vehicle can cause you to lose traction on the front axle of your vehicle. Since the front axle helps with steering and handling your vehicle, it’s easy to see why this is less than ideal. You want as much control of your vehicle as possible when it comes to steering.
In addition, putting too much weight on the axles of the trailer increases the risk of trailer sway. You want to set up your sway bars and weight distribution system to evenly distribute the weight between the trailer and tow vehicle.
Compatible with Various Trailers
Sway bars are typically compatible with a variety of different trailers. While you may have to make a few adjustments, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use the same sway bars and hitching system for your next rig. Since these aren’t a cheap product, avoiding buying them again will make your bank account happy.
Cons of Towing with Sway Bars
While sway bars can help you stay safe while on the road and take some of the stresses away from towing, they’re not perfect. There are a few crucial cons of towing with sway bars that you must keep in mind.
Reverse Can Be Impossible
Some sway bars require that you disengage them before going into reverse. Failure to do so can damage them, especially if you need to make a tight turn to back into a campsite.
You’re going to need to hop out and disconnect the sway bars before you can back into your campsite. While this may not sound like a big deal, you never know when you’re going to need to reverse. If you make a wrong turn or something is unexpectedly in your way, you could damage your sway bars if you shift into reverse and back up with them still connected.
Can Be Expensive
The sway bars that do the job can be costly, especially if you want them to help with weight distribution. Some of these systems can cost $800 to $1200, excluding any potential costs for installation. However, because of the results and safety they provide, this is one product where you shouldn’t try to save a few bucks.
Requires Precision During Installation
Installation of sway bars and a weight distribution hitch can be challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before. You have to install them with precision to help ensure the weight is evenly distributed between the tow vehicle and the trailer. It might surprise you how much adding a washer or tightening certain bolts on the hitching system can adjust the setup of the entire system.
Because the process requires precision, you may need to hire a professional to install your sway bars for you. If you’re purchasing a new hitching system from the dealer, there’s a good chance they’ll install it for you. They’ll likely even help make sure you know how to use it.
Are Sway Bars Worth It?
When push comes to shove, sway bars are one product that we think is worth it. Yes, they may be expensive, especially if you’re buying a new RV and already purchasing other items for it. However, the results they provide can be incredible. Relaxing while towing your rig will be worth the extra money.
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