What causes sway?
When a gust of wind pushes on your trailer, the trailer pushes on your vehicle. Soon, both are wiggling. If one gets too far out of alignment with the other, they can tip or separate. The most common causes of sway are gusts of wind, drafts from passing semi-trucks, turns on curvy roads, and imbalanced loads in the trailer. Even a small amount of sway can be exhausting for a driver, forcing constant steering. Stabilization and sway prevention systems—such as sway control hitches, stabilizer jacks, or sway bars—make for a safer and smoother ride.
How can I prevent sway?
There are a few simple, practical things you can do to reduce the chance of sway. First, pay attention to weather conditions. If it’s very windy, it may not be a good day to travel. RVing is all about leisure. Consider a short delay as a chance to relax and enjoy where you are or add another stop to your itinerary. Patience is often a virtue in RV travel! Second, consider your load distribution. This is critical to sway prevention. Distribute weight in your RV evenly from front to back and side to side. Move heavier items to the front if needed. A good rule of thumb is 60 percent to the front, 40 percent to the back. Check the weight of your loaded RV at a local scale and move gear around as needed.
How do sway bars and stabilizers help?
Sway bars and stabilizers help distribute the weight of an RV more evenly by using the RV’s weight to create stability. They also make it easier to maneuver your motor coach or towed RV. There are several common types that all work a bit differently and come at many price points. You’ll see price ranges here, but costs vary with brands and features. Make sure any sway or stabilization system you purchase is rated to your towing weight and your tongue weight. (See our guide on Trailer Towing for more.)
Suspension sway bars
These are attached to the chassis of large motor coaches to stabilize the vehicle.
Dual cam sway control system
This stabilization system is good for large trailers. It attaches near the hitch and hooks onto either side of the trailer. The cams prevent sway but unlock when the trailer needs to turn.
Weight distribution system
If the RV you are towing is at least 50 percent as heavy as your towing vehicle or the rear of your tow vehicle sags when the trailer is hooked up, a weight distribution system is recommended. A weight distribution system uses spring bars attached to the hitch to distribute the load evenly between the axles on the RV and tow vehicle. The result is a smoother and more level driving experience.
Friction sway control bars
These can be added to any hitch and use friction to pull the towed vehicle and bring it back into alignment. Friction sway control bars are cost-effective but must be removed when backing up or driving in slick conditions, because they interfere with the trailer’s ability to turn. If you’re towing a large RV, our advice is to invest in a good stabilization system and save these for smaller towing situations.
Cost: $50 or less
Electronic tow control
There are some exciting new devices that electronically monitor forces on your trailer, detect sway and pulse your trailer brakes automatically. Pretty nifty!
What if I start to sway?
Even with the best sway bars, stabilizers, and careful packing, you’re bound to encounter sway. Don’t panic. Slow, steady moves will allow you to get things back in line. Don’t attempt to counter-steer. This may make the sway worse and push you totally out of control. Don’t brake the towing vehicle. Instead, brake the towed RV very slowly, using your auxiliary brake’s manual override.
By choosing the right stabilization or sway bar system for your RV—and taking steps to prevent sway before you leave home—you’ll be on track for a great trip.
We hope you’ve found this Togo RV article helpful. Please share it with your RVing friends so they, too, can enjoy the right kind of sway—the hammock kind.