Correcting Trailer Sway Part 2

In Part 1 of this Blog series we looked at the very real and sad effect of travel trailer sway when it occurs.  The good news is that it can be controlled and minimised.  However, do not be deceived, it is impossible to eliminate travel trailer sway entirely, taking some preventive steps before it happens can help to reduce the tail wagging the dog syndrome. Here are some ways to prevent travel trailer sway.

Choose the right size tow vehicle:

Owning the appropriate tow vehicle can reduce a significant amount of trailer sway.  Selecting the right tow vehicle depends on the type of  travel trailer you are going to use. It is important to know and understand the trailer’s manufacture specification; especially its length, width, height, “wet weight” (GVWR) and the tongue (hitch) weight. Make sure the tow vehicle you are planning to buy is capable of towing that trailer. Most manufacturers of (tow) vehicles provide complete specifications and guidelines for towing.  Some have specially designed towing packages including trailer hitch receivers, mirrors, axle and transmission gearing. The best way to choose the right tow vehicle is to check the owner’s manual and review the manufacturer’s guide. By doing so, you will learn about the vehicle’s capacities and can explore available hitch systems to see if they are compatible with your trailer or not. In my humble opinion the sale person is NOT the person to ask about the specifics of a vehicle’s abilities – you need to run the numbers yourself. After all, it’s your life we are talking about.  Read our extensive Blog on Choosing the Right Tow Vehicle

As an aside – did you notice the size of the tow vehicle in the picture of the crashed Airstream in Part 1? Big tail – small dog.

Do not overload your trailer:

Both your tow vehicle and travel trailer has its payload limit. Exceeding the manufacture’s recommended limits can lead to many problems, including the chance of  “tail wagging the dog” 🙄. Being careful and thoughtful loading your travel trailer can reduce the chances of sway. The key is balance the load, keep it low and don’t add anything heavy to the rear of the trailer.

Avoid driving in high winds:

Even with the Rig Set-up we have (F-150hd  has a GCVWR of 17,000lb – our real world rig equals 14,000lb GCVWR, well below capacity) coming home through the Kootenays one year, we encountered cross winds gusting to 65kph (40mph) and yes, it was at times a moving experience.   Simply put – If you want to experience trailer sway – drive while it’s windy (tongue in cheek).  This is NOT a recommendation, please avoid driving when there are extremely high winds. One of the things we do is check the weather before setting out on a trip. The number one defence towing with high winds is reduce your speed and avoid open spaces and high bridges.

Tow Vehicle with a Traction Control System and Anti-Sway System:

In my opinion, a traction control system in your tow vehicle can help you in recovering control when vehicle traction is lost. This system automatically will adjust the power and braking system when wheel slipping occurs, keeping your vehicle stable.  Some tow vehicles also come with anti-sway systems.  Our F-150 comes with both and I would not purchase a tow vehicle without this.

Must have a brake controller:

Most travel trailer have an electric braking system.  Today most tow vehicles come equipped with a “Brake Control System” installed.  If yours did not come with one installed, then you should instal a brake controller. This system allows drivers to control the force sent to the travel trailer brakes when the tow vehicle brakes are applied. This also allows you to have manual control over your trailer brakes. This is important as it enables you to manually apply the trailer brakes when swaying occurs.  A properly setup brake controller will assist to reduce the risk of trailer sway.  Again think about driving through the Rocky Mountains … how do you control the weight of your trailer as it wants to rush ahead of your tow vehicle while going down hill?

Use A Weight Distribution/Anti-Sway Hitch Systems:

The use of this type of hitch system is the perfect solution to control travel trailer sway. There are several manufactures out there: Reese, Equalizer, Blue Ox, Hensley – just to name a few.  Each has its plus and minus.  Personally we have installed a Reese Dual Cam System.  What they basically do is recentre the travel trailer in behind the tow vehicle choking off sway as it begins via friction. There is no pendulum swing.

Last but not least – Stay calm:

Losing control in a panic while attempting to right the ship will only make the situation worse. If you feel you are losing control because of the situation, calmly apply the trailer’s brake manually. This will slow the trailer down and bring it back in line behind your tow vehicle. 😎

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