What Do Sway Bars Do On A Trailer?Anthony Day
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- Sway is caused by the body of your trailer tilting due to weight or other forces.
- Sway bars and anti-roll bars help redistribute force evenly among the wheels.
- You can increase stability through tire pressure and driving techniques.
- Many newer trailers have built-in stabilizer bars.
- Choosing a good sway bar involves the trailer weight, make, model, and tow vehicle.
Sway bars make your towing experience safer and more comfortable. In this comprehensive guide, find out how, along with some tips for new users.
Sway bars, also known as anti-roll bars or stabilizer bars, reduce the side-to-side body roll of a vehicle while driving. They work by connecting opposite wheels to manage unequal force between them to minimize camper sway.
Our comprehensive but concise guide will tell you everything you need to know about sway bars and their use in trailers.
Trailer Sway Bars: Why and How
When it comes to towing a travel trailer, the most important factor is the weight distribution between its axles.
Ready to make your next towing adventure as smooth as a dolphin's glide through the ocean? That's the ultimate RVer's dream, anyway.
What Causes Sway?
Trailer sway comes from the tilting of the body of a vehicle or trailer due to forces interacting with weight distribution.
The heavier the load on one side of a trailer, the more the body will want to tilt in that direction. It's like how your car can lean to the side when you get in.
When this uneven weight distribution or force happens, you may find your trailer swaying back and forth when driving, which is incredibly dangerous.
How Do Sway Bars Help?
Sway bars are designed to counteract and minimize body roll.
A sway bar connects directly to opposite wheels, like the left and right wheels of a trailer, together; in doing so, the sway bar ensures that the force can be proportionally distributed between them to keep the body steady.
This helps prevent accidents caused by instability at high speeds and on sharp turns.
For those of you who want more control over your ride, there are adjustable sway bars available that allow more customization to fit the sway bar to your tow vehicle.
Do I Need a Sway Bar or Weight Distribution Hitch for My Camper or Trailer?
Your need depends on the size and weight of your trailer.
Generally, the heavier it is, the more likely you are to need sway bar hitches.
Thankfully, many high-end campers and trailers come with a factory-installed sway bar, or multiple, for added safety; check your user manual to confirm if you have sway bars pre-installed.
One surefire way to know if a trailer sway bar is a good choice is if you experience mild trailer sway at lower speeds.
Do Sway Bars Improve Ride Quality of the Tow Vehicle?
Yes, absolutely. Sway bars keep the trailer steady, which makes it much more comfortable to tow.
They also help reduce the amount of wear and tear on your vehicle's suspension system over time by absorbing some of the shock force from bumps in the road.
Even if you weren't having severe swaying issues, a stabilizer or anti-roll bar can make the ride smoother.
You'd be surprised how much better it can feel.
Are There Any Cons to Sway Bars?
While sway bars can be a real lifesaver in reducing trailer sway and improving the overall stability of the travel trailer and tow vehicle, there are a few possible drawbacks to keep in mind.
For starters, sway bars can be a bit of an added expense, especially if you're opting for fancier models or multiple sway control bars.
Additionally, the added weight of sway bars and other control devices can reduce fuel efficiency and put extra strain on your trusty towing vehicle.
Another potential downside is that hitch sway bars can limit your trailer's maneuverability, making backing up or navigating tight spaces more of a challenge.
And, of course, improper installation can be a real headache, potentially making vehicle sway worse rather than better and making you and your passengers less safe.
However, these potential downsides are generally small potatoes compared to the benefits of using sway bars or other weight distribution hitches to significantly reduce trailer sway.
By choosing the right sway bar for your needs, installing it correctly, practicing careful weight distribution, and keeping any limitations in mind, you can enjoy the safety and stability of a smoothly-towing travel trailer.
Other Ways to Prevent Swaying
Aside from a dedicated sway-control apparatus like an anti-roll bar, there are some things you can do to further enhance stability while towing.
- Proper weight distribution: Ensure that the weight of your trailer is properly distributed across both the trailer and the tow vehicle. Too much weight on either end can cause instability and sway.
- Keep your tires at pressure: Underinflated tires can cause the trailer to sway because it messes with weight distribution. Check your tire pressure regularly and inflate to the recommended level for enhanced sway control.
- Slow down: High speeds increase the likelihood of trailer sway. Reduce your speed and allow plenty of space between your vehicle and others on the road to minimize any risks. Sway control gets harder the faster you are going.
- Avoid sudden movements: Sudden movements, like sharp turns or sudden lane changes, can cause the trailer to become unstable. Make slow, deliberate movements and avoid sudden corrections.
How Do You Load a Trailer to Prevent Sway?
Loading your trailer in the right way can make a huge difference when it comes to preventing sway and ensuring a smoother, more secure towing experience before you even consider camper sway bars.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is the balance of cargo weight.
If you distribute the weight evenly across the axles and avoid loading too much on one side or in the front or back, your trailer will be much more stable.
Heavier items should be placed over the trailer axles, and make sure everything is secured with straps or tie-downs to prevent any loose or shifting cargo.
Checking the tongue's weight is another key factor in preventing sway. Keep it around 10-15% of the total weight of the trailer for proper balance.
While these tips can be very helpful, especially for shorter trips, it's important to consider additional measures such as using sway control devices like sway bars or weight distribution hitches for longer journeys or on roads with more wind or rough terrain.
Can You Backup a Trailer With Sway Bars?
Yes, you can drive in reverse with sway bars, but you should keep it slow and avoid turning if you want to maintain sway control.
We have a few general tips and guidelines for backing up with a sway-bar-equipped trailer:
- Before backing up, never ever forget to unlock the sway control bars. Failure to do so can damage the sway bars themselves and your trailer hitch.
- When backing up, go slow and make small, deliberate movements to ensure that the trailer stays aligned with the towing vehicle.
- Jackknifing happens when the trailer swings out to the side and becomes misaligned, nearly perpendicular, with the towing vehicle. To avoid this, make sure the trailer is properly aligned before backing up, and take care to avoid sharp turns.
- If you're new to backing up a trailer with sway bars, it's a good idea to practice in an empty parking lot or other open space before attempting to back up in a more crowded or difficult location.
- Avoid turning in reverse completely if you have a friction sway control weight distribution hitch.
Overall, sway bars are an important part of ensuring your trailer is as safe and stable as possible while towing.
Make sure you understand how a sway control hitch works, how to install them properly, and the best practices for backing up with a sway-bar-equipped trailer.