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What You Should Know About Motorhome Sway – Don’t Let the Wiggles Win!

When you drive your motorhome, the last thing you want to experience is swaying. Experiencing your travel trailer swaying due to a sudden wind gust can be unsettling, but devices and techniques are available for motorhome sway control.


Why Motorhome Sway Occurs

Sway in motorhomes typically arises from various factors, such as strong winds, turbulence caused by passing semi-trucks, navigating winding roads, and uneven trailer loads. Even minor sway can be tiring for drivers, requiring constant steering corrections.

To increase safety and provide a smoother journey, it’s essential to focus on proper weight distribution and implement sway prevention systems.

There are few things more frightening while towing your recreational vehicle than trailer sway. A sudden gust, a passing semi-truck, or a quick steering correction can start your trailer swaying or fishtailing. The loss of control can mean tipping your valuable recreational vehicle or causing a serious accident.

Even the most experienced drivers have lost control of their towed trailers with disastrous results. A brief encounter with sway on the highway can quickly put a damper on your vacation and make you think about putting the camper back in the garage or up for sale. These tips can help you understand what causes trailer sway, as well as help keep your RV upright.

Tips for Motorhome Sway Control and Prevention

Tips for Motorhome Sway Control and Prevention

You can adopt a few straightforward, practical measures to minimize the risk of sway:

  • Pay attention to load distribution within your motorhome. Ensure the weight is evenly distributed from front to back and side to side. If necessary, shift heavier items toward the front. A general guideline is to allocate 60% of the weight to the front and 40% to the rear. Take into consideration factors like slide-outs and appliances and compensate by placing heavier items on the opposite side during packing.
  • Stay vigilant regarding weather conditions. If it’s excessively windy, it might be best to postpone your travel plans.
  • Visit a local scale to check the loaded weight of your motorhome and rearrange your gear accordingly. Avoid exceeding the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating). Test the weight distribution after adding propane or water that you intend to use during your journey.

Motorhome Sway Control Bars and Weight Distribution Systems

Motorhome Sway Control Bars and Weight Distribution Systems

Weight distribution systems serve to redistribute a portion of the trailer’s tongue weight, shifting it from the rear of the towing vehicle to the front. This adjustment ensures that the towing vehicle maintains a level ride and gains better control since the appropriate weight is distributed onto the steering tires.

Sway control mechanisms utilize friction-based devices to deter the trailer from swaying excessively from side to side. Various types are available, each operating slightly differently and varying in cost.

These systems may consist of separate components or the sway control function can be integrated into the weight distribution system. It’s crucial to confirm that any weight distribution or sway control setup you acquire is rated to handle both your towing and tongue weights.

  • Dual Cam Sway Control System

For larger trailers, a dual-cam sway control system proves valuable. It secures itself close to the hitch and connects to both sides of the trailer. These cams effectively prevent sway but disengage when the trailer requires turning.

  • Weight Distribution Systems

If your travel trailer’s weight is at least 50% as heavy as your towing vehicle or if your tow vehicle sags at the rear when the trailer is hitched, it’s advisable to employ a weight distribution system. A typical system employs spring bars affixed to the hitch to evenly distribute the load among the tow vehicle’s axles, resulting in a smoother and more level driving experience.

Alternatively, there are weight distribution systems equipped with built-in sway control features that provide additional sway protection without requiring a separate friction control device. While slightly pricier, these systems can save time during hook-up and require less storage space when not in use.

  • Electronic Tow Control

When towing your travel trailer and encountering sway, having a device that electronically monitors the forces on your trailer becomes valuable. When it senses sway, this device automatically triggers your trailer’s brakes in a pulsing manner to help maintain straight tracking. It can complement existing weight distribution and sway control systems for better safety and stability.

  • Friction Sway Control Bars

You can improve the stability of any hitch by incorporating friction sway control bars. These bars utilize friction to counteract and realign the swaying of the towed vehicle. They are available in right-hand or left-hand applications, and you can use one or both for added sway prevention.

While cost-effective, it’s important to note that these bars can impede the trailer’s maneuverability when turning, necessitating removal when backing up or driving in slippery conditions. This type of sway control is particularly suited for smaller towing scenarios rather than longer trailers.

As we delve into the crucial aspects of maintaining your vehicle’s optimal performance, it’s essential to address potential challenges such as maintaining stability on the road, seamlessly bridging the insights shared here with a comprehensive guide on vehicle health found in another article.

Steps to Take if Your Motorhome Starts to Sway

Steps to Take if Your Motorhome Starts to Sway

Despite having top-notch sway bars, stabilizers, and packing, sway incidents can still occur. In such situations, it’s essential not to panic. Follow these steps:

  1. Maintain a slow and steady steering input to help align your trailer and tow vehicle.
  2. Avoid attempting to counter-steer, as it may exacerbate the sway and result in loss of control.
  3. Refrain from applying the brakes in the towing vehicle. Instead, gradually apply the brakes on the towed motorhome, utilizing your auxiliary brake’s manual override if available.
  4. Consider utilizing an electronic tow control monitor, which automatically applies the appropriate amount of braking force to the towed vehicle to mitigate sway.

Learn More About Motorhome Sway Control Services

If you think you may benefit from motorhome sway control services from a professional RV and motorhome repair and service company, ask for more information today.