What Causes Travel Trailer Sway? (10 Tips to Stop or Reduce)

The road to fun can be filled with lots of road dangers. These dangers are preventable and with the right attention and preventive action, your fun will not be spoiled throughout your vacation. Sway is just one of those issues you have to deal with while on the road.

What causes travel trailer sway? There are many causes for swaying and some of them come up unexpectedly. One preventable cause is an unbalanced load. With one side of your trailer heavier than the other, it will sway side to side.

To learn more about trailer sway, its causes and how to prevent it just keep reading our article. It is filled with the safety information to help you have a great time on the road and help you avoid trailer sway.

Tip 1: to avoid sway you need to make sure the weight throughout your trailer is nice and balanced.

Tip 2: A good way to help prevent sway is to change the trailer hitch to a model that blocks the ball and coupler from being the pivot point.

What Causes Travel Trailer Sway

As you have already read, an unbalanced load and the trailer hitch are two causes for sway. But there are several other causes that make life on the open road a little more difficult.

Two of the most common causes involve wind. When the natural wind kicks up, it adds about 2.3 pounds of pressure per square foot pushing on your trailer. Sudden gusts of wind can catch a driver unawares and the trailer begins to move out of control.

That brings us to the second wind cause for trailer sway. When big rigs pass by at fast speeds, they also create a sudden wind that applies pressure to your trailer and tow vehicle. This is called the bow wind and it can create difficult sway problems for the driver of the truck and trailer.

Tip 3: When you tow your trailer, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on towing gear. This information is designed to help you avoid sway.

Do All Travel Trailers Sway


It is possible that all trailers have the potential to sway. This partly due to the fact that high speeds play a role in sway. It doesn’t matter the size of the trailer when you go to fast on the road. The recommended speed limit to avoid sway is 55 mph or less.

Also, sway is a combination hazard that requires more than one condition to be present to start the trailer from moving side to side. One element that needs to be present would be the driver who overreacts when another element, like the wind, appears and causes a few problems for you.

It won’t matter what kind of trailer you have on the back of your tow vehicle when the driver makes the kind of mistakes they do when faced with possible sway creating actions.

Tip 4: When you start to feel your trailer beginning to sway let your foot off the gas pedal. Do not step suddenly on the brake as that action will make the swaying a lot worse. Slow down gently.

How Much Trailer Sway is Normal

It is really difficult to put a figure on this issue. That is because it is hard to judge what is normal. The word we can give you is that if a trailer sways slightly then you are at the normal range for trailer movement.

One reason for trailer sway to occur, even slightly, is because it is usually hitched to the tow vehicle 4 to 5 back of the rear axle. This allows the trailer to steer the tow vehicle under the wrong conditions.

This situation helped make the towing a 5th wheel trailer so popular. The 5th wheel is located over the rear axle of the tow vehicle and almost always reduces sway to a minimal factor.

Tip 5: try not to make any sudden or sharp steering movements. If you do, then you are contributing to your sway issue.

Why Does My Travel Trailer Sway so Much


Your trailer sways a lot because of several factors. First, the hitch doesn‘t have any anti-sway control devices attached to it. Second, there is too much wind on the road you are traveling.

Third, you have loaded your trailer badly and too much weight is in the wrong place. Roughly 12 to 15% of the trailer’s weight should be on the tongue and hitch. Then around 60% of your cargo weight should be in the front of the trailer.

This redistribution of the weight will help you prevent any swaying from taking place. Watch your driving as well.

Tip 6: one way to stop swaying or reduce the risk of it taking place is to make sure you do not overload your trailer. You need to stay under the gross weight capacity to help prevent swaying.

Single Axle Travel Trailer Sway

It doesn’t matter if you have single or double axle trailers on the back of your tow vehicle. Both kinds of trailers are prone to sway if the conditions are just right. A lot of times swaying is the result of driver error.

One of the worst situations for swaying to occur is when you are going downhill. At these times the trailer seems to have a mind of its own and wants to overtake the tow vehicle. Pumping your vehicle’s brakes may put too much strain on them and cause them to burn out.

You need to go a lot slower when going downhill.

Tip 7: Watch your speed. To avoid swaying you should not drive faster than 55 mph. Go slower when heading downhill and be careful not to apply your brakes when swaying begins. Lift your foot off the gas pedal.

Travel Trailer Sway in Wind


Wind is one of those uncontrollable sources for trailer sway. It is going to happen somewhere along the line of your trailer vacations. There will be a section of the country that is suffering from strong winds or sudden gusts just appear.

All you have to do is make sure you follow all safety tips and do not contribute to the cause of sway. When the wind is high watch your speed as that will combine with the breezy conditions and make things worse for you.

Also keep an eye on the weather reports so you know where windy conditions exist.

Tip 8: use sway control devices to help cut down on the risk of swaying while you are on the road.

What to do When Travel Trailer Sways While Driving

The first thing you need to avoid doing is making any sharp steering adjustments when your trailer starts to sway. The second thing you should avoid doing is stepping on your brakes.

Both of these driving reactions will cause your swaying to get worst. The best thing to do is take your foot off the gas pedal and let your tow vehicle and trailer gently slow down. This is the safest way to help stop your travel trailer from swaying

When swaying begins you can always stop and check to see if your cargo is stored correctly and not out of balance.

Tip 9: Check your tire pressure. If under-inflated, you may lose load-carrying capacity. This situation also contributes to your trailer sway issues.

How to Reduce Travel Trailer Sway


There are several things you can do to avoid trailer sway. First, make sure you have between 12 and 15% of the trailer’s weight on your hitch. Second, check your load and make sure you have not overloaded your trailer.

Third, make sure about 60% of your cargo weight is in the front half of the trailer. Fourth, watch your tire pressure and make sure they are inflated properly. Fifth, add some sway control devices to your hitch to help compensate for any mistakes made.

Finally, watch your speed. Don’t go too fast. It may take you longer to get to your destination, but you will make it safe and sound.

Tip 10: You can always switch to a weight-distribution hitch to move the weight of the trailer onto your tow vehicle’s front axle.

How to Stop Travel Trailer Sway

Stopping trailer sway takes a cool hand. If you are a nervous driver then you may contribute more to the problem because you are not practicing good towing habits. The first thing you need to remember when swaying starts is to not over-react.

The second thing to remember is not to panic. Swaying is a normal hazard that comes with towing a trailer and you should handle it carefully. Third, the first instinct may not be the best option to use. In other words, don’t hit the brakes.

The key to stopping trailer sway is to stay calm.

How do Travel Trailer Sway Bars Work


To help protect against sway, you can turn to sway control bars. One type of sway control bar is the one that creates a rigid connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer. This helps reduce swaying while letting the trailer turn normally.

Another model uses weight distribution as a vital control over sway. The parts on this hitch redistribute the weight over all the axles on your rig. Then there is the friction sway control bar.

These devices require you to stop your vehicle and turn the handle to add friction. This is done by feel. Then these control bars should be placed on either side of the trailer.

Tips for Towing Travel Trailer Without Sway Control

Traveling with a trailer can be fun. At least you always have a safe place to sleep when night comes. But if you do not have any sway controls on your rig, you may want to practice some of the following tips to make sure you get to your destination without a problem:

  • Don’t put too much weight in your tow vehicle or your trailer.
  • Make sure to balance the cargo weight out so the trailer is not too heavy on one side.
  • ​Check your tire pressure to make sure you are not losing any load capacity.
  • ​Put the right amount of trailer weight on your hitch.
  • ​Watch your driving and keep your nerves calm.
  • ​Do not over-react when swaying begins to take place.
  • ​Watch your speed and make sure you do not go too fast.
  • Do not make sharp steering wheel turns.
  • Take your foot off the gas and do not step on the brakes.

Travel Trailer Sway Crash


It does not take long for a little trailer sway to turn into a big problem. In fact, in about 20 to 25 seconds is all that is needed to turn a wonderful trip exploring the country into a disaster.

That disaster is, of course, your trailer and tow vehicle tipping over and destroying everything you own. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, the safety tips listed above and being careful should help you avoid ruining your vacation plans.

One thing to help avoid a crash is to make sure your tow vehicle and trailer are matched. When the trailer is too big for your tow vehicle you are just asking for trouble. To find the right match, you need to check your tow vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating.

Then you need to find the gross trailer weight and compare the two. If the GTW is over 50% of the GVWR then you are going to have a problem.

Some Final Words

Trailer sway can be a problem. Especially when you think you know what you are doing and fail to take the proper precautions. You can avoid trailer sway and have a great vacation if you practice the tips above and do a lot of safe driving.

These tips should guide you to a safe holiday and keep you protected insurance wise. They are not hard to do and you can create a checklist to make sure they are all done and in meet proper anti-sway safety guidelines.

Have a safe journey.

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