With only a single hinge point between a travel trailer and the towing vehicle, crosswinds and improper weight distribution in the trailer can cause trailer/camper sway. Can trailer sway bars help?
We’ll talk about what sway bars for trailers are, how they work, and how helpful they can actually be in protecting you from the power of crosswinds or unbalanced weight distribution in your rig.
How expensive are trailer sway bars and are they worth the expense?
Let’s get into the answers to these questions and more!
- 1) What Is Trailer Sway?
- 2) What Causes a Trailer to Sway?
- 3) What Are Trailer Sway Bars?
- 4) What Are the Best Sway Bars for Travel Trailers?
- 5) Can You Back Up a Trailer with Sway Bars?
- 6) Are Trailer Sway Bars Worth It?
- 7) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
What Is Trailer Sway?
Trailer sway is the side-to-side motion of a trailer that can happen when you reach a certain speed as you’re towing a trailer. This side-to-side swinging often happens when you’re traveling down a highway.
While it’s extremely stressful to drive with trailer sway, it can also be very dangerous, particularly if it becomes uncontrollable (which can happen easily), depending on what’s causing the sway. Trailer sway can lead to very serious accidents when it builds to the point of whipping, which is a more violent and uncontrollable tossing back-and-forth of the trailer.
What Causes a Trailer to Sway?
Most commonly, trailer sway is caused either by crosswinds or by improper weight distribution in the trailer. But sway can also result from passing semi-trucks or other large vehicles that cause a gust of wind as they pass. It can also result from driving too fast or from taking sharp turns on curvy roads.
But there is most often a direct correlation between weight distribution and sway. In a previous post on trailer sway control, we included a demonstration to illustrate how easily a trailer with uneven weight distribution can cause sway, whipping, and even a loss of control.
We highly recommend visiting the post linked above for much more information on controlling trailer sway, but in case you don’t, here’s the demonstration regarding weight distribution:
Any amount of trailer sway is stressful and exhausting for a driver due to the need to constantly make steering adjustments to keep the trailer under control.
This is why trailer owners often opt for sway prevention systems.
What Are Trailer Sway Bars?
Sway bars add additional points of contact between the trailer and the towing vehicle, and add resistance to the trailer swaying. They can be used on towable RVs and other types of trailers such as utility trailers.
Trailer sway bars are essentially control bars for trailers that stiffen the side-to-side motion in an effort to minimize it, making them very important pieces of equipment for towing a travel trailer or any type of trailer. (Note that 5th wheels tend to be much more stable than other travel trailers and don’t usually require the addition of a sway bar kit because of the way they pull from over the axle. Strong winds, however, can still cause a 5th wheel to experience sway.)
In fact, many campers these days come directly from the factory with sway bars pre-installed for this very reason.
Although sway bars aren’t required equipment, they definitely provide a much safer, more stable, and more comfortable towing experience since they prevent sway.
What Are the Best Sway Bars for Travel Trailers?
There are a number of good sway bar options for travel trailers. Let’s take a look at some of the best and most popular from well-known, reputable names in the industry.
CURT 17200 Trailer Anti-Sway Bar Control Kit
This sway control kit from CURT Manufacturing is designed to limit your travel trailer’s lateral (side-to-side) movement. It restricts and deters sway by using a material similar to the material from which brake pads are made.
This kit offers a universal fit, making it compatible with a variety of weight distribution hitches (including almost all CURT hitches). It can even be used on most A-frame trailers. It offers a highly adjustable sway bar hitch, so it’s easy to adjust the kit for various trailer types and load sizes. To control the level of trailer sway restriction, you’ll simply use a hex nut toggle.
The unit is easy to install and can be used with a weight-distribution hitch or with a sway control ball mount.
A quick-release handle flips the sway control on or off, and cotter pins secure the sway control balls on the vehicle and trailer ends, allowing for a quick and easy setup.
- IMPROVED CONTROL. This trailer sway control kit helps limit your trailer’s lateral movement, using a brake pad type material to restrict and deter...
- VERSATILE. This trailer sway bar is compatible with a wide variety of weight distribution hitches, including almost all CURT weight distribution...
Camco Eaz-Lift Adjustable Sway Control
Camco’s Eaz-Lift sway control system features double friction pads for constant sway reduction. Constructed of heavy-duty steel, it offers easy on/off control so it can quickly be turned off in icy or otherwise dangerous road conditions.
This system is compatible with Eaz-Lift weight distribution hitches with adjustable sway control and it includes: a slide bar; crank handle; spring clips; friction plate; ball tongue plate; self-tapping screws; and a chrome tongue ball.
Note that this system is designed for use on the right (passenger’s) side of the trailer.
Setup is easy as it attaches with socket & spring clips, and detaches quickly for storage when not in use.
- Provides Safer, Easier Towing: Helps minimize sway caused from passing trucks and sudden wind gusts; Adjustable Sway Control: The sway control can...
- Compatibility: Compatible with Eaz-Lift weight distribution hitches with adjustable sway control; For use on the right, passenger side of your trailer
Here’s a video from Camco explaining and demonstrating their Eaz-Lift system, with step-by-step installation instructions:
Another way to achieve sway control is to use a weight distribution hitches that includes sway control arms.
These from Equal-i-zer and these from CURT are examples of weight distribution hitches with built-in sway control arms.
Can You Back Up a Trailer with Sway Bars?
That depends on the sway control system you’re using. For example, friction sway control bars are designed to work well going forward whether you’re going straight or turning. They can also back up straight just fine.
However, they’re not designed to turn while backing up. In fact, turning while backing can damage them because the force applied is different in reverse.
There are systems that allow backing up (even when turning), including this one from Reese:
Reese Steadi-Flex Trunnion Weight-Distributing Hitch Kit with Shank
This kit combines a weight-distributing unit and sway control into one system. It’s rated for between 700 and 1,400 pounds of tongue weight and 14,000 lb. gross trailer weight. With built-in sway control, backing up isn’t an issue even when turning.
However, you’d only want to use something like this if you’re experiencing very significant trailer sway. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a very rigid ride.
These weight-distribution hitches also tend to be fairly noisy (especially when turning), and they’re not maintenance-free. You’ll need to tighten and eventually replace the friction pads on a hitch like this one.
- maximum rated load capacity: 14,000 lb. gross trailer weight/1,400 lb. tongue weight
- "will fit 6" frames with bottom mount couplers"
Are Trailer Sway Bars Worth It?
Sway bars for your camper can make a very important difference in your traveling comfort. But they can also plan an important part in your safety as well as the safety of those traveling with you and around you.
Anything that makes you less vulnerable to sway and the danger it poses we think is well worth the investment.
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Saturday 18th of March 2023
We have used the round bars with a sway controller attached to the bars, and they worked good. When we traded to a later model trailer, we went with the Curt Tru-Track with Trunion Bars. It is a very heavy unit, but it works great. No noise, and great sway control, we travel a lot with strong cross winds, and the Tru-Track bars do a good job controlling sway in the strong side winds. No regrets with their performance.. I did build a Hitch Dolly to pull it to the truck to hook up. I am 80 and they are a bit heavy for me to carry up our long drive... Otherwise I would recommend any WD hitch with a good sway control. WD Hitch Manufacturers would be wise to build an lite hitch dolly for WD Hitches; most are heavy, and many RVer's would purchase them. I enjoy your articles.
Saturday 18th of March 2023
The Hensley Hitch should be at the top of the list. It is more expensive than others but unmatched in performance. We tow an 11,000 lbs 37' travel trailer with a GMC Sierra HD truck and have yet to experience a hint of sway. In the history of the company, they have yet to have a trailer loss due to sway. When it comes to protecting your family and property, not to mention the lives of total strangers, it gives great peace of mind and a solid towing experience.
Saturday 18th of March 2023
You missed one big player here, Hensley. I used to have one of these anti-sway systems with my TT and they just didn't solve the "big truck" problem. Replaced it with a Hensley hitch, problem solved. 100% solved, will never use anything else.
Sunday 19th of March 2023
Good to know, Jack. We'll check 'em out!