lt is no fun at all when a camper trailer is swaying all over the place. It is an awkward moment you don’t want to get involved in. You may probably have seen it or witnessed it firsthand. In that scenario, you don’t want to risk driving behind it or overtaking it. However, have you ever thought of ways of handling that dicey situation? Interestingly, I will take my time to delve into all you need to know about camper trailer sway.
What is Camper Trailer Swaying
Camper Trailer Swaying is a side to side motion that starts as a result of reaching a particular speed while towing a trailer. In order words, trailer swaying is an incessant side to side swaying motion that is abnormal. Trailer sway happens when the side forces on the trailer makes the trailer move or sway side to side violently behind the tow vehicle. This is equally called, ” fishtailing “. It is expedient for you to know that two factors are at stake here: first, the side forces on the trailer and the location and kind of pivot point that the trailer is connected to.
Regardless of its size (big or small) or weight (heavy or light), your trailer will always play host to a bigger side cross section than your tow vehicle. You must always remember that it is the uneven forces between the vehicle and trailer that cause the sway. Hence, in the bid to control the sway, you have to balance those forces. Well, you can change the size of the trailer or truck but interestingly, you can always create a situation in which the two forces seem as one.
The challenge here is not just the side force but the uneven side force. For example, if l connects two objects together, then push one object harder than the other object, it is much likely to surmount any frictional forces (friction hitch, road/tire etc.) faster than the object with less force. Even if you have a good case of a small trailer and large truck, the trailer will have some 30% advantage. This is all it is capable of doing even when a light wind is used. Eventually, the side forces on the trailer will definitely surmount the friction in a sway control hitch.
Causes of Trailer Swaying
1. Over speed
One of the major causes of a trailer sway or whipping is speeding. It is much more likely to have a sway when you are driving above 55 miles per hour. Excessive speed exerts so much pressure and strain on your vehicle and trailer and consequently increases the likelihood of having a trailer sway. When travelling at a very high speed, your trailer becomes less stable. But at a slower speed, its level of stability and safety is quite high and predictable. It is better to drive slowly when you are pulling a trailer unless you want to develop needless problems for yourself and others on the road.
In the bid to prevent trailer swaying from happening on the road, you must strictly take some precautionary measures. When you are on the road, always ensure against all odds that you maintain a speed of 55 miles per hour or less. Anything higher than this speed limit makes you very vulnerable to trailer sway. However, the first line of action to take when you discover that your trailer is beginning to sway is to reduce the speed by letting off the gas pedal. It is highly advisable at this point to slow down and drive at a speed of at least 10 miles per hour which is lower the speed at which the whipping or sway was first noticed.
2. Sudden Braking and Movement
Sudden and abrupt movements are also causing of trailer sway. Sudden movements such as slamming on your brakes and letting off the throttle suddenly are capable of causing your trailer to sway. Also, some harsh steering inputs can lead to a trailer sway. All these movements can destabilize your trailer on the road. To be stable on the road, drive slowly with measured movements. Leave some space for the vehicle in front of you. It is wisdom at its height to plan your lane changes and turns in advance.
3. Overload and Unevenly load
Typically, a trailer sway is caused by overloading and uneven weight distribution. Excessive load on the side of the camper engenders imbalance, making the trailer swing violently and dramatically as the sway begins. This may even cause braking or steering difficulties. When you have excessive weight at the back of a trailer, the front will get lighter, thereby causing an imbalance. This might look appealing but it is very prone to a trailer sway. To have a controlled driving, you must balance weight at the back and at the front. It is often recommended that 12% to 15% of trailer weight should be staying on the tow vehicle’s hitch. Having a less weight on the front may pull up on the rear of the vehicle when you need more control and traction. Carefulness on your part entails that you don’t exceed the tow rating of the hitch or vehicle itself.
4. Strong Side Winds
The strong winds striking the side of your trailer can make it to start swaying from side to side dramatically. Unlike a low-profile utility trailer, travel trailers are very prone to sidewind because of high profile. Your trailer sway can also be as a result of gusts and drafts engendered by the passing vehicles especially the tractor-trailers. Given the fact that you might not be able to avert the occurrence of strong winds, you can put yourself on a safer side by having a well-set-up trailer. By having a very strong set-up, you can withstand the forces of nature. You should also note that the front of the trailer is aerodynamic but their sides are not. Given a robust study revolving around commercial vehicle towing accidents conducted by Knott Laboratory in 2005, a 35-mph crosswind could exert as much as 3, 440 pounds of force pushing on the side of a bigger trailer.
5. Faulty Trailer Design
Faulty Trailer design can also account for a trailer sway. There are many different trailers designs out there. There are some trailer designs that are more formidable and resistant to sway than others. Another factor to consider is how the trailer is being used. If not properly used, a well-designed trailer can still develop problems leading on a sway on the road. Apart from opting for a trailer design with high resistance level, paying strict attention to how the trailer is being used is equally vital.
5 Tips to Fix Swaying on Road
1. Drive Carefully
To avoid having a trailer sway on the road, you must drive slowly and carefully. Calm down. Slow down. Embrace moderation in your driving speed as this would produce less pressure and strain on your vehicle and trailer, thereby lowering the chances of having a trailer sway. When travelling too fast, your trailer becomes less stable and secured. To steer clear of trailer sway on the road, you must maintain a speed of 55 miles per hour. Anything higher than this makes your vehicle vulnerable to sway or whipping or strong gusts of wind.
2. Load Your Camper Properly
Avoid overloading or uneven loading as much as you can. Excessive loading or uneven weight distribution is one of the major causes of trailer sway. To have a safe and hitch-free trip, you have to properly load your camper trailer before setting out. Never overload your tow vehicle. Never load cargo on the back of the trailer. You should as well ensure that the cargo does not pull out the rear of your trailer. About sixty percent of your trailer’s weight should be at the front of the trailer which is closest to your tow vehicle. This explains why most trailers play host to stowage position in front of the axle or axles. Please, do not go beyond your trailer’s maximum gross weight.
You should also recognize the fact that every travel trailer has a maximum weight capacity. Going beyond these limits will stress your trailer and cause multiple challenges, increasing the chance of trailer sway. It is widely recommended that a tongue weight should be between 10 and 12 percent of your overall trailer weight. Never forget to use weight distribution hitch. Don’t put heavy weight at the rear of the trailer. Ensure you position the tongue weight right. More importantly, you don’t get too close to your maximum towing capacity. Going beyond the weight is another risk factor you must consider.
By going beyond your trailer weight capacity, your trailer will definitely have difficulty pulling the weight and your suspension and frame will consequently be overstressed. This will put you into jeopardy. Paying very close attention to the tips and instructions above will keep you and other road users from the needless road hazards.
3. Connect Anti-Sway Bars
Fixing anti-sway bars to the trailer’s hitch or suspension system will help to make it stable and much resistant to sway or gusts of wind and drafts from the passing vehicles. As a result of the use of anti-sway bars, passing trucks and fierce winds will no longer make the RV to swing back and forth. Anti-sway bars leverage the weight of the RV to ensure stability, resistance and resilience. Anti-sway bars are primarily designed for a trailer’s hitch.
Anti-sway bars greatly help to reduce the trailer’s swaying motion by simply bracing the weight of trailer’s axle against the chassis. The anti-sway bars facilitate an even weight distribution. The bar connected to each side firmly holds the trailer or vehicle when a strong wind strikes it. It is very tiring and tasking when steering wheel back and forth in order to bring the RV’s swaying under control. Even making an attempt to make your trailer curve on a winding road poses a great danger and increases of the risks of swaying. Interestingly, anti-bar sway will grant the vehicle some stability on the curve and prevent it from swaying. Anti-sway bars give the RV more stability and maneuverability, particularly when moving along with other vehicles on the road.
4. Install Electric Trailer Brakes
You start the process by getting rid of your existing hub. Then, remove the wheel. Mildly tap a screw driver at the back of the “lip” and pry the grease dust cap off. For your information, the dust cover cap refers to the metal cap situated at the middle of the hub. Underneath this cap lies a rather big nut with a cotter pin and small metal chip on the nut. Straighten the cotten pin or better still, pry the small metal chip off with a small screwdriver.
Ensure that the nut is loose. Then, remove the nut. Be careful. There is a washer at the back of the nut and an outer “bearing”. They will fall off to the ground if you don’t catch them upon removing the nut. Then, remove the whole hub from the axle. The next line of action is to locate a backing plate. Install the locker washer underneath the nut and then tighten it.
Ensure that the outer bearing is well lubricated. Then, bring in the hub, the washer and then the nut. Next, you should thread the nut down and turn the hub as you tighten it. You can tighten to about 40 ft pounds. Once the nut is tight, you can stop turning the drum. More importantly, mildly and gradually loosen the nut until it is finger tight.
5. Use Brake Controller
A brake controller is an original equipment or aftermarket-installed device that is connected to the tow vehicle’s driver’s dashboard area. Also, it is pertinent to note that electric brake controller is a very important safety element when towing a heavy trailer. You shouldn’t expect your tow vehicle to offer all of the braking required to bring the entire rig to a halt. An electric brake controller which is installed in your tow vehicle engages the trailer brakes automatically when the tow vehicles have been applied. Also, your trailer brakes may skid, grab or not function at all if your electric brake is not adjusted properly.
Camper trailer swaying poses a grave threat not only to you but also to other road users. This article also extensively discusses some proactive measures to be taken in light of uncontrollable gusts of winds hit that your camper trailer on the move. Camper trailer swaying is highly preventable when you are well informed about its potential causes and ways of handling it or averting it.