If you are like me, the thing that makes you nervous more than anything else is sway. Sway can cause a plethora of issues for RVers, and as a result, it is important to get it under control.
There are tools you can use to limit sway in your RV so that you have as safe a journey as possible. Notably, sway bars are an option for RVers, but do you need sway bars?
What is sway?
Sway is something that can be experienced by anyone, not just RVers and people towing trailers. It is exactly how it sounds; it is a term that refers to the side to side body roll of a vehicle.
That being said, while it exists in all vehicles, it is far more prevalent in large vehicles like RVs. As a result, it is important for RVers to use the tools available to them to get it under control.
RVs sway because they are so large that the back of the vehicle is affected by wind and air resistance different than the front of the vehicle.
However, it is different when you are towing a travel trailer. Sway in a trailer occurs when the trailer starts to swing side to side behind the tow vehicle.
This is the most dangerous type of sway as it can cause serious accidents, especially if you are driving at high speeds down the highway. The main causes of sway are improper weight distribution, wind gusts, and driving too fast.
If you still don’t know why your car might be swaying, here’s an article explaining why.
What is a sway bar?
Simply put, a sway bar is a small device that can be installed to minimize side to side motion of your trailer. They can be installed in vehicles themselves to minimize body roll, or they can be installed on hitches to minimize the sway of trailers.
Sway bars come included on one axle of the majority of vehicles. They are a single piece of metal that connects one side of the vehicle to the other. When the vehicle starts to roll in one direction, the bar twists and pushes up on the side that is low. This stiffens the side to side rocking and helps avoid crashes.
If you are planning on towing a travel trailer, you can install a sway bar to your trailer hitch. There are a few different types available for people to purchase, and while they have some small differences, they all perform the same basic task.
They prevent sway from your trailer, keeping it aligned with the tow vehicle. Some use a camera lock to prevent sway, whereas others use friction to prevent swaying.
Do you need sway bars?
Whether you need a sway bar or not depends largely on the type of travel trailer you own or are renting. For example, if you are planning on using a fifth wheel trailer, you do not need sway bars.
That is because the way fifth wheel trailers pull over the axle provides much greater stability. With that in mind, traditional travel trailers greatly benefit from sway bars.
Now, before I get started, you should note that a sway bar is not absolutely essential. That being said, adding one will make for a much more comfortable and stable towing experience, and it will give you peace of mind.
If you are towing a small trailer, you can get away with using the factory sway bars. However, if you are pulling a tall travel trailer, it is highly recommended that you get a vehicle sway bar upgrade.
Are there any downsides to a sway bar?
Sway bars are very important when towing certain types of trailers because of the safety implications. However, I would be lying if I told you that there were no downsides.
Notably, there can be comfort issues, additional costs, and increased wear and tear.
There are several experienced RVers that have reported a loss of comfort once their sway bar was installed. You are also sacrificing a bit of control when you install a sway bar.
A sway bar reduces the bounciness that you experience, but you need to sacrifice a bit of control to get that benefit.
As you probably expected, installing a new piece of equipment to your trailer results in additional costs. A sway bar and its links are not things that you want to try to cut costs with.
However, it is not the initial cost that will have you lose a lot of money. While the initial purchase may cost you a few hundred dollars, you will spend most of your money on maintenance fees.
Depending on how much you use your sway bar, you may also need to replace your sway bar because of the stress that has been put on it.
Which campers should install a sway bar?
Every camper or travel trailer on the market could benefit from a sway bar in tangible ways. That being said, not all of them get an equal benefit.
Typically, the larger the trailer, the more important it is for the owner to have a sway bar installed. For example, if you are towing a long travel trailer with a short tow vehicle, your trailer will be highly prone to swaying.
In that case, it would be highly recommended that you install a sway bar to your trailer hitch. A weight distribution hitch is a good alternative for some travel trailers as well.
If you are anything like me, you do not necessarily think through every aspect of a trip before you get started. While that is ok with some things, it is not ok when it comes to safety.
Installing a sway bar to your trailer hitch is not just something that will help keep you safe, but it will keep the people on the road near you safe as well.
Swaying with large vehicles and trailers is very dangerous. A large gust of wind could send your trailer into the opposite lane which could cause a devastating collision, or it could pull you off the road.
Either way, you should be doing everything you can to avoid those situations. Installing a sway bar may be expensive, but it is not overly complicated, and it will help you stay safe.