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Why Do Travel Trailers Sway?

Published on May 6th, 2019 by Ray & Tammy Roman
This post was updated on February 14th, 2021

Several of the most common causes of travel trailer sway include:

  • Strong winds to moderately strong winds
  • Suddenly braking
  • Road conditions such as ice
  • Driving maneuvers, evasive or quick
  • Inadvertently driving off the shoulder
  • Tractor-trailer / semi-truck “bow wave”

Travel trailer sway is the leading cause of accidents for RV owners. It is also one of the reasons travel trailer enthusiasts give up after one or two seasons and place their camper up for sale.

Most accidents occur when you have multiple factors acting on your RV at the same time. For example, you are driving on an icy road and encounter very strong crosswinds. Even the most experienced drivers will have a tough time controlling these conditions.

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Here is what travel trailer swaying looks like. (Swaying start at about 48 seconds into the video)

Are the factors that can cause a travel trailer to sway be controlled?

The answer is yes, in most cases. A driver can counter the effects of any of the above and regain control of his camper. However one of the best ways to control trailer sway is to avoid it in the first place. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following tips when towing.

  • Drive at moderate speeds. Trailer sway is more likely to occur as your speed increases.
  • Avoid any sudden driving maneuvers such as sudden stops and start. This can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
  • Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway.
  • Slow down when driving over uneven roads, railroad crossing, etc.
  • When passing larger vehicles ease up on the gas to slow down and keep a firm grip on your steering wheel.
  • Be sure to check the tire pressure on the trailer and tow vehicle.
  • Load your travel trailer correctly so that weight distribution is balanced. To much weight in the front or rear will cause sway or tire blowout.

Solutions To Control Or Avoid Travel Trailer Sway

There several manufactured solutions to help avoid, minimize, and/or control sway on your camper. Let’s take a look at two of the most effective.

Anti Sway Bar

An anti-sway bar creates stability by using the weight of your RV. The bars are installed to the frame and chassis of the camper. By bracing the weight of the vehicle axle on the chassis an anti-sway bar reduces the side-to-side motion of the RV.

The bars also help with steering around curves giving the RV more maneuverability. This is especially true when passing. One added benefit of an anti-sway bar is the reduction in sway helps keep the structural integrity of your travel trailer intact. Too much sway will compromise the vehicle structure which may result in leaks.

There are several kinds of anti-sway bars and the type you use depends on your type of RV. A 5th wheel will use a different type than a motor home.

Weight Distribution Hitch

A weight distribution hitch has the anti-sway bar attached to it. They prevent swaying by transferring the travel trailers’ weight to the rear of the trailer and its rear axle. They typically use a spring system to distribute the weight of the camper and reduce sway.

Below is the Eaz-Lift weight distribution hitch. You can click on the image for more details.

CURT 17063 Round Bar Weight Distribution Hitch with Integrated......
  • LEVEL TOWING. This weight distribution hitch offers a smoother ride and improved control by distributing the tongue weight of the trailer across the vehicle-trailer combination and...
  • CONTINUOUS LUBRICATION. This CURT weight distribution hitch with sway control is equipped with an integrated lubrication system for smooth, quiet towing. The hitch head has two...

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Paid Affiliate Link / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Weight Distribution Hitch Setup Explained

How a weight distribution hitch works.


Travel trailer sway is going to happen to you at one point or another. To help reduce sway practice safe driving and loading of your camper. For additional safety and sway control install an anti-sway bar or weight distributing hitch.

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