How Much Trailer Sway Is Normal?
by Lazar Assoofi, on Dec 3, 2020 3:30:48 PM
When hauling your trailer one of the most important things to monitor is the sway of your trailer behind your vehicle. You no doubt are wondering how much trailer sway is normal and when should you be concerned about it. In this article, we will provide you with tips on how to better understand your trailer and how sway may occur in order to ensure you avoid dangerous sway while on the road.
As the driver, you need to be familiar with your tow vehicle in order to ensure safety when hauling a trailer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, swaying will increase as the speed of your vehicle increases. It is recommended for anyone hauling a trailer to follow the posted speeds for trucks which typically do not exceed 55 miles per hour. If you are noticing excessive trailer sway make sure to check your speed. Often whipping or sway is caused when a vehicle is going faster than the recommended speed.
Many people think that increasing a vehicle’s speed can help straighten out the vehicle, however this is not true. In fact, as the vehicle’s speed increases the vehicle will become unstable which can lead to dangerous accidents. A trailer sway accident can result in significant damage to your vehicle and can even be deadly. If you start to notice a problem with sway try reducing your speed by at least 10 miles per hour.
From hauling camping trailers to driving an RV, it is important to understand how sway can impact your driving. One important thing to examine is if your tow vehicle is matched to the right size trailer. Check your vehicle’s owner manual to ensure your vehicle is configured to handle the trailer you want to attach.
Mark Polk, with RV 101, states that it is important to know how to use a towing guide. There may be two identical vehicles, but they have different rear axle ratios which can cause a dramatic difference in the tow ratings which will impact the sway of a trailer when attached. Always ensure your vehicle is matched to the right size hitch and trailer.
It is also important to pay attention to the gear your vehicle is in while driving. Check your vehicle’s manual to see what gear is recommended for towing by the manufacturer.
The weight of the items added into a RV or camper trailer that is being pulled is also important to examine. When a tow vehicle is overloaded this can lead to dangerous sway while on the road. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the total weight of your trailer including all items placed inside the camper when hitching it to your vehicle to avoid additional sway while on the road. Too often drivers forget about all the added weight caused by items in their vehicle and in a trailer.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stresses the need to balance the weight of items in your trailer evenly throughout the length of the trailer and from side to side. They recommend securing these items to avoid them moving while on the road which will help keep your weight evenly distributed throughout your trip.
Another important factor to examine when determining what amount of trailer sway is normal relates to the wind speed and how it impacts your vehicle while on the road. There will be natural wind gusts caused while you are on the road by changes in the roads surface while going up mountains or driving through an area with a lot of trees causing a lot of fluctuation in wind speed according to a 2009 study by the Knott Laboratory.
Crosswinds can also be created when other vehicles pass you. When you start to feel your trailer swaying from the wind it is important that you do not slam on the breaks. Instead slowing decrease your speed. In addition, try to steady the wheel as much as possible; you do not want to turn sharply into the sway.
All these wind factors can play a role in how much sway may occur while hauling your trailer and answer the question why does my trailer sway side to side while on the road. Because of the impact of wind on your vehicle it is important to have a hitch that can control some of this naturally occurring trailer sway on the road.
The NHTSA provides several tips of things to check on your vehicle to avoid excessive trailer sway.
- Check the brakes on both your trailer and your vehicle on a regular basis.
- Inspect your trailer to ensure that all fasteners are secure.
- Have your tires on the tow vehicle and your trailer regularly. You should also always have spare tires. You can find the correct tire pressure for each vehicle in the owner’s manual.
Out of these tips the one that can cause excessive trailer sway is underinflation of your tires. The overall weight capacity for your vehicles can be off and can lead to major sway control problems.
Besides driving on the open road, when making turns or slowing down to stop your vehicle, you may start to experience some trailer sway. Always make wider turns than normal and increase the distance you use for stopping to help reduce any potential sway in your trailer.
While hauling any type of trailer it is important to be an educated driver to help you better understand what sway is normal. If you follow a lot of the safety tips outlined in this article you will avoid driver error which can lead to excessive sway while on the road. Also, error on the side of caution and learn how to adjust your driving while on the road.
At ProPride, we offer the 3P hitch which is the most advanced trailer sway control hitch on the market which can help limit the sway you experience while on the road. You can also learn more about What is Trailer Sway in this article.