Would you like to know if you can tow a travel trailer without sway bars? Well, we have researched this topic and have the answers for you. It is vital to know if you need sway bars when towing a travel trailer to ensure you are safe on the road.
You do not need sway bars to tow a travel trailer unless the travel trailer's center of mass is behind its axle. Also, some smaller trucks may need sway bars if they aren't strong enough to resist the natural sway of the travel trailer.
In this article, we will talk more about whether you can tow a travel trailer without sway bars. We will also discuss the answers to other interesting related questions, such as, are smaller travel trailers less likely to sway, and can a weight distribution hitch replace a sway bar? Keep reading to learn more.
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Can You Tow A Travel Trailer Without Sway Bars?
In most situations, you do not need sway bars when towing a travel trailer. Travel trailers are built with weight distribution in mind to help reduce sway. There are, however, certain times when a sway bar would be in your best interest.
To understand whether you need sway bars, you need to understand what causes trailer sway. Trailer sway is primarily caused by a poorly located center of mass. If the center of mass of your trailer is behind its axle, then your trailer will have problems with sway.
Having the center of mass located behind the axle creates sway because it turns your trailer into a reverse pendulum, which is one of the least stable states your trailer can be in. Your trailer will begin to sway violently to correct the reverse pendulum, which can cause you to lose control and crash.
The solution is to either stabilize the trailer to reduce sway or adjust your trailer's center of mass. The latter can be quickly done by shifting weight from the back of your trailer to the front. You can also add bricks or something heavy to the front of your travel trailer to help adjust the center of mass.
There are times, however, when you won't be able to shift enough weight to move the center of mass to in front of the trailer axle. If you can't shift enough weight or your truck is smaller and easily pushed around by your travel trailer, you will want to use sway bars.
Sway bars attach to your travel trailer's hitch and help to stabilize sway. While there are many on the market, here are two of the highest-rated sway bars on Amazon.
Eaz Lift Sway Bar
Andersen Hitches Sway Bar
Ensure that the sway bar you purchase is compatible with your travel trailer.
Are Smaller Travel Trailers Less Likely To Sway?
There is a common misconception that smaller travel trailers are less likely to sway. While it is easier to shift weight in a smaller travel trailer, they are not less likely to sway.
Many feel that smaller travel trailers are less likely to sway because they think the size of a travel trailer causes sway when, in reality, it is weight distribution. The good news is that it is much simpler to correct the center of mass in a small travel trailer than in a large one.
Just like with larger travel trailers, to correct the center of mass, shift weight from the back to the front. If you can still not bring the center of mass forward enough to stabilize the trailer, you will need sway bars.
Be sure when selecting sway bars for your travel trailer that they are compatible with your truck and travel trailer, as sway bars come in different sizes. Not only will incorrectly installing sway bars not reduce sway but they may also make driving more difficult.
If you aren't sure which sway bars will work for you, try asking someone at an auto parts store since they can often look up the exact specifications required for your particular setup.
Can Weight Distribution Hitches Replace Sway Bars?
Often people see weight distribution hitches that claim to reduce sway and wonder if they replace the need for sway bars. The short answer is that weight distribution hitches do not replace sway bars because sway bars reduce horizontal motion, and weight distribution hitches reduce vertical motion.
The cause of weight distribution hitches being misused is a misunderstanding of their claims. While weight distribution hitches claim to reduce sway, they do so in the vertical direction.
The reduction of vertical sway can create a smoother ride but does nothing to prevent a travel trailer from attempting to stabilize a reverse pendulum.
Since a travel trailer becoming a reverse pendulum is the number one cause of travel trailer accidents, you must use sway bars if the weight of your travel trailer is closer to the back.
Some weight distribution hitches come with sway bars as part of a package. With a weight distribution hitch and sway bars to reduce both vertical and horizontal sway, you can travel with peace of mind knowing your travel trailer is secure.
How Do I Tell If My Travel Trailer's Weight Is Properly Balanced?
Since the weight distribution of your travel trailer is critical to whether you need sway bars, you need a way to tell if your travel trailer's center of mass is in front of or behind its axle. It is possible to assess whether your travel trailer's center of mass is in front or behind its axle by checking how its hitch sits on your truck.
If you see that the trailer's hitch pushes down your truck's back tires, then the center of mass is in front of its axle. While this is the desired position for your travel trailer's center of mass, it is possible to have too much weight towards the front.
If your travel trailer's hitch pushes down your truck and causes it to bow down at the hitch, you will need to shift some weight further back. It is crucial that your travel trailer is level with your truck to ensure proper towing.
If when your travel trailer's hitch is hooked to your truck, it wants to lift it, then you have a problem. If your travel trailer's hitch is lifting, then the center of mass is further back than its axle, becoming a reverse pendulum. It is unsafe to drive your travel trailer while in this position, so immediate correction is required.
There are also situations where your travel trailer may not lift, but its center of mass is still dangerously close to unstable. If you are unsure whether the travel trailer is balanced correctly, you can test it by slowly speeding up and checking for sway.
When performing a sway test, be sure to only accelerate 10 miles per hour at a time to check for sway to avoid catastrophic sway from causing an accident. Often, if you are unsure, it's better to install sway bars to be safe instead of sorry.
When Do I Need To Remove My Sway Bars?
While sway bars are a great way to ensure safe towing for your travel trailer, they come with a drawback. Sway bars reduce your ability to turn and can make backing up more difficult.
Backing up your travel trailer may cause your sway bars to jack-knife into your truck. When backing up, if you cannot correctly turn with the sway bars installed, you will need to temporarily remove them until you've completed backing up.
Often you can remove sway bars by unscrewing a few bolts and nuts. Be careful not to forget to reinstall your sway bars after backing up if your travel trailer needs them.
Forgetting to reinstall sway bars is a significant cause of travel trailer accidents and should be part of a checklist before taking your travel trailer anywhere.
In this article, we learned that, while most travel trailers are built not to require sway bars, a sway bar is needed if its center of mass is behind its axle. We also learned that smaller travel trailers are not less likely to sway because it isn't the size of a travel trailer that causes sway but its weight distribution.
Remember, if your travel trailer's hitch wants to lift, its center of mass is too far back, and a sway bar is required.
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