The following video reveals that within 25 seconds of trailer sway can cause loss of control which could end up causing serious injury or death. Fortunately, no one was injured in this apparently preventable wreck.
WHOA! Notice that last item again.
During the last 6+ years of acute observation, it is evident that a significant number of mismatched towing combinations is a leading cause of wrecks started by trailer sway.
Here’s the hard truth. All you people who have a little rinky-dink short wheelbase SUV wanting to tow a trailer that is two to three times longer than your SUV are out of your mind. There, I said it. Somebody must say it.
If you do not want to take my word for it, then study your vehicle’s owner manual. If you followed all the instructions, cautions and warnings, and applied the information, you might learn the actual limitations of your little SUV instead of just reading the TWR. Don’t listen to the poorly trained dealer or salesperson either. Moreover, just because you see someone else towing an oversized trailer behind a small SUV does not imply it is safe. Eventually, some people run out of luck.
Here, read this published article for more information: Trailer Towing with a Van or SUV. Check out these SUV and Van Towing Reviews. Lastly, find out what your SUV’s realistic vehicle towing capacity is by using the RV Tow Check app before you purchase a trailer.
If I haven't gotten your attention yet, then read this true story: Tahoe vs. Travel Trailer
(A genuine concern from the founder.)
As seen in this video demonstration below, proper trailer weight distribution or load balance can make a huge difference in preventing trailer sway.
It is very important that the tongue weight range remain from 10 percent to 15 percent of the total trailer weight. According to the engineers at SAE, they recommend the best towing performance is obtained when the tongue weight is at 10% because it reduces oversteer in the tow vehicle. However, several experienced RV owners will say that a little more tongue weight is better. Nationally, the average tongue weight is about 12 percent.
If you do not know the tongue weight of your conventional trailer, there are a number of ways to find that out. Note: No matter what method is used, to learn the tongue weight percentage, the loaded trailer weight must be known.
1. The best recommendation for discovering a trailer’s tongue weight is using the 4-Step Weight Safety Plan for conventional trailers available in the website's menu above. This report provides the only 13 point weight safety report.
2. Where possible, weigh only the tow vehicle on the scale with the trailer attached. Then, while the truck is still on the scale, unhitch the trailer, ensuring the trailer tongue jack is off the scale. The difference in scaled weights is the tongue weight.
3. One very convenient way to obtain tongue weight is the Weigh Safe ball mount. This ball mount has a built-in scale. Various sizes to meet most towing needs can be purchased at Amazon.com. However, you will still need to know the total weight of loaded trailer.
4. The Sherline Trailer Tongue Scale has been around a long time. This scale can handle up to 2,000 pounds.
5. Lastly, a bathroom scale may be used. Simply configure 4X4 lumber, pipes, brick and scale as shown in the image below. Since the span of the pipes is three feet, multiply the scale weight times three. Measuring higher weight may be achieved by increasing only the longer end in 1 foot increments and multiply the total length between pipes times the scale weight. There are some of YouTube videos showing how it's done too.
After obtaining the total weight of the trailer, the percentage of the tongue weight may be calculated as follows: Tongue Weight divided by Trailer Gross Weight=Tongue Weight Percentage (1080/9000=.12).
The type of weight distribution hitch with sway control can play a role in preventing trailer sway. However, never substitute proper trailer load balance for the mechanics of any hitch. Here three hitch brands that may be the very best in the industry. When shopping for a hitch, ensure the weight rating meet the requirements for your trailer.
Hensley Manufacturing, makers of the famous Hensley Arrow®, also know as the Arrow® or the Hensley®, is the ONLY trailer hitch guaranteed to totally eliminate trailer sway. Only Hensley can make that statement! View famous Hensley video here.
The ProPride 3P hitch is the most advanced trailer sway control hitch available for your towing needs. The ProPride 3P hitch is backed by a Lifetime Warranty for the original purchaser's life. (The ProPride company and hitch is the second development and invention by Jim Hensley. Jim is no longer associated with Hensley Manufacturing.)
The Equal-i-zer hitch provides a smooth, level ride with the best weight distribution on the market. There are many weight distribution hitch options, but no other trailer hitch has the same level of Integrated Sway Control. In fact, for the last five years, Trailer Life readers have voted the Equal-i-zer hitch as their favorite hitch in America, every single year. No other hitch in the world has received this honor.
There are many other weight distribution hitches with sway control options available. Shop carefully, read reviews and keep in mind that your safety, your family's safety and the safety of others traveling around you on the road is paramount.
Some sway control devices are built into the weight distribution system as in the three shown above, and they are considered dependent systems. Many other sway control devices are add-on equipment and are available in various sizes and are considered independent friction sway control.
Typically, independent sway control devices rely on friction to keep the trailer from shifting and preventing sway from increasing only after it has begun. An independent friction-style sway control bolts onto your trailer frame at one end and hooks up to a small hitch ball that mounts to the system head at the other end. By attaching to both the weight distribution system and the trailer frame, the sway-control unit can supply tension to help keep the trailer in line. An interior bar telescopes in and out as your trailer moves. As soon as your trailer begins to move out of line, the friction pads inside the unit make contact with one another and create resistance to help reduce any further side-to-side movement.
Sometimes, even when you have done everything right like installing adequate and properly adjusted equipment and ensured the load is properly balanced, sway may occur. It is important always to be aware of what the trailer is doing behind you. Trailer sway usually starts out small, and when ignored it will increase quickly as shown in the video above. You need to react quickly as soon as trailer sway is noticed. Here is the best reaction to trailer sway.
There is no guarantee that performing the emergency reactions to trailer sway will prevent having a wreck. Sometimes the situation may be completely out of control. Hopefully, when the vehicles are stopped, and wheels are no longer rotating, all is well, and no injuries or fatalities have occurred.
Note: None of the recommended aftermarket products above have been tested or used by FWS's founder. Recommendations are based on numerous reviews posted by other RVers.
If you have any additional safety tips or product recommendation for this page, please Contact Dave.