How to Avoid Trailer SwayJune 20, 2022 by Kyle McFarlane
5 Tips To Avoid Trailer Sway
A single-axle utility trailer offers you many advantages as far as hauling cargo goes. However, it could also pose a risk of a dangerous situation called trailer sway. This occurs when a trailer fishtails from side to side while still attached to the towing vehicle. The cause is forces on the side of the trailer. Though this often occurs due to wind, including the bow wind that occurs when passing a semi-truck, other factors can cause or contribute to it.
The danger of sway is that the trailer could tip over and bring your vehicle with it. You can’t control all the factors that can cause trailer sway, but you can take steps to prevent it and learn how to cope with it should it occur.
1. Learn How To Cope With Windy Conditions
Ideally, you would avoid towing your trailer at all when conditions are windy, but it may not always be possible to avoid it. Here are some driving tips to avoid sway when towing a trailer and to manage the problem if it does occur:
- High speeds make sway even worse, so do not speed up when you notice it occurring.
- Reduce speed but do it gradually. Only apply the trailer brakes, and do not slam on them.
- Don’t try to steer out of sway. Instead, keep the steering wheel steady.
As soon as you are able, pull over to see if you can figure out what is causing the trailer to sway and how you might be able to correct it. If you ignore it, the problem is likely to persist, which can put you in danger.
2. Check Your Tires
If your tires are uneven in their size or air pressure, they could put your trailer off balance. Even if this does not cause a sway directly, it could put you at greater risk for one. This includes the tires of both the trailer and the towing vehicle. Before you set out, check that all the tires are the same size as well as being inflated to the correct tire pressure.
3. Make Sure the Weight Is Within the Load Capacity
There is a load capacity for your trailer and a load capacity for your vehicle. The capacities of each include the weights of the vehicles as well as the cargo. Factor in the weight of the tongue, which is the part that connects the trailer to the towing vehicle. The weight of the vehicle occupants also has to be taken into consideration.
4. Load the Vehicle Correctly
It is not enough to make sure the weight is within the load capacity; it also has to be loaded correctly in the vehicle to avoid sway. The heaviest items should be at the front of the trailer. This puts 10% to 12% of the weight over the tongue of the vehicle, which is necessary to prevent sway.
If items in the trailer are allowed to shift from side to side, it could throw off the equilibrium and cause the trailer to sway. Therefore, the cargo should be tied down. It may take some practice at redistributing the load to get the weight distributed properly. Ultimately, if you can’t distribute the weight adequately, you may have to remove some of the items, either coming back for them later or making other arrangements to transport them.
5. Consider a Friction Sway Control Device
For smaller trailers, one of these devices should be adequate, but you need one on either side of the hitch if the trailer is over 5,000. By applying resistance to the trailer, these devices help reduce the effects of sudden and unpredictable wind gusts.
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