trailer sway

How To Handle Trailer Sway

Feb 8, 2019

When it comes to hauling a trailer you’re going to want to make sure safety is your first priority. So we want to make sure you’re aware of how trailer sway can occur, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.

We know this is a concern for all trailer owners out there so please pay attention to this information and treat this guide as a huge time and headache saver.

Trailer sway can cause dangerous driving conditions and we want to make sure you’re out there driving safely, protecting yourself, others and the cargo you are hauling.

Why Does Your Trailer Sway?

Trailer sway can be caused from a number of different reasons. We’ll first go over the factors that cause trailer sway then go into how to solve it. Here's a numerical list of what we'll go over. 

  1. Too much weight loaded on the trailer
  2. Weight not properly distributed on the trailer
  3. Excessive Speeds
  4. Weather conditions  
  5. Other large trucks & vehicles travelling beside you
  6. Traveling down steep hills
  7. Worn Tires, Low Tire Pressure

1) Loading the correct amount of weight on your trailer

First of all, whenever you are hauling any type of cargo you want to be sure you know the amount of weight you are able to haul.

A couple definitions are important to know here:

  • GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)- The maximum weight your trailer should not exceed with everything loaded; weight of the trailer, all cargo, and any other weight to be accounted for.

  • Payload capacity- The amount of weight your trailer can haul.  

For the purposes of this article we will leave you with these two definitions as we don’t want to complicate things.

So in order to determine how much payload you can haul with your trailer, use this calculation:

(GVWR - Weight Of The Trailer) = Payload Capacity.  


*You can find the weight of the trailer with the MCO (Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin) after making a purchase with us or by contacting the manufacturer.

We recommend to our customers that your stay within about 85% of your maximum payload capacity to give you some breathing room when hauling cargo. This will ensure your safety and prolong the life of your trailer.

To learn more about weight ratings go to this post here.

B) Weight Not Properly Distributed On The Trailer

To ensure weight is distributed properly for safe driving conditions we recommend loading your cargo so about 60% of the weight is in front of the trailer axles and 40% is behind the axles.

This creates proper weight balance because if too much weight is loaded on the tongue of the trailer then your car will lift off the ground from the front, giving you steering problems. We recommend you have about 10%-15% of the weight on the hitch of a bumper pull and 20%-25% on a gooseneck hitch. 

Also, too much weight loaded in the back can cause your trailer to sway and ultimately a whipping motion will take place. So just be sure you distribute the weight of your cargo correctly.

C) Excessive Speeds

Since you are hauling weighted cargo behind your vehicle you are going to want to take extra precaution when going from point A to B.

In this case, slow and steady wins the race. Stay within speed limits and even tone it down a bit to ensure no trailer sway occurs. Hauling a trailer requires you to pay attention, take your time, and practice patience.

Generally once you go over 55 mph you are entering speeds you must take extra precaution when hauling a trailer.

D) Weather Conditions

Heavy winds, rain, sleet, snow, ice. These can all be hazards conditions and can result in your trailer swaying. Remember, always use caution and good judgment when you know you’re going to encounter less than ideal weather.

Pull over, prolong your trip if you have to, safety always comes first. If you are caught in the weather, drive with both hands on the steering wheel at safe speeds.

E) Other large vehicles driving beside you

Most of us have experienced driving past a large vehicle such as a tractor trailer, bus, dump truck, etc. Due to the size of these vehicles that create strong wind drafts that can pull your vehicle in or out.

Ultimately, if not controlled properly this could cause your trailer to start to sway. We recommend avoiding making passes when you can and staying at a constant and safe rate of speed when traveling beside larger road vehicles.

F) Driving downhill

Driving downhill will cause you to increase speed and the weight of your trailer to push against the back of your vehicle. These two factors may result in some sway depending on the circumstances.

To prevent this before going downhill reduce your speed and start braking periodically going down the hill instead of all at once when panic sets in.  Always be mindful when pulling a trailer downhill.

G) Worn Tires, Low Tire Pressure

The quality of your tires is another determining factor of how steady your trailer will pull. You'll want to replace your tires periodically. Also, make sure your tires are filled with the correct air pressure.

If you need any assistance replacing your trailer tires or servicing them, we are able to take care of your needs here at our shop! Give us a call. 

How to deal with trailer sway?

Here is a 6 step process if you start to experience trailer sway.

  1. Remain Calm, be aware of your surroundings

  2. Slowly decelerate by taking your foot off the gas, Don’t brake or speed up.

  3. Firmly grab the steering wheel with both hands and keep straight, don’t over correct.

  4. Using reasonable judgment, use your brake controller lever to only apply brakes to the trailer

  5. Wait until you have come back down to a safe rate of speed or steady driving balance

  6. Find a place to pull over. Check that your weight is distributed properly, tire pressure is correct. Make sure all your cargo is secure

What can you buy to help prevent trailer sway?

Here at NC Trailers we offer mechanical solutions to this problem. There are two parts for sale to help prevent trailer sway. The parts we offer are:

  1. Curt Weight Distribution Hitch

  2. Curt Sway Control Kit

The weight distribution hitch works by leveling out and distributing the weight of the trailer across the vehicles and trailers axles.

As we discussed above, there is importance in properly distributing all your cargo weight properly and this hitch can help you do just that.

The sway control kit is then attached to the weight distribution hitch to prevent lateral movement of the trailer. This will keep your trailer driving straighter down the road with less worry of trailer sway happening.  

The sway bar uses a material like that used in brake pads to provide the necessary resistance while still allowing your vehicle to complete proper turns with your trailer attached. The sway control mounts onto the frame of your trailer and connects to the vehicle's ball mount using a separate trailer ball from that used for coupling the trailer.

Therefore, the combination of these two parts helps solve the problem of improper weight distribution and lateral movement of the trailer. If you’re interested in buying these from us just click the links in the list above. If you need help installing them, we can help you out there too.

Conclusion

We hope this article has given you more solutions when dealing with trailer sway. Again, we have gone over a list of reasons trailer sway occurs and what to look for to prevent it. In the event you experience your trailer swaying, make sure you look over and remember our 6 step process on actions to take.

Also, you can buy our two parts to give you more insurance and peace of mind when hauling your trailer.

For any questions you might have about trailer sway, our parts, or anything else trailer related don’t hesitate to give us a call at 336-276-0329.

Feel free to go on our facebook page if you’d like to reach us there. Also, go over to our Youtube Channel to see all trailer related videos that may be of interest to you.