When a tow hitch is situated well behind a tow vehicle’s rear axle, caravan sway occurs. When the tow vehicle sways to one side, the towed vehicle or caravan sways in the opposite direction, as a result of the overhung hitch. Wind resistance, rear tyre tread distortion and tow ball friction, all work together to dampen sway energy.
To find out more about caravan sway, and some useful tips on how to stop it, please read on below.
What Is Caravan Sway?
The shaking and snaking of a caravan when being towed on the road is referred to as caravan sway. As previously mentioned above, this occurrence is caused by the location of the tow hitch, especially when its well behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle.
Considered to be among the leading causes of caravan accidents caravan sway can be reduced using a sway damping device – if the swaying movement normally comes to a stop, on its own, after 2 or 3 cycles.
Steps To Stop Your Caravan From Swaying
If you are on the road and your caravan starts swaying, you can use the following list of simple and straightforward steps to stop the swaying:
- Use tiny steering actions:
You can correct the swaying with small steering motions. If you make drastic steering actions, you risk making the swaying worse.
- Slow your acceleration:
Reducing the rate of acceleration of the tow vehicle will help minimise the level of trailer oscillations.
- Brake gently:
Gently apply the brakes to bring the caravan and vehicle sway into alignment. Where possible, you should try to apply the caravan brakes using the override on your electric brake controller.
If none of the above has much impact, then you may need to take your caravan for servicing. Let’s take a look now at other ways you can try and prevent your caravan from swaying.
How To Prevent Caravan From Swaying
- Caravan Design:
One of the best ways of stopping your caravan from swaying is by choosing the right design from the start. Over the years, overly long caravans have presented a serious stability problem to drivers. For the new generation of towing vehicles, excess weight is also now seen as a major problem. The chance of non-correcting sway increases with lower tow ball mass or tow ball weight.
- Tyres and Tyre Pressure:
In general, the frictional and part molecular grip of the tow vehicle’s rear tires, as well as that of the caravan’s tires to a lesser extent, play an essential role in reducing a caravan’s sway. As such, it helps a lot to use C-rated (Light Truck) tyres for both the caravan and tow vehicle.
It is also worth noting that you should increase the tyre pressure of the tow vehicle’s rear tyres by 5 to 7 psi. Always leave the pressure of the tow vehicle’s front tyres as recommended by the manufacturer.
- A Weight Distribution Hitch:
Designed to distribute part of the tow weight imposed on the tow vehicle’s rear tyres to the front tyres, a weight-distribution hitch (WDH) can be defined as an optional semi-flexible beam installed between the tow vehicle and the caravan. It is worth noting that using a WHD effectively decreases the tow vehicle’s cornering ability.
- Proper Caravan Loading:
Loading your caravan properly is essential for safety and stability when towing. Be sure to avoid loading anything heavy behind the axle(s). As a rule of thumb, try to pack all your heavy stuff, including spare tyres, as close to the axle(s) as possible.
- Using Sway Control Devices:
Once you have used all of the above methods to reduce trailer sway, you can then move on to using sway control devices to completely eliminate it. These devices should only be used where the caravan sway normally self-corrects after a few sways.
A great anti-sway device to consider is the AL-KO tow ball housing – this provides friction sway control. This device uses pressure loaded friction pads to counter sway force energy. However, its effectiveness, like many other similar products, reduces at higher towing speeds – as sway force energy increases.
- Electronic Stability Control:
If you are using a well-designed and properly loaded caravan, it is easier to stop sway. However, it is virtually impossible to control sway when you carry out an emergency swerve above a critical speed – which varies from one caravan to the next.
Fortunately, you can use electronic sway control systems to keep the tow vehicle and caravan properly aligned. These devices use the braking system of the caravan and tow vehicle to reduce speed below the critical level.
- The Hensley Hitch:
If your tow vehicle can handle the additional 40kgs of the unit, you can effectively eliminate trailer sway using the Hensley Hitch. The unit, which is mostly used in the United States, projects the trailer’s pivot point forward, bringing it closer to the tow vehicle’s rear axle, using trapezoid hitch linkage.
- A Fifth Wheel Trailer:
Using a fifth-wheel trailer is one of the easiest and most effective ways of reducing sway in long and heavy caravans. To keep your caravan from swaying, these trailers normally use a hitch installed directly over the tow vehicle’s rear axle; thus, significantly reducing the hitch overhang.
Trailer sway is one of the leading causes of caravan accidents. Fortunately, with the right trailer, proper loading and an effective anti-sway system, you are able to keep your caravan and tow vehicle in alignment, when driving.
You can also use the steps outlined above to stop your caravan from swaying uncontrollably, in the unfortunate event that it happens.
Visit RV & Caravan Centre for Your Caravan Servicing Needs
If you are looking to explore the great outdoors with your new caravan or would simply like to tow a caravan or trailer safely and efficiently using your preferred tow vehicle, visit RV & Caravan Centre for all your caravan servicing needs.
Please give us a call today on 1800 782 236 to learn more about our caravan services or leave an enquiry.