One of the most common and potentially dangerous situations you can experience while towing a caravan is sway. Sway occurs when your caravan starts moving left/right behind the tow vehicle. What starts as a very small amount of sway can quickly build up to swaying that makes the rig uncontrollable which can lead to catastrophe. Caravan sway often starts due to wind buffering the caravan or due to passing trucks or large vehicles at high speeds on a highway. You can’t avoid wind buffering while towing but there are a few things that you can do to prevent the build up of caravan sway.
1. Ensure that your tow vehicle and caravan are within their weight limits and are not overloaded. Having an overloaded caravan is a common source of swaying and handling problems as you are trying to operate your rig beyond its engineering limitations. Weighing your caravan can be done at a weighbridge for a small fee or Caravanning Queensland offer free caravan safety checks that are run periodically around the state. At the RV Service Centre we offer a weighing service and can check that your vehicle and caravan are within their legal limits.
2. Balance the load of your caravan on the vehicle. A weight distribution hitch improves towing safety, handling and control of a caravan by evenly distributing the load from the caravan through all four wheels of the vehicle. This improves the performance and handling of the vehicle. How the weight is distributed in your caravan, and the design of the caravan itself will determine how much load it puts on to the vehicle. Every caravan has the natural tendency to put excess weight on the rear wheels of the vehicle, lifting the front of the vehicle, making steering lighter, and handling much less accurate. A weight distribution hitch fixes this type of problem by getting weight on to the front axles of the tow vehicle to balance the load. This naturally makes the entire rig handle a lot better, but doesn’t necessarily prevent swaying. The diagram below indicates where a weight distribution hitch would be required and how the rig should look.
It’s important to note that weight distribution hitches are only effective when they are set up correctly. We commonly see customers with all the gear but set-up incorrectly and therefore not balancing their load. Installation of a weight distribution hitch requires a customised approach for each particular vehicle and caravan combination to get it right as no two rigs are the same. At the RV Service Centre we sell and install Hayman Reese weight distribution kits with 32 different versions in stock. Our experienced team can install the kit that is the correct match for your rig with optimal load balancing.
3. If you want to prevent small swaying that happens at highway speeds, you need to consider mechanical sway control. Mechanical sway controllers are additional devices fitted to Weight Distribution Hitches. They are mechanical and provide an opposing force when you van starts to sway. A common misconception is that a weight distribution hitch is a “sway bar”. This is not the case. Mechanical sway controllers used in conjunction with a weight distribution hitch will prevent meandering sway as you drive along. We recommend and install Hayman Reese mechanical sway controllers which are compatible with Hayman Reese weight distribution hitches.
4. Electronic Stability Control is the device that could save your life and your rig if your caravan has built up dangerous sway – for example sway due to swerving or strong wind buffering. Electronic Stability Control is an electronic device, fitted to your caravan, which detects sway and activates the caravan brakes to straighten out the caravan. It is like manually operating your caravan brake controller, but about 1000 times quicker and 1000 times more effective. Many new caravans are fitted with Electronic Stability Control and can be fitted to any caravan as an after-market accessory. At the RV Service Centre we offer both ALKO and Dexter Electronic Stabilty Control systems. There are some differences in the systems which you can read more information about ESC systems here. Electronic Stability Control will only activate the caravan brakes to prevent an accident when a certain amount of sway is detected and will not operate 99.99% of the time. ESC will not take out meandering caravan sway but this can be alleviated with mechanical sway controllers. Some insurance companies offer discounted premiums if Electronic Stability Control is fitted.
Caravan sway can be prevented and limited to give you better handling of your rig and greater safety while towing. Contact us at the RV Service Centre to discuss the options to prevent caravan sway for your particular rig. Our team can assist in weighing your rig and balancing the load on your vehicle correctly. We can determine whether a weight distribution hitch with mechanical sway control is recommended for your rig and the best Electronic Stabilty Control system for you. Give us a call or visit our showroom for more information and a free quote.