How Do Sway Bars Work? (Do You REALLY Need Them?)

Are you wondering how sway bars work? 

You’re in the right place!

In this LearningRV.com guide, you’ll learn: 

  • What they are
  • How sway bars work
  • How to install them
  • And much more!
how do sway bars work

Have you ever experienced the feeling of your travel trailer swinging from side to side behind your vehicle?

It’s a scary experience and for good reason — trailer sway can cause accidents.

This problem can be avoided with the use of sway bars. In this article, we will go over the fundamentals of sway bars for travel trailers.

We will also discuss:

  • What causes trailer sway
  • How a sway bar for travel trailers work
  • A few safety tips when pulling your travel trailer

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What Is a Sway Bar?

For most vehicles, a sway bar is an addition to the suspension system that reduces the chances of rollover accidents by adding stability and redistributing weight as the vehicle drives.

However, for trailers or campers, a sway bar (or sway controller) is part of a trailer or camper’s hitch setup, not part of the suspension system.

The sway bar is an adjustable bar with a friction plate that attaches to points on the hitch and trailer and works to reduce the trailer’s ability to swing or sway behind your vehicle as you drive.

Many newer style weight distribution systems have built-in sway control.

What Causes Trailer Sway?

Trailer sway is most commonly caused by crosswinds, either naturally occurring or from other vehicles driving past you, or by slowing down your towing vehicle.

These situations cause outside forces to affect your trailer, which does not have the ability to make corrections like you would for your vehicle.

In the case of crosswinds, the trailer is being pushed to one side and it reacts by swaying back and forth.

When your vehicle slows down, the trailer may not slow at the same rate and will end up swaying behind your vehicle as a result.

For safety, you want as little sway as possible as too much sway can result in very serious accidents.

sway bar tip

How Does a Sway Bar for Travel Trailers Work?

Sway bars limit the degree of freedom between your trailer and towing vehicle to reduce the possibility of sway.

For sway controllers that are not part of the weight distribution hitch, the slide bar utilizes a friction plate which makes it more difficult for the trailer to swing from side to side behind your vehicle.

The trailer sway bar is part of your trailer’s hitch setup and is often used in combination with a weight distribution hitch. Together, these work to do the following:

  • Evens out the weight distribution between your trailer and vehicle
  • Ensures that your vehicle remains low on the ground and sits level with your trailer
  • Allows more control of the trailer as you drive

Read More >> How Does A Weight Distribution Hitch Work?

Sway Bar FAQS

A sway bar is not essential, but many people feel more comfortable towing a trailer with a sway controller installed. 

Many newer style weight distribution hitches do have friction plates that work as sway controllers. With this type of hitch, you would not need an additional sway controller.

In some states, it is illegal to tow certain sized trailers without a braking controller.

Legality aside, a braking controller will make your overall towing experience safer and more enjoyable, so it’s always a good idea to add one to your travel trailer.

How To Install Your Anti-Sway Bar for Your Travel Trailer (4 Easy Steps)

Installing a sway bar is best done by your mechanic or travel trailer dealer. However, this is not to say that we do not encourage DIY installation.

Should you choose to install your sway bar yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Install the hitch ball on the hitch head of your vehicle
  2. Check the installation location
  3. Install the other hitch ball along the tongue of your trailer
  4. Attach the anti-sway bar

Step 1: Install the Hitch Ball on the Hitch Head of Your Vehicle

When you purchase a sway bar, it will come with at least two hitch balls. Install one of them on the hitch head of your vehicle.

In most cases, you can screw them on. For other sway bar systems, you will need to weld the ball. 

For this reason, it’s crucial to find a hitch ball that matches your hitch head.

Step 2: Check the Installation Location

For this step, you need to attach your sway bar to the hitch ball of your vehicle. From here, you need to measure how far the sway bar goes. The other end should be on the side of your trailer’s tongue.

Sway bars are adjustable, so check the manufacturer’s recommendations to determine where to place the ball on your trailer’s tongue.

Step 3: Install the Other Hitch Ball Along the Tongue of Your Trailer

Once you have measured where to attach the other hitch ball, drill holes to create an anchor point for the other hitch ball.

These holes should be along the tongue of your trailer.

Once you have screwed the hitch ball into place, you may weld it for added durability.

Step 4: Attach the Anti-Sway Bar

Loosen the sway bar friction control adjustment and attach the sway bar to the hitch balls on the hitch head and trailer tongue.

Use a torque wrench to tighten these connection points if a torque spec is provided by the manufacturer.

Tighten the friction control of your sway bar until the screw bottoms out to finish the installation.

Final Thoughts On Your Travel Trailer Adventures

Travel trailers are more fun to move around when they feel safe and stable behind your vehicle.

They work to reduce trailer sway when a vehicle passes you on the road or you change speeds suddenly.

Newer weight distribution hitches often have sway control built in, but if you don’t have a weight distribution hitch, or you’re using an older style setup, a sway control is a fairly easy thing to add.

They make driving long distances easier, but short trips with no wind can be a pain.

If you’re not sure about installation, your travel trailer dealer should be able to install a sway bar for you or direct you to a qualified installation professional who can do it for you.

Make your next vacation less stressful and more enjoyable by adding a sway bar to your travel trailer.

Are you going to add sway bars to your rig? Let us know in the comments below.

Shawn and Bree

Shawn and Bree

Hey there! We're Shawn and Bree. We're currently traveling full-time in our travel trailer with our 8 kids. We've had to learn a lot to make this lifestyle work, and we wanted to pass some of that experience to you! Our goal is to help save you time, frustration, and money!

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Shawn and Bree

Shawn and Bree

Hey there! We're Shawn and Bree. We're currently traveling full-time in our travel trailer with our 8 kids. We've had to learn a lot to make this lifestyle work, and we wanted to pass some of that experience to you! Our goal is to help save you time, frustration, and money!

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