Do You Need A Sway Bar For Your Camper?
Traveling with an RV is one of the most freeing experiences in the world. Once you’ve got the right tow vehicle and camper, you just want to get out on the open road. But there are a few pieces of safety equipment that you need to look over first. One important item is the sway bar, which is common in many towable trailers. But do you really need a sway bar for your camper, or is it just one more accessory?
What is a sway bar?
Sway bars are important pieces of safety equipment for RVs. They help prevent swaying on the highway and they can even save your vehicle from a dangerous crash or rollover. Some drivers find that sway bars make it harder to turn, but overall, the extra safety is worth it. Most campers on the market today come with sway bars pre-installed, so you don’t need to worry too much about seeking one out.
If you have a camper that doesn’t have a sway bar, or are still weighing the pros and cons, we’ll explore more details about this product below.
Camper sway bars come in a couple of different forms, but they all serve the same purpose. The two main types are hitch sway bars and adjustable sway bars.
Hitch sway bars are made with a pair of sturdy metal arms that connect the trailer to the hitch of the tow vehicle. With this model, the sway bar is built directly into the weight distribution hitch with no need for extra add-ons. Sometimes chains or adjustable bars are added for greater control or flexibility.
Adjustable sway bars are a bit less common these days, but they are still good pieces of equipment. The adjustable type of sway bar connects directly to the tongue of the trailer and the hitch of the tow vehicle. It is a solid bar that can lock into place at whatever length you choose. When you’re traveling on the highway and experience rough conditions, this bar will stay steady and prevent the trailer from moving closer or further from the tow vehicle.
Most cars and trucks have sway bars as well, although these are a bit different compared to camper models. It helps improve their suspension and keeps them stable during turns and harsh driving conditions.
Many modern travel trailers are built with weight distribution hitches and they have sway bars that are already attached. Because of this, you usually won’t need to go out of your way to buy a separate sway bar. Make sure you ask your dealer about the hitch, so you can be certain that you have this important piece of equipment.
Why do you need a sway bar for your camper?
If you’ve ever bought an RV, you know that there are necessities, and then there are accessories. It’s easy to get sucked into an endless trap of buying add-ons, appliances, and bonus features for your unit. Because there are so many products for the RV market, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s actually going to be important.
Trust me when I say that sway bars are not pointless accessories. Far from it, in fact! This sturdy metal frame could end up being a lifesaver for you, your passengers, and the RV itself.
Campers experience a lot of stress and outside forces. When they’re being driven at highway speeds, they’re vulnerable to swaying. If the driver can’t get this movement under control, the camper and tow vehicle could crash and flip over. This is an extremely dangerous situation and it could even be deadly. There are a few different factors that can cause sway while you’re driving.
Wind is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to trailer sway. Most travel trailers are larger than cars and they have a lot of flat surface area. If the wind hits it broadside, it’s going to be hard to resist the movement. Wind speeds are sometimes compounded when you’re driving at highway speeds, so it’s important to get a sway bar for your camper.
If you prefer camping off-the-grid, you’ll probably deal with pretty rough roads. Most vehicles can handle these conditions, especially trucks that are strong enough to haul trailers. However, most travel trailers don’t have the same powerful suspension.
They can end up becoming unbalanced during rough conditions and might twist or slide forward toward the tow vehicle. In these conditions, a sway bar is vital! It helps to keep the trailer locked in place and prevent unwanted movement.
A similar situation happens during tight turns. Travel trailers are notoriously hard to maneuver, and it can be tricky to make turns while driving. The centrifugal force of turning (especially at highway speeds) can place too much pressure on the camper. They’re large and top-heavy, so there’s a very real risk of flipping. Semi-trucks and other large vehicles experience similar risks.
In this situation, your best bet is to drive cautiously. Give yourself plenty of time and turn as gradually as possible. The people behind you might get a bit annoyed, but it’s a good trade-off because you’re keeping everyone safer in the long run.
If you’ve ever passed (or been passed) by a semi-truck on the highway, you probably felt a bit unsteady in your lane. When this happens, your vehicle gets caught in the slipstream of nearby vehicles. This wind pressure and momentum can cause your vehicle and camper to sway. Sway bars will minimize this movement and help you recover from any unsteadiness.
Finally, sway bars help with the weight distribution between campers and their tow vehicles. As I mentioned above, many modern sway bars are built into weight distribution hitches. These two items work in tandem to make the whole setup safer and more secure.
Without a proper hitch, your tow vehicle would be imbalanced because of the immense weight of the trailer behind it. The front wheels would carry less weight, while the back ones became overwhelmed. The trailer would pitch forward as well, which makes the back end more prone to back and forth movement. A combination of a sway bar and a weight distribution hitch makes the whole setup more streamlined and balanced.
What are the best aftermarket sway bars?
Again, most modern campers come with pre-installed sway bars. The industry recognizes the safety benefit they provide and has made them standard across most models.
If your hitch has worn out, or you have a mode that requires extra reinforcement, there are a few places you could look to find a good sway bar for your camper. These are all quite affordable and have been highly reviewed by customers.
CURT 17200 Trailer Anti-Sway Bar Control Kit
This sway bar is compatible with a variety of trailer designs and uses a brake-pad material to minimize movement. It’s slightly more expensive than the next option, but it’s quite popular among its customers. (About $53, Amazon)
Ultra-Fab Products 35-946204 Ultra Sway Control
The Ultra-Fab sway bar is protected by a 3-year manufacturer warranty, so you can rest assured that it’s not going to break anytime soon. It’s also adjustable and is one of the cheapest sway bars on the market. (About $41, Amazon)
Pro Series 83660 Value Friction Sway Control
The Pro Series sway bar has outstanding reviews from customers. It has a heavy-duty design and it’s easy to install and remove. It can be installed on the right, left, or center, and some customers like to buy two just for the extra protection. ($66, Amazon)
RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.