Trailer sway, also commonly known as fishtailing, is one of the leading causes of trailer accidents. This occurs when a trailer rocks violently across the road. A trailer incident – even a minor one – can result in thousands of dollars of damage or even a life-threatening situation.
Why does a trailer sway?
Any trailer towed with a hitch set behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle can sway while driving. A trailer can sway for many reasons.
Here are some key reasons for trailer sway while on the road –
A strong blast of wind from the side can cause problems for any vehicle and can become more hazardous still if there is a large trailer involved, resulting in a tow vehicle swinging back and forth. Trailers, particularly travel trailers, are more susceptible to side winds compared to others because of their high profile. Passing large vehicles can also produce strong gusts of wind that make your trailer rock.
As strong side winds are unavoidable, the only way to prevent swinging is to prepare your trailer well.
Improper trailer and tongue weight
Another risk factor that can lead to trailer sway is exceeding the weight limit of your vehicle or trailer. Putting too much weight, for instance overloading the rear of the trailer, makes your vehicle to struggle to pull the load. Additionally, having too light of tongue weight can overburden the back. That is why experts recommend keeping the tongue weight between 9 and 15 percent of overall trailer weight; necessary for balancing the trailer load.
One of the main reasons trailers sway is high-speed driving. When you drive too fast, a trailer becomes less stable, potentially resulting in fatal consequences. While driving down the road, a trailer towed with a hitch can sway even with the slightest wind. Drive safely to avoid fishtailing.
Watch a video here of what trailer sway looks like :
How to reduce trailer sway?
Although it is impossible to eliminate trailer sway entirely, taking some preventive steps before it happens can help to reduce fishtailing. Here are some ways to prevent a trailer swinging:
1. Choose the right tow vehicle
An appropriate tow vehicle can reduce a significant amount of fishtailing. Although selecting the right tow vehicle depends on the type of trailer you use; its size, capacity and the total towed load. Make sure the transport you are planning to buy is capable towing a trailer well. Sometimes, manufacturers provide specially designed towing packages for their customers, including trailer hitch receivers and other receiver hitch accessories.
The best way to choose the right tow vehicle is to check the owner’s manual and review the manufacturer’s guide. By doing so, you will learn about the vehicle’s capacities and can explore available hitches to see if they are compatible with the vehicle or not.
2. Stay calm
When a trailer starts swaying, the best thing to do is to keep driving slowly, maintaining a straight drive until the situation becomes stable. Freaking out while swaying will only make the situation worse. If you feel you are losing control because of the swinging, calmly apply the trailer’s brake manually.
3. Load carefully
Every vehicle and trailer has its weight limit. Exceeding these limits can lead to many problems, including the chance of fishtailing. Being careful while loading your trailer can reduce sway. Always make sure that your tow vehicle can safely handle the trailer weight.
4. Avoid driving in high winds
If you want to get rid of trailer sway, always avoid driving when there are extremely high winds. Check the weather before setting out with your carrier. Avoiding strong, high winds can make your travel safer. If you ever find yourself in an area with high winds, reduce the speed of your vehicle for safe driving.
5. Install a traction control system
Setting up a traction control system can help you in recovering control when vehicle traction is lost; with a traction control system, you can reduce the force sent to the slipping wheels while keeping your vehicle stable.
6. Install a brake controller
If your vehicle has an electric braking system, then you should install a brake controller. This system allows drivers to control the force sent to the trailer brakes when the vehicle foot brake is applied. In doing so, you can have manual control over your vehicle brakes, which can help you control the brake when swaying occurs. Use a sway controller to reduce the risk of trailer sway, or fishtailing, and place heavier objects closest to the tow vehicle and the front part of your caravan’s axle.
7. Use products that can reduce trailer sway
Hitches are the perfect solution to fishtailing. They are perfectly suitable for your large trailers, caravans, or other vehicles. Airsafe Hitch Australia can help you in this regard, as they provide different classes of caravan trailer hitches and hitch accessories to ensure a smooth, comfortable and safe ride.
Following the steps above, you can ensure a safer drive by taking some preventive measures to reduce hazardous incidents.