Correcting Trailer Sway

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elm_tx

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Joined
May 19, 2006
Posts
106
Location
Houston, Tx
Thanks for all the feedback everyone has given me up til now. Here is a new question. I pretty much know what to do in a car to correct a skid / get it back under control.

I expect 18 wheelers will most likely be passing me, and in Texas it will probably be real windy so it won't suprise me if the trailer starts to swing left to right at some point. Maybe it won't ever happen, but if it should, how do I correct it?

Stomp the gas and try to drive out of it? Stay steady and wait for it to come back in line? Take my foot off the gas to slowly slow down? I really don't know, how does one recover from a trailer swinging back and forth at speed?

We have a 2006 4x4 Chevy Crew Cab 2500 HD Diesel pulling a 36' 5er.

Thanks,
Eddie
 

Ron from Big D

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Jan 30, 2005
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Dallas, Texas
Unfortunately I don't have a 5er experience, but many on the forum do and can really help you.  Do you have any kind of sway control of dampening on the 5er hitch.  If you were pulling a regular travel trailer, they are equipped with a sway control.

When the 18 wheeler passes, it creates a pressure wave that hits the rear overhanging portion of the trailer and then the front.  This sets up the sway.  Whatever you do, do not slow as the sway will get worse.  Try to accelerate and power yourself out of it.  My impression has always been that the 5er is less prone to the sway than other trailers.

 

King

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Jan 30, 2006
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354
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MA
If you don't have any form of sway control, and the trailer tends to sway by itself, it is indicative of incorrect trailer balance.  Too little tongue weight.  If that is the case, when the trailer begins to sway DO NOT ACCELERATE.  Gradually slow down until the swaying stops.  Move weight forward in the trailer, or get good sway control as soon as possible.
 

sierramann

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May 15, 2006
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64
Location
Hampton, New Brunswick
if your 5er is raised too high in the front when connected with your tow vehicle then too much weight is on the rear axle. this will cause the trailer to sway at higher speeds. the trailer should sit when connected to the truck as close to level as possible, so that weight is distributed evenly on both axles. this should eliminate sway.
when i bought my first 5er i actually took a small course that the dealer put on to teach newbies on how to properly tow any trailer. it explained alot.
 

Carl L

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Mar 14, 2005
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west Los Angeles
If you have a 5er, you have eliminated most sway issues.  You will feel 18 wheeler shock waves, with your lateral x-section there is no way you are not.  Actually panel vans and buses, including class A motorhomes,  are worse.  Most 18ers have spoilers that materially work to reduce the shock waves.  Sway is uncontrolled lashing back and forth caused a sudden lateral movement.  Since the kingpin of a 5er is directly over the rear axle of the tow vehicle, sway is far less likely to start and get out of control.  Some folks say never, I never say never, but I will say you should not find it a big issue.

You can destabilize a trailer, including 5ers, by hanging heavy loads behind the trailer's axles.  All trailers should be nose heavy.  As I remember, 5ers like 25% of their weight to bear on pin at the tow vehicle.  So don't go hanging motorcycles on the back of your trailer.

Cross winds can be a real problem.  Anyone who has traversed Cajon Pass near Los Angeles very much has seen more than one flipped semi-trailer due to high (50+mph) winds.  The cure for that is to slow down.  A trailer at high speed is less stable than one at low speed.  30-40 mph  travel will also give you more time to correct for gusts.    Really high wind warning are a good indication that it is time to find a campground and hunker down.

 

Lou Schneider

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Mar 14, 2005
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I don't think you'll have "sway" problems with a 5th wheel.  Sway happens with conventional hitches, where the pivot point between the trailer and tow vehicle is several feet behind the rear axle.  This forms a lever between the hitch and the rear axle of the towing vehicle, giving side forces the means to push the tow vehicle from side to side.  (Push sideways on the rear bumper of a car with a long rear overhang and watch the front end of the car try and move in the opposite direction).  There are several ways to get around this with a conventional hitch, usually by stiffening the pivot so sideways motion is harder to initiate or maintain.

Like Carl said, a 5th wheel trailer is inherently more stable than a bumper pull trailer.  The 5th wheel has it's pivot directly over the truck's rear axle, so side motions tend to go directly through the truck's rear axle to ground.  Side forces on the trailer have much less effect on the stability and direction of travel of a 5th wheel rig, compared to a conventional trailer.  This is why commercial tractors have no trouble handling a trailer that's 2-3 times the length of the tractor and can weigh 4-5 times as much.

5th wheel hitches don't have sway control - for the most part they're totally unnecessary.  Keep the hitch weight reasonable - don't put all of your weight at the rear of the trailer - and you should be fine.
 

2006F350

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Dec 6, 2005
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393
Location
Memphis TN
I pull a 37' FW. When passed by a big rig or a pretty bad side wind, I get a bit of a wiggle, but? nothing to get excited about .. nothing at all like you could expect from a trailer. One thing you can do if the wiggle gets out of hand is to reach down to your trailer brake control and "GENTLY" apply a tad-bit of trailer brake .. that will pull the truck and trailer back in line. The key word here is "GENTLE". Too much too quick and you will find your self in more trouble than you started with, you want just enough to apply a bit of brake pressure behind you.

Larry
 

elm_tx

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Joined
May 19, 2006
Posts
106
Location
Houston, Tx
Thanks everyone for you feedback, it does put my mind a bit more at ease.

I've got tons of questions that I suspect simply require experience. The experience begins Saturday when we pick up the 5er!!! :D
 
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