Sunday, October 2, 2022


Is a sway bar necessary for a short travel trailer?

Dear Gary,
I am a newbie to RVing. I just purchased a used 22-foot Prowler travel trailer and I am towing it behind my F-250. My question is, do I need a sway bar? I am getting mixed messages, mostly leaning towards not needing one. —Tami W.

Dear Tami,
I am a firm believer in both a weight distributing hitch AND a sway control when towing any travel trailer. Even with shorter trailers you will find the addition of a sway control device to be beneficial.

The hitch assembly is the most crucial connection between tow vehicle and trailer so it just makes good sense to have as much advantage at that connection as possible.

You’ll no doubt hear others state it’s not needed on the shorter towables, but I can show you a bunch of photos of wrecked units that the owners wished they would have gone that little bit extra. Call it cheap insurance (relatively speaking, of course), but it will certainly add to the safety margin.

Also, be very sure all components within the hitch assembly – receiver, ball mount, spring bars, etc. – are rated for the loaded weight of the trailer and that all parts are set up properly. There are certain procedures for proper setup and most are published online. But my number one rule is, never compromise the safety factor!

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Michael Clark
4 months ago

Travel Trailers with Sway Bars – There are several different types of sway bars on the market nowadays. Choose the one that is appropriate for your trailer’s size and weight. A dual-cam sway bar kit, for example, can be used on a large and heavy trailer.

3 years ago

Yes you need a sway bar! We hauled a borrowed camper and were forced onto the highway because of road construction. A semi truck went by and control of the vehicle was lost. 12 years out and my broken back causes daily pain. A few hundred dollars is worth your safety!

1 year ago
Reply to  Lisa

I appreciate your input.

Mike Sherman
3 years ago

I have owned several TTs. It got old going through all the trouble of connecting to that little ball. Going to a 5th wheel greatly improved my attitude and makes driving now a pleasurable experience.

4 years ago

We own a toy hauler of a similar length to the one in the article, pulled with a substantial vehicle, a diesel F250. My husband was ready to sell the trailer after the first long trip because of handling issues.

It ended up in the shop for other reasons, and the shop suggested sway/load management. I figured it was a cash grab, especially after hearing the price — but my husband said it was that or a for-sale sign, so we got it.

The ride with it was so different, he was almost in tears.

I shudder to think that the trailer is rated for (and was pulled by our seller with) one of those half-ton mini-pickups!

In response to a previous comment, yes my husband is a driver who “adjusts” too much when he’s driving, so there may be something to that connection. Considering the potential consequences of slipping back into lifelong driving habits for just a second, though, I’d rather have the sway bars than depend on him remembering to keep a steady hand on the wheel. Also, it would be exhausting to drive with so much intense focus, trying to deprogram yourself every second!

George B
4 years ago

I had a 24 ft travel trailer behind a 3/4 ton and never had a huge problem. I then went to a 36 ft travel trailer and it was white knuckle until I got the anti-sways bars (I put on two) which made a whole lot of difference. However, if the road is wet or snowy you might not want to keep the adjustment on the anti-sway bars set up too high. If they’re too tight it restricts the ability of the tow vehicle to turn and can cause the front wheels of the tow vehicle to understeer. Best bet then is to reduce the friction on the sway bar(s) and slow down.

4 years ago

Considering the horrible life-changing penalties for an accident, don’t gamble or skimp if you have ANY doubt of the safety. Doing it right won’t hurt, unlike the alternative.

Cliff: auto levelling does only what it says, compensating for load/tongue weight by lifting/stiffening the rear suspension…but it can’t help that you’re offweighting your front axle which does all the steering and most of your braking. You could have bad control issues.

Spring load leveling bars level the tow by applying torque through the hitch, mostly restoring proper axle weight ratios by “trying” to arch the tow/trailer. Use them with any trailer wanting them.

“I can get away with…” is seldom the best bet…


Keira Bianchi
4 years ago

We had an outdoor expedition company that used up to 24 tow vehicles, each with a trailer. We taught each of the drivers to load the trailers properly, and had sway control bars on about half of the rigs. We did not notice a difference in sway with the sway bars on. What we did notice is that when Jerry drove any of the rigs, we would have sway scares occasionally. When John drove the same rigs, he never had any sway problems. We taught Jerry how to keep the steering wheel steady, and the sway problem disappeared. We had this experience probably 50 times over the 17 years that we owned the company with a variety of employees and rigs.

Cliff Aichinger
4 years ago

I have a 22 foot travel trailer and find it very beneficial to have a sway control bar on my unit.

An additional question I have is…I recently purchased a new Chevy Tahoe with automatic load leveling. Should I continue to use my load leveling bars on my hitch system or just use my sway control?

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