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MattGlamperGear
Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthorneUpdated: February 17, 2023

When it comes to towing a small camper or RV, do you need sway bars? There is no definitive answer, as every situation is different. However, there are some factors you should consider when making your decision on whether your not you need a sway bar.

Before we get into whether or not you need sway bars for a small camper, let’s first understand what they are and how they work and why do trailers sway. We’ll give you some insight as to what a weight distribution hitch does and how a sway bar works to significantly reduce trailer sway.

What are sway bars, and how do sway bars work?

Sway bars, also known as anti-sway bars or stabilizer bars, are heavy-duty metal bars that help reduce the side-to-side movement (or “sway”) of a trailer. Sway bars don’t necessarily completely remove sway from the equation, but they do minimize camper sway and minimize body roll when you encounter rough conditions.

Each sway bar connects directly to the tongue of the trailer and to the sides of the sway control hitch. You’ll see the coupling equipment next to the hitch ball. These sway bar hitches are essential to keeping the trailer from swaying.

Trailer sway bars will help to keep the trailer or camper in a straight line while you are driving and also help to keep it from fishtailing. They prevent swaying by stabilizing the pivot point between the tow vehicle and the camper or RV.

While they don’t do anything to keep the trailer or camper from moving up and down, they do an excellent job stabilizing it from side to side. If you have ever driven a trailer or camper without sway bars, you know how important they can be. They can make your ride much more enjoyable. So, to answer the question, do you need a sway bar, no you don’t need one, but you’ll notice the difference if you ever used a sway bar. We’re pretty confident you won’t go back once you tried it.

The good news is, most travel trailers will come with sway bars pre-installed. That is, if you buy the travel trailer new from the dealership.

Types of sway bars.

Sway bars are essential for campers and RVs, helping to reduce body roll and lateral movement while driving.

There are two main types of sway bars—

  • Hitch sway bars. These are built directly into the weight distribution hitch. Hitch sway bars are designed to provide extra stability and reduce movement between the trailer and tow vehicle when traveling. They consist of two metal arms that connect the trailer to the hitch of the tow vehicle, and are often coupled with chains or adjustable bars for added control and flexibility. These bars help keep the trailer in line with the tow vehicle, reducing wear and tear on tires, suspension components and other parts of your RV as you head down the road.
  • Adjustable sway bars. These adjustable type bars attach to the camper’s tongue and the tow vehicle. Adjustable sway bars are a great tool for controlling how much your trailer or RV sways as you drive. They connect directly to the tongue of the trailer and the hitch of the tow vehicle, and lock into whatever length you choose. This gives you greater control over your setup, allowing you to fine-tune it to get the exact balance of comfort and stability that you need. Thanks to their adjustable design, they can be used on any size or weight camper or RV without any unwanted stress on other parts like suspension components or tires.

Both types provide stability when traveling on rough roads, ensuring that your camper or RV stays safe and secure no matter what conditions you might encounter.

The difference between a sway bar and weight distribution hitch.

While both are designed to improve the stability of a trailer when it is being towed, sway bars and weight distribution hitches differ in how they work.

As we highlighted, wway bars directly connect the trailer to the tow vehicle and use adjustable arms to reduce movement between them.

Weight distribution hitches, on the other hand, are more complex systems that involve distributing the load more evenly through the hitch and onto the axle of the tow vehicle, resulting in improved performance and stability. If you see your trailer tongue sagging with the towing vehicle, it means you might need a weight distribution hitch to level it out and create a stable towing experience.

Sure, both add a little more stability to your towing experience, but the pieces of equipment serve different purposes. Keep in mind, however, you can buy setups that have both pieces of equipment in a single package. They’re a sway bar and weight distribution in one. So you can maintain sway control and improper weight distribution with one whole system.

What causes a small trailer to sway?

When a small trailer starts to sway, it is usually because the trailer is not appropriately hitched or the trailer is overloaded.

Sometimes it’s just that it is misloaded, and the weight is not distributed evenly. If you are having trouble with your trailer swaying, you should first check to make sure that it is hitched correctly and that the weight is distributed evenly.

Other factors and outside forces may also affect how much a camper or trailer sways. For example high winds or wind gusts from passing semi trucks or other passing vehicles may make your travel trailer sway violently. If you’ve ever had that happen, then you know how scary it is when your trailer starts to swing side to side. You don’t want to lose control next time large vehicles pass!

How do you know if your camper needs sway bars?

While you don’t necessarily need sway bars for a small camper, they can be beneficial in keeping your camper stable on the road. If your trailer starts to sway while driving, adding a trailer sway bar may be a good idea. They can prevent a dangerous crash if you’re cruising at highway speeds.

As you drive the tow vehicle with the camper attached, pay attention to how the camper feels. If it starts to feel like it is swaying back and forth, or if you notice that the trailer is moving side to side more than usual, it may be time to add some sway bars.

In general, if you frequently drive in windy conditions or on roads that are not perfectly level, then sway bars can be a good idea.

Installing sway bars on a small camper.

Sway bars are easy to install, and most kits will have everything you need to set them up.

First, you must determine where you want to place the bars. They will need to be attached to the tongue of the trailer and the hitch. Once you have chosen the placement, you can hook the bars using the included hardware.

The hitch is a unique coupling to attach the trailer to the tow vehicle. It is essential to ensure the hitch is secured correctly before attaching the sway bars.

Once the hitch is secure, you can then attach the sway bar. Most kits will come with two bars, one for each side. Each sway bar will have brackets that need to be attached to the tongue of the trailer and the hitch. It’s these sturdy metal arms that will minimize vehicle sway.

You will then need to connect the bars using the included hardware. Make sure that the connection is secure before driving.

Ensure the sway control system is safely installed.

We can’t stress this enough. When installing sway bars on a camper, safety is the most important factor.

Make sure the hitch and trailer connection points are secure. Ensure that all hardware is installed correctly and in good condition. And lastly, ensure the weight rating for your bars matches the weight of your camper.

Always use jack stands and other safety equipment when working with trailers. This will prevent any shifting or tipping. Also, take care not to pinch yourself or any wiring while connecting the sway bar arms.

Finally, check that all nuts and bolts are tightened to spec before you hit the road.

We recommend you check and double check after the installation of your sway control system. If you can, have another person check your handy work as well.

How is backing up? Is there any noticeable difference with a sway bar?

When you have a sway bar installed on your small camper, you can drive and tow the camper as usual. This includes backing up.

However, you may notice that the trailer doesn’t seem to back up in a straight line as easily. This is because the sway bars are attached to the tongue of the trailer. As such, they will prevent the trailer from turning as much.

If you’re backing up your camper into a tight space, you may want to disconnect the sway bars first. This will allow you to turn the trailer more easily.

Do you need to remove the bars when not in use?

No, you do not need to remove the sway bar when they are not in use.

You can leave them attached to the tongue of the trailer and the hitch. They will not damage the trailer or the hitch and will be there when you need them.

However, if you do not plan on using them for an extended period, you may want to disconnect them. Then you’ll want to store them in a safe place. This will prevent them from rusting or being damaged while they are not in use.

Does you need a sway bar for your camper?

When it comes to small campers, do you need sway bars?

The answer is a definitive maybe. A vehicle sway bar upgrade might be beneficial depending on your trailer frame and tow hitch set up. If you dread sway like all other RV owners, or if you have too much weight in the trailer, then you probably would want to install sway bars.

Sway bars are essential for larger RVs and trailers (except for a fifth wheel), but they can also be helpful for smaller ones to prevent sway. At the very least, they can reduce sway.

In general, the more weight your camper has, the better the idea sway bars are to keep it stable while driving.

MattGlamperGear

Matt Johnson


Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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