Please note this thread has been inactive for 90 days. For the best results, please start a new thread.
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 31
  1. #1
    Petty Officer 2nd Class
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    130

    Default How to control sway after it starts?

    On the way back from the lake today, I ended up having to tow a small boat home behind my camp trailer (due to breakdown in original tow vehicle). My camp trailer has the hitch and wiring installed, so I agreed to do it. Any speed over 45 mph the swaying started, and once when caught by a gust of wind, I nearly lost the boat. It was swaying badly, pulling my trailer, and nearly tipped over. (Because of the circumstances, there was no way to match the trailer and tongue the way it should be, and they weren't as level as I'd like) My question is, once you get a good sway going, almost to the point of losing control, what is the best way to get it stopped? Slowing gradually didn't seem to help, nor did stopping with the brakes. I'd like to know in case this ever comes up for me or anyone else out there.
    So come on experts, let me know what to do in this situation. thanks

  2. #2
    Petty Officer 1st Class
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Lake Camanche, CA
    Posts
    272

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    So you were towing a camp trailer and a boat behind that? In most if not all states, it's against the law to "double" tow unless the 1'st tow has a 5th wheel/gooseneck hitch. As to your question, normally on a single tow, slowing the speed usually stops or minimize the sway.

  3. #3
    Fleet Admiral Gary H NC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    East of Charlotte NC.(Indian Trail)
    Posts
    8,884

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    If the sway was getting to the point of wrecking or turning over it should have been stopped and not driven!
    What exactly were you driving and towing? I know better than to ask if these vehicles had brakes....


    1981 ChrisCraft 210 Scorpion K,175 Johnson SeaHorse

  4. #4
    Lieutenant Junior Grade
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Alta Loma, California
    Posts
    1,091

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    towing 2 trailers, that was the problem, the 1st trailer probably stated moving around a little bit (no big deal) then just transformed to the other trailer 10X

    usually not a good idea

  5. #5
    Petty Officer 1st Class
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    211

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    The answer is to floor it until the sway goes away and after you change your pants, drive slower...

  6. #6
    Petty Officer 2nd Class
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    130

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    First trailer was my 20 ft. camp trailer with brakes, boat was a small (15 ft) with single axle trailer. It isn't something I intended to do, and hope to not do again. But I was wondering about how to get out of the problem once in it.
    Tandem towing under 55 ft is legal here.

  7. #7
    Petty Officer 1st Class
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Edmonton, AB
    Posts
    295

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    For a single trailer, manually applying the trailer brakes without applying the tow vehicle brakes is very effective to stop swaying. It would probably also work in a double trailer situation if the lead trailer is considerably heavier than the end trailer.

    Sway is an oscillation about the trailer's yaw (vertical) axis that takes the back end of the tow vehicle along for the ride. Sway can be a problem when the trailer is large relative to the tow vehicle and the trailer's inertial yaw axis (vertical axis running through the trailer's centre of mass) is close to the trailer's mechanical yaw axis (the axle(s)). In other words, when you don't have enough tongue weight.

    Adding the second trailer puts more weight on the lead trailer's axles and simultaneously unloads the tongue, which can turn a marginally stable setup into an unstable one. The best double trailer setup (and the only legal one in many jurisdictions) is to use a 5th wheel hitch for the lead trailer, as 5th wheel trailers have their centre of mass well forward of the axle and will not be negatively affected by the tongue weight of the second trailer. If you're using 2 ball-type hitches, make sure the tongue weight of the lead trailer in the fully assembled "road train" is at least 10% of the sum of the lead trailer's weight and the end trailer's tongue weight.

  8. #8
    Lieutenant Junior Grade JCF350's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Citra, Panama City, Jensen Beach, FLA
    Posts
    1,148

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Quote Originally Posted by sharps45 View Post
    Tandem towing under 55 ft is legal here.
    where is "here"?
    First "BIG" fish!!

  9. #9
    Petty Officer 3rd Class
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seon View Post
    So you were towing a camp trailer and a boat behind that? In most if not all states, it's against the law to "double" tow unless the 1'st tow has a 5th wheel/gooseneck hitch. As to your question, normally on a single tow, slowing the speed usually stops or minimize the sway.
    Actually only Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota have laws that state the first trailer must be a 5th wheel. The other 22 states that allow tandem towing only have max length requirements...and a couple have special permit requirements...
    Glastron Owner's Club - Help start the club.

  10. #10
    Chief Petty Officer fishmen111's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Carson, VA
    Posts
    634

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    You should have dropped the boat after the first occurance. Many people have enough trouble getting one trailer set up correctly, much less two. Getting two pivot points in perfect unison takes work. Since it's over, I would have down shifted to activate the camper brakes if surge. If electric, about all you can do is slow down. If the camper does not have brakes at all, you should have never agreed to begin with. There is no instant cure for sway that I know of, other than having it set up correctly to begin with. I realize that these were special circumstances, but that was not wise decision.

  11. #11
    Seaman
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Magnolia,TX.
    Posts
    56

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Quote Originally Posted by cdoliver View Post
    The answer is to floor it until the sway goes away and after you change your pants, drive slower...
    This has worked for me but only towing one trailer.

  12. #12
    Petty Officer 2nd Class
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    130

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Okay, I've been chastised for my good intentions. The haul was only about 18 miles, and except for the wind gust I kept it under good control.
    I have electric brakes on my trailer, but didn't think of them at the time (I was busy sucking seat cushion into my nether region). Before I would try anything like that again, I would definitely do a better job of matching the trailer tongues, weights, and heights. The accelerate out of the sway sounds counter-intuitive, but makes sense when you think about it. How often do you get swaying when pulling up a grade?
    Anyway, thanks for the advice and the wet noodle whipping.

  13. #13
    Chief Petty Officer
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    San DEAgo
    Posts
    460

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Quote Originally Posted by sharps45 View Post
    The accelerate out of the sway sounds counter-intuitive, but makes sense when you think about it. How often do you get swaying when pulling up a grade?

    I concor with the speeding up.
    I had rented a trailer once that must have had a crooked axle or something but if I ever got above 50mph the trailer would start swaying (trailer was loaded properly). If I gave it brakes it would get worse but flooring it would straighting it right out. It was a tug of war all the way home and when I did get home and unloaded, my ball hitch's nut was two, maybe three threads from coming off!! Thing swayed so much it un-tightened my ball...
    2000 Wellcraft 186ss Volvo Penta 5.7GS/SX

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

  14. #14
    Seaman Apprentice
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    30

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    I can definitely add a bit to this conversation, first all since you were only going 18 miles you should've left the boat and came back for it, now having said that since that isn't what you did and chose to risk wrecking all three vehicles, when sway starts the last thing to do is apply the brakes of the TV, a slight accel of the TV will sometimes straighten things out and then you can slow down to a safe tow speed, you can also apply the trailer brakes, but since you had a third vehicle in tow not sure honestly how effective that would be. Hope that next time you give serious thought to this tow arrangement and it's potential problems. Goodluck.

  15. #15

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    There is no debate on this at all. Dealing specifically with the question at hand, the ONLY safe way out is to accelerate until the sway subsides, then gradually reduce speed until you are at a safer speed. Trying to manually apply trailer brakes not only is unrealistic in a panic situation, but it also drastically increases the odds of the trailer wheels locking up, which inevitably leads to a jacknife.

  16. #16
    Ensign ebry710's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Santa Rosa, Ca
    Posts
    973

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Determining how to tow two tandem trailers without knowing weight distribution and tongue length is difficult in a forum. Advising speeding up to stop sway could end up with trailers on their side. The best thing to do is drive slow and avoid sway altogether.

    I have driven too many trailer to try this though. Legal or not my equipment and safety is too important to me.
    Last edited by ebry710; April 29th, 2008 at 11:47 PM. Reason: add
    1987 Boston Whaler "Outrageous 18"
    1989 Johnson 120 V4 VRO

  17. #17
    Chief Petty Officer
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    426

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    one thing is dont try to steer to counter act it, it will only make it worse just keep driving straight down the road, apply the manual trailer break control without hitting the truck breaks and slow down

  18. #18

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    The last 2 replies are extremely incorrect. DO NOT TOUCH THE BRAKES! Trailer or otherwise, you must stabalize the vehicle first, which is done by accelerating only. I don't know where some of these guys get their information, but please do not mislead people when the wrong advice could lead to a crash. Obviously this vehicle combo should not have even been driven< HOWEVER once in trouble, the only choice you have is to get the trailer(s) back behind the tow vehicle and then slowly bring the vehicle to a safe speed or stop completely. This practice is well documented (Michigan centre for decision driving) not to mention well used by people who have a great deal of experience trailering a variety of loads and combinations.

  19. #19
    Petty Officer 2nd Class
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Kentucky
    Posts
    128

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    I agree that the last thing you want to do is hit the brakes. You should alway's speed up untill the trailer straightens up. When it is swaying the boat is pushing you and trying to get you to go faster than you want to go. By speeding up you are going to start pulling the boat again instead of having it try to push you and start swaying.

  20. #20
    Petty Officer 1st Class
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Edmonton, AB
    Posts
    295

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shamic View Post
    The last 2 replies are extremely incorrect. DO NOT TOUCH THE BRAKES! Trailer or otherwise, you must stabalize the vehicle first, which is done by accelerating only. I don't know where some of these guys get their information, but please do not mislead people when the wrong advice could lead to a crash. Obviously this vehicle combo should not have even been driven< HOWEVER once in trouble, the only choice you have is to get the trailer(s) back behind the tow vehicle and then slowly bring the vehicle to a safe speed or stop completely. This practice is well documented (Michigan centre for decision driving) not to mention well used by people who have a great deal of experience trailering a variety of loads and combinations.
    The NHTSA, among others. "If you have an electric trailer brake controller and excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse."
    Reference: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/proble...ing/Towing.pdf

    The idea is to re-establish tension between the tow vehicle and the trailer to damp the sideways oscillation. You can do that by accelerating the tow vehicle or braking the trailer. Both work, but trailer braking gets you to a slower, safer speed faster.

  21. #21
    Admiral CATransplant's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    6,319

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Just as an aside here, since the other stuff has been discussed, I think I know why you got the sway on your double tow.

    If the tongue weight on the camping trailer was a little light, which is not unusual, since they're usually packed badly, and the tongue weight on the boat was a little heavy, there's your problem.

    When you hook up the boat to the back of the first trailer, the tongue weight of the boat levers the trailer's tongue up, lessening its tongue weight. The quickest way to start a sway on a tow is too light a tongue weight. That's multiplied if you have a second trailer tacked on. A very dangerous combination.

    Some guys manage a double tow all the time, but it's not an easy thing to do safely. Managing tongue weights is super critical.

  22. #22
    Lieutenant cbavier's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Roscommon, MI
    Posts
    1,356

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmushroomman View Post
    I agree that the last thing you want to do is hit the brakes. You should alway's speed up untill the trailer straightens up. When it is swaying the boat is pushing you and trying to get you to go faster than you want to go. By speeding up you are going to start pulling the boat again instead of having it try to push you and start swaying.
    Best answer and explanation so far. By speeding up you are going to start pulling the boat again instead of having it try to push you and start swaying.[/QUOTE]
    Chuck
    "OWN-IT II"
    1986 Four Winns Horizon 190
    1982 Aqua Patio
    50 Hp Two stroke

  23. #23
    Ensign ebry710's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Santa Rosa, Ca
    Posts
    973

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    If your trailers are out of balance, speeding up may not straighten anything. I would call the manufacturer of the pull trailer and ask what their opinion is. Just because its legal and there is a hitch welded to the back of the trailer doesn't mean its a big rig. Oscillation is a matter of speed vs sway. Just like a tire out of balance, speed doesn't always stop the wobble.
    1987 Boston Whaler "Outrageous 18"
    1989 Johnson 120 V4 VRO

  24. #24
    Petty Officer 2nd Class
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    130

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    I consulted an 'expert' on this matter, a former teamster, truck driver, mechanic, all around knowledgeable guy. He explained to me the geometry of trailers and towing, from tongue weight to toe settings to level of tongues.
    His thoughts are that the level of the towing vehicle to the hitch height is the number one desirable thing for towing safely. You want either level or slightly downward. You want the tires on the trailer to be in a 'following' stance- the centerline of the tire balance being on a straight vertical axis or slightly rearward- so the tire pulls not pushes. A tongue height upward tends to put the balance forward, pushing the tire. This gives the trailer more ability to go where it wants- not a desireable thing, especially with a single axle trailer. The toe settings on the axle is next important. The tires should angle slightly inward- 2-3 degrees- on an unloaded trailer, so that when the trailer is loaded they pull outward into a straight line. This can be measured with a string pulled between the front of the tires vs the rear of the tires, or just using a tape measure. An outward toe is not desireable, as the trailer will want to go where the tires point. Double axles are easiest to check by stringing your string around all four tires in a loop, and checking if the string touches the tire sidewalls equallyand eyeballing the string for angles off the sidewalls. You can also see if you have a problem by tire wear- worn more inside to outside suggests a toe out condition and vice-versa. (I checked the boat trailer I towed and the tires were badly worn in this pattern). Also, the trailer comes from the factory with the installed wheels and tires matched for the geometry of the trailer. Changind out these things can change the trailer pulling characteristics, especially if you put on wider tires or rims, and many dealers are unaware of this. Of course the way the trailer is loaded weight-wise will change the hitch-tongue angle and thus the tongue weight.
    He also agreed that speeding up is the best way to get a sway under control.
    Anyway, I've learned some very valuable things from this discussion, and if i ever decide to tow tandem again I will do some jockeying with tongue levels and weights before I agree to do so.

  25. #25
    Cadet
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Pendleton, Oregon
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    Well, I know from 15 years of being in the rv'ing business that whenever I am pulling a trailer, not 5th wheel, that if I get sway I gently apply the brake control to straighten the situation out. It has worked on everything from 18ft to a 40ft park model. I have towed so much that I dont use weight distributing hitches anymore. I have never towed tandem, its against the law in Oregon, so I cant help with that situation. Just my 2 cents.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. trailer sway at 60
    By fishingdan in forum Trailers and Towing
    Replies: 33
    Last Post: September 5th, 2007, 06:29 PM
  2. Problems with Sway
    By riden in forum Trailers and Towing
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: October 5th, 2006, 04:43 PM
  3. Normal - Expected Sway?
    By BULLWARKS in forum Trailers and Towing
    Replies: 32
    Last Post: August 3rd, 2005, 05:02 PM
  4. how to replace control cables in 1977 85 hp control box
    By HBF4 in forum Johnson & Evinrude Outboards
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: February 27th, 2005, 05:20 AM
  5. trailer sway
    By jrc27 in forum Trailers and Towing
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: September 26th, 2003, 12:24 PM
  1. iboats Forum Directory - Over 100,000 forum posts organized by topic