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Old 05-02-2010, 06:34 PM   #1
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Backing up with sway control?

I am new here and new to trailers and have a question for all you experts. I am thinking of getting a weight distribution hitch of some kind and also some sway control of some kind. A friend of mine has a sway control friction bar on his hitch and he says he has to unhook that before backing up the trailer. Is this common? Sounds like a real pain to me! I am assuming that with the more expensive WD hitches with integrated sway control, unhooking it would not be necessary before backing up, but want to know for sure.

We have a T-1950, towed with a 2001 Dodge Durango. I haven't towed it much at all yet, but there is a good bit of sway and bouncing around. Folks tell me a WD hitch will take care of this. I'd be comfortable spending $300 or so on a hitch system but $500-600 is more than I am interested in spending right now.
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Old 05-02-2010, 06:48 PM   #2
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We have a friction sway bar on our trailer and it works well. As a caveat I will say our Sunline weighs half of what your's weighs. I will also say that most people with larger trailers seem to have weight distribution systems.

When we back up to park we do not remove our sway bar nor do we lossen up the friction pad on the sway bar.

There's certainly no reason to remove a sway bar before backing up. If you feel the friction interfers with backing, you can simply go out and reduce the friction to zero by turning the arm that sets the friction level.

Removing a sway bar takes about 30 seconds, it's simply a matter of pulling two pins, no tools required.

I believe we paid less than $70 for our friction sway bar.
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:31 PM   #3
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I tow a T-1950 with a F 150 and it tows like there's nothing back there using a WD and sway control. Once I forgot to tighten the sway bar and the first truck to pass me on the highway almost threw me off the road. I slowed down and pulled off the road when I could.

The WD will greatly reduce the bounce which if severe enough could lighten the vehicle weight in the front and you could lose some steering control while bouncing. If you were prone to sway at the same time you'd have a real problem. You have a separate brake control for just your camper for situations like that but we all hope we never need to use it.

The WD needs to be properly adjusted so ask for some help if you're not familiar with the process.

I wouldn't travel without having both systems. I do Loosen the sway bar before I back up because there is a lot of stress on the friction bar with a tight turn. That was recommended by the dealer. I takes me maybe 15 seconds to get out, loosen it and jump back in. There's no need to take it off but that would take maybe 30 seconds if I did so.
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:14 PM   #4
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Roy,
It may be worth noting that if your Durango is not a 4x4, loosening the WD bars will give you more traction by putting more weight on the rear wheels. That may be important if the ground is slippery, - as on wet grass.
Just a thought,
Roar
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:50 AM   #5
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Assuming that your Durango already has a Class IV receiver, I'd suggest you just purchase a WD system similar to this:

Basically, there is a adjustable ball platform, adjustable drawbar, two weight arms, and the clip-ups for the trailer's A-frame.

Install it, fine tune it, and use it for a while. Then decide if you need sway control.

All that "bouncing" you describe is due to the lack of weight distribution. You're adding all that tongue weight to the rear of the truck which unloads the front end and decreases steering control. The bouncing may be causing the sway.

If you buy the right ball platform, you can add a single friction sway control for a bit over $100 later.

Turning the lever a turn or two on the friction sway control before backing up isn't much of a pain.

There are a number of posts here in the Towing section that go into great detail about why one should have WD on a trailer as heavy as yours. They are pretty much essential reading and will help you decide which WD system to buy.

FWIW, if you live in or near a city, there are almost always WD systems for sale on Craigslist at very reasonable prices. If I was in the market for one, I'd look there first.

There are a whole bunch of safety reasons that one should have a WD system when towing. This affects not only the loved ones in your tow vehicle, but everyone on the highway as well.
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Old 05-03-2010, 10:21 AM   #6
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I've heard of people bending sway bars when turning tight backing into a spot. I've never actually used one though.

I tow with a Pontiac Trans Sport van and I just use a Reese WD hitch. It makes a huge difference compared to nothing, and feels like a shock absorber between the vehicle and trailer. I've never had problems with sway with the little T-1661. I've driven in some pretty fierce winds with trucks blowing past me. It definitely rocks the trailer sometimes but doesn't get swaying.
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Old 05-03-2010, 02:08 PM   #7
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We haven't experienced much sway either.

When we first bought our trailer after towing a few hundred miles without issue. I posted questioning the necessity of a sway bar. Someone replied, true most of the time you don't need it but when that emergency occurs you'll be glad to have it and it doesn't cost much.

Recently, as I posted, we had a true emergency stop without issue, someone pulled across the road in front of us and stopped. Did the sway bar contribute to our successful stop? It's hard to know but the trailer never moved from a straight line.

I have also seen sway bar plates bend at the hitch. I believe this happens when the bar is over tightened. It's a friction bar and needs to slide not lock.

Certainly when we make a tight turn we hear the sway bar begrudgingly sliding but it's reassuring. If we're leaving a campground early in the morning I keep it loose until I reach the park exit - slip out the back jack.

This is our tenth year of retired RVing, traveling 7 months a year. I'm amazed by the number of people I've met recently that have rolled their trailers. In some measure driving an RV is like riding a motorcycle - the 'others' can sometimes create nasty situations.

Safe RVing,
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Old 05-03-2010, 03:17 PM   #8
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When we were in the UP, I had to do an emergency stop, going downhill. A guy was pulled over with his hunting dogs running all over the highway. I stopped very quickly, I'm sure the disc brakes had something to do with it. Hard to say how it would have gone with no brakes.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:10 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the help and advice. So I am gathering that it is necessary to loosen the sway control before backing up but it's not a big deal, so I am OK with that. Guess I won't be backing up all that much anyway. I drive tractor trailer for a living and spend a good bit of time every day backing up there. I can drive that truck fine. But this little trailer is a different animal... But properly equipped, all should be fine. Everyone I have talked to has recommended a WD hitch. And I am learning that it is not just for driving comfort but very much a safety issue as well. And likely less wear and tear on vehicles too I would think.

Next question... these hitches come with different weight ratings. I am not going to need a heavy duty one with this trailer. But, is there any problem with getting one that is heavier than necessary for this little trailer? They don't cost a lot more, and if at some time years down the road we get a bigger trailer, it could be used on it too.

The Durango is a 4X4, 5.9 L engine, factory towing package.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:23 PM   #10
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Roy,
Right or wrong, I ran 1200# bars for several years with an 18 ft. Dutchmen 180 without any issues that I know about.
I too anticipated a roomier coach some day, which we now have.
Wiser heads may jump in and tell us that was all wrong, but like I said, it worked without issues for us. In addition we had a friction sway brake. That worked well too on the 18 footer, but on our new to us T-2499, we have cam type sway control. The WD bars were already made to work with that set up.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:25 PM   #11
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Just a note. The wheels on the 15 footers appear to be relatively further back than those of a heaver model. On the smaller units, the tongue weight will still be reasonable. The further back the wheels are, the less apt the unit is to sway.

On heavier models, there's a balance between wheel location and tongue weight so a sway bar becomes more necessary as the wheels move forward to keep the tongue weight within reason. A 5th wheel for example has the wheels much further toward the back with much more weight on the point of contact on the hitch in the bed than the back of the truck (tongue weight) could handle and sway control is not necessary, much like a tractor and trailer.
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:57 PM   #12
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Hi Roy

Here are a few pics that may help explain some of this. There is a general rule to loosen the friction sway bar when backing up. And most times that is all one ever hears, no explanation, just don’t do it. Well I can tell you mechanically you can twist up a friction sway control going forward just as much as backwards. Here are a few reasons of how this happens.

The actual turn. See here. If this turn progresses, the bar is going to bend. It does not matter if you are going forward or backwards and it does not matter if it is tight or loose.


And in this turn the little ball mount will crash the frame even if the friction bar is removed.


So yes, if you exceed the mechanical limits before a total jack knife, something in the hitch has to give. The best way to know this is to slowly with a spotter back up into almost jack knife and STOP, then get out and look. Now get a metal image planted in your head what the TT looks like in the rear view mirror. And don’t go that far.

Back up it is often times easier to back close to jackknife and thus bend the friction sway bar.

The other possible bending of the bar when backing is when it is very tightly set. You back up quick in a direction of turn that can buckle the bar. It would be like this with a fast return to the left. If the bar is set so tight to control and out of balance TT, the bar can grab and buckle instead of slide.


Those are the most common ways folks bend these bars. I’m sure someone has found a few other ways…. And dealers like to say, NEVER back up with the bar on rather then explain what the heck is going on. DW yelled at me several times when we had the Pop Up. Dealer said NEVER back up with the bar on. Well….. after enough of that I showed and explained to her what the guy was talking about.

You mentioned lost cost hitch and you mentioned being about to upgrade. Well 1 at a time. I do not have an actual T1950 loaded tongue weight but a 2005 T1950 has a dry tongue at 380#. So I’m guess-ta-mating it might end up with in the 500 to maybe 550# loaded weight range.

Lowest cost. Here is a Reese 600# round bar hitch. I myself would not buy this style round bar hitch head but it is lowest cost. You need to add a ~ $20 tow ball and a ~ 100 shank to make a complete hitch. Then add on a ~60 to $100 friction sway bar.
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66065.html

Or you can go with this one. This hitch head I would recommend. A 600# trunnion WD hitch. And You need to add a ~ $20 tow ball and a ~ $100 shank to make a complete hitch. Then add on a ~60 to $100 friction sway bar.
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66020.html

Seams they have a package deal with a shank now cheaper too. Still need a ball and friction bar.
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66540.html


Or you can upgrade to the 800# one like this for the same money
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66021.html

And I see they have a 800# packaged with a shank for less then the above separate.
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66541.html

Those trunnion WD hitches are made from 1,700# hitch components. The trunnion hitched head is good to 1,700# so is the snap up brackets. You just upgrade the WD bars and the hitch shank if you want to tow a large TT like mine. You can then add a DC later in life on a bigger TT.

And there is this option now. It has sway control built in the WD hitch. No need for a friction sway bar.

The Reese SC 600# hitch. Still need a $100 shank, $20 ball but no friction sway bar.
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66152.html

Or an 800 # system with shank. Same price as the 600# and adding a shank
http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...ese/66153.html

Those SC hitch can be upgraded in the future by just buying heavier WD bars and still use the same hitch head and friction brackets.

Now how big (strong) a WD hitch is too big. Well it depends. There is not a hard fast rule that 1 size fits all.

Ride, For the best ride, the WD bars are the same as the loaded tongue weight. So 600# bars on a 600# loaded tongue is strong enough and soft as it is going to be.

Adding 800# bars on a 600# tongue adds a small level of stiffness.

Adding 1,200# bars on a 600# tongue adds more stiffness and some caution pending your TT and your TV. If your Durango truck receiver is only rated at 750# loaded tongue weight in WD mode, using 1,200# WD bars may bend the receiver pin box given the right towing situation. And if you TT has a 3” thin frame, it may bend it. In your case check the T1950. I think it may have 4” channel iron A frame. But also check your truck receiver ratings. I know 1,200# bars work on a 750# tongue but the truck was also a 2500 and had everything built to handle the heavy bars. The ride was OK as the back of my truck was stiff to start with. However on a 1500 truck I would caution using 1,200# WD bars if your receiver is only good to 750 or 800#.

Buying a heavy components and then de-rating it with lighter WD bars allows it to be used later on and not have to rebuy the entire hitch just the WD bars.

Hope this helps

John

PS I do not know if you can buy a complete WD hitch, tow ball, shank and friction sway bar that is upgradable for less then ~$300 However here is something that comes close. It is an EAZ lift. A basic WD hitch with a friction sway control. It has the round bar setup but at least this one you can tilt the head more then the Reese round bar.
http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/parts/r...h-eaz-lift.htm

They have a 1,000# wd bar system on sale now with everything in it. Shank, tow ball and friction bar. BUT it is a 1,000# system. Back to what is your receiver rating? They also have a 750# with shank but you have to by the ball and sway bar.
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Old 05-04-2010, 06:18 AM   #13
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John,
Interesting pictures. It made me think about why I have never had a problem.

I never loosen my sway bar when backing up and certainly never remove it. In a full year of travel I park my rig as many times as most people park a rig in their lifetime.

Maybe it's because I have a short trailer, but my car never gets to a position that's ever near 90 degrees when backing. In most parking situations I can back it in with a relatively smooth continuous motion.

My tendency if I'm in tight quarters is to park in in steps - back a little than forward a little and than back again.

After seeing your pictures I'm now certain I'll never get near 90 degrees.

I have never seen a bent bar, just a bent hitch mounting plate because the friction level was set so high that it actually behaved like a locked beam.

Thanks for the great pictures they show the potential for a problem and suggest a solution.
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Old 05-04-2010, 04:37 PM   #14
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Wow, thanks guys. You're a big help! These Reese SC systems look interesting to me. Sway control built in, so I wouldn't have to mess around with the friction sway bar. And looks like it wouldn't cost much more for this system than to have a regular WD hitch with the sway control bar added. Anybody out there using the SC systems? What do you think of them? Are they relatively new? Maybe this system solves the problem of bent friction bars.
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