All vehicles can swing side-by-side or “sway” during a trip due to imbalanced loads, curvy roads, and other reasons, but travel trailers are particularly susceptible to sway.
That’s why it’s a good idea to install a sway bar on a trailer—a device that minimizes side-to-side motion. Thankfully, most modern travel trailers have a built-in sway bar.
However, if yours don’t have one, you’ll have to find out how to install a travel trailer sway bar yourself. So that’s what we’ll talk about in this guide.
Let’s start by going over the things you need to prepare.
Everything You Need to Install a Travel Trailer Sway Bar
The best way to install anti-sway bars on a trailer is to purchase a kit from a reliable supplier. The trailer sway control kit contains most of the necessary items.
However, there are still a couple of things you need to obtain yourself, including:
- Drill bits
- Nut and lock washer
- Ratchet wrench
- Socket set
- Tape measure
Note that the measurements of the drill bits, nut, lock washer, and socket set may vary according to the size of your trailer hitch’s ball mount.
Make sure you get appropriately sized tools and materials.
Steps To Install a Travel Trailer Sway Bar
Once you have the necessary items, all that’s left is to follow the steps below to install a travel trailer sway bar.
Step #1: Install the hitch sway control ball
The hitch is what connects the travel trailer to the tow vehicle. It consists of several parts, like the ball mount, which is essentially a circular hole.
The ball mount is where you will install the hitch sway control ball—one of the two attachment points of the sway bar.
It’s also what allows the sway bar to rotate, turn, or move freely as necessary to minimize side-to-side motion. Here’s how you can install the sway control hitch ball:
- Insert the sway control ball into the appropriate hole in the hitch.
- Fit the lock washer at the bottom part of the ball mount, followed by the nut.
- Use a socket and ratchet to tighten the lock washer and nut to the ball mount. Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure, as it may damage the components.
The sway control ball, lock washer, and nut must be of compatible sizes. Depending on the supplier, there’s a good chance the sway control kit includes all these components.
The socket must also be of a compatible size.
Step #2: Mark the location for the trailer sway ball holes
With a tape measure at hand, start the measurement by placing the tape measure’s metal end at the trailer coupler. Then, stretch it towards the trailer frame.
Create a mark at the right side of the frame exactly on the 24-inch measurement. Afterward, position the trailer sway ball so that its top-middle part touches the mark.
The trailer sway ball is the other attachment point of the sway bar. It consists of a ball and a plate with four holes in each corner. The trailer sway ball comes with the kit.
Mark the position of each hole.
Step #3: Drill pilot holes into the frame
Using your drill and drill bits, drill pilot holes on each marking you made in the previous step. Remember to take your time since you can’t “undrill” a hole if you make a mistake.
Use appropriately-sized drill bits so the holes are properly positioned and not too large or too small. That way, the holes align with the trailer sway ball holes perfectly.
Step #4: Secure the trailer sway ball in place
Align the trailer sway ball into the holes and secure it with appropriately-sized screws using a screwdriver or drill bit. We recommend using self-tapping screws.
With this step, there should now be two sway balls in the trailer.
Step #5: Attach the sway bar unit
The sway bar unit should have two sockets: one on the left and one on the right.
Each sway ball will accommodate one socket. The right socket will go into the sway ball you attached on the hitch, and the left socket will go into the trailer sway ball.
- Start by placing the hitch sway ball into the right socket. You will have to do the same with the trailer sway ball. This time, you must place it into the left socket.
You will notice that the sway bar is too short for its left end to reach the left socket. Therefore, you will need to extend the sway bar unit by pulling it.
- You won’t be able to pull it right away. You must “turn off” the sway bar first. You can do so by rotating the ON/OFF handle of the sway bar counterclockwise. Upon doing so, you’ll be able to pull the sway bar and fit the socket into the ball.
- The sway balls won’t be secured just yet. You still need to insert the spring clip provided in the kit into the holes at the sides of each socket to secure the balls.
- Finally, turn on the sway control unit by rotating its ON/OFF handle clockwise. The handle should be parallel to the sway bar’s main body at the end of this step.
If you’re struggling to follow these RV sway bar installation instructions, you can refer to this instructional YouTube video instead.
Tips to Install Travel Trailer Anti-sway Bar
If you tend to come across issues during the travel trailer sway bar installation, perhaps the following tips can help:
Tip 1: Use a jack to raise the trailer if it’s too low on the ground.
Tip 2: Sway bars may vary in their specifications, like size or shape. As such, you must follow the specific recommendations of the sway control unit’s manufacturer.
Tip 3: If you chose a sway bar that isn’t compatible with your trailer’s hitch, it makes sense that you’re unable to install it properly. Take your time finding the right sway bar.
Ways to Adjust Travel Trailer Sway Bars
An anti-sway bar for a travel trailer doesn’t magically eliminate unnecessary sideway movements. Instead, it minimizes side-to-side motion by preventing the trailer and tow vehicle from moving excessively. It does so by applying tension to the hitch.
Unfortunately, there are times when the tension is lacking or excessive.
If the tension is lacking, you’ll experience swaying more frequently. If the tension is excessive, the trailer won’t sway, but the trailer frame may slowly sustain damage.
As such, it’s crucial to adjust the sway control bar tension when necessary.
There’s typically only one way to do so, and it involves the following steps:
- Underneath the ON/OFF handle, you’ll find a screw. That is the tension screw. To adjust the sway bar’s tension, you simply have to turn that screw.
Note: It depends on the sway bar unit, but most of the time, turning the screw clockwise increases the tension, and turning it counterclockwise decreases the tension. To avoid excessive adjustments, turn the screw ¼ of a turn at a time.
- Every time you make an adjustment, take your trailer on a road test.
Only adjust the travel trailer sway bar if you firmly believe the current tension is either lacking or excessive. Otherwise, stick to the factory settings for the sway bar’s tension.
What is the Difference Between Travel Trailer Hitch and Sway Bars?
When looking into trailer vehicles, you’ll find that the term sway bars is often associated with travel trailer hitch. In particular, it’s associated with anti-sway travel trailer hitch.
Though they can both minimize sway, they have several differences:
- Sway bars are devices or components you attach to the travel trailer hitch when the hitch has no built-in anti-sway component. Meanwhile, a travel trailer hitch is a component you attach to the back of the vehicle towing the trailer vehicle.
- Sway bars may require adjustments to provide the appropriate level of tightness. An anti-sway travel trailer hitch does not need such adjustments.
- There’s only one type of sway bar, but travel trailer hitches come in several forms. For instance, some hitches come with chains, pulleys, or even pistons.
- Travel trailer hitches may also come with weight distribution capabilities on top of its anti-sway functionality. Sway bars won’t have such a capability.
- Travel trailer hitches are generally more expensive than sway bars.
How tight should a sway bar be on a camper?
Campers are heavier and larger than most vehicles. As such, when setting up the sway bar hitch for the camper, it’s advisable to set the sway bar as tight as you can.
Basically, you need to stop tightening when it comes to the point where you have to strain yourself to tighten the tension screw further.
Are sway bars necessary on a travel trailer?
No, sway bars aren’t necessary on a travel trailer. However, if you don’t mind spending money to improve your comfort and safety, it’s advisable to get sway bars anyway.
If you can hook up sway bars on a travel trailer, you can drastically increase your safety. It’ll also lead to more comfortable trips as it reduces excessive movement.
Do I need 2 sway bars for my travel trailer?
It generally depends on the size and weight of the travel trailer.
Heavy and large trailers may require two. If your trailer weighs over 6,000 pounds, you will need two sway bars. The same applies to trailers that are over 26 feet in length.
It doesn’t take an expert to learn how to install a travel trailer sway bar. That’s especially true now that kits provide you with most of the things you need. That’s why you shouldn’t shy away from installing a sway bar on your travel trailer. Besides, once you attach sway bars to your trailer, your trips will likely become more enjoyable.
Welcome to a new journey! I am Rober Clark, also a full-time RV-er and currently exploring the US with Dane. I have four years of working as a contractor, so building a home inside the RV is an extremely rewarding task for me. I find new challenges and new limits to break every day.