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Author Topic: Do we need a sway bar?  (Read 6822 times)
pcdavis
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« on: May 31, 2010, 04:41:44 PM »

My husband and I are new to the pop up camper world.  We just returned home from our second trip.  First trip went great, second trip, not so much.  We have a 2008 Fleetwood Sun Valley pulling with a 2000 GMC Yukon Denali.  We were sold a sway bar at the dealership with our "package".  We had been on the road today for a little more than 3 hours and needed to make a right hand turn (not the first right hand turn of the day).  As soon as we had made the turn, the sway bar snapped in half and the camper came off of the hitch.  Luckily we were driving slow enough to stop safely, but the trailer was under the Denali.  The propane tank stopped it from going any further and the chains stopped it.  Not too much damage that we can see.  We will be taking it to the dealership later this week.

My question is this....do we really need the sway bar?  We were instructed to tighten the bar "until it was snug".  We second guessed ourselves as to if we had the camper all the way on the ball before we left, but I'm sure we did.  If not, wouldn't have came undone sooner?  We love the camper, but now are a little leary of pulling it. 
Any suggestions would be great! 

Thank you so much,
Pam and Chad Davis
North Carolina

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allan
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2010, 05:22:44 PM »

Sounds like you didn't have the trailer on the ball, and the sway bar snapped when it came loose from the TV. Sounds like the swaybar was holding the trailer on the ball.
 ALWAYS do this little trick when hooking up. Lower the tongue on the ball, latch it, and then raise the trailer tongue with the tongue jack. Raise it enough to lift the back of the TV a little. If it stayes on the ball. It's latched, if not, it will pop off.
As to if you need a sway bar. I don't have a clue. I never used one with any of our popups. I use one on my TT though. I don't have sway. but in case I need it it's there.
Good luck
Terry
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TERRY AND SHAY
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austinado16
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2010, 06:47:54 PM »

Glad nothing worse happened! That could have been ugly!

Don't be afraid to tow though.  Just figure out what happened, learn from it, and get right back on that horse!

I think you won't need a sway controller with the Denali, especially if you're set up to tow the camper level, and you are loading the front of the camper so that it's nose heavy.

Remember, if you do ever get sway, gently ease up on the throttle, and grab the manual brake control lever on the trailer brake controller and engage the camper's brakes (manually).  This will snap the camper to attention and it will immediately stop swaying.  Then pull over, change your shorts, and figure out what caused the sway.  DO NOT apply the Denali's brakes because that will increase the sway dramatically and probably auger you into the ditch.
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Road Ruler
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2010, 04:26:43 AM »

Sounds like you didn't have the trailer on the ball, and the sway bar snapped when it came loose from the TV. Sounds like the swaybar was holding the trailer on the ball.
  I don't have sway. but in case I need it it's there.
Good luck
Terry

This seems to be the logical reason for the mishap.  It is also possible the ball is too small.

The weight of your rig road ready for travel is about 5 tons.  That is a lot of weight to control when the poop hits the fan.

Never remove safety equipment from your combination. 

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blw2
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2010, 06:17:53 AM »

I actually wonder if the sway bar was on the right side, it may have pushed the tongue a little in a right turn and helped the coupler off the ball if the coupler was not adjuested properly (i.e. loose).

Regardless.... I don't know much about sway bars, but I'd bet that they wouldn't be able to uncouple the trailer.  The coupler was likely loose, or as previosuly stated not on the ball.

My PUP pulls like a dream and I've only had one sway episode ever.... on the interstate in a curve going highway speeds and the surface was bumpy and pot-holed with road construction.  Sometime after that, someone posted pics of a rollover accident & I went on the hunt for a bar.  My dad gave me one that didn't have the balls or mounts.  I still have ot found a reasonable solution for the mounts.... they cost as much as a new bar.

My uneducated answer.... I don't think that they are necessary for a small pup unless your tow vehicle is undersized or you have loading distribution problems.  Even still, if I had one I would put it on in a second!
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thebrakeman
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2010, 06:38:22 AM »

The sway controller did NOT cause your problem.

First thing is to make sure the coupler is set OK.  Maybe you didn't have it on the ball, maybe you did.  But the latch adjuster may be loose.  If you look under the coupler (inside the socket while NOT hitched up), you will see an adjuster bolt/nut that loosens/tightens the gap that the ball must pass thru.  You want this as tight as possible, while still allowing the ball to pass thru the opening when the coupler is open.  So tighten the thing, and try hitching.  When it's so tight that the ball won't pass thru, loosen a little until it will pass thru, and you are there.

When you hitch up the trailer, it may not be a little harder to get it over the ball.  To help this, you want the trailer to be "reaching" for the ball".  If the trailer is too far forward, that adjuster mechanism will actually come down on the ball, and close the latch before the ball has passed thru.  That's probably what happened in your mishap.  If you always hitch with the trailer "reaching" for the ball, the coupler will gently roll forward over the ball, and allow you to have the mechanism as tight as possible.

Once the coupler is proberly adjusted, and you are sure you have it hitched safely (able to lift the truck a little with the dolly jack), then you can decide if you need sway control:
1.  Make sure you have at least 10% of total trailer weight on the ball.  You can only do this if you weight the trailer, and your TW.  Don't just estimate.  If you aren't willing to do this, then yes, you need a sway controller.
2.  If loading is OK (10% or more on the ball), and tire pressure is good, take it out on the highway, and get up to the max speed to plan to tow at.  Is it stable?  Flick the steering wheel a little.  Does the trailer settle back to stable within 1 back/forth motion, or does it "sway" back and forth a few times?  If it feels good, flick the wheel a little harder.  PS - Make sure there is no traffic near you....
If at any point, you feel that the trailer does not right itself quick enough, then you need a sway controller.  You want to feel confident enough that if you had to make an emergency lane change, you could do it just as safely as if you didn't have the trailer with you.

In the end, if you aren't sure, go ahead and replace that friction sway controller.  $40 at Harbor Freight, or $80 at a trailer shop is cheap insurance against emergency lane changes, wind gusts, or passing semi trucks.

Finally, if/when you replace the friction sway controller, follow the printed instructions, rather than the fellow who told you to just "snug" it up.  Instructions say to fully tighten the on/off bar until the threads are "bottomed out".  That is, it won't turn any more without bending that on/off bar.  Adjustment is then done by the adjuster bolt that is about 2" away from the on/off bar.  If you think it's excessively tight, loosen the bolt 1/4-1/2 turn.

Get back on the highway and try the steering wheel flick again.  With a moderate yank (enough to almost put the truck into another lane), and a correction to put the truck back to center, the trailer should pull to 1 side, then once to the opposite side, then right back to center.  If it "sways" more than that, pull over, tighten adjuster nut 1/4-turn, and try road test again.  Continue tightening (1/4-turn increments) until you find that sweet spot.

PS - When properly set, the controller may make creaking/groaning sounds when turning around town, especially when wet.  This is normal, and is simply a reality of towing with properly-set equipment.  Loosening to get rid of that noise will defeat the purpose.
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thrdrl
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« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2010, 06:19:11 PM »

thebrakeman,
Thank you for that detailed description of the swaybar setup.  I just installed one today and your tips will be very useful.
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pcdavis
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2010, 03:29:56 PM »

Thank you all so much for the great replies.  I think with your tips, we will feel much better about towing again.
Looking forward to getting everything fixed and start again!!
Pam
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fire58
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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2010, 04:18:41 PM »

the Brakeman's post was quite accurate and thorough. I would also make the point that you need to make sure you have the right ball. a lot of drawbars out there are mounted with 2" balls on them. Newer campers are coming out needing a 2 5/8" ball. i saw a unit this last weekend that had that issue. I don't know how they made it to the CG without a mishap. Your TV is big enough to tow the pup with out issue but the ability to tow the unit is only 1 part of sway control. the sway controller is a great piece of insurance to have for the price. Make sure it is mouted according to the instructions the location of the little ball attachements is very important in making sutre the unit is at the proper angle not to get bent.
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PupInNH2
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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2010, 06:19:15 PM »

Looks like you have something loose or wrong with the ball to trailer part like others have said.  A properly adjusted hitch should not release like that.  I like having a sway bar for added security but only use it on the highway.  My instructions say remove it for tighter turns and especially when backing up the camper.  It's easy to install/remove so not a big deal.
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Mike
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thebrakeman
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2010, 07:53:29 AM »

Good point about the ball.  Any Fleetwood popup has a 2" coupler.  But perhaps you have a 1-7/8" ball?

About removing the sway controller for backing, my instructions first recommend knowing your limits for "jacknifing" when backing up.  They only recommend removing prior to backing if you do not know your limits, or if you simply want to be conservative.  Certainly, if you arrive at your destination, and you get out of the vehicle, no harm in removing it.  But if you are simply in a tight area of the McDonalds parking lot, and have to back up 10 feet to get out of a jamb, removing the sway controller is not required, unless you jacknife so far that you bottom out the blade between the friction pads.

Backing up with a sway controller will not damage anything.  Bottoming out the sway controller, however, can do damage.
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thebrakeman ('70)
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2010, 11:56:22 AM »

The directions may have said loosen.  I think the gist of it was to remove it when making tight corners like when parking the camper.  Backing up in a parking lot straight or in a slight angle isn't an issue, I didn't mean to sound like it would be.  Getting it into a tight spot could max out the bar and not worth binding it up when it will need to be disconnected anyway.
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Mike
97 Camplite 2218   PopUp Green
pullout dining area
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