[Difference] Between Weight Distribution & Sway Control

Difference Between Weight Distribution & Sway Control

Sway is best reserved for the hammock when RVing. It’s frightening to feel your travel trailer sway due to a gust of wind, but there are products and strategies that can help reduce sway and keep your RV aligned.

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What Is Weight Distribution?

Weight distribution is when the weight of the vehicle is distributed evenly over the ground or other surface it moves on. This means that the load inside a car is evenly distributed over four tires.

For example, if a passenger in the back seat leans to one side, this will change the center of gravity for the car and cause it to veer off course.

What Is Sway Control?

Sway control is a technology for a vehicle suspension system that controls lateral motion caused by acceleration and braking. It involves hydraulic cylinder shock absorbers that are located under each wheel.

The sway control system can help reduce excessive body roll during cornering, compensating for excess body lean in turns or body sway from rough pavement or heavy braking.

What Causes Sway?

Wind gusts, drafts from passing semi-trucks, turns on curvy roads, and imbalanced loads in the trailer are the most common causes of sway.

Even minor sway can be exhausting for a driver, necessitating constant steering adjustments. Weight distribution and sway prevention systems contribute to a more secure and comfortable ride.

How Can I Prevent Sway?

You can reduce the risk of sway by doing a few simple, practical things.

  • Take note of the weather conditions. It may not be a good day to travel if it is extremely windy.
  • Take into account your load distribution. Distribute your RV’s weight evenly from front to back and side to side. If necessary, move heavier items to the front. A good rule of thumb is 60% to the front and 40% to the back. Consider things like slide-outs and appliances, and make sure to compensate by packing heavier items on the opposite side.
  • Check the weight of your loaded RV on a local scale and rearrange your gear as needed. Check that you haven’t exceeded the GVWR or GAWR, and test after adding the propane or water you intend to use during your trip.

Difference between a Weight Distribution Hitch and Sway Control

A Weight Distribution Hitch is used primarily to reduce sway, while a Sway Control Hitch reduces sway & bounce at the same time. Both also do it by distributing part or all of trailer’s tongue weight onto your tow vehicle’s rear axle(s).

The only difference is how they go about this – one distributes weight in only one direction, while the other does it in two directions.

This makes them compatible with different kinds of trailers and tow vehicles – weight distribution kits are designed for multiple axles (2 or 3 axle trucks) and sway control kits work best on single axle trucks.

What is a weight distribution system?

A Weight Distribution Hitch transfers a portion of your trailer’s tongue weight onto your tow vehicle’s rear axles, which works to improve stability by reducing sway.

A weight distribution system helps distribute a trailer fully loaded down on its axles with heavy cargo (like lumber, stone, bricks or steel) over two or more axles.

If you have one axle with four tires say 60% of the load would now shift to your second axle with only two tires splitting 40%

What is a Sway Control Hitch?

A Sway Control Hitch transfers all or part of your trailer’s tongue weight onto your tow vehicle’s rear axles, which works to improve stability by reducing sway, as well as bounce during driving.

When Do I Need To Use A Weight Distribution Hitch?

The basics of a weight-distribution hitch are simple. This type of hitch uses spring bars (aka “tongues”) to distribute the load evenly across two or more trailer axles when a standard ball-mount setup will not properly handle the tongue weight of an item.  

When you’re carrying something heavy, such as a large motorcycle (3,000 lbs) or slide-in camper (4,500 lbs), the extra load is distributed with this system on multiple trailer tires instead of relying on one axle to handle all that weight.  

This also prevents overloading a tire beyond its capacity so if one wheel dips into an unseen pothole or curb, all you end up doing is popping your tire off and replacing it rather than tearing one of your trailer’s wheel assemblies apart.

What size hitch do I need?

This depends on the type of hitch you have, but here are some recommendations based on Gross Trailer Weight (GTW).

If you’re planning to tow a wide range of trailer weights, check out our chart below to see which one will work best for you based on GTW & tongue weight.

How Weight Distribution Hitches Work

A weight distribution hitch (sometimes referred to as a “drag link” or “steering arm”) is a suspension component installed between the front and rear axles of a four-wheeled vehicle.

Weight Distribution hitches are very common and what they do is move some of the trailer’s weight to the front of the vehicle.

For instance, when you go around a corner on your trailer, it pulls forward. Weight distribution systems distribute that load from left or right side to the center of the truck, which helps keep your steer axle nice and level.

It transmits steering torque from the steering wheel to the other axle to provide safe and straight turning operations on dry pavement, and also acts as an anti-sway bar to reduce the effects of crosswinds on the vehicle.

There are different kinds of weight distribution systems utilizing limited slip devices (like add-a-trac) as well as 4 link designs. But all these setups are basically designed to utilize springs mounted inside tubes under each end of the drawbar with hydraulic accumulators or air bags in between them.

These can be used without weights for an open trailer, but for most applications, you will want to add a weight bag, shank or wheel chocks. You should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on setting up your system and pick-up their recommended weights for your application.

Manufacturers have systems that will go up to 20 tons of trailers depending on how much you tow. If you have multiple axles with huge tire loads they are available for those as well.

This is important because if you overload any WD system you could cause damage to yourself or others and it causes false readings by adding too much weight in the hitch which changes its performance over time.

Which is better, sway control or weight distribution?

A sway control setup will usually be used for vehicles that are being towed. Sway control is also meant to reduce sway that happens at highway speeds. It typically does not have the same effect on dry pavement.

A weight distribution hitch can be used in most situations a trailer is being towed from behind or you are pulling something with your vehicle, however it also has amazing benefits on dry road handling and steering as well.

What type of weight distribution hitch is best?

There are three kinds of weight distribution hitches. Here’s a look at each kind, the advantages, and disadvantages of each.

Do I need a weight distribution hitch for a pop up camper?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. You don’t need a weight distribution hitch for a pop-up camper, but it can help cut down on sway.

If you’re pulling the camper on any sort of windy road, this could be beneficial.

It’s also worth considering if you’ll be driving at higher speeds because sway control is more essential in these situations.

Half-ton trucks and SUVs typically need to use a Weight distribution system for weight distribution when the trailer weighs 5,000 pounds or more.

Heavy trucks such as 3/4 tonne and 1 tonne trucks typically require a drawbar to distribute the weight while the trailer towing the bumper is 6,000-8,500 pounds.

In addition, almost all RV bumper trailers require a Weight distribution system. Even small single-axle RV trailers weighing only 500 lbs, such as the R-Pod Forest River, are recommended to have a weight distribution drawbar with sway control.

How does sway control work? And What is it?

The Sway control is activated by depressing the trailer tongue and pushing the spring arm up. … Pivot lever mounting rigidity allows pivot lever control to turn the trailer safely and efficiently in a line behind the towing vehicle and against sway.

How do I know if I need a weight distribution hitch?

Most medium and light trucks require weight a weight distribution hitch to distribute the weight when towing something 5,000 pounds or more. Heavy trucks can vary quite a bit, from 6,000 pounds to 8,500 pounds.

What are some benefits of having a sway control hitch?

Sway control hitches provide stability for your load by getting rid of bounce when crossing rough roads or during windy conditions.

They also improve safety and prevent jackknifing in trailers with large side swing angles (tongue jackknife / pull away from where it’s hitched up) while towing heavy loads.

They’re especially useful on trailers with a high center of gravity, like pop-up campers and equipment trailers. Note that sway control hitches are not the same as weight distribution systems.

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