Anti-Sway Bars, Weight Distribution Hitches and Chains
How to stop the
fish-tailing and snaking of your caravan.
Distributing Hitch’ (springs and levers that
transfer part of the imposed mass back onto the front wheels
of the towing vehicle and, to a lesser extent, the caravan).
are various terminologies used for stabiliser bars such as
weight distribution hitches, anti-sway bars and load
caravan is placed on the ball of the tow hitch it places a
lot of weight on the rear of the tow vehicle and changes the
axis whereby there is less weight on the front of the tow
vehicle raising the front wheels. This makes steering and
braking less effective. Loss of traction can also be an
issue especially for front wheel drive vehicles.
using better heavy duty springs or incorporating air bags to
raise the rear of the tow vehicle will have no effect on the
weight distribution. Some sway control devices do not
necessarily act to assist with weight distribution.
Fitting a weight distribution device of the correct type and
size will mean that the tow vehicle becomes level. For
example, weight distribution hitches are available in
various load capacity eg: 550 lbs (250 kg), 750 lbs (340 kg)
and 1000 lbs (450 kg) capacity ball load weights. Always
buy the product that has the manufacturer’s plate stating
the maximum towing load and ensure this is adequate for your
heavy duty hitch receivers available can mount onto the
vehicle in several positions enabling the load to be
distributed over a wide area of the vehicle.
Towing aids such as level
riders or weight distribution bars can be fitted to most
vans, campertrailers etc. It is advisable to seek the
professional advice from your caravan dealer as to the best
type you require for your car and caravan combination.
When towing adequate
stopping distance between yourself and the vehicle in front
should be allowed and braking or acceleration should be
smooth and gentle. This is particular important in wet
or slippery conditions.
Avoid applying the brakes
of the tow vehicle if the caravan begins to sway. If the caravan is
fitted with an electric brake system this can be operated
by using the manual control. A constant speed should
be maintained or even slight acceleration until the swaying
stops and the caravan straightens out again behind the tow
Will Poly-Air Bags assist
with weight distribution ?
push down on the handles of a wheelbarrow the front rises.
That's what happens to the towing vehicle when you connect
the caravan - the front wheels tend to lift, therefore
reducing steering control.
air bags is like stiffening the legs of the wheelbarrow.
Certainly worth doing if the originals are too weak/soft.
But it does not address the real problem which is, like the
front of that wheelbarrow, the front wheels of the car tend
distributing hitch addresses the latter problem and is
necessary to have.
Safety Chains– how many chains do I need ?
safety chains (that must comply with Australian Standards) fixed to
the front of the ‘A’ Frame of a caravan or camper trailer
are attached to the tow bar on the tow vehicle. There is
normally a space or hole where it can be attached usually
with a ‘D shackle”. These D shackles also have a rating so
for heavy vans it is important that the shackles are of
equivalent strength to the chains to restrain the weight of
the van in the event, if for some reason, it were to become
separated from the ball of the tow vehicle. Occasionally
tow balls have been known to split or bolts holding the tow
ball come loose.
between 2.5 ton and 4.5 ton GVM are required to have one
chain fitted if the trailer weight is less than 2,500 kg
(loaded) and two chains for trailer weights exceeding 2,500
chains should be short but have enough slack to still permit
tight turns. If two chains are required they should be
crisscrossed under the tongue to prevent the front of the
drawbar from hitting the ground if the coupling becomes
caravan manufacturer’s normally assist with the correct set
up prior to you leaving the yard. However, when packing
your caravan for a holiday or trip thought should be given
to where items are placed in the van.
have any doubt as to the weight of your caravan once you
have packed all your gear and food for that long awaited
holiday, spend a few dollars and take it over a weigh
bridge. You may be surprised just how much you have loaded
it up. Overloading not only causes safety issues but is
also likely to pose problems for you with your insurer in
the event of a mishap.
any doubt please consult with a towing equipment
specialist. For further information you can also obtain the
National Caravan and Recreational Vehicle Towing Guide from
the Caravan Industry Association in your state or territory.