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Old 07-05-2011, 04:42 PM   #1
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Sway Control - Old friction vs: New leverage & friction

I have been stirring these thoughts around in my mind for a while, and have not seen it addressed. So, here goes.......
The old friction type sway control devices just try to hold the trailer in place, whether you are going straight or in a curve. A term I have seen Andy write is "it has no brain". The problem with this type of control is that the friction in the control device may overcome the friction between tires and the road when driving in water or ice. The good thing about this is you can control/adjust this type as conditions change.

The newer type sway control devices use a combination of friction and/or leverage to force the trailer into a straight line behind the tow vehicle, whether driving straight or in a curve. Is this better? I do not see a "brain" here either.

My thoughts, and my question to you who are more knowledgeable than I: Can the newer types of control devices still overcome the traction between trailer tire and road. There is no backing off leverage pressure or friction of these devices when conditions change, without changing proper weight distribution. In a situation when turning in curve with water or ice on the road, can the new types of anti-sway devices cause the TT to slide back to straight line center behind the TV when it should not???

The reason I am asking this: I think this happened to me, and it caused me to wreck both my TT and TV. I keep question myself, did this equipment make me wreck or did I do something wrong? I have been mulling this over in my mind for almost a year and can't resolve it on my own to my satisfaction. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Be gentle , I'm still kicking myself!
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Old 07-05-2011, 05:43 PM   #2
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What brand of hitch did you have when the accident occurred? Was there water or ice on the road? Were there any skid marks on the road?

I watch the trailer for very brief looks when going around a curve to see what it is doing and it just follows. If it were sticking straight out, I'd see it doing that, but maybe it needs some ice to do so; I'd have to tape myself to the tonneau cover to watch it though. This is an interesting and disturbing thought. Don't kick yourself—if it's a mistake, glad you survived, and you'll probably never get a definitive answer anyway. People who reconstruct accidents to find the cause are not always right. There are so many variables, it's hard to really know.

I too am curious what people who understand moment arms and other physics mumbo jumbo say about it.

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Old 07-05-2011, 08:25 PM   #3
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I was using a Reece Dual Cam, trailer was level, load distributed on the truck correctly, cams set in the arms correctly. The road was wet and with diesel fuel spilled on the road it was so slick even cars were having trouble. There were no skid marks. I was driving in a downpour at 55 mph in a 65 zone, when I approached vehicles stopping on the right shoulder because of the fuel spill. When I switched to the left lane to give the stopped vehicles more room, the trailer came around on the right side. I got it stopped without hitting anything, but the truck behind me hit me broadside.

Next morning the wrecker driver told me there were 7 more wrecks at that spot duing the night. We were on our way home from Gettysburg, north of Roanoke on I-81.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:29 PM   #4
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Sounds like a situation that just about any hitch could not prevent and it is possible the truck behind was following too closely.

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Old 07-05-2011, 08:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
Sounds like a situation that just about any hitch could not prevent and it is possible the truck behind was following too closely.

Gene
The truck driver said he was at 65 mph approaching to pass when he saw me having trouble, so he could not avoid me. I am thankful he did not loose control and was able to deliver the blow away from the passenger compartment. I saw him turn to miss us. DW and I walked away, just a little sore and bruised. I know we were fortunate!!

IMHO, had I not had a sway control device I would have maintained control. The truck / trailer needed to bend, but the sway control would not allow it. Loss of traction would not allow me to steer where I needed to go. I will still use one though, since I think I'm safer with, than without.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:44 PM   #6
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Question about friction sway control

I too was wondering about different hitches. I see on eBay that the standard friction type sway and weight distribution runs around $ 185.For an equal I zer with the newer type sway runs $ 650. It may not be exactly apples to apples but can someone explain the greatly improved preformace for the extra money. I guess the extra question would be the improved performance of a pro pride or equivalent . Just wondering as they are out of my price range right now.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:50 PM   #7
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I think friction sway control devices as well as those like the Reese Dual-cam primarily reduce sway by dampening the oscillation between the trailer and the tow vehicle. There are certainly some advantages and disadvantages with both types.

That said, when you lose traction with one or more axles, sway control probably isn't going to solve your problem. It may even make it worse. A friction device will tend to try and keep the angle between the trailer and the TV the same while the dual cam and similar devices will exert some force towards straightening things out. Which is better depends entirely on a very unique set of circumstances.

Fuel and water on a road is about as slick as it gets. Not a good situation in any case.
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Old 07-05-2011, 09:52 PM   #8
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Sway control does not sound like the problem from what you have said so far. Speed and rain can be a killer. Sway control will not keep keep the trailer from coming around when it is raining and any kind of speed in rain when making a stop or slowing down can be to fast to stop in a straight line, Best suggestion in rain is to slow down so you can control the trailer and not rely on the sway control to keep the Airstream behind you.
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:05 PM   #9
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but, back to my question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Selking View Post
Sway control does not sound like the problem from what you have said so far. Speed and rain can be a killer. Sway control will not keep keep the trailer from coming around when it is raining and any kind of speed in rain when making a stop or slowing down can be to fast to stop in a straight line, Best suggestion in rain is to slow down so you can control the trailer and not rely on the sway control to keep the Airstream behind you.
"My thoughts, and my question to you who are more knowledgeable than I: Can the newer types of control devices still overcome the traction between trailer tire and road. There is no backing off leverage pressure or friction of these devices when conditions change, without changing proper weight distribution. In a situation when turning in curve with water or ice on the road, can the new types of anti-sway devices cause the TT to slide back to straight line center behind the TV when it should not???"

I'm surprised at the lack of response that actually address the question!
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A W Warn View Post
"My thoughts, and my question to you who are more knowledgeable than I: Can the newer types of control devices still overcome the traction between trailer tire and road. There is no backing off leverage pressure or friction of these devices when conditions change, without changing proper weight distribution. In a situation when turning in curve with water or ice on the road, can the new types of anti-sway devices cause the TT to slide back to straight line center behind the TV when it should not???"

I'm surprised at the lack of response that actually address the question!
I don't think so.....except MAYBE with the lightest of TTs and too much tension relative to trailer weight AND the slickest of surfaces (like you describe and water on ice or "black ice"). I just believe the friction between (in my case) 7500 pounds resting on 4 relatively wide tires could never be overcome by WD bar tension under 99.9% of road surface conditions.

You couldn't have foreseen the diesel and water...but ice...I'm off the road anyway!

I used a friction device on my first pop-up and my next small TT. I only put enough tension in the adjustment to dampen an induced sway and never had an issue. I never even backed it off in rain....like I said, I WILL NOT tow in icy or snow packed conditions with any setup.
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:34 PM   #11
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Sway control will not help in ice or snow or heavy rain. Slowing down helps but even at that I have seen big rigs come around going 10 to 15 on ice or snow. Best place to be is at home parked. Airsteams do not like ice, snow, or rain.
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dznf0g View Post
I used a friction device on my first pop-up and my next small TT. I only put enough tension in the adjustment to dampen an induced sway and never had an issue. I never even backed it off in rain....like I said, I WILL NOT tow in icy or snow packed conditions with any setup.
I am back to using a friction device too, and I never had a problem since my first tow back in the 1970's, with a friction type sway control. I set mine up like you, just snug. And, if I hit slick road conditions I stop to remove all pressure.

Not intentionally, but I have been caught on ice and snow two times while towing, both with that Reece Dual Cam. Both times I got through without a problem. Sudden downpours with fuel spills are rare, and totally different. Not much time to react, much less think about it while it happens.

I do not intend to imply that the Dual Cam did not do it's job to control sway, it actually did a great job. Bow wave from trucks and cross wind were controlled. But, I am concerned that this hitch contributed to the loss of control in the particular situation I was in.

When I wrecked, I think the loss of traction (hydroplaning) allowed the tension of the sway control to overcome the traction of the trailer tires, forcing the truck / trailer into a straight line. In a straight line the front tires had even less traction than the 4 trailer tires. At that point I could not get the truck to turn into the skid. The trailer never came all way around. I was sliding down the center of the lane, the truck trailer were at a 40 to 50 degree angle to the lane. I stopped in that way.

I know all of the things said in all of the comments above about going slower, etc are true. I totally agree!

Any of you guys that sell and install these sway control devices, other that the old friction brake type, care to comment on the straight line effect? I would really be interested in your opinions.

good night all, I'll check tomorrow.
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:00 AM   #13
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First off glad everyone made it out o.k.

Second, wish I could give you some answers to your question. I hope its o.k. for me to ask, but how could one tell which system is on a given trailer? Sorry newbie question.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:24 AM   #14
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Think about turning in dry conditions. Make the turn and then straighten out. Some hitches will try to not return to a straight conditions. I think the E quilizer is like that as well as others. Usually not noticed but at slow speed one can feel the hitch return to straight in a few feet. This is my experience, so I would think in your situation that the trailer got off center and the time it took to center itself, return to straight, allowed the accident to happen. The little bit of force that allows a trailer to not return to straight in a slow dry turn, could have been just enough to create your problem.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:27 AM   #15
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I don;t know how the new hitches differ, but some hitches whether new or old can create the above mentioned conditions. jim
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:32 AM   #16
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Think of this, perhaps without any sway control the trailer may have slid to the side violently and an even worse accident would have occurred. Total loss of control. jim
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:55 AM   #17
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I hope its o.k. for me to ask, but how could one tell which system is on a given trailer? Sorry newbie question.
No problem. The only way to learn is to ask questions!

The trailer does not automatically have one. You have to add a friction type, or it might be integral to the design of the hitching system you select.

The friction type sway control is like a big clamp. It works similarly to the brakes on your vehicle, except you can only adjust it when the trailer is parked. It has a screw handle that you tighten up manually. It resists movement in any direction, so it dampens the affect of wind against the sides of the trailer and tow vehicle. Reese-Hitches.com is an example.

On the dual cam type, the cam sets in a saddle (bend) of the torsion arm of the hitch. When the vehicles are in a turn the tension on the cam and arm is increased when the cam slides slightly out of the saddle. This additional tension tends to force the cam back into the saddle, sending the trailer into a straight line behind the tow vehicle. This dampens the affect of a side-wind, but in a different way. See Reese-Hitches.com
There are other brands of hitches that use similar principles, but I happened to have selected the cam type.

In retrospect, I wish I had not mentioned that I had a wreck. It has skewed the direction of this thread into a critique of my experience. It was my intention to create a thread to discuss the merits of one type of sway control compared to another.
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Old 07-06-2011, 07:28 AM   #18
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When I wrecked, I think the loss of traction (hydroplaning) allowed the tension of the sway control to overcome the traction of the trailer tires, forcing the truck / trailer into a straight line. In a straight line the front tires had even less traction than the 4 trailer tires. At that point I could not get the truck to turn into the skid. The trailer never came all way around. I was sliding down the center of the lane, the truck trailer were at a 40 to 50 degree angle to the lane. I stopped in that way.
My guess: The truck wasn't skidding at first, then it probably started sliding when you turned the wheel into the skid (water/diesel on the road, remember).

You may have also hit the brakes - a natural reaction; I did the same when I should've steered in my accident with our B190 last summer - which is just going to make matters worse in slick conditions. (Or dry conditions, in my case.) I know firsthand that's it's REALLY easy to sit here and talk about what we all should do; it's quite different when you have 0.5 seconds to react out on the road.

I don't think the sway control made the accident any worse or better. The sway is just provides a small damping effect for non-uniform side-to-side movement between the truck and trailer (I say small damping effect because it's right at the hitch, which is where a small force will have the most effect). Keep in mind the sway's resistance is easily overcome by even the slightest turn or lane change.

Also, I wouldn't beat myself up too much - it sounds to me like you were doing the right things, maybe a bit slower would've been better, but on the other hand, did you have any idea there was diesel all over the road? The primary accident was from the truck following you too closely/too fast, NOT from any mistake you made. He might've still hit you even if you kept it all in a perfect line.
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Old 07-06-2011, 07:42 AM   #19
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I have driven on a road that had diesel fuel on it from a spill and it was worse than driving on ice, had no control at all.
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Old 07-06-2011, 07:53 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A W Warn View Post


I am back to using a friction device too, and I never had a problem since my first tow back in the 1970's, with a friction type sway control. I set mine up like you, just snug. And, if I hit slick road conditions I stop to remove all pressure.

Not intentionally, but I have been caught on ice and snow two times while towing, both with that Reece Dual Cam. Both times I got through without a problem. Sudden downpours with fuel spills are rare, and totally different. Not much time to react, much less think about it while it happens.

I do not intend to imply that the Dual Cam did not do it's job to control sway, it actually did a great job. Bow wave from trucks and cross wind were controlled. But, I am concerned that this hitch contributed to the loss of control in the particular situation I was in.

When I wrecked, I think the loss of traction (hydroplaning) allowed the tension of the sway control to overcome the traction of the trailer tires, forcing the truck / trailer into a straight line. In a straight line the front tires had even less traction than the 4 trailer tires. At that point I could not get the truck to turn into the skid. The trailer never came all way around. I was sliding down the center of the lane, the truck trailer were at a 40 to 50 degree angle to the lane. I stopped in that way.

I know all of the things said in all of the comments above about going slower, etc are true. I totally agree!

Any of you guys that sell and install these sway control devices, other that the old friction brake type, care to comment on the straight line effect? I would really be interested in your opinions.

good night all, I'll check tomorrow.
This is the type of rare situation where I could see the newer vehicles with the combination of ABS, Traction Control, AND the newest electronic ITBC with trailer sway control could help maintain control. Some folks think these systems are gadgets, but AW makes a GREAT comment in the 4th paragraph.

These systems, contrary to popular belief, help maintain and regain directional control in a skid....not stop you quicker and in a shorter distance.
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