What is sway? - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-18-2007, 03:12 PM   #15
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Sway is an oscillation that gathers energy as you move the trailer forward. Here's how it happens: The trailer hits a bump -- even a small bump -- that transfers excess weight to one side of the trailer. Then the wheel on that side, which has energy because it is spinning, expends some of it's rotational velocity to push the extra weight back and eventually overcome the extra weight loading on that side. That sends the trailer swinging to the other side with just a little bit more energy than it came in with. Repeat this cycle a few times and you have a trailer that oscillates more wildly with each swing until the push from one side dumps the whole trailer over the wheel on the other side.

Avoiding the problem:

A swaying trailer is basically a heavy weight that is sways back over or behind the trailer axle. In order to get that trailer weight swinging, the trailer weight has to be located in a place that allows it to sway back and forth in the first place. A low center of gravity in your trailer means the weight will be shared more equally by the tires on either side at all times; a high center of gravity provides more weight that can be shifted from side-to-side. Load your trailer with the heaviest stuff on the floor and your trailer will be less likely to sway.

Also remember that trailers have three balance points: the hitch and the tires on either side. The hitch weight is weight you take off the tires and away from the amount of weight that can be shifted from side to side in a sway situation. If you look at manufacturer weights for their single-axle trailers you'll see that most of them put 10-20% of their total trailer weight on the hitch. (Scamp, for whatever reason, has weights a little lower, down to 7-1/2% of total weight, perhaps because they figure there just isn't that much weight to swing around in the first place.) Hitch weight is weight that will always pull your trailer down and center, so keep that in mind as you pack and load your trailer. (Remember not to exceed the hitch weight rating for your tow vehicle.)

Shocks (if your trailer has them) and tire inflation also play a role. Shock absorbers resist the movement of weight over one specific tire but allow that weight to move freely toward the center, taking energy out of the system as the trailer sways. Properly-inflated tires reduce sway the same way, resisting the addition of new weight to their side of the trailer and providing a more stable weight-bearing platform.

Using a brake controller's panic-switch to apply electric brakes on the trailer can help control sway. The brakes slow the wheels down so the pull of the tow vehicle becomes the major force pulling the trailer along, and the trailer has no choice but to follow in a more complacent manner.

Sway bars pull energy out of the system and dampen a trailer's tendency to sway by absorbing sway energy and transferring it to the tow vehicle. The down side of tow bars is that, if you have a badly loaded trailer, the trailer's tendency to sway can overwhelm the sway bar and tow vehicle's ability to take energy out of the system. In other words, they can help, but are no substitute for correct trailer loading and balance.

[I've made some changes to this post: My original post tried to explain some of the dynamics and physics involved in trailer sway based on a much more technical article I read last year and no longer have at my fingertips. On second reading I think I did a bad job of explaining things. Thanks to Brian B-P for pointing that out to me.]
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Old 06-19-2007, 07:23 PM   #16
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...Is it the oscillating yaw that one gets... The back and forth pendulum?
Sway is a really imprecise term, but if we are talking about sway as a problem, I think this is a good working definition: a continuing, even increasing, oscillation.

A single excursion and return to straight is not a sway problem, any more than a single up-and-down motion going over a bump is a ride problem. A vehicle which continues to bob up and down on the road after a bump is not properly controlled; a trailer which keeps swinging like a dog's tail repeatedly after a nudge (aerodynamic or otherwise) has a sway problem.
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Old 06-19-2007, 09:14 PM   #17
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Sway is a really imprecise term, but if we are talking about sway as a problem, I think this is a good working definition: a continuing, even increasing, oscillation.
Technicaly: "...a continuing, even increasing, oscillation...", is an undamped oscillation.

The purpose of the 'sway control' is to provide a mechanism that turns the 'undamped' into a 'damped' oscillation.
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Old 07-01-2007, 07:49 PM   #18
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Technicaly: "...a continuing, even increasing, oscillation...", is an undamped oscillation.

The purpose of the 'sway control' is to provide a mechanism that turns the 'undamped' into a 'damped' oscillation.
Good info all! thanks.
According to Wikipedea anything that serves to reduce a the force of oscillation is "dampning".
I suppose that means if you roll your rig you are dampning the oscillation! hahahah

Thanks for all the input. It is making more sense now. I think some I have spoken too are talking about something other than oscillation when they talk about sway.

Thanks again.

RD
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Old 07-02-2007, 05:58 PM   #19
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Here're my thoughts on sway, which I posted in the Files section of Yahoo Scampers. Some may disagree, but these are my thoughts based on experience and reading RV groups for more than a decade.

BTW, relative weight doesn't always do it -- I had a nearly uncontrollable sway incident on a curved, banked, wet gravel road in BC, where my 1700 lb Scamp 13 pulled my 4000 lb half-ton pickup around like they weighed the same.

QUOTE
Here are one person's thoughts on sway control, based on personal
experience and the experiences of others -- YMMV!


Below is a copy of the notes from a Reese friction sway control's
installation PDF

http://www.reeseprod.com/support/sup...fs/26660IN.pdf

Please read note No. 4 of the PDF -- How many folks actually stop
and pull over to the side of the road to disable their friction sway
control when driving in the rain or on gravel roads, etc., esp when
the rain first hits and the oils are starting to float on the road?
In fact, how many folks have even read Reese's note?

There are basically three kinds of sway that we encounter when towing:

A. That caused by a big truck's passing on a highway -- This, I believe,
is what most folks think about when sway is mentioned.

B. The reaction that the trailer has against the tow vehicle (TV)
when a change in direction happens, including a return from a change
in direction -- About the very worst is a turn while descending a
hill because the trailer is putting more weight on the TV rear and
lifting the TV front end while pushing to the side.

C. The reaction that the trailer has on the whole rig when its "speed
of instability" is reached and it starts to bounce and lurch from
side to side in ever-increasing distance.

The last two are the most dangerous, but sometimes vehicles are on
the very edge of the last one © when a big truck goes by -- The
resulting mess is blamed on the big truck, but that's really not
the base cause.

If the rig isn't balanced right (see Note No. 2 below about
first-line defense), then all the sway control does for you is
extend your "speed of instability" by a small margin and promote
a false sense of confidence, esp after a couple of big trucks
have passed by without incident.

If a friction sway control is set properly, at first it will resist
the trailer's tendency to sway and push the TV's rear to one side,
esp the momentary sway caused by encountering big trucks -- This
is why most folks have a sway control.

However, if the force is sufficient, as in a curve, the friction
sway control will slide to its new position -- It will now tend
to resist coming out of the turn with as much force as it used
going in -- If the road surface is slippery enuf, then either
going into the turn, or coming out, the sway control will not
allow the trailer to track properly and it will try to go into
a skid, yanking on the TV rear and possibly causing loss of control
-- Hence, the manufacturer's instructions to disconnect it in
slippery conditions.

In the case of major uncontrollable sway, as in C. above, the
friction control is tending to fight every steering correction
you try to make...

BTW, the Dual Cam and Equal-i-zer sway controls appear to be far
superior in this regard because they always try to straighten the
trailer behind the TV -- Unfortunately, they are only available with
weight distributing hitches (WDH).


QUOTE FROM THE REESE PDF FOR FRICTION SWAY CONTROL:

1.SWAY CONTROL CANNOT BE USED ON TRAILERS WITH SURGE BRAKES.

2.Trailer loading: Proper trailer loading is your first-line
defense against dangerous instability and sway. Heavy items
should be placed on the floor in front of the axle. The load
should be balanced side-to-side and secured to prevent shifting.
Tongue weight should be about 10-15 percent of gross trailer
weight for most trailers. Too low a percentage of tongue weight
can cause sway. Load the trailer heavier in front.

3. The handle (5) is an on/off device. The bolt (7) below is
for adjustment only.

4. When towing during slippery conditions such as wet, icy, or
snow-covered roads or on loose gravel, turn on/off handle (5)
counterclockwise until all tension is removed from unit. Failure
to do so could prevent tow vehicle and trailer from turning
properly.

5. Do not speed up if sway occurs. Sway increases with speed.
Do not continue to operate a swaying vehicle. Check trailer
loading, sway control adjustment, and all other equipment,
until the cause of sway has been determined and corrected.

6. Never paint or lubricate slide bar (6).
END QUOTE

Regarding front wheel drive (FWD), it's not sway controls that
are the question, it's a WDH to get the front wheels back down
on the ground properly to retain steering and control (and traction)
against the forces of sway -- This has to be offset, however,
by a serious look at the trailer frame because WDH takes the
weight off the rear of the TV and puts it on the front AND on
the trailer axle (and puts bending stresses on the frame in
the process).

However, if one had too light a front on FWD, one could
temporarily hide that condition from oneself by installing a
friction sway control >>> But only until the new limit of control
was reached...which will likely be at a higher speed with greater
consequences.

The bottom line on sway is to get your balances right, and stow
your heavy stuf as low and close to the axle as possible -- If
possible, do what you can to change your tow geometry -- Once
you have done all that, then add the anti-sway control for a
little insurance if you want.

On my Dodge D150 pickup, after towing for many tens of thousands
of miles, I had a near-miss on a descending curve on a wet gravel
road at slow speed -- My 1,700 91S13 slung my 4,500 lb truck like
I wouldn't have believed had I not experienced it -- Following that,
I rebalanced the load in truck itself to get more weight off the
rear and onto the front, modified the receiver hitch to move the
ball forward 2" and modified the ball mount to move it forward
another 2" -- Those things made a surprising improvement in
handling.

For those who don't already know this, here're some tow geometry
guidelines:

Long TV wheelbase is good
Short TV overhang (rear axle to ball) is good
Long trailer tongue (ball to trailer axle) is good
Short trailer overhang (trailer axle to bumper) is good

The worst possible things you can do are to have your tongue
weight too light and to put a lot of weight out on the trailer
bumper -- Installing a longer ball mount (aka stinger) is NOT
a good thing.

Pete D.

END QUOTE
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Old 07-02-2007, 06:00 PM   #20
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Here's a post from a BulgeMoble Group:

QUOTE
======================
A trailer can sway for MANY reasons. Hensley, PullRite and 5th-
wheel hitches are vastly superior to conventional hitches but address
ONLY the level and direction of stresses the swaying trailer applies
to the tow vehicle, and better minimize the effects on the tow
vehicle. Trailerists concerned about stability would do well to use a
"good" hitch. But you must STILL pay attention to proper weight
balance, tire pressures, driving habits, and suspension conditions.
You CAN wreck your rig due to sway, no matter what hitch you use.
Here are some free tips:


BALANCE. TT's & utility trailers ought to have about 10-12% of their
weight on the tongue, fivers around 20% on the pin, and be more or
less equal side to side.


TIRES, both on trailer & tow vehicle, should be correctly inflated
for the actual load you're carrying. The best pressure is that shown
on the inflation chart for your actual measured weight. Absolute
precision is neither necessary or possible but don't over-inflate.


ALIGNMENT of both trailer and tow vehicle suspension as well as the
hitch is important. You can't expect a trailer to track straight if
the tow car is hunting back & forth or the hitch is off center.


HITCH TENSION is a factor: too much tension on the weight-
distributing bars takes too much weight off the rear wheels of the tow
vehicle and is potentially deadly in sudden braking; too little
squashes the rear suspension, unloads the front, and lets the trailer
nose down -- all three combine to decrease stability.


HIGH WINDS will move trailers around, some more than others,
Airstreams and Awards are a little less susceptible to crosswinds but
you will do will to park the dang thing on a real windy day.


TOW RATINGS have GOT to be conservatively applied if you expect a
safe, comfortable trip. I recommend you not exceed about 3/4 of the
max tow rating for your vehicle. You are a candidate for the Darwin
Award if you try to tow a 9,000 lb Airstream with an Intrepid or a
Winstar - no matter what some greedy sales loon tells you.


WHEELBASE. The right tow vehicle has a long wheelbase. It is
absolutely absurd to expect a Blazer, Jeep Cherokee, or Suzuki Samurai
to control a big TT. Those vehicles handle badly by themselves and
have all the confidence-building directional stability of a hockey
puck once a trailer is attached.


OVERHANG. The less the better for minimizing sway because the trailer
has less leverage to steer you. That is why the Hensley & PullRite
hitches feel as stable as a fifth-wheel setup. For years Suburbans
were considered a "good" tow vehicle but they have too much rear
overhang compared to some vans.


LOOSE PARTS on the hitch platform, the hitch itself, trailer frame, or
trailer suspension can cause havoc. Not common but a Big Deal if it
happens.


"SWAY CONTROL" gadgets are little more than bandaids, with minimal
effectiveness. If everything else is right they are unnecessary. At
best they introduce some small resistance to sway, and at worst they
can cause you a crisis under slippery conditions. I do NOT recommend
them. Instead, of you are serious about towing, check all the other
stuff and get a good hitch.


========================================


This lecture brought to you free by Will Sill KD3XR, who hopes you
are not offended by anything you read, inferred, assumed, presumed
or otherwise guessed I might have possibly meant as demeaning -
unless of course you are personally a humorless nitwit who WANTS
to be insulted. In which case be my guest.


Will Sill
The Curmudgeon of Sill Hill


END QUOTE
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Old 07-02-2007, 06:04 PM   #21
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And here's another article from a Pop-Up Trailer Group (also from the Scamp Files):

QUOTE
Copied from rec.outdoors.rv-travel

This is about sway in pop-ups but it is good info for all types of
trailers


Can I Sway Your Opinion?
by Mark J. Polk


"Yaw,” more commonly known as “sway” in the RV industry, is a bad word
for pop up campers. The definition of yaw or sway is a side-to-side
movement. Nothing will ruin the way you feel about camping faster than
the first time you experience trailer sway.


You go to your local dealership and find a pop up with the perfect floor
plan for you and your family. The sales person knows that it will be
close to the maximum weight that your tow vehicle can pull. He really
needs a sale because things have been slow. Rather than risk losing the
sale, he decides not to explain the added expense of the proper hitch
work to safely tow your new trailer.


You’re all packed up for a weekend getaway. You made all of your pre
trip checks and you’re ready to go. You load the most precious cargo you
have, your family, into your tow vehicle and head out on a new venture.
Everything is fine when you leave the house. You take the on-ramp to the
interstate. You’re cruising at the speed limit, enjoying the music on
the radio. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a transfer truck going twenty miles
over the speed limit is passing you as if you’re sitting still. The pop
up is pulled into the draft created by the truck. In an attempt to
correct this totally unexpected event, you over-steer, and the trailer
begins to go in the opposite direction. Not really sure what to do, you
turn the steering wheel to the left, then to the right. Now the one-ton
trailer behind your sport utility vehicle is veering sharply from side
to side and begins to affect what little control you have over the
vehicle. The results are catastrophic…


Okay, since this is a magazine article, let’s start over and fix this
before you even realize that there is a potential problem. You purchased
your pop up from a responsible local dealership. At the risk of losing
the sale, your salesperson explains that you will require some
specialized hitch work to pull your new trailer safely. You are a bit
skeptical, feeling like he just wants more of your money. (Besides, your
father never needed any of this stuff. He just hooked his trailers onto
a ball on the bumper.)


You decide to give the salesperson the benefit of doubt and listen for a
minute. He shows you in his book that your tow vehicle is rated to tow a
maximum of 3,500 pounds. Then he explains what you must factor into that
tow rating. It includes the weight of your new camper, any after market
add-ons, like the roof-mounted air conditioner that the dealership is
going to install, all of the cargo that you load in the trailer and in
the tow vehicle, and the weight of the people in the vehicle. Now all of
the sudden the sales person has your undivided attention. You had no
idea that all of this had to be considered. Now he shows you the weight
label on your new trailer. The unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) is 2,100
lbs. The air conditioner weighs 100 lbs. To be safe, he estimates that
you will carry about 300 lbs. Of cargo, and then adds 400 lbs. (for you,
your wife and the children).


You are amazed how fast things add up. Now you have 2,900 lbs. instead
of the 2000 lbs. that you thought it was. It isn’t over yet. Your sales
person starts to explain that every state has different requirements on
how much a trailer can weigh before it requires trailer brakes. In your
state, the weight is 3,000 lbs., but as a responsible dealership, any
trailer they order that weighs over 2,000 lbs., they have brakes
installed by the manufacturer. He explains that even though your vehicle
is rated to tow 3,5000 pounds, the brakes on the vehicle were designed
to safely stop the vehicle’s weight, not an additional ton and a half
being pulled behind it.


He takes you to the parts department and shows you a brake controller
and explains that this is what activates the trailer brakes, and the
dealership can install it when they do the wiring for the trailer
lights. You like the features he explained about the brake controller.
The fact that you can manually adjust the amount of braking action, so
that when you hit the brake pedal, the tow vehicle and the trailer work
together to stop the weight in a reasonable amount of time. What you
really like is the part he explained about the slide lever that
activates the trailer brakes without using the vehicle brakes. He said
if you’re on a steep grade and you don’t want to prematurely wear out
the vehicle brakes, you slowly slide the lever and the trailer brakes
will slow you down. But what really sold you on it was when he explained
that if the trailer starts to sway, you could gently tap the lever
activating the trailer brakes on and off to help straighten the trailer
out.


He then went on to explain that trailer sway is one of the biggest
problems you will encounter while towing the pop up. He took the time to
explain that for the trailer to pull properly, the manufacturer
recommends that the tongue weight resting on the ball mount should be 10
to 15% of the total trailer weight. If it is more than 15%, they have
what is called a “weight distribution hitch” that takes the additional
tongue weight and distributes it to the axles on the tow vehicle and the
trailer where it should be. If it is less than 10% when you load your
cargo, you distribute it to add some additional weight on the tongue. He
looked up the pop up you were buying in the brochure, and the tongue
weight was 305 pounds. With the air conditioner installed and cargo
loaded, it would be between the 10 and 15% range. He said that a weight
distribution hitch was more commonly used with heavier trailers, and in
some cases with pop ups, depending on the tow vehicle. In this case,
however, it would not be required.


The next thing he asked was if the vehicle had a receiver. He explained
that the part of the hitch that is bolted to the vehicle is called a
receiver, and he showed you a chart that had several different classes
of receivers, depending on the amount of weight you will be towing. The
class II receiver was rated for 3,500 lb. gross trailer weight and 300
lb. maximum tongue weight. For a small difference in price, he
recommended a class III receiver rated for 5,000 lb. gross trailer
weight and 500 maximum tongue weight (since the trailer tongue weight
exceeded 300 lbs.).


With that done, he said he would show you a component that the
dealership strongly recommends to anyone purchasing a pop up. He walked
over and picked up a part from the shelf called a “friction sway
control.” One end of it is mounted to the hitch in the receiver and the
other end to the tongue on the camper. You adjust the amount of friction
by turning the lever clockwise for more friction and counter clockwise
for less friction. He explained that you turn it in 1/8” increments
until you get it adjusted where you feel comfortable. This will not
totally eliminate sway, but it will control it to the point that you
feel in control of the vehicle when you’re pulling your camper.


Finally, he said that would do it. For less than 10% of the price of the
pop up, you can get all of the hitch work done and ensure that your
family is safe when you go on a trip. At this point, you are convinced
that the salesperson has your best interest in mind and is not just
trying to make more money for the dealership.


Now you are all packed up for your first weekend getaway with your new
pop up. You made all of the pre-trip checks that the dealership
explained, and you are ready to go. The family is loaded into the
vehicle and you back out of the driveway. You take the on ramp to the
interstate and settle in, enjoying the music on the radio. Suddenly, out
of nowhere, a transfer truck going twenty miles over the speed limit
passes you as if you were sitting still. You feel a slight movement
behind you-- just enough to remind you that you’re pulling the pop up.
You look at your watch and tell the family that you should be there in a
couple of hours.


Mark Polk is the owner and operator of RV Education 101, a video
production and educational seminar company specializing in the RV
industry. For more information visit www.rveducation101.com or call 910-
484-7615

END QUOTE
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Old 07-03-2007, 10:12 PM   #22
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I am not sure I understand.

Is this a good thing?
Selling lots of safety things to someone pulling a 2000 lb popup with a 350 Super Duty Ford? I guess I missed something.

RD
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Old 07-04-2007, 07:27 AM   #23
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Quote:
I am not sure I understand.

Is this a good thing?
Selling lots of safety things to someone pulling a 2000 lb popup with a 350 Super Duty Ford? I guess I missed something.

RD
Ron, what did you miss?

Rog
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Old 07-04-2007, 08:17 AM   #24
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There is a lot of good information in this thread and the control of the trailer-tug combination deserves plenty of respect. It is not difficult to find someone who has "lost it" at least once and failed to keep the shiny side up.
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Old 07-04-2007, 11:00 AM   #25
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Unhappy

Quote:
...failed to keep the [b]shiny side up.
Oh, maybe I shouldn't wax the bottom of my trailer...
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Old 07-04-2007, 04:16 PM   #26
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Quote:
I am not sure I understand.

Is this a good thing?
Selling lots of safety things to someone pulling a 2000 lb popup with a 350 Super Duty Ford? I guess I missed something.

RD
It is still possible for a 2000 lb trailer to severely mess up the control of a one-ton pickup truck under the right conditions (bad trailer balance, light rear end on truck, slippery road conditions), esp if the owner had decided he didn't need trailer brakes on such a 'light' trailer.

I would be unlikely to use WDH w/dualcam control on a rig like that, but it wouldn't be totally wasted money if one did. All that truck has going for it in a sway incident is weight and perhaps wheelbase if it's not a shortbed standard cab -- The power and the gearing that makes a 1/2 ton into a one-ton are relatively useless when it comes to control like steering and stopping.

Anyway, the salesperson that guy was writing about is only slightly rarer than a unicorn...
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Old 07-04-2007, 09:59 PM   #27
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Ron, what did you miss?

Rog
I am guilty of not reading closely.
Towing a marginal setup would certainly benefit from a frictional sway control device. But I have a 7000 lb 160" wheel base Super Duty 350 with a towing capacity of 14,000 lbs. I cannot imagine the benefit of adding a friction sway control to a 2000 pound pop up trailer.

All of this has been very educational and I am going to have to conclude that the term "sway" means different things to different people.

Now to go buy that boat!

Thanks for your input

RD
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Old 07-05-2007, 01:46 PM   #28
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It is still possible for a 2000 lb trailer to severely mess up the control of a one-ton pickup truck under the right conditions ([b]bad trailer balance, light rear end on truck, slippery road conditions), esp if the owner had [b]decided he didn't need trailer brakes on such a 'light' trailer.
(I added the emphasis)
The solution for this scenario is absolutely, positively, emphatically [b]not a pile more hardware to mis-use. Add brakes, yes, but a WD system and sticky bar thing? No. Sometimes, the only hardware to adjust is the nut behind the wheel.

By the way, if the truck's "light rear end" is a problem, a WD system would only make it worse... that's it's purpose! (to reduce rear axle load)

There are no shortbed standard-cab one-tons, so we're talking about a truck with substantial wheelbase (like 12 feet), good overhang-to-wheelbase ratio, stiff rear suspension, and massive rear axle capacity. If a 2000 lb trailer cannot be safely towed by a truck like this, the trailer is simply defective (in loading, suspension, tires... whatever) and needs to be fixed.
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