Sway Control

The Wallaby Track: This month, Lionel offers some advice on what to do if the caravan develops a wobble.

sway control

I guess you are wondering what’s happening with Yemmy after reading last month’s column. The short answer is ‘nothing’! 

My friend, Eric, has been flat-out preparing in case the fires spread to his property in Officer, where he has a lot of Sprinters to protect, including mine.

I’ve told him there’s no panic at the moment as I’ve hired a caravan for our next ACC muster at Ballarat, Vic, over the Australia Day weekend and it’s going to be delivered and put on site by the helpful owner of Ballarat Caravan Hire.


When I rang to order new batteries for my hearing aids recently, they booked me in for my two-year check up. The nearest place for this is Ballarat, Vic, so I cranked up my new TomTom GPS and left home with plenty of time.

Everything went well to start with. I arrived at the parking place in good time, walked into the shopping centre and into the hearing joint for my test.

“We have no-one here today,” said the lady behind the counter. “Are you sure you have the right day?”

When she checked my file, she found the call centre had made the booking and then cancelled it without letting me know.

As I was in Ballarat and needed to pay the bond for my caravan hire, I headed to the address. It was a house! I discovered the business further along the street but it was locked. A phone call later and I found Wayne, the owner, was on holiday in Warrnambool, so I did a direct debit when I got home.

Yes – you are right if you are thinking Murphy! But he wasn’t finished. The protective cover on my new iPhone was not fitted right, so I went to Telstra in Ararat to get it fixed. Having found that they had fitted it a couple of months ago they agreed to fit a new one – except they were waiting for some to come in! Another visit is scheduled for next week.


“I nearly died!”

What a stupid expression. I guess we all use it when something gives us a shock but in reality it is far from the truth in most cases unless we are talking about some grave medical emergency or a life-threatening situation.

Our language is peppered with silly sayings and we tend to use them as a matter of course. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

“She/he was as white as a ghost.” Who has ever seen a ghost to know what colour they are? It could be that you are as red or purple as a ghost, for all I know.

White as a sheet is a bit better but a glance through a bedding catalogue these days shows sheets are all colours of the rainbow.

“It was as hot – or cold – as the devil.” Really? And just how hot or cold might that be? 

“My hair stood on end!” Did it really? Are you a cat or something? 

“It tows like a dream.” Ah, now he’s starting to talk about caravanning at last! I’ve never seen a dream towing or being towed, and I don’t remember ever having towed a van in my dreams, but it’s something we like to feel about our outfits, I’m sure.


Fortunately, these days caravans seem to be designed better and are far more stable than in the old days when the dreaded snaking was all too prevalent. But it still happens and takes unsuspecting drivers by surprise.

It tows like a dream!

An example occurred recently when a very experienced vanning couple heading for a caravan club rally lost control of the outfit as they came over the crest of a hill. There was a very strong gusty wind that day and a particularly strong gust must have caught the van from the side as they started to go downhill. A nasty sway started and had them off the road before they could regain control.

Luckily, no-one was hurt, but they finished up next to a huge tree that could have been the finish of them. The manoeuvre was so severe that it bent the van axle.

Nobody likes to talk about sway to ‘newbies’ as they feel it might put them off caravanning, but it doesn’t hurt to have the knowledge of what to do if the outfit does develop a sway.

First of all, prevention is most important and starts with the manufacturer who is responsible for designing and building a van that is well balanced, with running gear that is more than adequate for the size and weight of the loaded van.

Next in the chain comes the selling dealer and the advice given about what can tow the van safely and with what kind of towing gear. Unfortunately, we all know of rare instances where this doesn’t happen. Independent advice from a towing specialist can put new caravanners on the right track.

Finally, it comes down to the owner themselves and a trip to a weigh bridge with the new van after it is loaded and ready to roll. This is the best insurance. At this stage it’s not too late to adjust the load to get the correct nose-weight, although shifting things around doesn’t always make much difference with a bigger van. With a smaller van, loading can be critical and make a huge difference to stability.

So there we are: everything checks out perfectly, we are all set for the big trip and all at once we are going down hill and a side-wind or road undulation starts the van oscillating like a yo-yo. You are white as a sheet, frightened to death and later you will tell people you nearly died!

sway control
A small sway will likely rectify itself.

But often a few simple actions can get you straight again with a minimum of fuss. If it’s just a little sway, it’s likely to straighten out on its own.

A caravan and tow vehicle are most stable when the vehicle is pulling the van and most unstable when the van is pushing the vehicle. Some people therefore advise accelerating. But if you have electric brakes, you can ease the over-ride control on, which will ‘stretch’ the outfit and make it stable again. 

Be careful, though, and make sure you check the brake operation every morning as use of incorrectly adjusted or balanced brakes could make the situation worse. I nearly killed myself once before I started checking my brakes every morning – a sway turned into a violent pendulum when I put the over-ride on as one wheel had no braking at all. The van, from a well-known and popular maker, was only three weeks old!


Ever since I moved in about seven years ago, I’d been worried about a huge tree that was far too close to my house.

sway control
Lionel’s new tree stump table.

Last week it came down, thanks to some experts who took just over two hours to do the job. I got them to leave the trunk at waist high and I can foresee some lovely barbecues with us standing around my new tree/table.


I’d been waiting for the right opportunity to produce a Christmas pudding that had been maturing in my pantry since 2003 and when I opened the tin it looked and felt fine but, surprisingly, no-one but me was game to taste it! I thought it tasted okay – after all, it had been sealed in a tin for the past 17 years, so I gave our chooks a Christmas treat plus a little bit for my visiting magpies.


Although I took this pic at the very end of 2019, I want to share it with you all as I wish you everything you would like to happen in 2020 – some of you have health problems so I’m particularly wishing for a respite for you. 

sway control
A special image that Lionel would like to share with you.

I’ve got some travels planned already: an Apex 40 get-together in Bingara and an ACC Chairman’s Muster at Charters Towers – both in May.