Stabilisers and Trailer Control Systems

The main purpose of a stabiliser or a trailer control system is to help the driver tow safely.  These devices are not meant to be an alternative to good towing practice and careful towing.  Stabilisers are helpful when towing heavy loads such as a caravan, boat or horse box as they help prevent snaking (wobbling from side to side) or pitching (wobbling up and down). 

However, the best ways to help prevent snaking or unstable towing are:

Caravan snaking

Caravan snaking is at best pretty unpleasant and at worst the cause of a nasty accident.  Snaking is caused when the caravan is out of line from the car. The motion often results in the driver trying to correct the snaking which can make it worse as a momentum builds as the outfit becomes more and more unstable.

The start of snaking can be caused by:

Towball StabiliserWhat do stabilisers do?

Stabilisers increase the friction between the car and caravan making the side to side and up and down movements harder which reduce the risk of snaking and pitching.  There are two types of stabiliser that are commonly used by caravanners.  The most popular is a hitch stabiliser which clamps on to the tow ball to increase the friction.  Many newer caravans have these fitted as standard.  The other type is a blade stabiliser which is a sprung metal blade that creates the friction.

ATCTrailer Control Systems

These are electronic devices that use sensors to monitor the side to side movement of the caravan. When the sensors detect the sideways motion has gone into a snaking action they gently apply the caravan brakes until the outfit straightens up.

The Alko ATC (automatic trailer control) system for example is fitted to the caravan when new or by a dealer and is activated when the car electrics are connected to the caravan.  There is a light on the A frame that shows it’s working OK.  They are expensive, but are effective in reducing the risks. 

Preventing snaking

Prevention is far better than cure, a caravan snaking is a pretty scary experience.  If you do find that you are in a ‘snake’ it’s important that its stopped as its likely to keep increasing until you lose control of the car or the caravan goes over. To stop the snaking there are a few tips to follow that should help:

In summary, you want to keep going straight and gradually slow down.  The snake will gradually reduce and you will be safe again.  Pull over at the next services to check the loading and that the towing equipment is still connected.  Give yourself a few minutes to calm down and then resume your journey.