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Q: Open car trailer

21 February 2008
Nor Cal
Picked up my open car trailer today, but noticed some swaying. Do I need to install any sway controls or weight distribution for safety measures? Any thoughts on the "surged" brake system as well? (Hope I posted this question in the right forum.)


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I'm not a trailer expert by any stretch but have picked up a few criteria along the way.

Brakes: With a gross trailer weight of easily 5000+ lbs, you probably should have electric brakes on at least one axle if not both. I had surge brakes on an open trailer and now have electric brakes on an enclosed trailer. Electric is much nicer.

Hmmmm, swaying with an empty trailer? That doesn't sound right. Was it windy? Where were you coming from and at what speeds? You shouldn't have sway problems if the trailer's weight and balance is correct and the trailer should be built to be perfectly balanced empty. There should be 10-12% (15% max) of the trailer weight on the tongue and have the trailer pulling pretty close to level. The picture looks like it's pretty close to level, so I'm not sure what's going on there. How much weight did you have in the rear of the tow vehicle?

Drop me a line if you're not sure how to do a weight and balance or want to discuss brakes. Or, if you bought it new, (looks pretty shiny) the dealer should help out with recommendations. Good luck.
Hi Ted- we met briefly at Trackmaster May2nd (via Steve G.).

I've never trailered anything before, but only heard of horrors stories from my research. Weather was nice & the trailer actually didn't sway too bad (maybe my inexperience got me worried).

Anyways, I'm gonna bleed the brakes tonight and test drive again tomorrow.

Just don't want to be trailing on a "string and a prayer."
Hi is this Larry?

Weight distribution is needed to take weight off the tongue.
When the trailer is loaded what is the tongue weight?
How much weight can the tow vehicle tolerate?
If you had a pickup say like this one.
You wouldn't need it. Not sure for your vehicle
How much stuff are you going to put up front? All the weight will be on the tongue.

If you are going to Thunder hill up I5 I think it may be best to get anti sway.
This doesn't cost much and very easy to use. I have it on my trailer but suspect
I don't really need it but it doesn't hurt. If your trailer was just a flat bed than
maybe not but the front section will act like a sail in the wind.
Longer wheel base will also be more stable.

Trailer Breaks are a good idea. What if you have to stop fast?

Now that you have a trailer.... Sticky tires?

Hi Don- After a few HPDE, I feel like trailering my car will be more logical. Get to bring two set of tires (R-compounds) & tools, no worries about road hazards or break downs at the track/on the road, and drive home in my comfy SUV.

Car is 17+ y.o. so this trailer is also peace of mind. Plus, if I do attend NSXPO then I will definitely be trailering the car along.

See you at the next Trackmaster's...
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Sway control device highly recommend on BOTH sides with a wieght distributing hitch. Electric brakes IMHO are better than surge brakes. I tow my NSX in an enclosed Haulmark trailer with a Nissan Titan Beast!!!
How about some info about your trailer. How much does it weigh, is it alum, do you have a EBC, what is the weight limit on those axles? How long is it?

You really shouldn't have any swaying with an empty load. It might be the combination of no EBC and short wheelbase tow vehicle.

BTW, for reference - this is my set up.


Denali XL(long wheelbase) with load leveling and a 1400 lb. alum trailer with appropriate placment of SM.
NSXLuvr- I believe you are RIGHT! My setup is not ideal...shorter wheelbase, heavier steel trailer, no EBC, etc.

I didn't want to spend the $6K for a Featherlight trailer and another $50K for a dually truck, so this will have to do. I'll have the sway controls installed anyways (cheap) for peace of mind.

BTW, you have a nice tow setup and spec Miata! Any pics of the GT3 (I have a modified 996TT as well)???
I would do sway controlls and EBC. Make sure you do some test runs with a car before you make the first road trip.

Pics of my GT3 - I am gonna end up hijacking your thread.:biggrin:

Normally, swaying is caused by not having enough weight on the tongue of the trailer. Put something in those storage locations/containers and see what you find.
Re: Wierd aero

Normally, swaying is caused by not having enough weight on the tongue of the trailer. Put something in those storage locations/containers and see what you find.
This idea is a bit "out there", but maybe the wind flow around those monolithic storage units is causing some lift from weird low pressure areas and not just normal horizontal drag. The weight and balance might pencil out just fine for the static condition, but going down the road, the tongue weight may actually be reduced? :confused: Just a thought. Definitely needs some wind tunnel testing. If you don't have one, just load the sucker up and give it a try. Be on the heavy (15%) side of the tongue weight and you might be just fine.
I recently bought a 20 ft. enclosed Pace with extra height. Having just driven 600 miles with a 30mph crosswind for my very first trip, I can say that the weight distributing hitch and electric brakes with a Prodigy brake controller were worth the money. Trailer weight was about 7500 lbs. My 2008 Tundra pulled it just fine with little in the way of drama. Bouncy Chicago freeways are a little unnerving but otherwise sway was at a minimum without using sway control.

Now gas mileage on the other hand... :frown:
Picked up my open car trailer today, but noticed some swaying. Do I need to install any sway controls or weight distribution for safety measures? Any thoughts on the "surged" brake system as well? (Hope I posted this question in the right forum.)

1st of all thanks for the shirt as I am wearing it today for the first time:biggrin:
On the trailer, it looks perfect for what you need for now. I would have electric brakes installed along with a brake controller in the SUV. The trailer will pull fine with your rig for now.
As far as R Tires, put the money in the electric brakes on the trailer not the tires..!! I will give you the green light on when to get the R tires
You can call me anytime on my cell phone (you have the number)

See you soon,

Thanks everyone for your inputs!

Steve- you must be reading my mind because I just invested my money into converting over to electric brakes, EBC, anti-sway controls, weight distribution, spare tire, Mac tie-downs, and winch. So no more $$$ for those R-tires.

Can't believe in a million years that I had to modify a car trailer:rolleyes:
But in the end, it'll be worth the investment in terms of safety.

So when is the next track date??? I need to earn that green light...
Don- I laughed by tail off during the last 4 mins of that video!!!
"A bit of an understeer" on that motor home LOL.

Check this out...VW Touareg with really big kahunas.
Re: Dumb

Well here's a dumb shit story that illustrates how quickly weight and balance can get out of whack.

I had to run my car over to a race shop at Infineon (80 miles down I-80). Since I wasn't going racing, I didn't load my tools, spares etc lin the nose of the trailer. Well, I looked at the car and the empty nose and wondered how tail heavy the trailer might be..............but no time to check (can't be that far off I'm thinking :rolleyes: ). I tow it over there and attibute the bucking and poor handling to 1) first time pulling with this pick up truck and 2) the god-awful state of disrepair of the concrete pavement. I had no sway, but the whole rig was bucking annoyingly. I kept the speed at 60 and it wasn't too bad. There's a short down hill stretch before a big uphill and I usually let the speed run up over 70+ there to help on the uphill pull. Well I got some good sway going down hill but kept it together and wondered just how reduced my tongue weight was.

Just checked weight and balance. with the trailer fully loaded (car nose forward) I'm at 10% tongue weight. Without the tools, spares and weight in the nose, my tongue weight was just over 2%. :eek: I'm shocked it didn't handle a lot worse. If I back the car in to get more weight forward, the tongue weight would only go up to 6+%.

So there you have it, plan your weight distribution and be aware of when you reduce or vary it. Don't do what I did. :redface: