Choosing the Right Fifth Wheel Hitch – Buying Guide

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Fifth wheel hitches are created for heavy duty towing. Standard design for the personal use of fifth wheel hitch is similar to that used by 18-wheeler semi-truck. Rather than exerting the tow pressure on a ball hitch that would crash under a heavy load, the 5th wheel hitch has a large flat plate that is attached to a similar plate welded to the trailer.

The two plates are joined by a downward facing kingpin, which is the pivot point in the system. They must be lubricated as they rub together while the tow vehicle is in motion.

The fifth wheel hitch is fitted in front of the rear axle of a pickup truck and is held in place by rails fastened to the frame of the truck. This allows the trailer’s weight to be spread across the truck’s suspension system.

There is a variety of options when selecting a fifth wheel hitch, and these can be shortlisted by focusing on the following properties and features of the tow vehicle and the fifth wheel trailer it will tow.

Choosing The Right Fifth Wheel Hitch

The first step in selecting a fifth wheel hitch is to ask for the owner’s manual of the towing vehicle to determine its towing capacity. The next step is to ascertain the weight of the fifth wheel trailer the vehicle will tow. The weight should be smaller than or equal to the towing capacity of the vehicle.

Finally, a hitch should be selected based on its towing capacity, trailer weight, and a few additional desired features. It is also advised to check state laws for towing to guarantee compliance.

  1. Towing capacity and weight
  2. Measure truck bed length
  3. Determine if the truck bed has pucks
  4. Choose permanent or removable 5th wheel rails
  5. Select a style

Towing Capacity

Hitches are ranked by their Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), which shows the total trailer weight (including the anticipated contents) that the fifth wheel hitch can carry.

Tongue weight is the weight on the hitch itself. If the tongue weight is too less, then the trailer will bend. Tongue weight should be less than ten percent of the gross trailer weight. All hitches will have the weight rating in the description.

For instance, if a hitch is described as “24K”, this means that it can support a 24,000-pound trailer. Price generally increases as the weight rating increases. Additional features such as heavy bearings and attachments or a sliding hitch can also raise the cost.

The Truck Bed Length

A short bed truck is six feet long. When a fifth wheel hitch is fitted in a short bed truck, the front of the trailer is near to the cab of the truck. Therefore, when taking a sharp turn, the trailer can come in contact with the cab and be a cause of both a safety hazard and damage.

Fortunately, there is a choice of a sliding hitch for short bed trucks. With a sliding hitch, when preparing to back into a campsite or approaching a sharp turn, the driver can come out of the vehicle and move a lever on the hitch to enable sliding.

While holding the brakes for the trailer but slowly driving forward, the trailer will slide backward around ten inches. Before you start driving normally, the lever must be moved again to lock the trailer in its place.

Towing in the extended position is not secure and is not recommended at highway speeds for a long period, but it is useful when wanted. There are automatic sliding hitches available on the market that avoid the need to plan in advance and manually slide the trailer back.

Although the sliding technology does increase the overall cost of the fifth wheel hitch, it is, of course, cheaper than purchasing a new truck.

Hitch Accessories

Fifth wheel hitch can accommodate many accessories, including rails, an assembly/installation kit, a brake controller, a hitch lock and a guaranty for the equipment.

It may also be necessary to purchase a fifth wheel notch for the trailer head and tailgate with a lower clearance. Towing mirrors are suggested; many can fasten onto the existing mirrors to enable the driver to watch the trailer and make turns cautiously.

Lube is necessary for the maintenance of the fifth wheel hitch. The plate of the trailer and the plate of the hitch are in constant contact and must remain lubed to avoid deterioration. Alternatively, if you are already in possession of a gooseneck hitch, then it can be adapted to tow a fifth wheel trailer hitches.

5th Wheel Hitch Installation

When a fifth wheel hitch is correctly installed and the trailer is attached, the truck bed will not bend under the weight. It is because the weight is evenly spread across the whole truck.

Installation of 5th wheel hitch is simpler and easier if a custom kit for the model and make of the tow vehicle is available. Without a custom kit, it might be necessary to weld components or drill holes in the truck bed.

The custom kit makes sure that the rails to support the hitch will fit in the existing bed holes. The availability of a custom kit will affect the decision to install it by yourself or under the supervision of an experienced mechanic.

It is also significant to consider the braking mechanism for the trailer and make sure that it is properly installed and performing before hitting the road.

Fifth wheel hitches are excellent for heavy duty towing of a large toy hauler or recreational vehicle. It is essential to select a hitch that will comply with limitations of the particular model and make of the truck in which it will be installed and the weight of the trailer it will tow.

You need to consider how the hitch will be installed in the tow vehicle and whether the holes will be drilled to accommodate the rails that might be included with a hitch or if it needs a custom rail set. With a short bed truck, it is also significant to choose a sliding hitch to avoid safety issues and damage when turning corners.

Make sure you purchase the necessary hitch accessories as well, such as towing mirrors and lube plates, to ensure road safety and properly maintain the equipment.