Fifth Wheel User Guide & Frequently Asked Questions

Shares
Fifth Wheel User Guide

The majority of 5th wheelers buy a complete 5th wheel hitch. This ensures all the components are compatible with each other. These kits are almost completely assembled and include everything you need to install the hitch into your truck.

There are four main components of a fifth wheel hitch: the head, base, legs, and rails. Additionally, there is a piece connecting to the trailer called the king pin.

5th Wheel Hitch Head

The hitch head is a jaw-like structure that provides the connection between the fifth wheel hitch and the trailer. The king pin, located on the pin box of the trailer slides and locks into the hitch head creating a secure connection between the trailer and truck.

5th Wheel Hitch Base

The hitch base is the part of the hitch that the hitch head rests on. Some fifth wheel hitches are made to allow the hitch to pivot forward, backward, left, or right on the base to allow maximum maneuverability and easy hookup on uneven grounds.

5th Wheel Hitch Legs

The hitch legs attach the hitch base and head to the mounting rails.

5th Wheel Hitch Rails & Brackets

Finally, the hitch rails are what attach the entire fifth wheel structure (i.e. the head, base, and legs) to the bed of the tow vehicle. Depending on the model, these rails will either be above or below the bed of the tow vehicle.The brackets attach to the frame of the truck and provide the mounting point for the rails to bolt into.

Do I Need a 5th Wheel hitch?

As previously mentioned, the answer to this question essentially boils down to what you need to tow. Fifth wheel hitches are most commonly used to haul big recreational vehicles or livestock trailers because of their larger towing capacity, maneuverability, and stability when compared to the standard rear-mounted hitch. If towing something on the smaller side, you may not need a fifth-wheel hitch.

If you think that you need a fifth wheel hitch, you must first make sure that you have the right setup to properly utilize one. Even though you want to haul a huge load, and thus purchase a fifth wheel hitch to haul said load, you must remember that YOUR TOWING SYSTEM IS ONLY AS STRONG AS ITS WEAKEST LINK. What this means is that your fifth wheel hitch rated at 16,000 pounds will not be able to tow safely at its maximum potential if you are using it on a truck with a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Therefore, before you buy, it is imperative that you do the following:

Gross Trailer Weight

Estimate the weight of the average load that you will be hauling (or the Gross Trailer Weight)

Maximum vehicle towing Weight

Check the towing capacity of your truck. This information can be obtained from the manufacturer of your specific tow vehicle.

Now that you have established the weight of what you will be towing, and have further established that both your trailer and tow vehicle can accommodate that weight, you can look to purchase the appropriate fifth wheel hitch. The fifth wheel hitch must be able to support both the estimated weight of both the expected load as well as the weight of the trailer. It would not be a bad idea to choose a fifth wheel that is able to haul more than your expected load just to be on the safe side. Please be safe here as a failure to use the correct equipment or an attempt to tow beyond your truck or trailer's ability can result in serious, serious consequences.

Even if you do determine that you need a fifth-wheel hitch, it is important that you consider some of the potential issues that may arise as a result from such. First, because the fifth wheel hitch mounts and sits in the bed of the tow vehicle this severely restricts the ability of the user to use the bed for hauling or storing anything else. Additionally, in many cases the stock tailgate of the tow vehicle needs to be removed and replaced with a specialty tailgate in order to use the fifth wheel hitch. As the long running joke goes: there are two types of fifth wheel users, the ones who have already bent their tailgate and those that are going to bend their tailgate. Don't let this be you. Finally, there are potential issues if using a truck with a bed less than 8 feet - as there may be insufficient space for the corner of the trailer to clear the bed or cab of the tow vehicle when taking a sharp turn. In order to avoid this issue you can purchase a 5th wheel slider hitch.

What are the Different Types of 5th Wheel Hitches?

As with any hitch, there are numerous variations among the many models and manufacturers. If you’re in the market for the fifth wheel hitch, consider the following:

Weight Capacity

What is the capacity of the hitch? As noted above, you will need to determine the gross trailer weight (GTW) in order to determine what hitch capacity is appropriate. Again, it would not be too prudent to select a hitch that is slightly over the weight capacity that you need.

Mounting Style

What mounting style does the hitch utilize? While all fifth wheel hitches use rails and mount in the bed of your tow vehicle, some rails are installed in the bed and other are installed under the bed. New (2012+) Ford's had an optional package for under-bed rail systems. Most other trucks use an above the bed rail system.

5th Wheel Head Pivoting

How is the fifth wheel able to pivot? As mentioned earlier, some fifth wheel hitches are made to allow the hitch to pivot forward, backward, left, or right on the hitch base. While you’re driving, the hitch head is forced to absorb many of the bumps caused by the various imperfections of the road (or ground if not driving on a paved surface). The more pivot that is available the better equipped the hitch is to handle these abnormalities. While all fifth wheel hitches allow for some forward and backward movement to accommodate this, some hitches additionally allow for some side to side flexibility.

Slider 5th Wheel Hitch?

Finally, if you plan to purchase a fifth wheel hitch for a long box truck (truck with an 8 foot bed), you will not likely have to worry about the aforementioned issue of damage resulting from a lack of clearance between the trailer and the truck cab upon sharp turns. However, if your truck bed is less than 8 feet, you should consider a slider hitch and an extended pin box to reduce the possibility of this damage. A slider hitch allows the hitch to slide back and forth from its mounted position to create enough clearance between the trailer and the cab of the truck. Without this, the trailer may strike the truck cab upon sharp turns resulting in damage to both the trailer and the tow vehicle.

Installing a 5th Wheel hitch

If you plan to install your fifth wheel hitch yourself, you'll need to follow the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer. These instructions will provide you with the exact placement for the hitch within the confines of the truck bed that will allow for the optimal towing position for that specific hitch. Once this location is determined you will need to mount the rail kit.

If you have a rail kit designed specifically for your vehicle, you will not need to do any drilling of welding as the holes in the brackets will line up with the pre-existing holes in the frame of your vehicle. If you have a universal rail kit, you will likely be required to either drill some holes in your tow vehicles frame.

NEVER INSTALL THE RAIL KIT OVER A PLASTIC BED LINER. This is because the plastic will disintegrate over the course of time and result in a loose hitch. In the event you have a plastic bed liner, you will need to trim out the portion of the plastic bed liner where the rail kit will mount to the truck bed. If you have a spray-in truck bed liner, this step is not necessary and you can install the rail kit directly over the spray-in liner.

Once the rails have been installed in the truck you will be able to mount the fifth wheel. Again, any specifics pertaining to this will be found in the instillation instructions given by the manufacturer.

Gooseneck Vs. 5th Wheel Hitch - Which is Better?

The fifth wheel hitch and the gooseneck hitch are similar in both their towing capacity and their increased strength resulting from their mounting in the tow vehicle bed as opposed to the rear of the vehicle. The most significant difference between the two is the way in which they connect to the bed of the tow vehicle. Gooseneck hitches are most often used with horse and other agricultural trailers, while fifth wheel hitches are most commonly used with travel trailers and recreational vehicles.

We at HitchAnything have chosen not to take sides, but rather have opted to point out the pros and cons of each and allow you to decide which type is best for you. Also note that many manufacturers make a gooseneck mounting system for fifth wheel rails, such as the Curt Spyder, which allow the user to have the best of both worlds.

Fifth Wheel Hitch Pros

  • No additional accessories such as safety chains
  • Can accommodate the towing of a second trailer by attaching to the rear of the first one (please note, however, that this is not legal in every state)
  • Best choice for beginners because of simplicity and safety

Fifth Wheel Hitch Cons

  • Installation can be complicated and time consuming
  • Takes up the majority of the truck bed and is difficult to detach and remove if use of the truck bed is needed

Gooseneck Hitch Pros

  • Does not take up the entire bed of the truck. Most gooseneck systems give the user complete access to the truck bed when not in use.
  • Easier for one person to detach and reconnect
  • Can allow for a tighter turning radius

Gooseneck Hitch Cons

  • Often require accessories that create clutter- such as safety chains
  • Typically have to drill a four inch hole in the middle of your truck bed
  • Installation can be difficult as you often have to remove the truck bed in order to install the frame.

Fifth Wheel Hitch Maintenance

One of the most important aspects of fifth wheel maintenance is proper lubrication. Before applying lubricant, first clean off the old lubricant to create a clean surface. Lube the hitch in accordance with the following guide:

  • Lube Plate
  • Joints of hitch head use white lithium spray
  • Other moving parts of hitch can use either engine oil or white lithium spray lube

Besides lubrication, general maintenance just involves periodically checking to ensure that the hitch and rails are secured tightly, that the pins are properly positioned, and that the jaw-like structure of the hitch head is working properly.

Optional 5th Wheel Hitch Accessories

While optional, the following products can be used in conjunction with your fifth wheel hitch to provide optimal efficiency and safety:

A brake controller allows the user to apply measured pressure to the trailer’s brakes as controlled by the brakes of the tow vehicle. For more information about brake controllers,check out this Brake Controller Buying Guide

King Pin Lock - allows the user to attach a padlock to prevent the theft of the fifth when trailer.

Fifth wheel/Gooseneck trailer wiring & extension connects the trailer wiring to the wiring of the truck cab.

How To Hook Up a Fifth Wheel Trailer Perfectly Every-time

How To Hook Up a Fifth Wheel Trailer Perfectly Every-time. HitchAnything.com how to guide on hitching your 5th wheel trailer safely and easily!

Hooking up a fifth wheel trailer is just as easy as connecting a traditional trailer to your vehicle. By following a simple step by step guide you can be sure to connect your trailer perfect every time.

1. Prepare 5th Wheel Trailer for Hook Up

  • Raise 5th wheel trailer using landing gear to have the hitch head slightly below the kingpin.

2. Unlock 5th Wheel Hitch

  • Unlock the 5th wheel jaws with the handle on the 5th wheel hitch head
    • This will allow the king pin to slide into position

3. Prepare Truck For Trailer

  • Lower Tailgate
    • Very common for those in a hurry to skip past this step!

4. Backup Truck

  • Backup slowly to the trailer
    • Ideally you have some assist in aligning the Kingpin Funnel and Kingpin

5. Lock Trailer to Hitch

  • Lock the 5th wheel Jaws around the Kingpin with the handle on the side of the 5th wheel head
    • Insert pin to lock handle in position

6. Connect Trailer Lighting

  • Connect the wiring plug from the trailer to the truck
    • Also connect the Breakaway Lanyard
    • Check that all trailer lights are functioning correctly

7. Check Hitch Connection

  • Slightly raise landing gear legs
    • Slowly pull forward to be 100% sure the trailer is connected properly

8. Raise Jacks Fully

  • Fully raise landing gear/jacks in full retracted position
    • Securing using any locking pins specified by landing gear set

9. Have a safe trip!

Do I need a 5th Wheel Slider?

A 5th wheel slider hitch is built for trucks with a truck bed of less than 8 feet long. Learn how a slider hitch works and why you need one.

Alright, so you have decided to get yourself a 5th Wheel Hitch, but you are unsure of what you need and you want to look at all your options, including the 5th Wheel Slider Hitch.

What is a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch?

A 5th Wheel Slider Hitch is a fifth Wheel Hitch that has a base modified so that the hitch itself slides toward the rear of the truck, allowing you to maneuver through those tight turns without the trailer coming into contact with the cab of your truck. This specific type of hitch is for a truck with a truck bed smaller than 8 feet.

Advantages of a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch

  • Not to sound like a broken record, but this type of hitch is a must have if you are planning on towing a 5th Wheel Trailer and have a truck bed shorter than 8 feet. This is by far the most important function of the 5th Wheel Slider Hitch.
  • 5th Wheel Slider Hitches come in two varieties: Manual Slide and Automatic Slide.
  • Manual Slide Hitches are lighter weight and easier to install, but they require you to manually remove a safety pin before the turn, and replace that pin after the turn is completed.
  • Automatic Slide Hitches are significantly heavier and require more maintenance to install and maintain, but automatically slides whenever you enter a turn, and resets itself when the turn is complete.

We hope this information sheds some light on 5th Wheel Slider Hitches, and whether or not one of these hitches are right for you and your wants and needs.

Universal Vs Custom 5th Wheel Install Brackets

A common question when installing a fifth wheel hitch is whether to use universal or custom fit installation brackets...

While you are deciding on which 5th Wheel Hitch system is perfect for your wants and needs, you may come across a set of optional items called Quick Install Custom Brackets. This is a quick explanation of what they are and what they can do for you.

What are Quick Install Custom Brackets?

Quick Install Custom Brackets are brackets that are custom made for your vehicle. They do exactly what their name implies; they are designed to speed up the installation process of a Bed Rail System.

What do Quick Install Custom Brackets do?

Quick Install Custom Brackets have two purposes. Their primary purpose is to provide a easier to install alternative to the universal brackets usually provided with most Bed Rail systems. The other purpose is in some rare cases, the universal brackets are not compatible with your truck bed. If this is the case, the Quick Install Custom Brackets should be able to fit where the universal brackets do not.

As always, if you ever have any additional questions, you can always contact us. Hopefully this sheds some light on what Quick Install Custom Brackets are and what they can do for you.

Installing a 5th Wheel Hitch

Installing A 5th Wheel Hitch? Follow HitchAnything.com as we guide you in the basic steps needed to install a fifth wheel hitch.

Alright, so have your new Bed Rails, and your new 5th Wheel Hitch, but getting those rails and that big hitch installed into your truck bed can seem link a daunting task. Hopefully we can help.

Here are a few suggestions to get you prepared on what needs to be done before, during, and after installation of your new hitch.

Before fifth wheel hitch installation

  • Firstly, make sure you have the right hitch! Verify the manufacturer's part number with the part you ordered, and give it a brief visual inspection to make sure it was not damaged during shipping.
  • Also, when you are checking your new 5th Wheel Hitch and Bed Rails, you may want to make sure the weld points, pivot joints, and bolts are all secured and tight. All hitches that are delivered are inspected before they are sent out, but it never hurts to double check.
  • Review the instruction sheet provided with the hitch.
  • Remember, most 5th Wheel Hitches can be heavy, and installing the Bed Rails require drilling into the truck bed, so having a friend there to help would be a very good idea, after all, a second set of hands couldn't hurt when heavy lifting is involved.
  • Also, because the Bed Rails require drilling, be sure you have the appropriate tools and wear safety glasses for everyone involved in the installation process.

DURING INSTALLATION

  • When installing the Bed Rails, measuring tape is your best friend! You are going to be doing a bit of drilling into your truck bed for this installation, so always make sure you measure twice, so you only have to drill once.
  • You need to be sure that the 5th Wheel Hitch is going to sit directly over the rear axle of your truck. If the placement of the hitch is off, the weight of the trailer will be unevenly distributed thru your truck and will cause damage to its frame and body.
  • When drilling, make sure you check underneath the truck to make sure that the drilling location won't interfere with anything under the truck bed.
  • Do not install over a drop in bed liner bed liner! If you do, eventually the bed liner will degrade and then the hitch rail system will be loose. The liner must be cut away in order to install the hitch. Installing over a spray on bed liner is acceptable.
  • If at any time you feel unsure about what you are doing, DO NOT TAKE CHANCES! Consult a professional and go from there, replacing a truck bed is a very unpleasant and expensive experience that you do not want to go through.

After 5th wheel hitch install

  • Double check your bolts. Make sure all of the bolts have been torqued to the specified levels.
  • Be sure your hitch is aligned properly and that all parts are used. Make sure that all bolts, washers, and other parts are accounted for and you did not overlook any step in the installation process.
  • Never remove the warning decals on the hitch. If anything happens to them, contact the manufacturer of the hitch for replacements.
  • It is good practice to check the tightness of all the bolts and other hardware every 1000 miles
  • Lastly, review and file your warranty information. Most hitch warranties last anywhere from 5 years to the lifetime of the vehicle it is on.

As always, if you have any questions, you can always contact us, and enjoy your newly installed 5th Wheel Hitch!

Insert Image

Leave a Comment: