Fifth wheel travel trailers are one of the most versatile options in the RV world. Known for their spacious design and easy handling, fifth wheel trailers are a favourite of travellers and full-timers alike. Let’s take a closer look at these convenient and luxurious RV’s in our latest blog.
Fifth Wheel Features
The most notable feature that sets fifth wheels apart from other travel trailers is their unique bi-level design, with the living room or bedroom sitting over the bed of the tow vehicle. Fifth wheel trailers are known for their towing convenience, using a fifth wheel hitch mounted in the bed of your pickup truck and made specifically for the needs of your tow vehicle. The fifth wheel TT can easily be detached from the truck once you’ve reached your destination, thus eliminating the need to tow a separate car along with your rig.
Fifth wheel trailers tend to be on the larger end of the RV scale, allowing for full-size amenities and luxurious touches of home. Most fifth wheels are equipped with multiple slideouts and outdoor storage options, adding considerable living space. One downside of the fifth wheel trailer is that the hitch occupies the entire truck bed, eliminating any cargo space. Fifth wheel toy haulers offer a solution to this issue, with the addition of a cargo space and retractable ramp at the back of the unit. This allows RV’ers to bring along their ATV, golf cart, motorcycles and more with safety and peace of mind.
Fifth Wheel Hitches
Fifth wheel trailers get their name from the style of the hitch used to tow them. Fifth wheel hitches consist of a large, flat plate that has a shape similar to a horseshoe and is mounted in the back of the tow vehicle. The metal rails that run beneath the hitch are attached to the frame of the pickup truck for strength. The travel; trailer connects to the fifth wheel hitch via a downward-facing pin -- called a king pin -- along with a plate that rests on top of the fifth wheel hitch plate. The king pin locks into position so it is secure within the hitch but can pivot to accommodate turns, which helps to maintain balance and prevent swaying.
When shopping for a fifth wheel hitch, the best option is to purchase a complete fifth wheel hitch installation kit that is designed specifically for your vehicle. This will save you much time and energy, as these custom-fit kits require no drilling or welding. These make and model-specific kits generally contain all of the hardware that you will need for installation and the holes in the brackets line up with pre-existing holes in the vehicle's frame. If you buy a universal installation kit, you may need to do some modifications, either drilling holes in the vehicle's frame or welding the brackets in place to properly mount the hitch.
Fifth wheel hitches are designed for carrying much heavier loads than the typical ball hitch can handle. There is a wide range of weight classes for fifth wheel trailers, which are determined by the length, height, amenities and slide outs - ranging up to 45 feet long and weighing upwards of 10,000 pounds. Because of this, it is important to consider the towing capacity of your pickup truck and make sure the two are balanced for maximum safety and ease of towing.
Similar to a fifth wheel hitch is the gooseneck hitch, which also mounts into the bed of the pickup truck but uses a hitch ball and coupler instead of a king pin and receiver. Fifth wheel hitches are generally used for recreational trailers while gooseneck hitches are more commonly seen on industrial or agricultural trailers. If you plan on towing both a gooseneck trailer and a fifth wheel trailer, you can install a gooseneck-to-5th-wheel adapter plate.
Fifth Wheel Hitch Maintenance
The flat plate of the trailer and the flat plate of the fifth wheel hitch are in constant contact with one another, sliding against one another continuously when the trailer is in motion. This makes the need for regular maintenance and inspections crucial.
Regularly inspect and re-lube the hitch.
Check for any missing or damaged parts at least every 6 months.
Check the torque once a year and tighten any nuts and bolts if you need to.
Check the breakaway cable and make sure the lock is working properly.
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