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Need to haul something really big? A fifth wheel hitch is a special class of hitch that mounts either directly over or forward of the rear axle of the towing vehicle. The item being towed utilizes a piece known as a which slides directly into the fifth wheel hitch mounted in the bed of the truck.
When using a fifth wheel trailer hitch the weight of the trailer presses down on the area between the truck cab and the rear axle – as opposed to the rear of the truck – allowing the tow vehicle to haul much more weight than it would be able to if utilizing a standard ball hitch. As such, fifth wheel hitches are designed to carry loads that the traditional rear-mounted ball hitch never could – such as huge recreational vehicles or horse/livestock trailers.
Be confident with your purchase! We have paired the 5th wheel hitch, rail and bracket kit to work perfectly with your vehicle.
Find the 5th wheel hitch that is built to tow the weight of your fifth wheel trailer. Simply find the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and select the weight class.
|From: $11.54 - $304.55|
The majority of 5th wheelers buy a complete 5th wheel hitch. This ensures all the components are compatible with eachother. These kits are almost completely assembled and include everyting you need to install the hitch into your truck.Complete kits are available here
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.
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.
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 unlevel grounds.
The hitch legs attach the hitch base and head to the mounting rails.
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.
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:
Estimate the weight of the average load that you will be hauling (or the Gross Trailer 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 – 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 slider 5th wheel hitch.
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:
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.
What mounting styledoes 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 underbed rail systems. Most other trucks use an above the bed rail system.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 and extension connects the trailer wiring to the wiring of the truck cab.
Check out this Review from Marcus R. in Chandler, Arizona:
Fifth wheel trailer hitch setups have been around just about as long as gooseneck hitches and used primarily for RVs, horse trailers or larger camper trailers. The fifth wheel hitch, however, was not always popular due to its initial lack of features. Modern versions of the 5th wheel hitch do away with the old problems and actually allow people to easily haul heavy loads. Fifth wheel hitches allow trucks to carry tons of cargo. The question is, how do they accomplish the tow?
Google searches will lead you to the conclusion that the answer is complex but you will quickly gather the gist of it is that a ball hitch is going to snap under the weight, while a receiver hitch will not allow the same range of motion. What is the secret? How can you apply that secret to a 30’ 5th wheel trailer you have been itching to purchase? There is no secret! Heavy duty pickup trucks that are to be used to haul heavy trailers do not use ball hitches or receiver hitches. These vehicles rely on heavy duty equipment that can be added to your heavy-duty pickup, the 5th wheel trailer hitch.
A 5th wheel hitch is designed for carrying loads much heavier than the typical receiver hitch can handle. The set-up works with the front edge of the trailer extending over the rear bumper of the truck. The trailer attaches in the bed of the truck, not at the rear bumper as most of us expect. When the 5th wheel hitch is properly installed, the weigh actually presses between the cab and the rear axle. This means you can carry a larger trailer.
The 5th wheel hitch itself is a large, flat plate that looks a little like a horseshoe. The metal rails running under the hitch attach to the frame of the ruck for strength. The trailer will connect to the fifth wheel hitch with a king pin and a plate that rests on top of the 5th wheel hitch plate.
Sorry for rambling, but my point is this – I’ve used a great deal of fifth wheel hitches in my day and recently bought a 24K 5th wheel from HitchAnything. It arrived fast, in good condition, and for a pretty darn good price. I would recommend my Curt 5th Wheel hitch to anyone looking, and I would absolutely recommend this company.
After you install your 5th wheel hitch, you will need to hook up the trailer to your truck, let us help you out!
Have concerns on installing a fifth wheel hitch? No need to worry, read our quick guide on installing a fifth wheel hitch.
You will need a slider hitch attachment if your truck bed is less than 8 feet long, learn why.
Not sure if you want to buy universal or custom installation brackets? Read our how to guide to see which bracket type is best for your truck.