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Do Your Homework Before Buying Fifth Wheel Hitches

By: Scott Gray

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It is important not to make hasty decisions when buying fifth wheel hitches. The hitch is your safety line, and you need to pull your fifth wheel with confidence that your rig isn't going anywhere that you don't want it to go. You want to be able to hitch up easily for a smooth safe ride and be able to maneuver through the tight turns in a campground, which means you need a reliable hitch that is exactly right for your towing vehicle.

Trailer Definitions

A recreation vehicle (RV) is a temporary "home away from home" and can be a conventional travel trailer or a camper, a fold-out tent trailer, or a fifth wheel trailer. Aside from RVs, there are also horse and livestock trailers, boat trailers, sports utility trailers, motorcycle trailers, and cargo-bearing trailers. It is important to match your hitch with the type of trailer and the towing vehicle, taking into consideration the weight of the trailer and the weight of the load.

Types of Trailer Hitches

Conventional Trailer Hitches

Many conventional trailers use a simple ball and coupler (socket) hitch, but heavy trailers – such as a utility trailer, boat trailer, horse or livestock trailer, or heavy travel trailer – need heavy duty trailer hitches designed for correct load distribution to stabilize the ride and keep the trailer from swaying. Gooseneck hitches that smooth out the ride and reduce the sway are recommended for horse and livestock trailers or any really heavy trailer. A universal hitch has a variety of trailer hitch pin configurations.

Fifth Wheel Hitches

A fifth wheel trailer is towed by a pickup truck with a fifth wheel hitch. Because the trailer has a pin and a flat plate that rides on a circular plate with the pin locked in place, truckers have always referred to the hitching device as a fifth wheel – no matter how many trailer and vehicle wheels are actually on the road – and the name has stuck. If the truck has a short box, a slider and an adapter for the slider are needed. This is because it is necessary to mount the hitch over, or just in front of, the truck's rear axle to keep the trailer from swaying and fishtailing on the highway which brings the trailer is too close to the cab for tight turns. The slider is used to move the trailer back when necessary, such as when maneuvering through campgrounds. Side rails can be bolted to the tow truck bed to support the hitch, and chains are not necessary.

Tips Before You Buy Fifth Wheel Hitches

1. Choose an appropriate slider:

  • One style of hitch requires that you lower and unhook the trailer to remove the weight from the hitch, slide the hitch back, and lock it into position again. The procedure must be reversed before you go back on the highway.

  • Another style is a sliding hitch used by moving a lever on the side of the hitch. You apply the trailer brakes and move the truck ahead until the hitch moves into its new position. The adjustment is easy but doesn't work as well if the rig is on a hill or if the vehicle and trailer are not in a straight line.

  • Easiest to use is a sliding hitch with an electric motor in the hitch bed that can be activated by the flip of the switch in the truck. It will move the loaded hitch forward or backward as needed, and will adapt to road conditions as well.

    2. You get what you pay for when buying fifth wheel hitches – the more sophisticated, the more costly, and the more you have to pay for installation. Instructions for do-it-yourselfers for installing fifth wheel hitches will be provided with your purchase.

    3. Buy a reliable brand:

  • Reese specializes in matching up trailer and towing vehicles, taking into account weight and size.

  • Tite or Draw-Tite manufactures over 750 different trailer hitches.

  • Husky (formerly "Valley") sells a wide selection of hitches including weight distributing hitches, sway control bars, and other accessories.

  • Alabama offers an interesting accessory – a trailer hitch stand with two hammocks to be hung from the stand for campground or tailgate party fun.
    Whether buying new or used fifth wheel hitches, read consumer reports and customer reviews to help you make your decision. Happy camping!
    Keep your horses safe when they are traveling, and remember that gooseneck hitches can give them the smoothest ride.


    About the Author
    Scott Gray is a trailer hitch specialist who provides useful information and money saving tips about truck and car hitches .



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