A fifth wheel hitch is a horseshoe-shaped device mainly built to tow heavy-duty vehicles that are carrying numerous loads of cargo. It is used to connect a semi-trailer truck and a towing carriage. It has been usually installed on recreational vehicles or RVs that are best used for traveling along the road. The most common fifth wheel hitches for personal use embody a similar design with that of the hitches used in long trucks with 18 wheels.
How It Works?
Evidently, semi-trucks and other big vehicles are built with huge, diesel-powered engines to help them move despite the heavy weight. But how does a fifth wheel hitch work, enabling it to stay intact under fully loaded cargo without getting it to snap, unlike the ball hitch?
According to HowStuffWorks, there is no definite explanation as to how the device is effective without breaking, except that semi-trucks are not using ball hitches to connect the towing vehicle. The truck is welded with the 5th wheel hitch, which has a large-sized flat plate attached to another similar-looking plate that is both connected by a downward-faced kingpin – the system’s device that helps it turn around.
To make the two plates work smoothly, they are initially applied with lubricants so that they can slide against each other as the tow vehicle moves.
Installed in front of the pickup truck’s rear axle, the fifth wheel hitch is secured by the rails on the truck’s frame, allowing the heavyweight to be distributed all over the suspension system of the truck and making it move without having to worry about it swaying or using so much power along the way.
Five Of The Best 5TH Wheel Hitches
Apparently, there are different types of 5th wheel hitches and they vary in prices, which range from $200 for the economic type (if you have limited budget) going up to $3,000 for premium models. The cost depends on how much the weight you want the hitch to carry – as the weight increases, the price also goes up.
Basically, the expensive types of fifth wheel hitches have their corresponding prices since they boast of distinct attributes, making them more effective and valuable for towing.
To help you narrow down the choices or what type of device you want to have, here are five of the best 5th wheel hitches with their corresponding prices.
If you are looking for a 5th wheel hitch that comes with a rail kit and permalube pivot bushings, then this is the one for you.
CURT 16116 16K Fifth Wheel comes with a slide bar, which automatically locks, and a rear steel tension bar that activates when you install it on the pickup truck. It is safely fastened on a kingpin to provide you with a tighter hold, maximizing security and stability of the fifth wheel trailer and minimizing its shakes when moving. It can tow a hauler weighing about 12,000 to 13,000 pounds.
This features a 4-position height adjustment that can be used on various towing applications and a simple 2-pin head removal, making it easier for you to remove the hitch from the vehicle.
It is already given that most, if not all, fifth wheel hitches can handle hefty loads of weight. Now this model may be something that you want to own since it is capable of carrying a weight of 20,000 pounds.
Provided by Curt Manufacturing, Curt 16130 Q20 Fifth Wheel Hitch weighs 140 pounds and has dimensions of 30 in. x 17 in. x 15 in. This did not exceed the the vehicle weight rating.
This model looks a little different than the usual, black-colored units available. Despite its looks, it boasts of great power when it comes to its towing capacity, making it one of the best 5th wheel hitches there is.
Blue Ox DH1102 Diamond Hitch can carry up to 30,000 pounds of cargo and 7,500 pounds of tongue weight capacity. It has a self-locking ball that can be inverted to provide you with a clean truck bed when you are not towing anything.
Having a floor hitch-design, Blue Ox will be a good choice as it only needs to have one 4-feet hole for ball for the towing attachment. It also has uncomplicated under bed installation, making it less hassle for you to set up.
For a friendly price, you already have something that can pull whatever it is that you want it to tow. The best part of them all, this model is definitely ideal for pulling antique or racing cars, cows, horses or other livestock, RVs or cargo loaded with a lot of supplies.
With a fully articulating head, B&W Trailer Hitches RVK3000 5th Wheel Hitch can pivot or turn from side to side and from front to back. This has three vertical adjustments, ranging from 14.75″ to 16.75″. It also boasts of a 4″ of front to back adjustment, capable of changing into three coupler positions.
When you park on uneven areas, this 5th wheel hitch model has cam action latching handle to release the vehicles easily. This also uses a mounting system called B&W TurnoverballTM under-bed.
Although this has more features than the previous units, B&W Trailer Hitches RVK3000 5th Wheel Hitch can only carry a weight 18,000 pounds. It has a wide stance and has been created with more strength and improved stability.
Furthermore, this can eliminate unimpressive starts and stops with its one-foot thick kingpin. This also has polyurethane bushings to provide you with a towing experience without letting it make too much noise.
This is more expensive than the other models mentioned. But with its features, you get something more than what you have paid for.
Among the five fifth wheel hitches, this one has the highest price.
This device is designed for short bed trucks. It is pre-assembled that comes with a wrench, folding tab washers for straightforward installation and Reese Elite Slider, which provides more pivoting clearance to prevent untoward clashes of the truck and fifth wheeler trailer in tight spaces at low speeds.
Reese Elite 30144 has an 18,000-pound towing capacity and 4,500-pound pin capacity, having 14″ to 18″ Vertical Adjustment and 4″ Side to Side Adjustment. This also includes a 90-Degree Adapter Harness.
Furthermore, this unit boasts of wider footprint to have more stability and a Quick Lock Mount System that lessens the sloppy operations of the towing system.
Although it exudes impressive features, this model can not be used for short bed trucks that are less 6 feet in length unless you will use a Sidewinder. This is also not suitable for trucks that are built with flare side or step side.
If you are interested in getting this unit, then make sure your wallet will not be empty.
How To Install The Equipment
Now that you are presented with limited choices already, deciding on what to buy may not take so much of your time. But more than just owning a towing support device, it will be an advantage if you also know how to install the equipment on your truck and connect it to your trailer. Learning the installation process will not make you hire someone to do the job for you, which means that you will not have to spend on another additional cost and you will be able to save more money.
To proceed with the installation, setting up the hitch will be much easier and faster if there is an available custom kit for the tow vehicle’s make and model. As a reference, the very existence of the custom kit will be the basis whether the installation can be done at home or there is a need to call for a mechanic expert. If without the kit, drilling holes in the truck bed or welding of components may be important to do, which is best done by someone professional.
Moreover, the kit will ensure that the rails will fasten or hold the hitch well and fit in bed holes of the truck. When the device is properly placed and the trailer is securely attached, the truck bed will not sway even when there is the heavy weight. This is because the weight is distributed all over the truck.
It is also ideal to check the trailer’s braking mechanism to make sure that is installed appropriately and functioning well before driving it on the road.
How to Make The Best Choices?
In choosing the best type of towing-support device, you should initially know how much weight your vehicle, presumably a pickup truck, can carry. The next is determining how much the loaded weight of the fifth wheel trailer that the vehicle will haul or pull. Take note, loaded weight should be less or equal to the capacity of the towing vehicle.
Apart from those guidelines, here are other factors that you should also consider in selecting the hitch as what eBay suggests.
These horseshoe-shaped hitches are rated according to the Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This measurement will indicate the trailer weight that a certain fifth wheel hitch is capable of supporting or carrying.
There is also the tongue weight, which is the amount of weight placed on the hitch itself. In simple terms, if there is not enough tongue weight, then the trailer is not stable and will possibly sway as it moves on the road. However, tongue weight should only be less than 1/10 of the fifth wheel trailer‘s gross weight.
Generally, there is an increase in costs as you get the weight ratings. It will also be more expensive when the hitches have additional features such as heavy attachments, bearings or the sliding hitch.
Sliding Hitch for Short Bed Truck
Having a length of about 8 feet long, a short bed truck can be installed with a special kind of 5th wheel hitch. When the device is put in place, the front of the fifth wheel trailer is very near the truck’s cab. As it makes a turn, the trailer could hit the cab, causing possible damages to both wheeled vehicles.
To prevent such circumstances from happening, there is a sliding hitch created for the short bed truck. With this kind of device, the driver goes out from the vehicle and adjusts the hitch’s lever to let it slide when the vehicles have to make a turn.
As the driver slowly maneuvers the truck forward while the brakes hold the trailer, the trailer is going to slide about 10 inches backward. Before the truck can be driven normally, the driver must readjust the level to fasten the trailer in its place.
Automatic sliding hitches are available in the market. Such equipment is helpful as there is no need to slide the trailer back manually. This type of hitch apparently increases the total cost you have to pay once you made up your mind in purchasing a hitch. However, it is cheaper than buying a new truck.
Understanding the Inclusive Items when Purchasing the Device
Most of the time, fifth wheel hitches are compatible with several accessories that are necessary for an optimal towing performance. However, there are times when these items may not be included when you buy the hitch. Some of these things are the following:
– assembly/installation kit
– brake controller
– fifth wheel tailgate, having lower clearance and a notch for the trailer head
– hitch lock
– towing mirrors, allowing the driver to check the trailer while making turns
– warranty for the equipment
– lube or lubricant for the maintenance of the hitch