Fifth wheel trailers start at more than 20 feet long and can reach over 40 feet, allowing RVers to have ample space to rest, live, and lounge as well as access to the comforts of home such as larger bathrooms and kitchens. This RV type has seen growth in the past several years, and not just by experienced RVers. More first-time RVers are making the decision to purchase a fifth wheel trailer.

There’s more than the luxury a fifth wheel has to offer to take into account. This type of RV is designed to be towed by a pickup truck, which needs to be equipped with a unique hitch located in the bed of the truck called a fifth wheel hitch. This is different than your standard ball hitch commonly used for your wide range of travel trailers. The fifth wheel hitch can seem a daunting aspect of owning and towing this type of RV, but that’s where people like Nick Moreland at MARVAC Member PullRite comes in. Moreland says he loves talking to somebody when they get to the point where they’ve done enough research and have learned what everything is, but they’re trying to put it all together.


Are fifth wheel hitches complicated?

“When it comes to fifth wheel hitches, there are many options. I go back to before I knew fifth wheel hitches, when I worked in the car business. A fifth wheel hitch, and towing, was, oh gosh, that’s real complicated. That’s kind of how I felt about it and that’s honestly the way a lot of customers do,” says Moreland, who brings two careers worth of expertise to customers to help them make the right decisions, one in car sales and the other in RVs. Research is essential, as is talking to the right people, because “when it’s time to buy a hitch for your truck, you could easily buy the incorrect type of 5th wheel hitch if you don’t know and understand all of the variables to consider when picking the proper type of hitch.  If you were to buy the incorrect hitch, it will likely still do the job, but you may quickly learn that your hitch could have had features that would make towing with your particular truck easier.  For instance, a sliding hitch like the SuperGlide will allow for you to make much tighter turns with your standard six-foot bed truck” Once you choose the right type of hitch, the rest is simple.


What considerations need to be made for the tow vehicle, and how it tows a fifth wheel?

Before you get a fifth wheel trailer and the hitch, you need to make sure you have the appropriate tow vehicle, or plan to get one. “The size of fifth wheel you’d be able to handle depends on your truck’s towing capacity,” says Moreland. “When you’re talking towing capacity, there are two key numbers to look for. If a truck has a towing capacity of 17,000 pounds, that means that’s how much weight that truck is able to tow down the road. Now, the other number that is a lot of times overlooked until the person is at the RV dealership, is the truck’s payload capacity, which is how much vertical load that truck is capable of handling. The payload capacity on a truck is usually the limiting factor when it comes to fifth wheel trailers. The payload capacity on the truck is how much weight the truck can handle. That also means it doesn’t account for people driving and anything that you put in there. If a truck has a payload capacity of 2000 pounds, and I have me and my dog in there that take up 250 pounds, I have 1750 pounds of weight that can be put in that truck. All fifth wheel trailers have what’s called a pin weight, how much vertical weight is being applied down onto the truck once you’re hooked up to it. It directly correlates  the truck’s payload capacity, so you need to find a pin weight of a trailer that’s less than the payload capacity of your truck.”

The fifth wheel’s pin weight, as well as the trailer’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating), are typically on a sticker on the trailer. A truck’s payload capacity can change even in the same model year of the same brand, so it’s important to check all numbers. “There are a lot of different components in this to try to make the right decision just to get going. The truck’s towing capacity and the GVWR on the trailer are what need to match up,” says Moreland. There are fifth wheels that can be towed by your standard half-ton trucks, but many fifth wheels require heavy duty trucks in order to be towed.


How does the hitch get installed in a truck bed, and can you do it yourself?

“When you buy a truck, brand new from a dealership, it’s going to come one of two ways. You might get a truck with what’s called a fifth wheel prep package, which is five holes in the bed of the truck,” explains Moreland. “To put the hitch in, you have to unscrew these little plastic caps, and then you have one or two or maybe three boxes to bolt the hitch together, though some of them come fully assembled. Now, hitch manufacturers, like us, will say that you need to torque it with a torque wrench to a specific torque spec. We do that because towing is not entirely safe, and we strive to make it as safe as possible. If you’re comfortable changing the a wheel on your car or some minor work like that, then absolutely, you could put your own fifth wheel hitch into a fifth wheel prep package.

“The other option, if you bought that truck and it did not have that fifth wheel prep pack, is you would have to buy a fifth wheel mounting rail system. Basically, there are frame brackets that get installed on the frame rail of your truck and you install them under the bed of the truck on the frame and then drill holes down through the bed. Now the manufacturers, us included, we all provide good instruction and try to make it as effortless as possible. If you need brakes on your car or your alternator goes out on your car, if you’re comfortable fixing that type of thing, then you’ll probably be able to put a fifth wheel hitch in. But it is definitely a little more involved and sometimes you do even have to do some drilling into the frame of the truck. In those cases, it’s usually best for a professional.


Is there a checklist, a process to go through to hook up your fifth wheel to the hitch?

“Absolutely. There’s a three-step safety process or a safety check process,” says Moreland. PullRite as well as all the hitch manufacturers are going to recommend very similar steps.

“The first step is to ensure that the kingpin has entered all the way into the hitch plate and the latch has been triggered shut. The second step is to make sure that the latch is closed all the way around by physically looking and inspecting the latch by looking into the opening. Basically, the opening that the kingpin slides into, you have to look into that and make sure that it’s closed around. Third is the safety check, which is to lift your front trailer jacks about one inch off the ground and hold the brake control, which is a little slide brake controller on your dash that if you don’t have one, the dealership installs it. What it does is it holds the trailer brakes on and then you can independently let the truck roll forward without holding the trailer brakes. You can even hit the accelerator a little bit to kind of tug the trailer essentially basically dragging the trailer a little bit. The idea behind that safety check is to make sure that you’re hooked up, because if the jacks are only an inch off the ground and it disconnects, you’re not going to damage anything. You’re not going to hurt anybody. However, if you didn’t do that and you weren’t hooked up and you start your tow, you could obviously lose your trailer and cause some issues,” explains Moreland.

Additional checks before departing from anywhere include checking your taillights, brake lights, and turn signals, to ensure that the connector that plugs from the trailer to the truck is working properly.


Does how you load your fifth wheel impact the load on your truck?

“You could load a fifth wheel up pretty heavy in the back or pretty heavy in the front and it’s going to trailer. It’s going to tow. It might feel quite a bit different because you’re putting more weight on the bed of your truck, more vertical load down,” explains Moreland. The fifth wheel hitch provides stability and reduces sway on the trailer. “Let’s say you had a trailer that weighed 10,000 pounds and you had 5000 pounds of stuff that you could either put all the way in the front of the trailer, or you could choose to put it all the way in the back of the trailer. If you put it all the way in the front of the trailer, you’re going to take the pin weight and increase the pin weight dramatically because that 10,000-pound trailer is really sitting on the wheels. When you put that 5000-pound weight way up towards where it’s gonna hook up to the truck, it’s going to put a lot more weight on the truck. From a sway standpoint, where you load the trailer won’t necessarily cause the trailer to sway, but you could certainly cause yourself to overload the truck just by shifting weight around in the trailer. It can make all the difference in the world.” Remember pin weight? Front loading a fifth wheel trailer puts more pin weight into the bed of the truck.


Visit the PullRite website at to find hitch kit that will work best to fit your existing or potential tow vehicle. Other manufacturers also have this option, so you can do your market research ahead of speaking to a company representative.