What can we say about fifth wheel hitches? You either need one or you don’t. If you don’t - it’s ok, keep working hard and you will get there… someday. If you do, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, and foremost, SAFETY! Your truck and your trailer are some of the most expensive items you will ever own, and they pale in comparison to you and your family’s well-being. So, with that being said, let’s get to it:
Determine the Trailer’s GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)
On most trailers, this is easily found on the VIN sticker located somewhere on the trailer itself. Keep in mind that this is the unloaded weight, so watch what you are loading.
Determine Your Truck’s Towing Capacity
Again, simple. In your owner’s manual, or on the driver’s side door tag.
If the trailer is heavier than the truck’s capacity, don’t chance it. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do in this case except get a bigger truck. Bummer…
Pick the Right Hitch
Bigger is not always better. It is not a good idea to put a hitch on your truck that exceeds your truck’s towing capabilities. You will likely overspend for benefits you can’t use.
The sliding bar jaw style hitch is perfect for towing less than 20,000 lbs. Once the trailer is on the hitch, the bar the handle is attached to slides inward to create a physical barrier keeping the king pin from sliding back out. These hitches have a little more play in them, and that does cause some noise. These hitches are typically used on smaller trucks, so you may want to look at a slider type, as this lets the trailer move slightly during cornering. This may help save your cab from getting hit by the trailer.
The double jaw style hitch offers a quality connection. A double jaw functions by surrounding the king pin as it enters the fifth wheel. As the kingpin of the trailer slides in and hits the rear of the jaw, the jaws snap closed and locks securely. These are found mostly on hitches in the 20,000 – 24,000 lbs. range.
The single jaw style hitch is the high end of hitches. Using a one piece locking jaw, the mechanism acts like as a wedge. Being shaped as a wedge, when it closes it takes any slack out of the connection. That means the single jaw design provides the best jaw to kingpin contact possible. Very tight connection makes for a smoother and quieter ride, and it is the safest of all the designs. Single jaw hitches are mostly found only on tow hitches rated at 25,000 lbs. or more.
We hope this sheds a little light on fifth wheel hitches. Get the right one and head on out!