What is a Fifth Wheel? All You Want to Know

What is a Fifth Wheel All You Want to Know

It can be confusing to learn all the terms used when discussing RVs, campers, and trailers if you are unfamiliar with them. What is a fifth wheel? As a result of our experience, we are providing you with a useful response for one of the many different types of RVs available.

Fifth wheels, also known as 5th wheels, are among the RVs you see on the road the most frequently, and for good reason. They strike an excellent balance between comfort, price, and room. This article is for everyone, whether you’re a solo traveler (or cozy couple) or a large family looking for as much leg room as possible.

We’ll go over all the information you need to know about fifth wheel trailers. from the meaning of their name to how to install their special hitches.

What is a Fifth Wheel?

Adding a fifth wheel to the bed of a truck, tractor, or other similar vehicle involves adding a hitch attachment. The U-shaped hitch is used to attach cargo, which then evenly distributes the load across the truck or tractor. The vehicle is supported by hinges, which greatly increases its flexibility while being driven.

The fifth wheel is fastened to the trailer with a kingpin, which also permits the truck or tractor’s front axles to move independently. Because it distributes the weight of the cargo more evenly across the entire frame of the vehicle, this method of hitching has become safer.

It was a game-changer for the transportation sector when it was first used because it gave trucks the ability to transport heavy loads of cargo quickly and safely.

Why is It Called a Fifth Wheel?

A horizontal fifth wheel that allowed the front axel to pivot was actually a feature of older horse-drawn carriages from the 1800s. The term “fifth wheel” has persisted despite the fact that the current fifth wheel setup is very different from this historical use of the term.

A reliable fifth wheel hitch is required to operate fifth wheels today. Heavy-duty enough to support the pulling of heavier loads is this type of hitch. The hitch is a U-shaped fitting, which sits in the bed of a pickup truck, and is connected via the trailer’s “king pin.”

From the tower, fifth wheel hitches often feel much more stable than conventional ball hitches and also lessen trailer sway. Let’s discuss how to install one of these U-shaped hitches into your tow vehicle since fifth wheel travel trailers need them.

What is a Fifth Wheel All You Want to Know
What is a Fifth Wheel? All You Want to Know

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Pros of a Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheel’s advantages stem from the fact that it is a sizable recreational vehicle that is not one unit and has a secure connection between the towing vehicle and the fifth wheel unit. Fifth wheels are advantageous in this way because they have a lot of storage space, are safe and simple to tow, and can also be used as a local transportation vehicle.

Safe and Easy Towing

The location of a fifth wheels hitch is directly above the truck bed, usually above the truck’s axel. The fifth wheel is very stable as a result of this placement. The fifth wheel is on your truck, which has a travel trailer attached to the back.

As a result, your RV will turn with you much more easily and the passengers inside will have an easier time moving around inside.

You also have a better distribution of weight from the Fifth wheel onto the truck you are using to tow it since the weight of the RV is on the truck bed and not the tailgate or back hitch.

As opposed to other travel trailers, this one can support some heavier capacities.

Large Storage Capacity

Fifth wheels have the most storage out of all the available RV options. This is caused by the truck’s cab over the bed and the insufficient room for the engine and other motorized parts required for motorhomes.

As a result, a fifth wheel might be your best option if you anticipate having a space problem in another vehicle.

This extra storage can be put to a lot of good use. The majority of this storage can be considered useful for your personal belongings, but you can also store fuel and water here. In this manner, if you intend to take lengthy journeys, you only need to fill the tank once before continuing.

The potential for more bed space is another advantage of having more storage. You will be able to accommodate more bodies by having more beds. The ideal number of beds can be challenging to find if your family is large.

Fifth wheelers frequently have a lot of sleeping space. A portion of this comes from the truck’s cab, which is often used as a kind of bedroom.

The alternative is to sleep in a small space in a fifth wheeler with bunk beds that are crammed full of space.

It is also possible to consider including a toy hauler in your fifth wheel when calculating its additional storage space. Toy haulers are campers with garages that can be used to transport a small UTV or other off-road vehicle in the back of the trailer.

Fifth wheels have the biggest storage spaces, so you’ll have the most flexibility with them because they have more room.

Tow Vehicle Doubling as Local Transportation

It isn’t very advantageous to have a separate unit if you won’t be using your RV very frequently. Being able to move into another location is nice, but having two vehicles means twice as many repairs.

You can keep repair expenses to just your truck by having a fifth wheel. Your fifth wheel should essentially be ready to go if the truck is kept in good condition.

Because of this, only one vehicle needs maintenance. You don’t need to worry about getting a second car because you can drive this truck around at home.

Consolidate these costs into a single location and travel with your tow vehicle while using the fifth wheel for local travel. Overall, this is advantageous from a financial standpoint, particularly if you are performing some of the mechanical work yourself. You only need to be familiar with working around the engine in your truck rather than the engine in a different motorhome, which can be challenging at times.

What is a Fifth Wheel All You Want to Know
What is a Fifth Wheel? All You Want to Know

Cons of a Fifth Wheeler

Despite being very practical, fifth wheels are not without flaws. Their drawbacks include the need for a truck, a separate living area from the driving area, and a sizable storage area when not in use.

Needs a Truck

In the same way that needing a truck can be advantageous if you enjoy driving them, not enjoying them can make a fifth wheel’s need for a truck disadvantageous. One of the main benefits of a fifth wheel is lost if the truck will only be used to tow your fifth wheel. You may find that a motorhome is a better choice.

Fifth wheels require a specific kind of truck. Fifth wheels require you to purchase a truck that can tow the fifth wheel of the chosen weight.

The size of the truck increases with the fifth wheel’s weight. Typically, you’ll require a medium-duty truck with a 7,000-pound weight capacity. You might even need a 1-ton truck for fifth wheels that are heavier.

Separate Driving and Living Compartments

With a motorhome, you can enjoy the convenience of eating freshly prepared food in the RV’s kitchen or requesting a water bottle from the refrigerator.

That luxury won’t be available in a fifth wheel. As a result, you are separated from everyone else in the RV if you are driving. This can be annoying when you’re on the road with your family. you want to spend time with them but someone needs to drive.

As a result, you won’t be able to leave as you plan to eat together. Instead, you’ll need to pull over, eat, or do whatever else you had planned to do as a family before continuing on the road. Long distance travel is not the most time-effective option.

The last thing I would like to point out is that when you have a motorhome, people can easily slide in and out of the passenger side seat. This makes it simple for other passengers to sit next to the driver, sneak out, and take care of whatever needs to be done. When you are traveling a long distance, it is nice to have some people to talk to.

Requires a Large Storage Area When Not Used

Last but not least, if a large vehicle is going to be used frequently, you’ll need to find a place to store it. You must be able to store it, whether we’re talking about a camper or a boat.

Fifth wheels present an additional challenge in terms of transportation to the storage location. motorhomes are something that stays in one piece.

However, because a fifth wheel’s engine is independent from the tow vehicle’s engine, you need to have a location to store it that you can back it into so you can unhook the towing vehicle from it. It might be best to look into other options if you don’t have enough storage space for a fifth wheel.

In particular, considering how much more room the cab occupies than a typical hitch would.

Unfortunately, you need to have room at home to store the additional space a fifth wheel offers while traveling.

When fifth wheels were invented, the front axle of a carriage or cart could be made to pivot, turning it into a dolly that could be hitched to a team. Fifth wheels were an instant evolution of the first method of attaching the other four wheels to the carriage, but with the carriage turned on its side. It resembles a tiny wheel that is positioned in the gap between the axle and the suspension.

The fifth wheel hitch connects the semi-trailer, the towing vehicle, the tractor unit, the leading trailer, or the dolly to one another. Some camper trailers use a fifth-wheel setup, which requires that the coupling be mounted in the bed of the towing vehicle, which is typically a pickup truck. Therefore, the term “fifth wheel” is occasionally used as a synonym for the type of campers in question in The coupling is made up of a kingpin, which is a vertical steel pin that protrudes from the bottom of the front of the semi-trailer and has a diameter of 2 or 3 12 inches (50.8 or 88.9 mm), depending on the region of North America. A fifth wheel, which is a coupling mechanism shaped like a horse’s shoe and located on the back of the towing vehicle, is also a part of the coupling.

How Does the Fifth Wheel Function?

Simply put, a fifth wheel is a type of hitch that enables the driver of a large vehicle, such as a tractor or truck, to attach a trailer or other cargo attachment to the back of the vehicle. The fifth-wheel design is perfectly exemplified by a transport truck that is traveling down a highway. In modern parlance, a “fifth wheel” is the “U”-shaped connection component that is located on the back of the towing vehicle. This could be a large transport vehicle, a pickup truck, or a semi-truck.

The phrase “fifth wheel” originates from a connection that is utilized on horse-drawn carriages and carts that have four wheels. The mechanism, which allowed the front axle assembly to pivot in the horizontal plane, made turning easier. The “fifth wheel” got its name from the fact that a wheel was added to the rear frame section of the vehicle. This machine had four wheels total at the time. Because this extra wheel was added to the frame, it was referred to as the “fifth wheel.” The trailer had to be raised so that the pin could be lowered into the fifth wheel’s center hole. The trailer had to be raised in order to accomplish this.

What is a Fifth Wheel All You Want to Know
What is a Fifth Wheel? All You Want to Know

How to Install a 5th Wheel Hitch?

You need a vehicle that can accept the hitch and tow the fifth wheel trailer’s weight before you can install a fifth wheel hitch. Almost always, a full-size, one-ton truck like a Ford F350 is meant by this. But before making either purchase, it’s always crucial to check the towing capacity numbers for your tow vehicle and the weight ratings (like the GVWR) of your rig.

Installation isn’t too difficult once you’re certain you have the proper set of vehicles and a high-quality fifth wheel hitch.

Here are the basic steps

  • You can probably find the spare tire under the truck’s bed; remove it.
  • Place the fifth wheel hitch’s front base rail in the appropriate position. Drill a pilot hole where you plan to start drilling to serve as a reference point as you complete the installation. Before drilling the remaining holes, make sure the pilot hole is positioned correctly underneath the truck bed. The existing bolt holes might need to be enlarged.
  • Start securing the fifth wheel hitch to the truck bed by bolting in the under-bed brackets.
  • Fix the fifth wheel rail’s front with bolts.
  • Place the 5th wheel rear rail in the proper position, attach the 5th wheel legs, and measure the height of the 5th wheel hitch. All remaining bolts should be installed after drilling and bolting the rear rail once more.
  • Before using the hitch to tow a trailer, tighten up all of the hardware and check that the bolts are solidly fastened.

What Can You Do With a Fifth Wheel Trailer?

Fifth wheel travel trailers are fantastic because they provide both the mobility of a towable vehicle and the comfort and luxury of enormous RVs. These trailers frequently have numerous slideouts and enormous interiors. They have a whopping 500 square feet of living space available. (Without a doubt, we’ve lived in apartments in cities with less space.)

For campers who want to travel full-time, these fifth wheel trailers are excellent choices. Especially since they frequently include above-and-beyond amenities like full-sized kitchens (with islands!), bath tubs, washing machines and more. Even if you only travel on weekends, a fifth wheel gives you plenty of extra leg room to feel at home wherever the road may take you. A fifth wheel can allow you to give your family with kids a little bit more privacy.

Before making a decision, we advise renting a few different RVs to get a true sense of what they are like to camp in. Is there a simple method to accomplish this? Using RVshare’s peer-to-peer marketplace! Examine the RVs that are currently on the market in your area.

Fifth Wheel Manufacturers to Know and Watch For

One of the most common questions from prospective buyers is, “What are the top brands for fifth wheel campers?”

For the majority of us, even an affordable travel trailer represents a sizable investment because it costs tens of thousands of dollars. Buyers naturally want to make sure they’re getting the best product possible for their money.

While some brands are better known than others, it’s hard to say there’s such thing as the “best” fifth wheel camper. Instead, a wide variety of vehicles with varying levels of amenities and price points are readily available. Depending on your needs and intended use, you and your family can choose the best option. A less expensive fifth wheel, for instance, is a great way to make the most of your spare time if you only want to spend a few days in the woods annually. Additionally, a smaller vehicle may be more practical than a massive 40-footer if you’re traveling alone or with just your spouse.

No matter which end of the spectrum you and your camping group fall into, there are a few particular, well-known manufacturers to watch out for.


One of the best-known RV producers today is Coachmen. They provide vehicles in a wide variety of styles and types, including towable and self-driving models. These RVs have impressive build quality despite being inexpensive. As a result, even campers looking to buy their first RV or at the entry level can access them as a trustworthy vehicle. The Brookstone and Chaparral are two of their fifth wheel brand names. Both the size and the floor plans are available in a wide range of variations. To learn more about their offerings and to purchase a Coachmen fifth wheel trailer that you can customize, visit this page.

Forest River RV

Another company that creates rigs in a variety of different styles is Forest River RV. This includes a sizable number of brand names and a guarantee that the products will be appropriate for all kinds of camping adventures. Particularly recognized for the variety of sizes and configurations are their fifth wheels. Additionally, because of the wide range of price points the vehicles represent, buyers of all means can afford them. Click here to view the complete lineup of Forest River fifth wheels.

Highland Ridge RV

Open Range fifth wheel trailers are a line made by Particularly well-known and sought-after RVs are Highland Ridge RVs. These trailers are towable and feature roomy interiors with surprisingly light tow weights. They have wide-body construction, which gives you more space to move around, and enormous slide outs that are a whopping 42 inches long. Their furnishings are chosen for both form and function, providing both elegance and dependability in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and elsewhere.

This is only a small sample of the enormous selection of fifth wheel trailers made by a wide range of manufacturers that are offered on the market. The full list of RV companies building fifth wheels and other towable and self-driving models can be found here.

You can certainly reduce your options by doing research online. To determine which kind of travel trailer is best for you, however, the best thing to do is to actually travel in one.

Where Can I Purchase a Fifth Wheel Trailer?

There are numerous locations that are dedicated to selling RVs. You can start by using websites that let buyers and sellers exchange vehicles.

You can rent a vehicle for a predetermined period of time if you only need the RV for a short trip. The travel trailer section is where you should look if you think you’d like a trailer that hooks up to a fifth wheel hitch. You can browse the most popular models or use some of the search algorithms available here.

Additionally, you can target only the RV manufacturers you value most to focus your search. You can look into regional offers and discounts once you’ve decided on the type of travel trailer you want.

To find offers close to you, all you have to do is browse the RVs for sale section. We trust that this article has given you a basic understanding of what a fifth wheel is and what it does. On the road, good luck!

A Fifth Wheel Vs a Regular Trailer

The TULGA family is proud to offer the best selections of fifth wheel accessories and travel trailers to its customers. On the other hand, questions about the differences between the two are frequently asked of us. They may seem to have a lot in common at first glance, so this is why. But because the products differ, so do the ways in which they work. The two categories of recreational vehicles thus differ significantly in a number of important ways. These characteristics must be considered when choosing a recreational vehicle if you intend to buy one.

The main difference between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel is the hitch. A hitch is not present on a travel trailer. But hold on, what exactly is a truck hitch? Tow vehicles and trailers are often connected to one another through the use of a “trailer hitch”. It is the structural part that is bolted to the car and provides a coupling point so a trailer can be connected to it. When you think of a trailer hitch, you might picture what is actually referred to as a ball mount.

The hitch that is used to connect a fifth wheel to the bed of a truck is referred to as a “jaw hitch,” whereas the hitch that is used to connect a travel trailer to the vehicle that will be pulling it is referred to as a “ball and coupler.” The jaw hitch contributes to the wheel’s increased stability while also making it easier for one person to control a fifth wheel. However, with enough practice, using both the ball-and-coupler and jaw hitches to tow a travel trailer can become significantly less challenging.

A fifth wheel may offer the extra square footage you need if you’re looking to buy a recreational vehicle that offers extra living space as well as storage space. Travel trailers typically cost less than fifth-wheel trailers for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they offer less living space, have lower roofs, and are lighter overall. Additionally, this suggests that you will save money if you tow a travel trailer.

While one of these trailers is being used, the number of passengers who can fit in the front seats of the car is limited because a pickup truck is needed to tow a fifth wheel trailer (a travel trailer can be pulled by an SUV, which allows for more passenger space).

Contrarily, fifth-wheel trailers have larger tanks for holding both fresh water and waste water, allowing campers to stay outside for longer periods of time. Your travel trailers will enable you to accommodate more passengers in the towing vehicle. However, they won’t be as prepared to let you go without access to facilities that can replenish your water and battery supplies for longer periods of time.

Why Choose a Fifth Wheel Trailer over a Motorhome?

In this article, we’ve covered a lot of the specific advantages a fifth wheel can provide. Is it really a preferable choice to a camper?

Additionally, Class A motorhomes feature lots of amenities, luxury, and legroom. But these are some of the primary explanations why you might decide on a fifth wheel instead.

  • You don’t have to worry about tricky motorhome towing when you have a fifth wheel. Since you need that vehicle to tow the rig in the first place, you’ll automatically have an additional vehicle with which to explore the local area.
  • Actually, the biggest RVs on the market are fifth wheels. When it comes to living space, they offer you the best value possible.
  • A fifth wheel is much more affordable than buying a Class A motorhome if you already have a tow-capable truck.
  • Fifth wheels do require a little more time to set up than their motorhome cousins, but if you don’t travel frequently and are primarily looking for a permanent residence, this actually works out really well. You might even forget that your RV is on wheels once you’ve leveled it and removed the slide-outs!


How Does a Fifth Wheel Hitch Work?

A fifth wheel hitch is a U-shaped hitch that fits in a truck bed, as was already mentioned. By connecting to the travel trailer’s king pin, it functions to enable you to tow big, heavy loads.

Can Fifth Wheels Be Converted to Gooseneck?

You can change your truck’s gooseneck trailer hitch to a fifth-wheel hitch. Several different kinds of adapters are readily available, making it comparatively simple.

Are Fifth Wheels Easier to Tow?

Although fifth wheels are unquestionably big and intimidating to those who are new to towing. In comparison to trailers pulled by other types of hitches, such as the conventional 2-inch ball hitch, they are also renowned for being more stable and sway-free. The ability to tow very big, heavy loads is also made possible by fifth wheel hitches!

What Do Fifth Wheels Weigh and How Are They Measured?

Fifth wheels can weigh anywhere between 2,400 and 24,000 pounds, with the smallest starting at around 2,400. That is why it’s crucial that you have a seriously heavy-duty truck with a fifth wheel hitch to tow them.

Fifth wheels, like other trailers, are measured by their overall length in addition to their different weight ratings, such as GVWR and dry weight.

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