Buying your first fifth wheel is an exciting experience filled with lots of potential for new adventures and a different kind of camping. It can also be a little daunting. Fifth wheels are big RVs and it’s up to you to get them to your final destination. Towing all that weight behind you might have you a little worried so we here at RV Four Seasons have provided you with some tips and tricks to make for safe and confident towing on the road. You’ll also want to make sure your fifth wheel is serviced regularly to keep it in good condition for years to come, so visit us at Loveland, Colorado.
Using the Correct Tow Vehicle
One of the very first items you need to check off your safe towing practices list is making sure you have the right tow vehicle. Unlike other trailer RVs, you must have a pickup with an open- or flatbed. The hitch is installed directly into the bed, so using any other kind of vehicle would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
You’ll also want to make sure your truck can haul the size and weight of your fifth wheel. This means you’ll probably need a pickup that can tow at least half a ton of weight, if not more. Never tow a fifth wheel with a tow vehicle that is not equipped to handle the weight. If you hit turbulence, your RV could take control of your tow vehicle, putting you and other drivers in an extremely dangerous position.
Watch your Weight
Having said that, you’ll also want to make sure you don’t overload your tow vehicle accidentally. If you know you’re packing a lot of heavy supplies, keep in mind how much weight your tow vehicle can handle. You might consider stopping by a weigh station to make sure you’re in the clear. Keep in mind, this will give you your gross combined weight rating (GCWR) which also has limits. These are set and enforced by the government so check with the Department of Transportation for more information.
Also, keep your weight in mind when you’re driving. You’ll most likely be doubling your truck’s weight, at least, and your truck’s brakes are not equipped to handle that. Leave plenty of space between you and the next driver in case you need to make an emergency stop.
Check your Tires
Tire blowouts are scary in normal driving, let alone towing situations. You’ll want to make sure your tires are properly inflated and in good working condition. Use a tire pressure gauge to check pressure levels regularly, and while you’re there, make sure the wear on your tires isn’t too severe and there’s no damage. If the wear seems uneven, this may be an indication that there’s a weight or hitching issue with your fifth wheel. Always replace problem tires before hitting the road.
Hitching and Unhitching
When you know you’re completely ready to start your next adventure, you’ll need to make sure you hitch your fifth wheel correctly. Because they go in the bed of your truck, fifth wheel hitches are different from normal hitches. Most truck manufacturers make hitches specifically equipped for their models that can be installed by a professional. This saves you the cost of altering too much of your tow vehicle and the hassle of putting it in.
When your hitch is installed, hooking up your fifth wheel is actually a fairly easy process, even on your own. You’re going to back up into the fifth wheel, keeping your truck relatively straight to make hitching easier. As you draw closer, adjust your hitch height with the front jacks so it will meet your fifth wheel. Also make sure your hitch is set to “receive” mode, which means the jaws are open and ready to accept the kingpin. Continue backing up the truck until you hear a “click” which indicates the two pieces are now connected. Then lock the receiver in place with the cotter pin. Try slowly pulling your fifth wheel to check that everything is secure.
Now that you’re hitched and ready to go, you’re probably ready to hit the road. But the very first time you do all this shouldn’t be the day of the trip. You’ll want to repeat this process several times beforehand to give you an opportunity to practice towing in safer environments. It’s the only way you’re going to get more confident before your first trip. Try to find an empty parking lot or drive during times of low traffic so you can test out what’s going to work for you. Work on reversing, turning around obstacles, and braking.
We know that towing your first fifth wheel can be a little daunting and it’s certainly going to feel a little different, but there’s no reason to panic. With proper preparation and a little practice, you’ll be ready to start your next trip in no time. If you need your fifth wheel serviced or would like to look at some of our models, stop by RV Four Seasons in Loveland, Colorado.