There was quite a buzz this week around the cooler. (It was just too hot for a campfire!) What was the buzz about? As a fellow camper pulled his fifth wheel RV out to leave the campground, his trailer dropped. Right on top of his truck bed. We’d never seen this happen and the results were not pretty. The guy’s brand-new truck bed was crushed on both side panels near the tailgate. The tailgate was sprung. The fifth wheel had visible damage on the exterior, and we can only guess what might be compromised inside his rig.
“He should have done the tug test,” one RVer commented. What? What’s a tug test? And should we be doing it with our own fifth wheel RV?
A little tug test research
The unsettling incident prompted me to do a little research. Here’s what I discovered:
“Dropping the trailer” is more common than I thought. Just a simple search online brought up several pictures and videos of this RV mishap. The good news? There are precautions RVers can take to prevent this from happening to you.
Here’s a helpful video explaining the tug test and how to set up and perform it.
Fifth wheel RV hitches usually feature one of two types of “jaws”: a single, wrap-around jaw that surrounds the hitch pin; and dual-locking (two) jaws that grab together to completely surround the hitch pin.
A good first step to prevent the dreaded trailer drop is to perform a visual inspection. After hooking up, check to see that the hitch’s “jaws” are completely closed around the hitch pin. (Hint: Many hitches have coupling indicators to let you know the status of the locking jaws. Check that, too.)
The tug test (also called a pull test)
The next step, and the most important one according to folks around the cooler, is to do a tug test. Here’s how:
- Hook up your fifth wheel as usual and visually check the hitch to see that the jaws are correctly positioned.
- Manually position the two front RV jacks until they are just one or two inches off the ground. (The reason? If your trailer disconnects, the jacks will prevent the fifth wheel from falling onto your truck bed.)
- Put your foot on the truck brake pedal, take off the emergency brake, and put your truck in drive.
- Manually activate the trailer brake controller and slowly let off the brake pedal. This will allow the truck to gently tug on the trailer. If you feel resistance, the hitch is securely connected.
- Fully retract the fifth wheel landing jacks and continue your pre-trip procedures.
One more thing?
No one wants to add one more thing to their “Hook-up Checklist”—it’s already so long, right? But after witnessing the trailer drop this week, I’m sure the “tug test” will be added to our list! How about you?
Do you faithfully perform a “tug test”? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Ready for another fifth wheel disaster? Check out this video of a fifth wheel going through a drive-through… it’s not pretty!