Thursday, November 30, 2023


Feedback on towing fifth wheels with half-tons – Part 1

By Steve Savage, Mobility RV Service

[Editor’s note: Steve’s original posting on this subject appeared in an RV Daily Tips newsletter. As you’ll see, he had a lot of feedback on the subject. This post is a little longer than our usual, but we felt it important to post it, more or less, intact.]

My earlier rambling about towing with half-ton-rated trucks brought me a good deal of email and I have promised some of those folks I would publish what they had to say along with my response, so here they are. Names have been omitted.

“There was really good information except one part. In most cases there is no way to take your truck and the trailer to a weigh station when you don’t have a Pin hitch installed in the bed. This may lead some people to think that you install a hitch. I fully agree that people need to think things out better before buying this size investment without doing good research.

“My son has a 3/4-ton Ford and a large 5th wheel, and now he is going to have to put air bags in the rear springs, or add more springs.

“The article was very good and informative.  Wish I had known more when I got my first tow trailer (19-foot, towed with a 6 cyl. GMC Jimmmy —  didn’t work too good.”

I do think, if you make a couple of passes through the friendly scale found at your local truck stop, you can get the weights of most towables. The most important point I was trying to make with my article was: It is important to think things through and not just blindly buy something and regret it later, as you noted in your email.

“I just read an article you wrote which was posted on the daily newsletter entitled, ‘Tow a fiver with a half-ton?’ I thank you for it. I couldn’t agree more with two points of the message: Do your own calculations for what your truck can pull (and thank you for the nice formula to work that out) and, Why aren’t RVs designed better — especially giving forethought to repairs.

“My problem with the first point is that I didn’t read it two years ago. I’m not towing a fiver but a toy hauler. It is at the max weight my F150 can pull. I’m extremely on guard now that I know what I’ve learned since I bought the trailer.

“‘Oh, no problem! This trailer is perfect for your truck,’ puffed the salesman. Why didn’t I walk away and do my own calculations?!? If your article had been fresh in my mind I would not have the constant tension of trailer weight on my shoulders — figuratively speaking. I live in my trailer, so it’s on my mind approximately every two weeks when I break camp.

“The second point of your article is something I think about every time I read advice and complaints online from RVers. I guess too many of us are too accepting of the foibles of RV manufacturers or we think we have no choice. Things I’ve heard from salesmen or those who follow a salesman’s advice: Those tires are standard for this size RV; The floor is supposed to have some give; You can’t expect those plastic fittings to live forever…

“I could get right upset when I think of those excuses I’ve heard for shoddy workmanship or bad design or just plain cheapo junk being sold as good. I don’t know what has to change to get the RV industry to get its act together, but I do hope it happens. Maybe the powers that be will listen to the wisdom of RV techs and mechanics. Here’s hoping.”

As you have discovered, it is not very hard to find complaints online from RV owners. Sometimes I wish there was a way to locate more comments from satisfied owners to balance things out. At times, I receive comments suggesting things are the way they are because people are too cheap to spend what is necessary to obtain reliability or usability. My most common response is that it is simply easier to sell based on price, especially when many RV owners are not given the opportunity to gather solid information. They don’t ask the right questions because they don’t now what to ask.

It often seems amazing to me how much folks are willing to take for granted. Every time I have heard someone say that they had to accept this or that, I think to myself, “Apparently there is some confusion about whose pocket the checkbook is in.” The RV industry will change the second it has to, and not a second sooner. Get a hundred of your closest friends to write a letter about something and watch what happens.

“I believe you forgot to mention one very important thing — it is called stopping distance, especially in a panic stop. What would the difference be between the brake size of a half-ton versus a 3/4-ton or a 1-ton.”

This is an interesting comment that comes up a lot and I don’t know the answer. Technically, the brakes on the towable are capable of stopping the trailer or fiver, and if you have ever had a break-away pin pull by accident when you are underway, you will find yourself just about thrown through the windshield. When trailer or fiver brakes come on full force, the stopping power they create, if adjusted correctly, is anything but subtle. 

There are, however, other factors (man, wouldn’t it be great if it were simple?). If you are pulling a unit much heavier than your truck and depending on an electronic aftermarket controller which, in turn, depends on the rate of deceleration of your truck to activate, your stopping distance with a lighter truck may be greater. My thinking here is the trailer may push the truck more than it might with a heavier truck.

On the other hand, if you have a factory built-in controller which activates the trailer or fifth wheel brakes based on feedback from the pressure you put on the pedal, there may not be much difference between types of trucks because the trailer brakes are doing their fair share.

Mine is not an argument in favor of ignoring braking. I simply don’t think the answer here is as simple as it might appear. There also may be other factors I have not considered and, if there are, I am sure someone will write and let me know.

Steve (Mobility RV Service). You can reach me at mroeditor(at) Please do not call me on the phone unless you are looking for service for your RV here in Tri-Cities, Tenn.

Click here for Part 2.



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