Fifth wheel hitching: An old-timer’s advice

7

By George Bliss
From several years of observations at campgrounds, it seems most RVers don’t know the importance of hooking up the umbilical cord from the truck to the fifth wheel trailer before trying to connect (or disconnect) the king pin to (or from) the fifth wheel.

This is necessary so you can apply the brakes on the trailer, and is a “must-do” to avoid pushing your trailer off its leveling blocks or to prevent it from moving even a few inches – which would put great strain on the landing gear. If the trailer rolls or you don’t get a good king pin connection, your trailer can be sitting on the box rails of your truck – a very expensive experience.

Mind you, this advice is largely pertinent to those fifth wheel owners who have “electric over hydraulic” braking systems. When you hit the brakes in your truck – or hit the control lever on your brake control – electricity is run back to a motor in the trailer that, in turn, pumps hydraulic pressure to the trailer breaks. Conventional electric trailer brakes don’t react in this same way. If your trailer brakes are electric, the only completely assured safety when hitching up to keep it from rolling is to tightly chock the wheels – on both the front and rear of the tires.

An old-time truck driver told me that in years gone by when a semitrailer was parked, it often had no brakes until air was applied to the trailer. Today’s semitrailers have spring brakes that come on automatically if the trailer loses air, much like activating a breakaway switch on your towed RV trailer.

One last important step to remember on unhooking: Disconnect the umbilical cord once the king pin releases from the fifth wheel so you don’t drive away and pull the wiring apart.

##RVDT1458

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Steve
1 month ago

Regardless of the type of hitch, I always have my wheels chocked BEFORE I begin unhooking.

Brian Holmes
1 month ago

all of this is solved with a Andersen or the PullRight model ball hitch but people insist on buying the old method. Best to date when camping at a Mega campground in Myrtel Beach was a brand new, with 3 day old new truck tags on it Ram dually with crushed bed rails. Looked real good in front of the wife didn`t he. Yep, best hitch on the market honey.

Bob P
1 month ago

I pulled several trailers that were very old while driving truck and never came across a trailer that didn’t have “spring” brakes as these non braked trailers were outlawed many years ago, so that must’ve been an oooooooolllldddd trucker. If you know anything about hooking up a fifth wheel you make sure you’re aligned properly and you ease into the hitch, if you charge into it you’re going to do more than move the trailer. Your wheels should be securely chocked no matter what you’re doing. That’s just like the ones you see with a 6”X6” wooden block under their landing gear, a strong gust of wind in a sudden storm and you’ll be looking at a huge repair bill when the landing gear slides off the smooth piece of wood and bends that jack leg. The steel foot on the bottom of the leg will have far better resistance to sliding on the ground than on that 6X6.

Thomas D
1 month ago

Good advice. Never thought to apply brakes while disconnecting or reconnecting. I always chocked it and it still rolled. I had disc brakes. I wouldn’t even look at a trailer without them. Don’t have trailer any more so advise is too late. How to stop truck camper from sliding when loading? Even best of care ,I still have tendency to slide legs an inch or more.

Dave
1 month ago

Good discussion.

I prefer to chock wheels very well and connect connect electric later. Too much risk of error in my opinion.

I say that because many drivers need a couple tries before aligning the hitch perfectly.

Secondly, a driver should never connect to a 5’er hitch hard enough to move a 5th wheel. I take care to align my hitch perfectly so when the hitch connects, it’s a slight bump.

I MIGHT use this method if I was on a very un-level campsite.

By the way, don’t forget the “pull test” after connecting the electric.

Bard
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

I agree 100% with this method OVER the one in the article!!

Brian S.
1 month ago

Good tip regarding brakes and chocks when hitching up a fifth wheel! Thanks