New RVers: Fifth wheel hitching is easy


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

If you’ve never hitched up a fifth wheel trailer, the whole thing may seem a bit mysterious. And if you’ve spotted a pickup truck where the owner “goofed” and dropped his fifth wheel onto the truck, the resulting damage may steer you away from even considering having a fiver. No worries! By following a systematic approach to hitching or unhitching, you can leave those problems behind and get the advantages that a fifth wheel trailer provides.

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Hitching Up

  • Adjust fifth wheel kingpin to proper hitch height
  • Drop truck tailgate (Special fiver tailgates negate the need to drop your gate)
  • Open the hitch locking bar
  • Back under the trailer until hitch engages the kingpin
  • Secure hitch locking bar on the fifth wheel hitch
  • Put truck in forward gear, but stay off the accelerator, simply “bump” the hitch to make sure it’s locked
  • Connect umbilical cord and breakaway switch cable
  • Check trailer lights and brakes
  • Raise truck tailgate as needed
  • Raise the landing gear
  • Remove wheel chocks from trailer wheels


  • Pull into the site, situating the trailer where you want it.
  • Chock the wheels tightly so the trailer will not move
  • Drop the landing gear. This is IMPORTANT so it should be done first then you won’t forget!
  • Disconnect the umbilical cord and breakaway switch cable
  • Drop the truck tailgate if you don’t have a special tailgate
  • Gently put your truck into reverse, again stay off the accelerator. This effectively moves the kingpin off the locking bar which will allow you to easily disengage it.
  • Step on the brake and apply parking brake
  • Disengage the locking bar and unhitch
  • Drive away
  • Raise truck tailgate as necessary
  • Adjust fifth wheel height to proper front to back level
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1 year ago

Or…you can buy an Andersen hitch and worry not about any “kingpin”.

1 year ago

5th wheel connecting and unhitching is not as simple as described in your article

1 year ago

Upon hitching up, you should raise landing gear slightly and do what I call a PULL TEST, to insure the KING PIN is securely locked into the hitch. It is a practice used by Truck Drivers (like myself).

If for some reason the King Pin isn’t securely locked in and slides out, your landing gear will prevent the trailer from dropping on your tailgate. That is why you see trucks with the Tailgate smashed or crunched.

Sometimes you may not have a good connection or get into a situation called HI-PINNING. Where the King Pin doesn’t completely lock into the hitch and slides out when you drive off, even though the jaws appear to be locked.

Hooking up a 5th wheel correctly and securely are critical to safe travels.

Wise Jack
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

Jeff’s answer is almost perfect. I connect the electrical umbilical before performing the pull test, then do the test while using the hand lever to engage the trailer brakes. Even with the landing gear raised a bit for this test they could be bent by pulling forward on unlevel ground.

Applying the trailer brakes prevents the trailer from rolling forward.

Tom Gutzke
1 year ago

The step after pulling onto a site should be to level the trailer side-to-side. Otherwise the directions are perfect. If you happen to have an automatic leveling system you can use it to level the 5th wheel. If you have stabilizing jacks they won’t support the weight of the trailer.