The fifth wheel is considered safer and easier to tow, instead of the travel trailer, as it directly attaches to the bed of your truck with the gooseneck hitch, thus, improving the stability.
After verifying that your tow vehicles are able to carry the weight of a fifth wheel, you can now install a useful hitch system in your truck bed. A DIY installation comes with more advantages than just saving your money. It’ll give you a better understanding of the equipment of your rig as well. Here is how to install a fifth wheel hitch on your own.
What You’ll Need To Prepare?
Before you know how to install a fifth wheel hitch on the truck, you have to ensure that your vehicle is capable of holding the trailer’s extra weight, which you intend to attach. It may sound quite elementary. However, this point is usually overlooked. The manual of your vehicle is such an ideal place to begin, and in case you cannot find the information here, ensure to contact its manufacturer for a detailed answer.
Here are some essential tools for your installation:
- Tape measure
- Some grease
- ½ inch drive socket set
- ½ inch ratchet
- Assorted drill bill set
If it is possible, you should try to buy a complete installation kit of best fifth wheel hitch, which was specifically designed for the kind of your vehicle. This helps to save a lot of your frustration and your time as well because those custom-fit kits demand no welding or drilling. They include all of the necessary hardware that you will need for a standard installation.
Moreover, the holes in the brackets also line up with the pre-existing holes in your vehicle’s frame. In case you purchase a universal installation kit, then, you can find that you are required to drill the holes in your vehicle’s frame as well as weld the brackets in the right place to mount the hitch properly.
After preparing well, your next step is to measure the hitch. For a long truck bed, the measurement should be 56” back from the cab. On the other hand, for shorter bed, this measurement should be 36” back from the cab.
Besides, you may want to get as near as possible to your truck bed’s center. Therefore, you should mark a spot because this is the place you will place the bolt hole.
Besides, you also need to go on with the tailgate and measure about 28 5/16” to the centers for long truck bed. It’ll be 26 5/16” for short bed. This’s where you place the mark for the hole of the bolt. It is also the location of your 5th wheel rear rail.
Finding an installation kit for 5th wheel hitch, which is specially designed for your vehicle, is not a difficult task. This kind of kits is preferred over the universal kit since it let you complete your installation without drilling new holes into your vehicle.
No matter what hitch kit you buy, you must always check the manufacturer installation instruction to find out the exact location that your 5th wheel hitch is installed in your truck bed.
In general, it is positioned so that the trailer weight sits between the rear axle and the truck’s cab. That is to say; for proper load distribution and optimal towing, your 5th wheel hitch should be close to your truck bed’s center.
Install Support Brackets
You should not install the bracket kit over the plastic bed liner. Nevertheless, it is alright for you to install if the truck bed of your vehicle includes a sprayed-in liner.
Jack up your truck’s rear, block its front tires and support the vehicle on jack stands. It’ll be much easier to install under-bed support brackets with the wheels removed, and suspension unloaded. Then, remove the wheels from your vehicle.
A bracket kit is an essential foundation of the hitch. Firstly, install the under-bed brackets, according to the instructions included in the kit, directly over the rear axle of your truck.
When you have determined the location of the brackets, you should drill the bolts and attach the brackets to secure the rails to your truck’s frame. After that, bolt your brackets tightly into right place.
Utilize spacers between the bed and the brackets to prevent damage to your vehicle when the rails are tightened. Once the brackets have been anchored into the truck’s frame, you are ready to install your hitch. Just remember to utilize a tiny drill bit so that you can drill some pilot holes for the 5th wheel to mount up through the bed floor of your truck.
Here’s an important thing that you should draw attention to when learning how to install a fifth wheel hitch. Because of tight tolerances, if the receiver and trailer are angled too much as regard to each other, then, the receiver cannot seat on the ball entirely. This is also true for uncoupling the receiver.
If the trailer and the truck are angled too much as regard to each other, then, the receiver can be “Stuck” on the ball.
Therefore, to solve this problem, you have to make sure that the trailer and the truck are less or more level, in comparison to each other.
To clear the ball, the trailer should be raised up. After that, you should disconnect any safety chain, cables and wiring harnesses, and drive your vehicle out from under your trailer.
Shimming The Bed
To prevent the “crushing” of corrugated truck bed, you had better install backup plates and shims below or above your truck bed wherever necessary. Not all of the beds are exactly installed in the similar way when manufactured. Therefore, it is important for you to decide where to put the shims, relative to the location of your bolt.
In case you find that the location of a bolt hole is over a bed channel, then, you may need to utilize a double slotted bed shim so that you can fill the space. Conversely, the same technique is also applied if the channel’s location is on the underside or the top of your truck bed if necessary.
How to Install a Fifth Wheel Hitch?
- Now, it is time for the most vital step: install your hitch. First of all, you have to drill 2 ½” holes through the truck’s bed floor by a hole saw from the top. Do not forget to utilize the guide holes so that you can make sure all the holes are kept in correct places.
- Next, you will set your hitch on the Standard Rails by means of centering tabs on the hitch’s bottom to the slots on the rails. Then, install your hitch pins through the base rails’ side to secure your hitch assembly to the base rails by using supplied pin clips.
- Bolt the 5th wheel adapter so that it goes well with the rails through 2 ½” holes safely to the frame. Utilize the torque specifications, which are included with the 5th wheel kit, to secure the fittings to your vehicle properly.
- Reinstall the truck’s wheels and lower it from your jack stands. Now, you can install the 5th wheel coupler into the truck bed as a single unit. Thanks to its 4 mounting points, it can easily click on the adapter fittings and then, lock into place.
- Make sure that your hitch comes off and on without binding before completing the final torques. Lastly, tighten all the bolts, even the base rail bolts, as stated by Torque Table. In case there aren’t any holes for the last bolts, then, you have to drill them. After that, install them and tighten them down. Once your 5th wheel hitch is in its right place, you can now install the nuts in the rear and front to make sure that your 5th wheel always stays in place.
Completing the Installation
Now, your 5th wheel hitch is appropriately fastened into the bed of your truck; you can also add a brake controller harness. This equipment lets you engage the electrical braking system of RV either in accordance with the brake engagement of your truck or slightly delayed.
The lack of brake controller harness will cause you more difficulties in a complete stop. An extender may be an essential feature for you to achieve this step.
When you have known how to install a fifth wheel hitch and have been capable of doing it properly, then, you should enjoy a smooth ride without worrying about scraping and jerking.
Have you ever done this on your own before? Let us know whether you would do it again or if you would like to recommend leaving it up to a professional.