Can I Hook a Gooseneck Trailer to the Regular Ball?
No ball extension raises the trailer ball (on the truck’s rear bumper) high enough to hook up a gooseneck trailer safely. (Remember, you must have a ball higher than the truck bed). Even if they made a ball hitch that was tall enough, the weight of the truck would snap it off the back of your tow vehicle before you got down the road). Even with safety chains, hooking up a single ball and a gooseneck coupler anywhere other than a certified ball mount in the truck bed or using a safety trailer is unsafe. No matter how short a distance you plan to tow, you should never attempt it.
What is A Third Axle Safety Trailer/Hitch?
The third axle safety hitch is a drop bumper trailer that acts as a small separate unit providing a connection point between the gooseneck trailer and the towing vehicle. Instead of connecting the gooseneck coupler to a hitch ball in the truck payload area, these trailers are separate units allowing a gooseneck to safely connect to the base with a mounted ball. The whole unit is pulled by the truck. (The gooseneck hitch hooks to the mini-trailer, and the safety trailer hooks to the truck). This configuration allows the pickup bed to be undisturbed, freeing it up for additional cargo.
These safety mini-trailers have an independent axle designed to carry the weight of the gooseneck tongue. The safety trailer connects to the towing vehicle’s frame with safety chains and physical interlocking connections. Since a gooseneck trailer is a heavy trailer, the additional axle allows for a bumper pull by spreading the weight of the gooseneck more evenly between the tow truck and the trailer.
The base also acts as a pivot point for the trailer, improving steering control. Many of these unique safety trailers/hitches have trailer lights and internal braking systems that coordinate with both the electronic braking systems in such a way as to provide better-stopping power by the tow vehicle.
Why is a Third Axle Hitch Needed?
Most gooseneck trailers haul heavy loads, so they connect to a turnover ball in the truck bed. This standard configuration moves the trailer tongue over the truck’s center, allowing the tongue weight to be more evenly distributed over the truck’s rear end. For truck owners who can’t bear the thought of messing up the bed with a hole for a ball, the only other option is a bumper hitch adapter (mini-safety hitch/trailer).
So, instead of bringing the trailer tongue over the truck, the safety trailer extends the frame to offer a place for hookup under the gooseneck tongue. (Think of your truck hauling a small trailer with just an axle and ball mount extending up).
A third axle doesn’t mean your tow vehicle’s GVWR can be exceeded. However, the extra axle will carry heavy loads by keeping the tongue weight off the truck’s rear end. Instead of the weight working against the rear axle of your truck, and overloading the hitch ball, this additional axle spreads the weight.
What Modifications Are Needed?
The trailer will make a solid connection point between the tow vehicle and the trailer, but you will likely have to modify your bumper hitch. Most of these small safety trailers have connection points to the truck’s frame about eighteen inches on either side of the center bumper hitch, with either direct adapters or safety chains as connections. (Some have a primary contact point, where the center ball is, while others do not).
Trailers use a heavy-duty safety chain as a redundant security system. The chains provide a backup system to keep the trailer linked to the tow vehicle. The safety chains can also be instrumental in lining up the trailer and coupling unit. The additional slack or play in the chain helps ensure the tow vehicle and gooseneck coupler trailer is on a straight path.
These safety trailers/hitches aid in steering control by making it seem as if the truck bumper is more extended than it is. These safety hitch trailers provide better maneuverability and steering control, eliminating the need for an extra wide turn. Because the smaller trailer acts as a guiding mechanism for the trailer to follow, the gooseneck doesn’t need an additional turning radius when rounding a corner.
The tires on these small trailers are similar to the gooseneck trailer tires, with similar tire pressure, though not as large as the dimensions of the tow vehicle. The tires act as a cushioning agent when the axles go over a bump in the road, limiting the stress on the contact points and helping the overall suspension.
How Much Does a Third Wheel Safety Trailer/Hitch Cost?
Many third-axle safety hitches cost around $10,000, which puts them out of the range of many truck owners. Installing a gooseneck hitch into the center of your truck bed will cost between $775 - $3000 (depending on how extensive you get). It is easy to see why many gooseneck owners are biting the bullet and choosing to have holes drilled into their pickup truck beds. The downside to having a trailer ball sticking out of the truck bed is that it can interfere with cargo loading. (A buddy of mine built a false bed over the hitch ball. He simply pulled up the false deck when he needed to use the gooseneck ball).