What’s Different Between a Gooseneck and Fifth-Wheel Hitch?
A gooseneck trailer hooks to a ball that sits in the middle of the truck’s bed and has been anchored to the frame. This ball-type hitch is similar to the ones you often see for smaller trailers hooked to the back of pickup trucks. The gooseneck system is designed for flat-bed car haulers, livestock or horse trailers.
The coupler (the part of the trailer that sits on the receiver ball) is lowered and then tightened to the hitch ball. Safety chains and a brake cable are additional measures to ensure that the trailer stays hooked to the towing truck.
A fifth-wheel hitch is similar to the hitch you might see on a semi-truck. Instead of a ball, there is a large frame with vise-like jaws that clamp onto the trailer's kingpin. (The kingpin is the fifth-wheel’s version of the coupler). The kingpin sets inside the a horseshoe shaped receiver and then powerful jaws latch onto the kingpin, preventing it from moving. Again, safety chains are fastened from the truck to the trailer to keep it secured.
A fifth-wheel hitch is design for heavier RV trailers and generally rides more quietly, and with more stability than a gooseneck ball and hitch.
Will Hauling A Fifth-Wheel Void My Warranty?
It is important to ensure that the installation of an adapter doesn’t void the warranty that you have on your truck or trailer. Towing a fifth-wheel trailer with a gooseneck can cause undue stress and fracture of your truck’s frame.
Many manufacturers do not allow fifth-wheel units to be towed and will void the warranty if it is apparent that this has happened. Other manufacturers simply will not be responsible for any damage to a fifth-wheel that is not being towed with the right equipment. It is very important that you understand what limitations may be in place.
What KInd of Adapter is needed for Towing a Fifth-Wheel?
If your truck has a gooseneck ball installed, and the truck has a load capacity to haul your fifth-wheel trailer, there are several adapters that can be used.
Replacing the Kingpin
One of the trailer configurations that is use today is an adapter that replaces the kingpin. It has a coupler that you ight find on a gooseneck trailer. For an example of this kind of hitch, see the etrailer.com website.
A Fifth Wheel Adapter Modifying the Kingpin.
This type of adapter simply works with the existing kingpin to convert it into an gooseneck coupler. The advantage to this kind of hitch is that it means you don’t have to replace the kingpin on your fifth-wheel trailer. The downside is that this kind of connecter is not available with every kind of trailer. You should check with your manufacturer to see if it is offered for us with your fifth-wheel.
For more information and an example of this kind of adapter, see the etrailer.com website
A Fifth-Wheel Hitch Installed in the Ball Hole
This kind of connection uses the ball hole in the truck’s bed to secure a gooseneck hitch assembly. The adapter is more of a plate that attaches to the bed of the truck on a frame, replacing the gooseneck ball so that it can accommodate the kingpin.
The nice thing about this kind of connection is that is requires no modification of the kingpin. Even though it technically removes the gooseneck ball, it is a viable solution and worth considering.
For more information and an example of this kind of adapter plate, see the etrailer.com website.
Once the Adapter is On, How Do I Hook Up A Fifth Wheel?
The procedure is very similar to the sequence that is used when hooking up a gooseneck trailer.
Assuming that the adapter is in place, follow the subsequent steps.
Ensure that the Legs of the Fifth-Wheel are Down and Secure
Every fifth-wheel comes with stationary legs that help stabilize the front of the trailer when not hooked to the towing truck. These legs will have electric hydraulic lifts that can be manipulated to raise or lower the camper. Often they are located on the front of the trailer under the overhang.
Lower the Tailgate to the Towing Truck
You would be surprised how often RV owners forget to lower the tailgate of their truck before pulling it back in line to hook up to the trailer. If you don’t want a coupler or a kingpin to scrape up your truck’s beautiful paint job, remember this simple step. Let me repeat. Lower the tailgate.
Back the Truck up in a Straight Line Toward the Coupler on the Kingpin
You will likely need to have someone spotting for you as you try to line the truck up to the kingpin. Back the truck up to the trailer in as straight a line as possible.
Lower the Coupler onto the Gooseneck Ball and Tighten
Using the hydraulic legs, activate the button that lowers the trailer onto the gooseneck ball. Be careful as you do this, patience is a virtue. Once the coupler engages, be sure to tighten the coupler to the ball, if necessary.
Attach All Safety Chains and Cables
It is always a good idea to have safety chains and braking cable secured to the bed of the towing truck.
Plug in the 7 pin receptacle in for the electrical connections, this should ensure that your tail and brake lights are working.
Raise Legs Up to Traveling Height and Secure them in Place
Most fifth wheel legs will raise either electronically or manually up so that they don’t drag on the ground while traveling. If you need to raise them manually and lock them into place with a pin, do that now.
Do a Safety Check
Walk to the back of the trailer while someone else sits in driver’s seat of the truck. Test brake lights, turn signals and tail lights to ensure that everything works.
One of the things to inspect on the trailer is the clearance that exists between the kingpin and the bed rails of the truck. Ideally, you want the fifth-wheel trailer to be as level as possible, and there to be at least six inches between the kingpin and the bed of the truck
What Should I Expect if I Tow a Fifth-Wheel with a Gooseneck Hitch?
The gooseneck is not as sold a connection as the standard fifth-wheel hitch. As a result, it is not uncommon for the towing of the trailer to be noisier and more bumpy than when towing a fifth-wheel under normal conditions. The fifth-wheel hitch is built to handle the bigger and often more heavy RV trailers that are fifth-wheel units.
In addition, hauling a fifth-wheel with a gooseneck hitch may not provide as smooth a transition around curves. Drivers have reported that they cannot take curves as sharply as they were used to doing in their horse trailers. Since RV trailers tend to be longer and heavier, (and more bulky), care should be taken when driving.
About THE AUTHOR
My name is Matt and I've been around cars all my life! I have owned and worked on many different classic vehicles, so I started this site to share my experiences. If you're new to classic cars, then this website is for you.Read More About Matt Lane