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Fifth (5th) Wheel / Gooseneck Trailers

Fifth Wheeler

Fifth Wheel trailers in America are often referred to as Gooseneck trailers, or just Goosenecks. The 'gooseneck' referring to the forward part of a trailer being arched like a goose's neck over the tow vehicle tray body. There is some history in the term 'fifth wheel' (turntable hitch) but today it refers to a fifth wheel turntable as part of the articulated coupling fitted to the tow vehicle.  Although the turntable coupling is not always used nowadays, the RV trailer body/living quarters is called a 'fifth wheeler' in Australia.


The suspension on the 5th Wheel trailer carries most of its gross weight with the balance of weight distributed forward of the rear suspension over the differential rather than the extreme rear of the tow vehicle.  5th Wheel trailers are reported to be more stable to tow and reverse than conventional caravans or travel trailers.

The body of the 5th Wheel trailer extends over the body of the tow vehicle.  The 5th Wheel trailer can be detached from the tow vehicle and used separately.

A large number of Fifth Wheelers are imported into Australia.  Conversion to 230V AC wiring, trailer lighting to Australian Standards and installation of a left hand door is required. The maximum width of the fifth wheeler (including awnings and any other protruding devices) should not exceed 2.5 metres (8ft 2.5in). Gas conversion to obtain certification is also required.

Due to demand in Australia some Fifth Wheelers made in the USA are built and designed to suit Australian conditions. 

There are also fifth wheelers built in Australia such as Jayco Fifth Wheeler, Southern Cross Fifth Wheel Caravans, Winjana Fifth Wheelers Australia, Travelhome  in Newcastle NSW, Venture Fifth Wheelers that are built in Toowoomba and Dryden Trailerhomes at Yatala, Brisbane, Queensland.

Owners of Fifth Wheelers are eligible to join the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia Limited (CMCA).


Inside Fifth WheelerIt is unlikely you will want for anything as Fifth Wheel trailers come equipped with gas bottles and all the modern conveniences such as insulation, roof hatches, air conditioning, gas/electric hot water storage system, deep cycle batteries, 230V AC with 12V converter and 30 amp battery charger, water pumps, shower, basin and vanity cupboards, water tank level monitors, LP gas detector and smoke alarms, TV, CD player, cooktop, oven, microwave and standard 3 way refrigerator.

There are options for electric step, compressor type 12V refrigeration, solar panels, arm chair layout, LCD flat screen TV, satellite TV reception, single or double beds, DVD player and annex.


Shower/Toilet/Water Tanks

Check out the specification list for the Fifth Wheeler you intend to purchase. 

They are equipped with a swivel toilet with a removable cassette. Some models provide for an internal and external shower.  For the shower and toilet there is a ‘fresh’ water tank for your taps, toilet flush and shower.  There is an option of a ‘grey’ water tank for sullage.

What sort of tow vehicle is required for a Fifth Wheeler ?

The tow vehicle must be legally rated to tow a Fifth Wheeler. Tray back style vehicles and utilities are commonly used due to the style of hitch required to couple the fifth wheeler to the tow vehicle.

You will need to know the weight of the Fifth Wheeler and check your tow vehicle has the capacity to tow that weight.  This towing capacity of your vehicle is found in the vehicle Owner's Manual.

Do Fifth Wheelers come with electric brakes ?

Yes. They are also fitted with a breakaway switch. For trailers up to 2 tonnes Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) an efficient braking system is considered to have brakes operating on the wheels of at least one axle. Trailers over 2 tonnes GTM must have brakes operating on all wheels and be equipped with an Emergency Brake System that will cause immediate automatic application of its brakes in the event the trailer accidentally becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle

If the fifth wheeler has an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) of more than 4.5 tonnes, then larger axles and air brakes have to be fitted.  Conventional caravan electric brakes are suitable for those fifth wheelers up to 4.5 tonnes.

For further information refer to Australian Government, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Vehicle Standards Bulletin ( and their links to Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 38/02) - Trailer Brake Systems.

Will they fit on a conventional caravan site ?

Generally, yes, but it depends on the length of the Fifth Wheeler as well as the length and width of the tourist park site especially for use of slide-outs.  Remember it doesn’t have a draw bar or A Frame.  This makes the Fifth Wheeler more manoeuvrable as the vehicle can approach at much tighter angles.

How wide are they?

Most Fifth Wheelers are 8 foot wide.  The slide-outs can add up to another 2 – 4 feet.  By comparison, caravans usually come in widths of 7 foot 6 inches or 7 foot 8 inches.

Do I need a special licence for a Fifth Wheeler?

This will depend on the type of tow vehicle you purchase, but most Fifth Wheelers can be towed throughout Australia with an ordinary passenger Class ‘C’ vehicle licence. A 'C' Class Licence covers tow vehicle up to 4.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and any towed trailer must not exceed 9 tonnes GVM.  If the tow vehicle has a GVM between 4.5 tonnes and 8 tonnes, then a Light Rigid (LR)  truck licence is required.

Are there any disadvantages to owning a Fifth Wheeler?

One disadvantage of the fifth wheel is the choice of tow vehicle dictates how many people can be carried.  Much of the truck bed space is unavailable as the fifth wheel hitch will occupy the centre of the tow vehicle truck bed and the hitch pin should be in front of the tow vehicles rear axel.

Standard utilities have only two seats although some are fitted with a bench seat which will allow 3 people.  Space cabs also known as Extra cabs or Freestyle cabs have a back seat but it is not full size.  It may be suitable for children but it would be too small for an adult for long trips.  Dual cabs generally are larger and would provide more space for an adult for general touring but check first if it is suitable for a fifth wheel hitch. The tray back load space may also limit load space for other items particularly while hitched up.

A couple of other areas that may be of concern is firstly the height of the bedroom area (over the pin) unless you choose a high roof front and secondly, very few fifth wheelers are built to cope with 'off-road' conditions.



5th Wheeler Hitch


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