What are the best vehicles for towing a fifth wheel
trailer and what should I look for?
5th wheel caravan trailers are designed
to be towed by some form of tray back vehicle such
as utes, ‘well backed’ vehicles or flatbed trucks or
pick-up trucks. The towing connection is mounted on
the tray of the tow vehicle and it is placed so the
kingpin (attached to the 5th wheeler
trailer) connects about 50 mm in front of the centre
of the rear wheels (axle) of the tow vehicle. This
is so some of the weight of the 5th
wheeler transfers to the front wheels of the tow
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.
Care should be taken in selecting the tow vehicle to tow
your 5th wheeler, especially if you want a dual
cab or space cab (eg:Freestyle/ Extra cabs), to ensure there
is enough clearance between the hitch and the vehicle cab to
allow for turning the RV. Tray back vehicles are more
compatible for towing 5th wheelers as the
stylesides of any ‘well back’ type of vehicle may not fit
under the gooseneck section of the 5th wheeler.
Also check the vehicle’s towing and weight bearing
specifications so you do not exceed the payload capacity of
Hitching and unhitching a 5th wheeler is easier
compared to say a caravan, travel trailer or camper trailer
as the coupling or hitch is clearly in view from the
driver’s seat through the rear window of your vehicle. When
hitching a 5th wheeler the height of the RV
should be adjusted to enable you to reverse your tow vehicle
under the pin.
With caravans and travel trailers the term ‘ball weight’ is
used but with 5th wheeler caravan trailers it is
referred to as ‘pin weight’. The ‘pin weight’ is
approximately 20% of the 5th wheeler’s weight.
Similar to caravans and travel trailers, passengers are not
permitted in the 5th wheeler trailer whilst it is
What are the components of a 5th wheel hitch ?
Fifth wheel plate
– this is the unit, mounted to the bed of your tow vehicle,
containing the hitch plate, the plate jaws and a handle.
– a handle to lock and release the plate jaws.
– this is the ‘wheel’ on which the trailer rotates.
– this is a pin (king pin) attached to the 5th wheeler
trailer. It is designed to fit into the plate jaws mounted
in the bed of the tow vehicle.
– a box like structure attached to the bottom front section
of the trailer frame (and the pin is attached to the
– these jaws hold the pin in place.
– these are support rails that are bolted to the bed of the
tow vehicle. The side rails support the 5th
What types of hitches are available for 5th Wheeler trailers
The turntable hitch is similar to that on semi-trailers
hence the terminology ‘fifth wheeler’ although there is are
now other type of hitches available for fifth wheel
trailers. Some hitch brand names are Drawtite, Reese and
5th wheeler hitches are rated for the gross
trailer weight and the pin weight the hitch can handle.
Some of the popular hitch ratings are: 15K (or 15,000 lbs)
16K, 18K, 20K, 21K and 22K.
5th wheel hitch assemblies slide into rails
bolted onto the chassis of the tow vehicle
and can be removed to give you the use of your tow vehicle
tray when unhitched. For example, the ‘Reese Signature
Series Slider’ is designed for short bed trucks to give
additional clearance and to prevent damage to the tow
vehicle or trailer in tight locations.
wheel hitches have been designed for shortbed trucks or tow
vehicles to provide turning clearance in tight spaces.
‘Hijacker’ also have a fifth wheel hitch designed to be
installed under the bed of the truck which then leaves the
rear of the tow vehicle clear of bedrails or siderails.
If you don’t like having to grease the 5th
wheel turntable there are lube plates
available that protect against friction and
elimate the need for grease lubrication.
D’Angelo Engineering, Laverton, Victoria have produced a
‘Double Oscillator’ hitch built to ISO and Australian
Standards to suit their MiniMax fifthwheel for 5th
wheeler caravans. Their website states –
fifth wheels are only able to tilt around the footpin on the
front to back (Y-axis) but the new D’Angelo Double
Oscillator changes this by allowing the fifth wheel to also
tilt on the left to right axis (X-axis)’.
This reduces the stresses on the vehicle and trailer chassis
by reducing twisting, or torsional forces on the chassis
rails which may cause cracking through fatigue.
Another Australian 5th wheeler RV manufacturer,
Travelhome Pty Ltd, Boolaroo, New South Wales decided
that the imported US made fifth wheeler turntable type hitch
was unsuitable for use on their fifth wheel caravans. Their
decision was based on the restricted lateral movement on
some versions of the turntable type hitch and their
unsuitability for Australian road conditions. Travelhome
have three different types of hitches available to suit the
design of tow vehicle. Travelhome design their own ball and
socket coupling which they state complies with Australian
Design Rules (ADR 62/01 & 62/02).
Take your time to select the best hitch for your 5th
wheeler as you will find various features are available for
height adjustments, ‘double pivot’ feature for easy coupling
and uncoupling, jaw bolt adjustments and lockable handles.
For further information on towing your trailer safely
contact your Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of
Transport or Road Authority.