Hitching My Fifth Wheel – a pictorial

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Truck and Camper, Vale, CO

As a follow-on to my Hitching and Unhitching My Fifth Wheel post, I decided that a pictorial view of each step would be useful. I tried to make sure that everything is covered as I did each step. If there is anything different that you do or can recommend, please let me know in the comments.

  1. Not shown- make sure that you’re prepared for hitching by verifying the following:
    1. Wheels are chocked (they should be any time the camper is unhitched; but double-check it)
    2. Rear stabilizers are retracted, and any triangulating stabilizers are loose so that the landing gear is able to be raised/lowered as needed
    3. Ensure that anything that you leave in the truck bed is properly and fully secured – the force of air coming down off of a fifth wheel will suck things out of your truck bed. I’ve heard tell of a person reporting a 80 lb. grill and others of firewood being sucked out.
    4. If needed by your hitch, ensure that the hitch is “open” (handle open/jaws open/bar disengaged).
  2. Lower your tailgate. (Some people either remove their tailgate entirely or use a notched tailgate; I use my regular tailgate and just raise/lower it as needed as I like that it locks and the built-in rear view camera.)
  3. If you have a king pin lock, remove it.

    King Pin Lock
    (Link to blog entry on fifth wheel security)
  4. Raise or lower the fifth wheel so that it is slightly lower than the coupler on the hitch. You may need to adjust this over the next couple of steps a time or two if you’re hitching up alone; if you have a partner, they can raise/lower it when you get the hitch and king pin close together.Raise or Lower King Pin to Hitch HeightSpecial note about helpers – they should not be between the truck and camper (or even under the overhang of the camper) when the truck is in motion; off to the side is fine, but never between.
  5. Back up the truck by looking through the rear window to line the hitch up with the kingpin. Watch your tailgate to ensure that it won’t make contact with the camper; while rare, it happens and if it is going to- you are going to need to raise the tailgate after you get the king pin inside of the truck bed but before it reaches the hitch.

    (excuse the clearly filthy window!)
    (excuse the clearly filthy window!)
  6. Here you can see that the king pin will properly ride up the hitch.Verify the Kingpin's Height to the Hitch
  7. Next I back gently under/into the hitch. On my B&W hitch, the handle closes when the hitch is properly latched; on others- refer to your manual to know when the hitch locks in place (if at all, you may have to continue onto the steps below).Gently Back Truck under Kingpin - view from driver's seatGently Back Truck under Kingpin - view from side
  8. Visually verify that the jaws are closed around the king pin. (or bar, or whatnot in the case of your hitch)Visually verify jaws have closed around kingpin
  9. Here’s one of my favorite purchases that I don’t use nearly as much as I should. It’s a step that fits over the tire to make it easier to reach the fifth wheel hitch.

    Truck bed step
    (Link to step on Amazon)
  10. Pin the hitch in the locked position. (or latch the bar or whatever other hitches do; as well, if you use anything likePin pull bar in closed position
  11. Plug in the camper’s umbilical cord (aka 7-pin connector). This gives you lights and brakes. (Note, on some trucks- this is plugged into the bumper. The in-bed plugin is handy, but not required.)

    Plug in camper's umbilical cord
    (Link to in-bed connector on Amazon)
  12. Connect the emergency breakaway switch for the trailer brakes in the hellish but unlikely event that the camper comes separated from the truck. I connect mine to a corner tie down on the truck. Others use part of the hitch. Note, it’s not a bad idea to check that the pin box end of the breakaway cable is firmly plugged into its box at this time.Plug in emergency brakeaway cable - 1Plug in emergency brakeaway cable - 2
  13. Close your tailgate.
  14. Next up is a pull test. Raise the landing gear so that the camper is just off of the ground. (Remember, your wheel chocks should still be in place.)Raise landing gear for pull testLanding gear raised for pull test
  15. In the truck, release the emergency brake and engage the trailer brakes. You’re going to attempt to pull the truck out from under the camper; remember, this requires a significant amount of throttle to overcome 2,000+ pounds of pin weight.Hold camper brakes for pull test
  16. Once you’re certain that you are properly hitched, you can fully retract the landing gear and inner legs.Raise landing gear for travel
  17. Remove the wheel chocks. (from both sides!)Remove wheel chocks
  18. Before you roll out- do a walk around! You need to do at least 1, if not 2 trips around the camper and truck. You need to check high and low. Check the roof line (specifically look at your TV antenna); check your tires; make sure all of your windows, hatches, and doors are closed and locked; double check the hitch, power cord, and breakaway cable; check as best as you can for brake lights and turn signals.(Note, some folks do their walk around after disconnecting the wheel chocks; I do it before so that I can stow my wheel chocks and ensure those hatches are closed and locked.)

A walk around is required before every departure (including rest areas, lunch stops, etc.) no matter how short of a stop.

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