Easily one of the most nerve-wracking parts to buying our fifth wheel was getting used to hitching and unhitching it. I had heard stories of people dropping their fifth wheel onto the bed rails of their trucks and have always had visions of death or dismemberment of important body parts while I hookup or unhook. To say I’m paranoid might be an exaggeration – but, very particular and extra cautious are probably fair.
For me, and I’m not knocking anyone’s brand of fifth wheel hitch – part of my decision for which hitch would I use came down to the type of mechanism that held the fifth wheel pin to the hitch. I went with the B&W Companion fifth wheel hitch because it has jaws that wrap around the pin. They’re not the only brand that does this, but I liked the definite visual of knowing that I was latched. Secondly, I can’t close my hitch arm to lock the pin in place unless it’s properly seated. Finally, it’s just really nice to have a completely empty bed without the hitch in place. But, this isn’t a safety concern – it’s a Doug-spastic-ness concern.
Hooking Up/Getting Hitched
First off, if my fifth wheel is parked anywhere, I am using wheel chocks. Always. They’re the first thing on when I start unhitching and the last thing off when I am hitching up to leave. You don’t want any forward or backward movement allowed when you’re hooking up to alleviate any undue stress on the front landing gear. The wheel chocks prevent that.
- Ensure wheel chocks are in place
- Ensure that rear stablizers are UP on the fifth wheel (if you have them, checking that kind of cross-stabilizers are loosened when doing so)
- If you have them, ensure that any kind of cross-stabilizers on the front landing gear are loosened
- Lower tailgate on pickup truck
- Back the pickup truck until the king pin on the camper is close to the hitch
- Using the front-landing gear, raise or lower the king pin so that it is slightly lower than the fifth wheel plate
- Open the arm/jaws on the fifth wheel hitch
- Gently back the truck up so that the king pin rides up the fifth wheel hitch and into the awaiting jaws
- You will see the handle close on its own if you are lined up right and back far enough
- Put the emergency break on
- Close the arm/jaws on the fifth wheel hitch and pin into place
- VISUALLY check that the jaws of the hitch are around the king pin
- Plug-in the power umbilical cord
- Plug-in the emergency breakaway cable
- Raise the landing gear so that they are just off of the ground (1″ or less)
- DO A PULL TEST:
- In the truck, manually activate the trailer breaks
- Take off the emergency break
- Press the gas and try to pull away from the camper
- Put the emergency break back on
- Raise the landing gear to their fully retracted position
- Close tailgate
- Remove wheel chocks & stow wheel chocks
- If needed and used, you’ll need to pull the RV forward a little to remove whatever is under the low-side tire
- Stow everything
- Do your final walk around the camper – locking doors, compartments, checking your antenna is down, etc.
Once you get to your destination, you will need to level the camper however your RV is setup. The lucky few have the fully automatic systems. They just push a button and go. For the rest of us, we have to level side by side using boards or Lynx Levelers to raise the low side. Once you’re leveled side to side, you can start the unhitching process:
- Chock the wheels (both sides)
- Lower the truck’s tailgate
- Disconnect the power umbilical cord
- Disconnect the emergency breakaway cable
- Lower your landing gear via the motor and then the inner leg
- Raise the hitch up until you see space between the fifth wheel king pin plate and the hitch coupler
- Unlatch the hitch handle, this will release the pin from the jaws
- Pull the truck forward
- Level the camper front to back using the front landing gear
In Closing & Caveats
These steps are obviously, specific to my camper and hitch. You need to modify these for your own specific setup.
Thanks for the awesome tips. I've been looking all over the place for some sort of guide on how to hitch an rv. I'm leaving on a camping trip in a few weeks, and I've got to learn how to hitch that rv before we go. I'll try out a few of your tips and see how they work, thanks.
This is a great step by step system for unhitching and hitchine a 5er. I would add that on my Reese Revolution there is a wedge that fits into the pin box and slides into the hitch to keep the trailer from turning at the hitch so that the swivel point is the aft point on the pin box where it attaches to the front of the fifth wheel. This is a precise fit and a little greese helps. Also I'd mention that I've sometimes been unable to unhitch if there was tention between the tow vehicle and the 5th wheel trailer. Then you have to back against the trailer a bit and have someone pull the handle on the hitch releasing the king pin from the hitch. The first few were very stressful but now I know exactly what needs to be done and I follow these steps every time.
I broke the skin on my fifth wheel now my trailer is hooked up and it’s turned sideways and I can’t get it unhitched what can I do to get it unhitched
I’m not sure what broke. Do you have pictures that you can show?
Can’t close the lock lever completely on the B&W Companion Hitch without the trailer hooked up
[…] up, we unhitch (here’s the process in pictures and in words). First things first, disconnect the break away cable and the trailer’s umbilical […]