I would like to ask all of the fifth wheel owners out there a question. Did you ever, or have you ever seen somebody else, drop the fifth wheel onto the bed rails of the truck while hitching or unhitching? If you've been RVing for a while you have probably seen this happen, maybe even more than once. When you're at the campground look at the other trucks that are pulling fivers and you will likely see one with damaged bed rails.
Dropping the fifth wheel can happen quickly and easily. You're distracted at the campground and forget to lower the landing gear, or you're in a hurry, forget to chock the wheels and you pull the hitch latch, or maybe you think the hitch is locked and you pull forward, and BOOM! It can happen to anyone, even the most experienced fifth wheel owner. The next time you go to an RV dealership look at their service trucks, chances are one of them will have damaged bed rails too.
When this happens it can be extremely dangerous to anybody in the immediate area. It can also cause extensive damage to your tow vehicle and fifth wheel, not to mention how embarrassing it can be when other people are watching when it happens. Costs to repair damage to the tow vehicle and fifth wheel can range from $2,000 to more than $4,000, and hopefully nobody was injured when it happened. The thought of this happening is always in the back of your mind. This causes stress and interferes with enjoying your camping experience.
So how can you prevent this from happening to you? The BedSaver, by Blue Ox, is an inexpensive safety device that prevents the fifth wheel from dropping onto the bed rails of the tow vehicle. In the event of a hitch failure, or accident, the BedSaver will catch the fifth wheel pin before any damage occurs. I like to refer to the BedSaver as an inexpensive insurance policy, or better yet, piece of
mind for any fifth wheel owner. The BedSaver is available for most fifth wheel hitches and it's easy to install using regular household tools. Once it is installed it stays on the hitch and doesn't affect normal hitching or unhitching procedures.
Using a checklist for hitching and unhitching your fifth wheel can be extremely helpful too. I am including these checklists from my "Checklists for RVers" e-book. But, don't assume that just because you use a checklist you will never experience any fifth wheel hitching problems, or make any mistakes.
Hitching a 5th Wheel
* Set the hitch plate slightly lower than the coupler head so the trailer is lifted slightly as the hitch is mated. Do this by raising or lowering the jacks on the 5th wheel.
* Open the coupler lock so the king pin can engage the jaws on the hitch plate.
* Lower the tailgate and slowly back up. Have an assistant help you align the king pin with the coupler. Back up until the pin fully engages the coupler jaws. It may be necessary for the assistant to make minor adjustments to the height of the 5th wheel.
* Close the locking mechanism and the safety latch.
* Close the tailgate.
* Raise the 5th wheel jacks slightly off the ground (1 to 2 inches). Start the truck, put it in gear and slowly let off the brake pedal. This will help you check that it is properly hitched and locked.
* Now raise the 5th wheel jacks until there is plenty of clearance from the road.
* Connect the 12-volt trailer light cord to the receptacle on the tow vehicle.
* Connect the breakaway switch lanyard to a permanent fixture on the tow vehicle.
* Remove the wheel chocks.
* Check all lights for proper operation.
* Put on extended mirrors if applicable and hit the road.
Unhitching a 5th Wheel
* Chock the trailer wheels.
* Disconnect the trailer light cord and the breakaway switch lanyard.
* Place pieces of wood or other blocking material under the jacks and drop the landing gear. Put pins in landing gear and raise the trailer until all of the weight is off of the hitch plate.
* Open the coupler lock and safety latch.
* Lower the tailgate.
* Slowly pull the tow vehicle forward. It may be necessary to raise the trailer a bit more. You should be able to see daylight between the hitch plate and the king pin box.
Fifth wheel owners have a significant investment in their tow vehicle and fifth wheel. It only makes good sense to protect your investment with something as practical and inexpensive as the BedSaver. You don't want to be the fifth wheel owner who says, "That can only happen to the other guy!" The first time the fifth wheel pin drops and the BedSaver catches it, instead of the bed rails, it will be well worth the small investment. Get some piece of mind, get a BedSaver and let the other guy worry about it.
Happy RV Learning,
RV Education 101
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