Can you put a 5th wheel hitch on a flatbed?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can you put a 5th wheel hitch on a flatbed truck? We will explain the main differences between the types of hitches and also tell you how to load the 5th wheel on a flatbed. 

Can you put a 5th wheel hitch on a flatbed truck?

Yes, you can put a 5th wheel hitch on a flatbed truck. It would be a custom install, however, and we recommend that a qualified professional help you with the installation process. 

Fifth wheel trailer hitches use a centre pivot receiver and pin mounted on the bed of a heavy-duty pickup. These hitches are similar to diesel tractor-trailer drill rig combinations.  Fifth wheels and goosenecks offer better weight distribution. They are better than bumper hitches for heavy or large trailers because they offer a more level ride, improve braking control and minimize sway. 

How to tow a 5th wheel with a flatbed truck?

Fifth wheels attach to a specially designed flat hitch located above the axle in the bed of your truck. The towing and hitch take up a significant amount of space within the truck bed, so the type and size of items that can be carried in bed are limited while a fifth-wheel trailer is attached to its truck. However, that does not mean that you cannot continue to use your van to carry some items.

Here’s how you tow a 5th wheel with a flatbed truck:

  • Attach your trailer to the truck. Make sure the trailer is properly and firmly attached to the hitch.
  • Decide what items to place on the truck bed, keeping in mind that these items should be small enough and not interfere with the trailer or compact hitch. Items must be shorter than the top of the trailer when it comes to the tailgate of the truck so that they will not interfere with the ability to turn or manoeuvre the trailer.
  • Place the items on the bed of the truck. Place as close to the sides and as far away from the hitch as possible. Secure to the sides of the bed with string or using bungee cord ties. Trucks have an assortment of different loop-holes and bed locations for cargo securing, so you just have to select one and loop through the closest one. This will prevent items from falling into the hitch.

Note: There are specially designed truck bed toolboxes that are made for use while pulling a fifth-wheel trailer.

All things considered, how do you install a 5th wheel hitch to a flatbed truck?

Fifth-wheel trailers connect to the towing vehicle through a coupling found in the towing vehicle’s cargo box, unlike a travel trailer with a hitch bumper. An advantage of a fifth-wheel setup is the weight of the trailer tongue is placed on the rear axle of the towing vehicle, offering better weight distribution, control and handling. Make sure before you start that your fifth-wheel trailer is properly connected to the tow vehicle.

  1. Chock the front and rear fifth-wheel trailer tires to prevent movement during the hitch-up process. Leave the wedges in position throughout the procedure.
  1. Measure the height of the top surface of the hitch skid plate – or hitch head mounted on the rear of the towing vehicle – to the ground with a tape measure.
  1. Adjust the front trailer jacks to raise or lower the front of the trailer so that the bottom horizontal surface of the pin box on the trailer is ½ inch to one inch less than the measurement taken from a hitch skid plate on the vehicle tug.
  1. Locate the handle on the side on the driver’s side of the tow vehicle-mounted hitch. Pull the handle straight out from the hitch, then push it forward until it is locks into the slot on the side of the hitch head.
  1. Return to the towing vehicle slowly so that the hitch pin at the bottom of the trailer hitch slides into the hitch skid plate on the tow vehicle. Continue backing slowly until the pin is fully seated and the handle on the hitch side snaps back into its original position.
  1. Place the towing vehicle’s transmission in parking mode and apply the parking brake. Verify that the horizontal surface at the bottom of the trailer pin box is resting on the hitch skid plate on the tow vehicle, with no space in between. If there is a gap between the towing hitch and the skid plate, unlock the hitch handle, pull the towing vehicle forward then back and try the hitching process again. 

Push the trailer electrical cord into the receptacle near the hitch on the tow vehicle until it is fully seated.

  1. Make sure everyone is clear of the tow vehicle and trailer. Return to the tow vehicle and release the parking brake. Apply the trailer brakes using the electronic brake controller in the cab of the towing vehicle. Try to drive the tow vehicle forward to test the hitch connection. Repeat the hitching process if the towing vehicle separates from the trailer.
  1. Put a padlock in the hole in the base of the hitch handle to lock the handle in place and prevent the trailer from accidentally becoming unhooked.
  1. Testing the trailer’s turn signals and brake lights. Remove the front trailer jacks completely so that it does not drag on the ground during towing. Remove the tire chocks when you are ready to go.

Note: Failure to ensure that there is no gap between the trailer box pin and the hitch skid plate could cause the trailer to separate from the tow vehicle. This could cause serious injury or property damage.

Do not lower the fifth wheel onto the hitch using the trailer jacks, or the pin could come off the trailer hitch causing it to fall. Failure to follow all steps in the hitching process could result in death, serious injury, or property damage.

How is a 5th wheel hitch different?

Those who regularly haul heavy equipment, machinery or transport and transport vehicles often opt for the fifth and most advanced category of trailers, the 5th wheel. This type of hitch is specially designed for the beds of vans and flatbed trucks.

When a truck is too small for a hauling job, truck owners use hitches to tow trailers, boats, cars, and other heavy loads. Most hitches are organized into four categories, which are designated based on gross trailer weight and tongue weight. Tongue weight is the weight that is placed directly on the hitch. 

Here is a list of all the types of hitches and the main differences between them:

  • Class II hitches are designed for pickups and are used for light towing. Typical loads for these simple mishaps include snowmobiles, small boats and canoes, motorcycles, and small camper trailers. These hitches can’t handle up to 3,500 pounds of gross trailer weight (GTW).
  • Class III truck hitches are heavier hitches that can handle up to 5,000 pounds of gross trailer weight and 500 pounds of tongue weight. This is the approximate weight of a 24-foot boat trailer.

An example of a Class III hitch is the hitch receiver. This hitch has a removable ball mount or ball deck that has an opening even with the bumper. The size of the ball determines the amount of weight that can be towed. 

In conjunction with the receiver hitch is the weight distribution hitch, made up of two spring bars that distribute the weight of the tongue between all the trailer and trailer axles of the vehicles. Weight distribution hitches help provide sway control.

  • Class IV hitches are designed for use in full-size trucks and can handle up to 10,000 lbs. These hitches typically include mounting brackets that distribute weight evenly across the frame of the towing vehicle. This helps prevent an uneven load from being placed on the suspension or drive shaft of the towing vehicle.
  • Class V hitches also feature heavy-duty mounting brackets that distribute weight throughout the truck’s frame. These hitches are designed to pull loads over 10,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds of tongue weight. Class V hitches are used primarily for heavy loads such as cars, larger boats, horse trailers, and campers.

Final thoughts

The use of a fifth-wheel hitch varies, depending on the vehicle and the type of trailer hitched. Fifth-wheel trailers have the front end that protrudes past the body, extending over the rear bumper of the truck. It looks a lot like a cabover camper riding in the cargo bed, so be mindful before deciding to tow it on a flatbed truck!

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FAQ on Can you put a 5th wheel hitch on a flatbed?

Can a fifth wheel hitch be removed?

Yes, a fifth wheel hitch can be removed.  A fifth wheel, or gooseneck, hitch sits in the middle of the sturdy truck bed, where it can support more weight in that area. This also makes it easier to turn around tight corners. 

How does the fifth wheel hitch work?

A fifth wheel hitch l works by locking a kingpin in the lockjaw. The kingpin is similar to a hitch coupler and is attached to the semi-trailer, while the locking jaw acts as the receiver for the hitch

How do you adjust the height of a fifth wheel hitch?

It is possible to adjust the height of a fifth wheel hitch in just a few simple steps.  The hitch system between a towing vehicle and a trailer needs to be configured correctly so that the two can work together safely. The towing vehicle must be capable of supporting the weight of the trailer. 

How do I reduce the weight on my 5th wheel hitch?

To reduce the weight on your 5th wheel hitch, simply move all your luggage in the back of the trailer. If you want to increase the weight on your 5th wheel hitch, just do the contrary – move the things to the front of the trailer. 

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