How much of a fifth wheel is over the truck?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How much of a fifth wheel is over the truck? We will discuss whether you can safely pull a fifth wheel with a short truck and discuss the criteria for choosing the best vehicle to tow your trailer. 

How much of a fifth wheel is over the truck?

As a general rule, you must have at least 6 inches of clearance from the bottom of your fifth-wheel trailer to the top of the truck. Fifth-wheel trailers connect to trucks with a device called a gooseneck hitch, which mounts inside the truck bed. 

A bed truck that is less than 8 feet long can tow a fifth wheel, provided a slider hitch is installed. This type of hitch prevents the trailer from hitting the back of the truck cab when manoeuvring. To compensate for the reduced swing clearance of a short bed truck, an extended bed peg is also recommended. Without this equipment, the trailer will sit too close to the cab of the truck, hitting it in sharp turns.

Can you tow a fifth-wheel trailer with a short bed truck?

It is possible to pull a 5th wheel with a short truck bed. But how short is the real question. 

Depending on the length of your truck bed, you may have a standard short bed, an extra short bed, or a long bed. We will briefly discuss the differences of each of these types before proceeding further. 

Standard Short BedThis is the most common truck variety found on the market. Most of the trucks you will find for sale will fall into this range. The length of these truck beds varies between 5 feet and 6.5 feet. The shorter truck beds in this range (those that are closer to 5 feet) are sometimes called compact trucks.
Standard Long BedThis term refers to trucks that have longer than average beds. They are typically a foot or two longer than standard short rigs and these trucks are often used primarily for heavy-duty, agricultural, or industrial use. 7 to 8 feet is the standard length range for long bed trucks.
Extra short bedExtra short box trucks are trucks with boxes less than 5 feet long. These will almost always be four-door models and are often used for recreation rather than heavy hauling.
In this regard, a truck is considered a “short box” as long as its box is less than 8 feet long. Therefore, both standard short beds and extra short beds will be included in this category. If there is a long bed that falls on the small side, you can even add those too!

Towing a fifth-wheel trailer with your truck: precautions

Towing a fifth wheel is no easy feat. You will need a large truck to pull a trailer of this type. Fifth wheels generally weigh around 2,000 pounds unloaded. 

A fifth wheel hitch works differently than the average trailer hitch. A fifth wheel hooks onto the truck bed between the cab and the rear axle, while a trailer hooks onto the tail of the truck. Because of this, the pivot point is removed in favour of weight dispersion around the rear of the truck. Since the weight is dispersed, you can potentially put more on the fifth wheel without having as much trouble.

But with more weight, you will need a bigger truck. Let’s talk about the size of the truck.

Right off the bat, we going to say that you want to have the biggest truck bed you can get. That size is eight feet. The reason we suggest an eight-foot bed in your truck is that when you mount the fifth wheel, you need room for the trailer to manoeuvre and not hit the rear window.

If you don’t have an eight-foot truck bed, it’s not the end of the world. You will have to be much more cautious. You can get a slip hitch that is a godsend because it allows you to move the trailer connection point and hitch up and down the bed of the truck.

While you can move your little house on wheels with a half-ton truck, it is not recommended. The ¾ and 1-ton trucks are highly preferred over the latter thanks in part to their sturdier construction and their ability to withstand more punishment under heavy load conditions.

Major truck makers like Dodge, Ford, and Chevy have heavy-duty versions of their smaller half-ton siblings, which are built specifically to haul and tow heavier weights like fifth-wheel campers over hundreds of miles. There’s no reason to put unnecessary pressure on a truck that wasn’t designed to have a heavy fifth-wheel trailer strapped to the rear all the time.

What is the best truck to tow a fifth-wheel trailer?

When choosing a truck to tow your fifth-wheel trailer, take into consideration the following key criteria:

  1. Towing and suspension capacity: Full-size trucks are classified based on their capacity: half-ton, three-quarter-ton, or one-ton. This indicates the weight that the suspension and frame of the truck can support in the bed. This also affects towing capacity along with engine size. The higher the towing capacity and bed capacity, the more you can safely transport and load the truck. 

However, as capacity rises, the economy is sacrificed. If you use a one-ton pickup to pull a small light trailer, the economy will be much poorer than a half-ton pickup pulling the same trailer.

  1. Power and torque: The truck’s engine is rated on horsepower and torque. The more torque, the better the low final power has, especially for braking and exiting situations. The more horsepower, the better the top end or passing power the truck will have on the open road. 

A good balance of torque and adequate power for the weight you are towing is most desirable. Diesel engines will get the most out of both, but the more horsepower and torque an engine has, the more fuel it requires. Therefore, the economy sacrifices itself for power.

  1. Fifth wheel hitches: Not all vehicles are designed to have a fifth wheel hitch installed, especially some light half-ton pickups. There are different types of hitches, and some are designed for installation on some vehicles. 

Evaluate the weight of the trailer you are towing and the type of hitch you need, and check with a local garage or dealer service department to make sure the hitch you need will fit the truck you want to buy. Don’t take the word of a salesperson on this issue. Always double-check with a store first.

The bottom line

Fifth wheels are extremely popular with RV enthusiasts due to their large floor plans and ease of towing. One drawback is the large and heavy hitch they require, which can overpower your truck bed.

As a final tip, make sure you read our other articles on how to safely tow a fifth wheel and how to install and remove the 5th wheel towing hitch. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any comments or questions on the content. 

FAQ on How much of a fifth wheel is over the truck?

Can you tow a 5th wheel with a short bed?

Yes, you can tow a 5th wheel with a short bed, but you will have to use either a slider hitch or a sidewinder hitch. You must be careful though, if you do not secure the camper properly, it may turn over. 

What is the minimum bed length for a fifth wheel?

The minimum bed length for a fifth wheel should be 8 feet. 

Can a 1/2 ton truck pull a 5th wheel camper?

Yes, a ½ ton truck could pull a 5th wheel camper, but for this type of motorhome, we would suggest going higher. 

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.

Can you hook up a 5th wheel on an angle?

Yes, you can hook up a 5th wheel trailer on an angle, as long as you take all the necessary precautions and safety tips. Still, take into consideration that hooking up the trailer at a different angle will take more time and you need to be more thorough with the process. 


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