If you know anything about RVs, you’re bound to know about the fifth wheels to some extent. They look fascinating and grab the attention of many people out there.
A massive truck pulling a camper trailer intrigues you. A lot of questions arise in your mind. Well, to answer all the unspoken and spoken queries, I have come up with an article that’s all about the fifth wheels.
Find answers to a lot of your questions, such as what is the fifth wheel? Why is it called the fifth wheel? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the fifth wheel and many more!
Let’s dig in!
Table of Contents
What is Fifth Wheel?
The fifth wheel is a camper trailer connected to the bed of a truck with the help of a hitch. The fifth wheel hitch is a flat, large plate in shape similar to that of a horseshoe. Now, a question arises in mind, how can a truck handle such massive trailers?
Well, fifth wheels support a design that allows them to carry much heavier loads as compared to regular ball hitches with the help of a very robust attachment system known as a fifth-wheel trailer hitch.
Its design is sturdier, with the front edge of the trailer extending over the rear bumper of the truck. The main point of attention is the attachment point here. Instead of attaching to the rear of the vehicle, this hitch is in the bed of the truck.
If you hire a professional to install it correctly, the weight of the trailer would be pressing down between the rear axle and the cab of the pickup.
The balanced weight distribution and pressure allows the truck to carry significantly heavier weight or a much larger trailer.
How Does It Work?
As we know, the attachment point is the truck’s bed, now let’s take a glimpse of the mechanism it supports.
The metal rail running beneath the fifth wheel hitch attaches to the frame of the truck, adding strength. Now the trailer connects to the fifth wheel hitch through a kingpin, a downward-facing pin along with a plate that rests on the top of the fifth wheel hitch plate.
The kingpin locks into the position within the hitch, so it can pivot to accommodate any movement or turns.
Why is it called the Fifth Wheel? History!
The fifth wheel gets the name from its original design.
At times, when there were horse-drawn wagons and vehicles for transportations, a horizontal wheel was forged to be placed at the rear frame structure of the cart.
This device allowed the front axle assembly to pivot in the horizontal plane, thus accommodating turning. This addition enhanced the stability and maneuverability remarkably.
The device was the fifth wheel, in addition to already present four wheels of the cart, hence the name.
In the 1850s, Edward and Charles Everett, Quincy, Illinois, patented a type of the fifth wheel, followed by Gutches’ metallic head block and fifth wheel in 1870 and Wilcox fifth wheel in 1905.
It was the same time around the early 1900s when manufacturers adapted versions of these wheels to go with the motor vehicles.
At this point, the name was accessible to everyone; thus, it carried on.
Benefits of the Fifth Wheel
Fifth wheels come with numerous benefits.
As you know, instead of being single units like a motor home, these fifth wheels are two separate entities, a towing truck, and a fifth wheel unit, joined together to accommodate numerous purposes.
Let’s discuss some of these.
The fifth wheel hitch is placed right above the axle of the truck on its bed. This placement allows an even distribution of weight on the towing vehicle.
The travel trailer is hanging at the rear of your truck bed when the fifth wheel is securely on your truck bed.
It allows you to take turns and maneuvers without any stress. Even the people in the trailer can move around comfortably due to the stable movement and steady connection.
The even spread of weight allows the trucks to carry much heavier trailers with ease.
Massive Storage Capacity
Fifth wheels are an ideal choice if you’re looking for massive storage capacity. As space generally occupied by the engine and other machinery is vacant in these trailers, it provides room for numerous alternatives.
No other vehicle offers as much room as the fifth wheel does. You are free to use this available space the way you like.
- You can use it to keep your personal belongings as much as you want.
- Moreover, you can use this space for water, fuel, and even food storage. No worries about buying the products you love along the way due to lack of space, store as much you like.
- You can also stock up the gas, so you don’t have to stop several times, just fill up the tank on your way to a long, wonderful trip.
- Another considerable benefit is a substantial sleeping capacity. The more beds you can accommodate, the more people you can entertain for a comfortable sleep. If you have a large family, this enormous sleeping capacity can be your ultimate choice.
- Do you know fifth wheelers come with large sleeping capacities often? Mostly, they use the cab above the truck bed as some sort of bedroom.
- You can also factor your fifth wheel’s extra storage capacity into having a toy hauler as part of your fifth wheel. Toy haulers are basically the campers that has garage in them. It allows you to cart around another off-roading vehicle, or a small UTV in the back of your trailers.
Cost Reduced: Maintain One Vehicle Only
It’s obvious; you can’t use your recreational vehicle to move around your hometown. You need to have another car to help you manage your local endeavors.
Of course, having two cars is expensive. You need to maintain the two, the gas requirements, repair costs, and a lot more.
When you have a fifth wheel, you don’t need to invest in a second vehicle. Just detach the trailer, park it somewhere safe and use your truck as the second vehicle you need for regular use.
It means you don’t need to maintain two cars and ultimately save both time and money.
Disadvantages of Fifth Wheel
Although fifth wheelers come with a variety of benefits, there are some shortcomings as well. Let’s discuss some of these.
Need a Tow Vehicle
Buying a truck is only beneficial if you enjoy driving the vehicle if you bought it only to haul your trailer, investing in a motorhome may be a better option for you.
You don’t want to spend a fortune buying a truck that would be parked along with your trailer until you plan to go on a vacation. It’s an ideal investment for those who can drive it regularly.
Moreover, you must know if you’re planning to haul a massive trailer with your truck, you can’t just buy any regular vehicle. ‘The heavier the trailer, the larger the truck,’ it’s as simple as that.
Generally, for 7000 pounds of weight, you should invest in a medium-duty truck. However, you plan on investing in an even bigger and heavier trailer; you may need to get a one-ton vehicle.
Separate Driving and Living Compartments
One of the significant advantages of recreational vehicles is the family time you have while being on a long road trip. Well, with the fifth wheels, this element is entirely missing.
The driving compartment and the living compartments are completely separate. If you seek quality time while travelling with your whole family, then fifth wheelers may not be a suitable option for you.
You won’t be able to indulge in casual discussions or taste the food cooking in the RV’s kitchen, immediately or even ask for a bottle of water unless you stop and access the travel trailer.
Moreover, switching seats with your partner while you go along the road is not possible in a fifth wheeler. It’s a luxury only motor homes offer.
You would require taking breaks for food and any other business while you drive a fifth wheel, which is obviously not very time-efficient if you are off to a very long route.
Massive Storage Area for Safe Parking
The extra-large space you enjoy while on your vacations eventually demands the same back fro you. When not in use, you have to park your camper somewhere safe.
Now we know, arranging a place big enough for such a large vehicle is not easy. Even if you manage to arrange such a spot for your camper, another issue arises.
This difficulty is towing it to the desired location and park in such a position, which would be easy for you to detach and attach the fifth wheel back later.
Considering the cab takes way more space than any other regular hitch. Motorhomes being single pieces are comparatively easy to manage.
If you think storing your fifth wheel is something you can’t manage. I would suggest you look for alternatives that suit your requirements and resources.
Fifth wheels are fascinating with many qualities. You now know why it is called the fifth wheel and how it works?
You may find yourself attracted to invest in these due to the massive storage capacity and other benefits it offers. However, I would recommend you take your time, analyze your requirements, evaluate your resources, and then decide to invest.
On the other hand, you can always rent the vehicle and hit the road if you don’t want to buy it.