How Fifth Wheel Safety Systems Work

Most fifth wheel safety systems are adjustable, so it should be easy to find one that will fit over your setup. See more truck pictures.
Steve Shepard/istockphoto

A fifth wheel setup is a great way to go RVing or tow heavy trailers. Fifth wheels can haul heavier loads than traditional hitch setups, and because the trailer can pivot, turning is a lot easier too. Instead of being hitched to the back of the tow vehicle, fifth wheel setups are attached with a coupling pin on the front of the trailer and fifth wheel at the rear of the towing vehicle. The fifth wheel is shaped like a horseshoe, and gets its name from the fact that it turns like a wheel (that's what makes fifth wheel setups more maneuverable than a simple towing trailer). But just like with other towing setups, fifth wheels have unique safety concerns.

The most common safety issue with fifth wheels is dropping the trailer. Often, after hooking the trailer to the truck, people will forget to latch the coupling pin. When the truck starts to move, the trailer comes free of the fifth wheel and falls into the bed of the truck, causing major damage to both it and the trailer. The trailer could also fall into the road.

Advertisement

Fifth wheel safety systems combat this problem by providing foolproof protection. Most are simple devices that prevent the coupling pin (or "king pin") from slipping out. These towing accessories are key pieces of equipment that can greatly enhance towing safety. Keep reading to find out how to install and use fifth wheel safety systems.

 

Installing and Using Fifth Wheel Safety Systems

Fifth wheel systems can haul heavier loads than traditional hitch setups.
Fifth wheel systems can haul heavier loads than traditional hitch setups.
Sebastian Iovannitti/istockphoto

Installing a fifth wheel safety system is a fairly straightforward process. Most fit over the existing fifth wheel setup. Though specifics vary, most fifth wheel safety systems consist of a mounting bracket that fits over the fifth wheel on the tow vehicle, crossbars that go over the fifth wheel but allow the trailer coupling to mount the wheel, and some sort of mechanism to prevent the king pin from coming loose. In some cases, that mechanism is a door that opens only one way (to allow installation) and stays shut, holding the pin in place. In others, the mechanism catches the king pin before it comes loose.

To install a fifth wheel safety system, you first need to find one that fits over your setup. Luckily, most safety systems are adjustable. Since the safety systems fit over the existing fifth wheel hitch setup, you don't have to drill into the truck bed. You simply have to mount the safety system and bolt it into place. Installation shouldn't take very long or require tools beyond a basic set of wrenches.

Advertisement

The nice thing about most fifth wheel safety systems, in contrast to other towing accessories, is that once they're installed, they don't require any extra steps to use. Once the safety system is mounted, you can hitch up your trailer and use it normally. That's the beauty of these systems: they're so foolproof that they don't even change how you attach your trailer to your truck.

Still, as with all towing safety systems, you can't rely on fifth wheel safety systems to do all the work for you. Once the safety system is installed, you'll still need to inspect all of your trailer's and fifth wheel's components -- including the safety system. Also, just because the safety system will catch the king pin doesn't mean that you can forget about latching it securely into place. You still need to latch the king pin normally. You should also inspect your fifth wheel safety system every time you tow something, and observe all towing safety rules every time you're hauling something.

Go to the next page for more information about towing and fifth wheel safety systems.

­

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Blue Ox Bed Saver PinLock Fifth wheel safety systemhttp://www.blueox.us/Bedsaver/bedsaver.htm
  • Fifth Wheel Towing. http://www.rversonline.org/ConfHitch.html