Archive for the ‘hooking up a trailer’ Tag

What to Know Before You Tow a Fifth-Wheel Trailer

There’s a good chance that the computer you’re reading this article on and the food you had for breakfast this morning came off the back of a truck and that’s why the fifth-wheel hitch is so important. It is the primary link between tractor and trailer

But you don’t have to be a big rig driver to use a fifth wheel. The most common personal use fifth-wheel trailers are for recreation, including horse carriers and travel trailers, meaning plenty of people are hitching up fifth wheels every day.

Why go Fifth-Wheel?

A fifth-wheel hitch is all about optimal weight distribution.

As you add weight to a trailer hitched to the rear end of a vehicle, the front wheels will begin to lift because the rear axle acts as a pivot point. On top of that, the majority of the weight will rest on the rear suspension, increasing the risk that something will break or wear out.

Ultimately, the dynamics of your tow vehicle will be increasingly compromised as the load on your rear-mounted hitch gets heavier. With a fifth wheel, the weight that is placed on the truck is between the rear axle and the cab, eliminating the pivot point and spreading the weight evenly over all four wheels, allowing the suspension to share the load. This makes sure that the dynamics of your tow vehicle are affected less.

Another advantage to towing with a fifth wheel is the increased turning radius. The front end of the trailer sits above the truck bed helping to reduce overall length. This setup also allows you to turn the trailer up to ninety degrees and even a little more in some cases, making it easier to back up.

And once your rig is backed into its spot – whether it be a motor home or a trailer – a fifth-wheel hitch allows you to unhitch your trailer quickly and easily so you can use your tow vehicle independently.

What kind of truck do you need?

So the advantages are clear, but where do you start when looking for the appropriate tow vehicle and fifth-wheel hitch?

First, you need a truck. While a half-ton, like a Ford F-150 or Ram 1500, is enough to pull a fifth wheel, most people who spring for a trailer big enough to warrant a bed-mounted hitch will likely need at least a three-quarter-ton truck like a Ram 2500 or Ford F-250.

You want the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the truck to exceed the weight of the truck and trailer tongue weight combined, by at least 10 percent, which is a much easier rule to follow with a larger truck. Curb weight is also important, as the heavier your tow vehicle is, the better it will handle the weight. And when it comes to hauling a big fifth-wheel, the last thing you want is to feel your trailer overpowering your truck.

The configuration of the truck is also important, mainly for the bed length. An eight-foot bed, the longest you can get on any pickup, is always your best bet when pulling a fifth-wheel mounted trailer, because you need space in front of the hitch itself for the trailer overhang to clear the back window of the truck cab.

A short-bed truck is useable, but you need to take extra precautions to be sure the trailer is secure. One answer is the use of a slider hitch. This allows you to move the actual connection point of the trailer and hitch forwards and backwards. It is placed forward while the vehicle is in motion to make sure the weight is centered on the truck, and it is pushed back when you need to maneuver through a tight space to allow the front of the trailer more space to swing.

You can also install an extender on your trailer that moves the kingpin connection forward, creating more clearance for the front end of the trailer. Keep in mind that this also moves the weight of the trailer back, deteriorating the advantage of having a fifth wheel.

Time to Install

Once you have your truck and trailer matched, it’s time to install your fifth wheel. You can do it yourself, but if you buy a one-size-fits-all kit, odds are you will be doing some drilling or welding that isn’t necessary. Getting your hitch straight from the manufacturer will save you time and stress because the frame rails come with preexisting holes that are ready to accept a fifth-wheel.

Strong anchor points are the key to a solid fifth wheel. A set of brackets hook up to the frame of your pickup and act as an anchor for two hitch rails that are located in the bed. Those rails then anchor the actual fifth-wheel hitch receiver, which is fitted with a set of jaws. When hooked up, the jaws close around the kingpin on the trailer and lock it in.

Drop-in bedliners are one thing to avoid if you plan to install a fifth wheel. To fit the hitch rails in the bed, you must cut out sections of the liner. If you install them on the liner, the plastic caught between the hitch and the bed will eventually wear away, leaving you with a loose hitch connection. And even if you take the proper steps and cut the liner away, the hitch rail connecting points will be much harder to access because of the encroaching bedliner, which is sometimes left with sharp edges. If you’re going fifth-wheel, choose a bare bed or a spray-in liner and save yourself the pain later on.

Hooking Up and Hitting the Road

The hitching process is another reason to consider a fifth wheel, because in a lot of ways it is much easier than a rear-mounted hitch. First of all, you don’t necessarily need a spotter, though having a second set of eyes is always better for hooking up. By looking over your shoulder, you can clearly see the both the hitch jaws and trailer kingpin. Start by dropping your tailgate, and backing the hitch towards the pin to first determine if the two are at the right height. If they don’t match up, you may have to raise or lower your trailer using the front jacks.

Some fifth-wheel hitches can pivot front to back and side to side, which will allow you to hookup even if the angle of the truck and trailer don’t perfectly match. If yours isn’t this type of hitch, the angle of the kingpin must be lined up with the hitch receiver. The easiest way to do that is to adjust the trailer jacks individually until you find the right spot.

Before you finally make the connection, you have to make sure the jaws on the receiver are open and set to receive, which is something you can control with a long arm that comes out of the side of the hitch. If everything is correct, the last step is to back the truck up to the trailer so that the kingpin fits directly into the cradle on the hitch receiver. You should hear a loud clicking sound, indicating the jaws have grabbed the kingpin.

Before you take off, there are a few more things to remember. You must lock the jaws shut and that’s usually done with a cotter pin to keep the control arm in place. Next, almost every fifth wheel is equipped with its own brakes, so you must connect the emergency breakaway line to the hitch. It can usually be attached to the control handle and will make sure that if the hitch jaws somehow let go of the trailer, the trailer brakes will lock up and stop the unsecured load.

Next, raise up your trailer jacks to the fully retracted position, so that the front of the trailer is fully supported by the truck. Don’t forget to connect and check the trailer lights and finally, make sure you close the tailgate before you pull out.

As read on: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2014/07/know-towing-fifth-wheel.html?utm_campaign=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter

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What to Know Before you Tow!

It’s that time of year again! More trailers are on the road during the summer months than any other time of the year so making sure that your trailer is properly prepared can mean the difference between life and death for the family in the minivan behind you.

For that and so many other reasons, it’s important to take towing seriously. There are some simple rules to remember when hooking up so that your trip doesn’t end up a disaster, many of which apply from the largest car carriers down to the smallest scrap haulers.
It All Starts With Your Vehicle

First, you need a properly equipped vehicle. Just about any car on the road can be fitted with a hitch and it is important to consult the owner’s manual of your particular vehicle to find out how much it is rated to tow. Ideally, you shouldn’t be pulling more than 75 percent of the listed maximum for a safe feeling load. Hitting or exceeding the maximum weight not only puts extra strain on your vehicle, but it also makes driving more dangerous. That is why pickup trucks and SUVs are commonly used for hauling, because their heavy curb weights allow heavier loads to be controlled more easily. Powerful engines and body-on-frame construction also qualify pickups and SUVs over cars, but they aren’t essential for all hauling jobs.

There are also different types of hitch receivers ranging from class I to class V, with each designation representing how much a hitch can tow, how that particular hitch is set up and what type of specific hardware must be used. Class IV hitches are the most common and can be found on most new half-ton pickup trucks like the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500.

SAE says that a Class IV can tow up to 12,000 pounds gross-trailer weight and 1,000 pounds of tongue weight. It must use a two-inch hitch receiver opening, which has to use a five-eighths inch pin to secure the ball mount in place. The ball itself must be a minimum of 1.25-inch diameter.

Starting with the proper hardware for your hitch is essential, and getting the right size hitch ball is a big part of that. Different trailers call for hitch balls ranging from one and seven-eighths of an inch up to 2.5 inches. Making sure the ball is the right size for the receiver will ensure a safe connection between your vehicle and the trailer, but that’s only the beginning.
Even Weight is Essential

Weight distribution is one of the most important factors to consider. As you increase weight on the tongue of the trailer, the rear end of the vehicle will sink, causing the front end to lift. That puts more strain on the rear suspension and reduces contact between the front tires and the road. In turn, that means less stopping power and reduced steering ability. Tongue weight – the actual amount of downward force being put on the rear end of the tow vehicle – should be between 15 and 20 percent of the overall trailer weight, though that can be tough to measure accurately. The easy way to check for proper weight distribution is to eyeball your rig and make sure that both the vehicle and trailer are sitting flat.

There’s more than one way to combat poor weight distribution. Ideally, you want about 60 percent of the weight on the trailer to be on top of or in front of the axle, distributed evenly from side to side. If you are hauling an ATV or a snowmobile, this is easily achieved by simply moving the machine until the weight is centered. With something like a travel trailer or a load of gravel, where you can’t simply shift the weight around, there are still ways to achieve proper weight distribution.

Hitch height is an important part of this. Measure from the ground to the top of the hitch ball on both your vehicle and trailer to make sure your tow vehicle isn’t too tall, or too short for your trailer. If the two numbers are different, the difference can be addressed with a drop hitch. Some drop hitches are actually adjustable, which is an ideal setup if you plan to pull more than one trailer with the same vehicle. These adjustable setups will usually also accommodate a trailer this is taller than your tow vehicle as well, although that isn’t as common.

If your hitch height is perfect but you near the vehicle’s maximum tow rating, odds are the rear end of your vehicle will still be sagging, the solution for which is a weight-distributing hitch. This type of hitch will spread the weight on the tongue out onto the trailer axle and to the front wheels of your tow vehicle, helping to achieve a flat ride.
Slow Down

There are several rules to keep in mind while hooking up your trailer, but one reigns supreme: never rush. Taking the time to double check connections and tie downs can mean the difference between arriving safely and going to the hospital.

With that in mind, the next step to hooking up is backing your vehicle up to the trailer. You always need a spotter to guide you into position with your hitch ball sitting underneath the hitch ball housing. Once lined up, open the handle on the ball housing and drop it onto the ball using the tongue-mounted jack. Close the handle on the housing and your trailer is now hooked up. But you aren’t ready to hit the highway yet.

Always use safety chains to ensure that your trailer will remain attached even if the ball somehow becomes disconnected. The key thing to remember with these chains is to cross them. The left-mounted chain on the trailer goes to the right side hookup and vice-versa. That way, if the tongue of the trailer falls off, the chains will act as a cradle and keep it from dragging on the road.

Once the chains are on and the tongue is hitched, it’s time to connect the lights. Most modern pickups and SUVs are fitted with receivers for both four-pin and seven-pin connectors. Adapters are available to make sure you can hook up the lights if your vehicle isn’t fitted with the right connection.

Smaller trailers generally use the four-pin setup, while larger trailers tend to use seven-pin. The difference is that larger trailers usually have their own brakes.

As a side note, make sure the connector is off the ground and covered to prevent it from rusting when the trailer isn’t in use. If your connection isn’t working, try spritzing it with WD-40. Sometimes that’s enough to solve the issue.
Always Double Check

So now your trailer is properly balanced, the safety chains are on and the lights are connected. That means it’s time for a circle check.

Commercial vehicle operators are required to walk around their entire truck before driving on the highway and it’s a habit that is important for personal vehicle owners as well.

Start by double-checking all of the connections at the hitch. Then walk around the trailer looking for any problems that may arise. Specific things to watch for are tire pressure , anything loose on the trailer or debris lodged in or around the axle. Make sure to check that all of the lights functions are working properly as well. Finally, make sure that whatever it is that you are hauling is secured properly to the trailer.

And that’s it! You’re ready to haul. Whether you’re taking toys out for a weekend adventure or hauling a load of scrap to the dump, towing can be hugely helpful and even fun as long as you remember to take it seriously.

As read on: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2014/06/know-tow.html?utm_campaign=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter