Comparing 5th wheel hitches

Discussion in 'RV Tips & Tricks' started by binsjohn, Dec 15, 2003.

  1. binsjohn

    binsjohn New Member

    I just bought an '04 Silverado 2500 HD CC SB with Duramax/Allison and tow package. My wife and I are shopping for a 28 to 33 foot 5th wheel and have no experience with the different hitches available. Some of the interesting info I've seen on the web talks about "air ride" hitches, a PullRite that is supposed to make a TT behave like a 5th wheel, and slider hitches.

    I would appreciate any help I can get in choosing the best hitch out there. I realize that the hitch can make the difference in safety, convenience and wear on the truck and trailer.

    Thanks
     
  2. hertig

    hertig Senior Member

    Comparing 5th wheel hitches

    A 5th wheel hitch mounts in the bed of your truck. The first question to ask is, is your truck a long bed or a short bed? If a shortbed, you may need some form of 'sliding' hitch to allow for sharp turns without the trailer impacting the cab of the truck.

    If practical, I'd get an 'under the bed' mount rather than a rail system. Even the the rail system does mostly free up the bed, they still do get in the way of other usages of the truck, and they don't play at all nicely with bed liners.

    Air Ride hitches appear to offer some degree of better ride/more longevity, but the ones I have seen are very pricey, over $3000. They are more complex than regular hitches and may need more maintenance, and possibly are harder to remove to allow usage of the truck bed for other purposes than pulling the trailer.

    The PullRite trailer hitch is of no concern if you are getting a 5th wheel. If you are getting a 'travel trailer', the 'opposite' of a 5th wheel, then it would be one of your best choices.

    Any major brand (Reese, Lil Rocker etc) should be adequate, although if I had to get a hitch today, I'd pay special attention to the PullRite 5th wheel hitch, which claims to have the tightest tolerance of any hitch. This would reduce the obnoxious 'start up clunk'. Also, if practical, get a hitch which rocks from side to side as well as front and back. This should greatly ease hookup of the trailer when it is at a side to side angle to the truck.
     
  3. binsjohn

    binsjohn New Member

    Comparing 5th wheel hitches

    Thanks, John. My truck is a short bed. A salesman at Lazydays in FL told me today that I can put a Reese slider in the truck and replace the hitch pin on the 5th wheel with an air bag type. Together they would give me the clearance and improved ride while decreasing wear on the truck and trailer. Does this sound like a good idea to you and do you know makes the air bag?
     
  4. hertig

    hertig Senior Member

    Comparing 5th wheel hitches

    The Reese slider is as good as any manual slider, and I believe only costs about $100 more than the non sliding version (in fact you can even switch between slider and non-slider without much difficulty). Keep in mind that to use it, you would need to stop, get out, unlock the slider, pull the truck forward a foot, stop, get out, lock the slider, make your turn, stop, get out, unlock the slider, reverse the truck a foot, stop, get out, lock the slider and then you can drive off. If your hitch pin is the 'extended' type (sticks out in front of the trailer) you may not have to do that very often with a little care :)

    I've seen a slider which is motor controlled from the cab, but it was mucho dinero ($4000-$5000). Pullright make an 'automatic' slider which slides as the trailer turns. Strictly mechanical, it is much cheaper (probably under $2000), BUT, if you ever unhook with the truck significantly not in line with the trailer, it may be difficult to impossible to hook back up... Also, it requires mounting a plate on the hitch pin, an additional step.

    I think I've seen a sliding air hitch, but its probably even more money than the already pricy air hitch.

    I don't know who makes the air pin, but I know that Camping World sells it. So go to a nearby store, order their catalog or check them out online. I don't have any experiance with the air pin, but they appear much less involved than the hitch so perhaps won't be as effective. Also, I'd have some concerns that its installation might be weaker in the critical pin box/trailer frame interface, which is subject to lots of stress. This is definitely something for an expert to install!!! One you can trust to be there if it goes wrong and the trailer is damaged...

    In either case, it is likely that you will at a minimum have to regularly top off the air in either the hitch or pin. I've got the same air bags in my old truck's suspension and they lose significant air over a relatively short period of time.

    Personally, I don't know that I'd be worried about damage to the truck from running without either an air hitch or an air pin. Aside from the going over those *@(#$ speed bumps, I haven't noticed any particular stress being put on either the trailer or the truck. The damage I would worry about is twisting torque on the trailer frame from a hitch with does not rock side to side any. I added the side to side lockout on my Reese 16K, so I can go either way (rocking or non-rocking). Perhaps a better investment than an air hitch/pin might be shocks for the trailer.
     
  5. binsjohn

    binsjohn New Member

    Comparing 5th wheel hitches

    I spoke with Trailair, http://www.trailair.com, the manufacturer of an air bag hitch pin as well as air suspension. They said they supply their systems to some OEM coach companies for use as standard equipment or an option. Cost if you buy the components from directtly from Trailair is $895-$995 for the hitch pin and about $1100 for the suspension, with a $100 discount if you buy them both. Since two of the coach mfrs I am considering, Holiday Rambler and Forest River, are among Trailair's users, I intend to contact them both for their opinions. I'd definitely prefer that the coach manufacturer install and take responsibility for performance and reliability.

    Based on your concerns about being able to reattach with the automatice cam, I will probably buy the manual Reese slider. I will buy a trailer with an extended hitch pin, so I won't have to jump in and out of the truck unless I'm in a really tight spot.
     

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