Installing a fifth wheel hitch on your truck is simple with the proper tools and the following steps. First determine your truck’s load capacity. There is usually about a 20% leeway for trailer weight to avoid putting too much stress on your truck’s suspension. After you’ve verified that your tow vehicle is capable of carrying the weight of your new fifth wheel, you’ll need to install a in the bed of your truck. A DIY installation will do more than just save you money, it will give you a greater understanding of the mechanics of your rig too. Here’s how to install a fifth wheel hitch yourself:
You can find fifth wheel hitch installation kits designed specifically for your tow vehicle, and these would be preferred over universal kits as they often allow you to complete the installation without having to drill any new holes into your tow vehicle and simplifies the project. Common popular 5th wheel hitch brands we would recommend include Husky, Reese and Curt. Regardless of which hitch kit you purchase, you should always check with your manufacturer installation instructions to find out where exactly in the truck bed your fifth wheel hitch should be installed. Generally, it will be positioned so that your trailer weight sits between the truck’s cab and rear axle. In other words, for optimal towing and proper load distribution, your hitch should be as close as possible to the center of your truck bed. For long beds, measurements should be 56 inches back from the cab, and for a short bed, the measurements should be 36 inches back from the cab.
Installing the Rails
You should never install your rail kit over a plastic bed liner. However, if your truck bed has a sprayed-in liner, you are okay to install. The rail kit is essentially the foundation of your hitch. Once you’ve determined where your rails should be positioned, depending on the year of your truck, you’ll want to drill your bolts and attach your brackets in order to secure the rails to the frame of your truck. Newer trucks often come with holes pre-drilled into the bed. Use spacers between the rails and the bed to prevent any damage to your truck once the rails are tightened down. Once your rails are anchored into the frame, you’ll be ready to install the hitch.
Installing Your Hitch
Following your manufacturer’s instructions, assemble your fifth wheel hitch on top of your rails. Line up the hitch with your front and rear rails and attach it using the hardware and bolts included in your kit. The last step is to torque the bolts so that they are firmly secure. All of your hardware will come in your installation kit.
Completing the Installation
Now that your fifth wheel hitch is properly fastened into your truck bed, you can now install a brake controller harness. This mechanism allows you to engage your RV's electrical braking system either in proportion to the truck’s brake engagement, or slightly delayed. Without a brake controller harness, you will have difficulty coming to a complete stop when necessary. An extender might be necessary to achieve this step.
Once you are satisfied and confident with your installation, you are free to attach your RV’s king pin into the coupler on your fifth wheel hitch. When done properly, you should encounter a smooth ride without any jerking or scraping. Have you ever installed a fifth wheel hitch by yourself before? Let us know if you’d do it again, or if you’d recommend leaving it up to the professionals.