Hey, Campers!

Fifth wheels and trucks are a match made in heaven, and you own both.  You’re ready for the road, right?  Not so fast.  If you’re a rookie camper like me, there are a few things you need to know before you head out on the next holiday weekend. Fifth wheels provide a great way to experience camping, but if you can’t tow yours, you’ll be camping in the backyard.  So for this installment, I’m going to spend some time talking about the ins and outs of hitches.

Keep in mind, when considering a hitch you should also consider the towing capacity of your vehicle. While a few of the less sportier vehicles on the market, e.g. mini vans, can be outfitted to tow a fifth wheel, you might want to think twice if you drive a Smart Car.

Along with vehicle tow capacity, it’s important to match the weight you’ll be pulling with the hitch you’ll use to tow.  Hitches are rated in pulling pounds, so it’s important to pick the hitch that is rated for the amount of weight you will be pulling.  This is labeled as gross trailer weight (GTW).

For this discussion, let’s assume you will be using a truck to tow your fifth wheel.  When choosing a hitch you need to factor in whether your truck bed is long or short.  A standard hitch can be used to tow with any long bed truck as long as there is sufficient cab clearance, i.e. space between the trailer and the truck cab.  If you’ll be towing with a short bed truck, however, you will need a glider hitch to compensate for the closer cab clearance.  A glider hitch allows for the trailer to glide back during sharp turns and avoid truck/trailer contact.

 

Hitch Types

This is what we do not want happening!!

Hitch Accident


When it comes to rail kits, there are a few more options.  Of course, there are pros and cons with each, so let’s compare the options.  A universal rail kit is a good entry-level option.  Some hitches even include a universal rail kit with purchase. The universal kit can work with any truck, making it easier to pick out a hitch; however, “universal” rails can be time consuming to install and cannot be removed from the truck bed.  This can in turn compromise the integrity of your truck’s frame.

Let me explain.  There are four “L” brackets that hook the rails to the frame of the truck.  These four brackets support the entire weight of the trailer, yet the brackets do not line up with the holes in the factory truck frame.  This means you will have to drill holes in the frame of the truck, compromising the factory ratings of the truck and weakening its frame.  It also hinders cargo carrying because the rails cannot be removed when not in use.

Universal Rail Kit

A second type of rail kit is the SuperBracket rail kit for PullRite Hitches.  This kit is stronger than the universal kit because it has larger brackets and does not require extensive drilling.  This kit is also truck specific because you can use existing holes in the truck frame for installation.   However, like the universal kit, this too is a fixed rail system, which means the rails stay in the bed of the truck even when not in use.

SuperBracket Kit

A third option is the SuperRail kit for PullRite hitches.  This kit is another truck specific kit, which uses the existing holes in the truck frame for installation.  It is the strongest option, as it has larger brackets and does not require extensive drilling. The kit has large spare tube bed rails, which can be removed when not in use.

If you are anything like me, the removable rail feature piqued your interest.  To install, four holes are drilled into the truck bed, not frame, and the posts go down through the bed to connect the frame rail to the bed rail.  When the kit is not in use the posts can very easily be removed to allow for the bed rails to be removed and the cargo area becomes fully available for use.

SuperRail Kit

Additionally, it is important to know that all PullRite SuperGlide hitches will require the installation of a capture plate for the hitch to function.  A QuickConnect capture plate or a Universal Capture Plate may be used.  The purpose of these plates is so when a trailer is hooked to the hitch the QuickConnect Capture Plate allows the trailer to guide the SuperGlide hitch when the vehicle is turning.

Capture Plates

The Universal Capture Plate can be used for any trailer, and although it can be time consuming to install it is relatively simple on most king pin boxes.  When the fore-to-aft dimension of the king pin box is very short, installation of extension plates to support the capture plate will be necessary.  As well, it will be necessary to install knee braces to support the leading edge of the front extension plate. Because of these necessary installations more time and effort will be required to properly complete installation.

When using the “QuickConnect” Capture Plates you will have a simpler installation and drastically reduce the time it takes for installation.  To install the new QuickConnect Capture Plate you simply slip the Plate up over the king pin and set screws to secure it to the king pin box.

Now suppose you have finally chosen the perfect hitch kit and taken the time to install it securely on your truck when you decide to upgrade.  Of course, you don’t want to change the rails in the truck, so you can look to PullRite because they have several options to help you out.

Pay attention to the label “industry standard” because this means it is designed to fit the "other guy’s" base rails. They are called industry standard base rails, because they are nearly the same as every other manufacturer’s rails.

If you have a long bed and are looking to simply upgrade your hitch you can stick with any of these “industry standard” models - Model 1900 (16K) or 2100 (18K).  If you have a short bed and are looking to upgrade to a slider to keep your truck and trailer from having clearance issues you can upgrade your slider to one of the stronger and easier to use SuperGlide models.  Try model 2700 (15K) or 2900 (18K).  These industry standard kits are nice for those who have recently purchased a used truck that has bed rails left behind from the previous owner.  Half the work of installing the kit is done.  Just drop in a new hitch and you are ready to tow.