Whether you bought a new truck or not, the 5th wheel hitch may be a name you’ve heard before. However, understanding how heavy duty hitches works and how it’s attached to your short bed trucks isn’t something you are not familiar with.
And that’s fine since it’s not a big part of our day-to-day routine.
Now, if you are a regular traveler or a professional transporter who is in search of how to install and use 5th Wheel Hitches, this article will be of assistance to you.
Things to make sure before installing a fifth wheel hitch
Before you begin installing fifth wheel hitches on your short bed trucks, please stop! Stop & make sure the following.
Ensure support from the manufacturer
First and foremost, you should obtain support from your truck’s manufacturer before starting your hitch installation, regardless of how much weight your short bed trucks are qualified to carry as total trailer weight and large loads such as a fifth wheel trailer. The diesel trucks on the market are equipped with the necessary power for such tasks.
Once you’ve determined that your short bed trucks are capable of towing a massive mechanical bombshell like 5th wheels, congrats! Also, make sure it matches your tongue weight.
Note: You might be able to discover the information in the customer’s manual, but if not, contact the manufacturer’s information center to double-check the details about hitching.
Make sure it’s not plastic surface
The second factor you must keep in mind while installing a 5th wheel hitch is that the back frame of your short bed trucks should be lined with a spray-on liner. On plastic surfaces, 5th wheel hitches may not hold firmly.
After confirming that, you may now purchase the 5th wheel hitches kit as well as the rails kit that will link to your short bed trucks’ body.
Purchasing the right hitch kit
Purchase a 5th wheel hitch system that is precisely made for your tow vehicle and your preferred towing capacity if at all possible. We never had any issues with CURT 16520 A16 5th Wheel Hitch.
A tailored 5th wheel hitch system will save you a lot of stress when it comes to joining two massive automobiles. If you opt for a universal hitch kit, you should expect to undertake some drilling and welding on your short bed trucks.
Because the frame of the short bed trucks may not include the holes or fastening crevices needed for your 5th wheel hitch kit, the screws will have to be welded to the truck frame to ensure a secure fit.
With a tailored 5th wheel hitch kit, you can secure the equipment to the short bed trucks with all holes in the proper locations and covers to keep dust out.
Remove any components from your way
Access to the under-belly of your short bed trucks is required to install a 5th wheel hitch with base rails and under bed brackets. To make extra space, take out the spare tire. During the process, you may need to remove a heat shield or other components.
Note: Carefully follow the directions that came with your 5th wheel hitch kit.
Gather required tools
Lastly, take note that you have all the necessary tools to install the 5th wheel hitch on your short bed trucks.
Tools you need to install a fifth wheel hitch on a short bed truck
Typical tools required to install fifth wheel hitches include-
- Measuring Tape
- Socket set
- Crescent wrench
- Drill bits
- Torque wrench
Instead of buying new tools for your hitch installation, contact your local automobile retailer to see if they rent out equipment and tools.
Install a fifth wheel hitch on a short bed truck (Step by Step)
In short, these are the steps: removing the spare tire, determining the place where drilling needs for boltholes, drilling the truck bed, constructing the 5th wheel hitch, determining the fifth wheel trailer height, putting pin box and bolt them, and torquing hardware is all steps in installing a 5th wheel hitch.
Let’s get started with the steps in detail for installing a 5th wheel hitch on your truck in the following guide.
1. Place the front base rail in the correct position
Place the base rail nearest to the truck cab in place, ensuring that the distance from the front of the truck bed is right. Whether the pickup truck is a long bed or short bed will determine less or more space in between.
Note: For specific measurements, refer to the hitch instructions. The base rail kit of the 5th wheel must also be centered in between wheel wells.
2. Drilling locations should be marked
After connecting the fifth wheel hitch plates, mark the central place in the truck’s rear frame where the side rails will be connected, and the king pin center will lie.
The center-punch will assist avoid the drill bit from wandering by indicating exactly where to drill. Drill a pilot hole through the drill locations at the end.
3. Underneath the bed, inspect the pilot hole
Position the proper under-bed 5th wheel hitch bracket in the pilot hole you just drilled for the time being. You can then drill locations where the remaining bolt holes are, if the hitch bracket lines up appropriately with the hole, or mark them for now.
Then remove the base rail out from the way, center points the drill locations, and drill them down from above the truck bed.
4. Increase the size of the bolt holes
Drill the pilot holes through drill locations until they become wide enough to receive the 5th wheel rail bolts. Remember to drill gently and thoroughly.
Note: We used touch-up paint to prevent any metal parts edges after we drilled the 5th wheel rail bolts holes to the right size. This will aid in the prevention of rust.
5. Bolt in the under bed brackets
On either side of the truck bed, place the under bed brackets. Typically, these are fitted from the opening in the wheel well. Use the nuts and bolts (comes with the pack) to secure the proper under bed brackets to the truck’s frame. Then, on the other side of the truck, secure the second bracket.
6. Bolt down the 5th wheel rail
On the truck beds, place the base rail over the correct location of the bolt hole. Spacers should be included if the truck has bed rails in the bottom.
To provide constant metal-to-metal connection, place these under the fifth wheel rails and between truck bed rails. Once the rail is in the proper position, insert the bolts into the holes in the rails and lock them with nuts below the truck bed.
Make absolutely sure that the top and bottom 5th wheel rails are exactly positioned over each other, and the rails on each side are well attached to each other with screws through the frame’s base.
7. Measure the height of the fifth wheel hitch
To accommodate your truck bed, your 5th wheel hitch must be mounted at the proper height. The height difference between your truck bed walls and the trailer must be at least 5-1/2″.
How do you determine the hitch height? First, make sure that your fifth wheel trailer is positioned on a flat surface. Then take a measurement from the floor to the king pin plate’s underside (A). Next, take a measurement from the base to the top of your truck’s open tailgate (B).
The needed height for your 5th wheel hitch is equal to A minus B.
8. Attach the 5th wheel legs
Find the suitable mounting holes on the 5th wheel hitch head to meet the appropriate height after measuring the hitch height. Most fifth wheel hitches have a vertical fit. Use the provided bolts to secure the legs to the head.
Note: To get to the leg bolt holes on some 5th wheels, you may have to detach the head plate. It may even be beneficial to insert the legs by turning the head upside-down. We needed a 5th wheel slider hitch for our short bed tow vehicles.
9. Connect the fifth wheel’s legs
After you’ve installed the 5th wheel hitch, you can readily locate the location for the second base rail or rear rail. Allow a helping hand to assist you in placing the legs of the 5th wheel hitch into the base rail you have previously installed. Then, place the rear rail in the proper spot.
10. Drill holes and bolts down the rear base rail
Keep in mind that the second foundation rail of the fifth wheel hitch should be aligned in the truck bed, between both the wheel wells, prior to marking the drill positions.
Then, using a paint pen, trace the drill sites. Then take the rail out of the way, center-punch, drill pilot holes, and follow the first rail installation instructions we’ve mentioned earlier.
Finally, under the truck bed, install the additional bolts and secure them with nuts.
11. All hardware should be torqued
It’s time to thoroughly torque the bolts after the base rails have been installed with all essential hardware.
Note: The torque values for each bolt size are listed in the installation guide that came with your hitch.
12. Install the fifth wheel hitch again
Restore the 5th wheel hitch assembly to its place, tucked between the completely installed base rails. If you’ve not already retightened the components on the hitch, now is the time to do so. Before hooking up the hitch to the tow vehicle, double-check that all required pins or other pieces are in place.
Depending on the installer’s skill and expertise, the entire process of fifth wheel hitch installation could take 4 to 6 hours. After you have finished all of the preceding stages, you’re ready to start the journey.
Also read: Towing a 5th wheel with an SUV
FAQs of 5th wheel hitch installation
Can you tow a fifth wheel with a 6.5 foot bed?
Yes, sliding hitches can be used to tow a fifth wheel with a 6.5-feet long size bed. These sorts of sliding hitches are quite the same hitches as the standard 5th wheel trailer hitches.
Can you pull a fifth wheel camper with a 5.5 foot bed?
Yes, 5.5-foot long bed trucks or short box trucks can tow a fifth wheels camper or travel trailers, but equipped with sliding hitches.
Do you need a slider hitch for a 6.5 ft bed?
No, sliding hitches aren’t required for a 6.5-foot long bed, although it is required for most short bed pickup trucks.
Also read: How to mount the 5th wheel on a flatbed truck? (step by step)
Fifth Wheel Hitch Maintenance
The importance of lubricating the fifth wheel hitch cannot be overstated when it comes to quiet rides with sharp turns. Remove the old, unclean lubricant before lubricating. Use white lithium spray lubricant or engine oil to keep parts in perfect working order.
Use white lithium spray on the links inside of the fifth wheel hitch head and high-pressure lubrication (80/90 gear lube) on the other moving joints. Lubricating the inner handle and spring coils also makes hitching easier and will give you smooth rides with tight turns.
To lube, the skid plate area of the fifth wheels, use a plastic or silicon plate or automotive-type hydraulic grease. The lubricant plates must be 10 inches long and no more than 3/16 inches thick.
Engage the jaws before each use to ensure that hitches are functioning easily. Make all of the pull pins, along with the spring holding pins, are in the right place as well as all of the hardware is securely fastened on a regular basis. And don’t forget to drive with knowledge of turning clearance & safety margin.
The fifth wheel hitch installation is complete, and you are now ready to hit the road. You can use this hitch for various purposes, so whichever one you need to use it for, make sure to take good care of it. The fifth wheel hitch installation is not difficult, if you want to install this for your truck, you’ve come to the right place.
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We are a team of 8 Hitch specialists based in Poland. Every day we fix different hitches for our clients. So we thought why not create an informational blog for the hitch users from all over the world.
So besides running our Hitch store here in Poland, we also write the hitch accessories tips and guidelines on this website. Read more about our Hitch store and services here.