Everything you always wanted to know when it comes to 5th (fifth) wheel hitches and hitch installations – well, at least everything I’ve learned…
I got a new truck! More about that in a separate post (coming soon.) With my new truck came an important decision…
My old truck had a 10+ year old 5th wheel hitch, it was originally designed to be a manual slider (I’ll explain later) for a short bed truck. I decided it was time for a NEW hitch for the NEW (long bed) truck. What follows is what I’ve learned in the past few days…
Order your truck (if buying new) with the “puck system” – good idea or NOT?
Answer: NOT! First, my Ford dealer took care of this decision for me before the truck ever arrived. Allow me to explain…
I made a special order for my truck on May 25, 2021, I took possession on April 16, 2022 (just under 11 months!)… errrr… THAT is just how things work in our nation at this time! (And…in my post about the truck, I’ll tell you why it was ONLY 11 months.)
Between my order and arrival dates, the General Manager at the Ford dealer made a decision on my behalf – and this started my learning curve – he deleted the “5th wheel prep package” from my order which would have included under the bed rails to which a “4 legged hitch” could securely attach very quickly and easily to the frame of my truck – BUT – there are drawbacks that I’ve since learned about and I’m glad he opted to delete that package from my truck order.
Why the General Manager “kicked” my 5th wheel hitch prep order
He was simply acting out of expediency as he was told by Ford corporate that I would never receive my truck if that option remained in my order! The simple reason is that Reese (and Curt) – the makers the under-bed rails that would typically be installed before the truck’s bed is attached to make the puck system did not have ample supply to sell to Ford to build into the truck during assembly. The end result? The G.M. deleted the puck option.
Getting a fifth wheel hitch – back to the drawing board…
This turn of events led me to have a serious conversation with a local RV dealer here in Vernal, Utah. When I visited with them, I had the good fortune to speak with both Brant and Kiley who are co-owners of Esquire RV, located right here on the main drag in Vernal, actually less than 1/2 mile from Fossil Valley RV Park – my current “home on the road.”
I’m going to tell you at the outset, that just from conversations with both of these gentlemen, I have STRONG confidence in their knowledge base and professionalism when it comes to hitch installs and Rhino linings (another option that Ford “kicked” when the 5th wheel prep was unable to be done by Ford at the factory.)
Why I’m GLAD that Ford was unable to deliver on their 5th wheel prep package that would have included the Puck System…
While the the Puck System (available for all 3 big truck manufacturers – Ford, GM, Ram/Dodge) is “plug and play”, it has two significant drawbacks. First, it is only rated to 24 or 26000 pounds towing capacity (depending upon whether the Curt or Reese system is installed AND assuming you only make use of the puck system.) While this may sound like plenty for most rv’ers (my trailer is a solid 15000 pounds), it may not be if your needs change OR if you sell it and the next buyer has different needs. For example, pulling a horse trailer or utility trailer can create loads of up to 30,000 pounds. While the truck can handle this, if the puck system is used, it will exceed the capacity stated by Reese and Curt and if there is a failure, warranty claims will be declined. Second, the system I will next detail is far more versatile.
When it comes to 5th wheel hitch installations – a better approach…
In my conversations with Brant, I learned that a turnover ball in the center of the bed is a better approach. The turnover ball is a B&W product because it provides greater versatility AND B&W will warranty the system to whatever the limits are of the hitch attached to it. For example, if you install a 30k hitch, you’re covered up to a 30k trailer, well beyond the limits placed by Curt and Reese on their puck systems (they’re the only two manufacturers who provide the rail systems used in the puck system.) Further, I am told (and I’ve heard this from many in the industry whom I trust, including Brant) that B&W has exceptional customer service and goes “all out” to ensure that any end-user issues are addressed.
So… the decision was made, Esquire RV of Vernal would do the entire installation: a B&W turnover ball, B&W fifth wheel companion hitch, Rhino lining spray (to protect the truck bed) and a 7-pin “in bed” plug. What follows is “how everything went”…
Esquire RV – follow my installation…
The turnover ball is installed by drilling a hole in the center of the truck’s bed, and mounting rails underneath (without removing the bed) to secure it to the frame. Once done, the process is simple – remove the turnover ball, and install a B&W hitch OR an Andersen Hitch made to connect to the turnover ball opening – once installed the hitch is now secured to the frame.
Images detailing the installation – hover over image to pause slideshow…
Esquire RV Hitch and Rhino Lining Prep
31-the install continues - setting the height
33-adding the control arm
34-a b&w companion
Favored 5th wheel hitches…
Why B&W or Andersen? Andersen appears to be the clear leader (in popularity) in the 5th wheel hitch world. They make a very good quality product and the base weighs less than 40 pounds and is easily removed to regain full access to your truck bed. If you plan on removing the hitch to gain full access, the Andersen is a great choice.
The B&W in contrast is “solid meat.” The B&W Companion is heavy, well built. For me, since I do not plan to remove the hitch (though it CAN be done save for the weight of this beast), I like the mechanism for attaching the 5th wheel better than the Andersen.
A note on Curt and Pullrite
Please note in the prior section I only spoke of B&W and Andersen. You may be asking what about Curt & Pullrite – they make 5th wheel hitches as well…
Curt used to be a great hitch manufacturer. Recently, they were acquired by Lippert (LCI) Industries and as a result my confidence in their product has dropped precipitously. In short, Lippert is “meh.”
Pullrite gained notoriety 20 years ago when they produced the first sliding hitch for short bed trucks, and while they do make a superior product (at a very high price), they do not yet have a solution that works with the turnover ball.
Esquire RV sprayed in the Rhino lining. It is similar in cost to what Ford would have charged me, but frankly better in quality (check Rhino’s reviews.) They then installed the B&W turnover ball then the B&W companion.
A final note on Esquire and whomever you choose to do the work
Having been in the RV business myself and seen how some (many? MOST??) RV service centers work, I was VERY pleased to find a RV shop that cares about what they do – I’m confident about that with Esquire RV. After all, I’m entrusting to them a brand new truck that cost me nearly $80,000. and my HOME (now of nearly 5 years) as I continue to travel in my Glacier Peak 5th wheel.
My point being – it MATTERS whom you choose to do this type of work! I can tell you that Vernal, Utah, is a nice small town very much worth visiting and Fossil Valley RV Park has VERY reasonable monthly rates if you want Esquire to do the work.
Further, Vernal is just under 3 hours east of the Salt Lake City “metro” region, and if I were looking for a shop to do this type of work, I can tell you that without hesitation, I’d drive a few hours to get here! Heck, if you’re near Denver, I’d even consider the trip here if you can’t find a shop in Denver metro that you trust to take care of you like a small town dealer will – especially one who understands their reputation is built upon taking care of every customer and exceeding their expectations.
Will a turnover ball work in a short bed truck?
Some folks feel the long (8 ft) bed is too much truck for their needs (I disagree), and instead opt for a 6 1/2 ft (short) bed truck. This choice in truck will necessitate a “sliding hitch” (I strongly recommend an auto-slider) and yes it will work with the turnover ball system) so that when you back up, the front cap of the 5th wheel doesn’t make contact with the cab of your truck. (If it does, I guarantee you won’t like the results!) Andersen has their own solution for short bed trucks – its a 9 inch offset that enables you to use their hitch with a short bed. The Andersen, while not my favorite, is still a workable solution and is the least expensive option for either a long or short bed truck.
As to short bed trucks, some believe the shorter truck (by 18 inches) is easier to handle and park, frankly, they’re ALL beasts – but – they’re the only viable tool available if you own a 5th wheel!
A note for those who are JUST starting out searching for a RV camper (or looking to make a change from their current camper)…
I offer a Concierge RV Buying and Selling Service where I apply my years of knowledge to work with you as your “guide by your side” and Concierge who “has your back” to ensure you get the RIGHT RV for your needs, at the best possible price. Think I may offer just what you need? Check my service HERE and be sure to check my reviews at the end of that post.
If you enjoy my content, please subscribe below to be notified of future posts – including thoughts on buying a truck, RV traveler destinations, and much more…