Guide to Safely Tow a Fifth Wheel

It can be intimidating to tow an RV, whether it’s your first time or you’ve been at it for years. In particular, fifth wheels are often more overwhelming than traditional RVs. These trailers are taller, heavier and require much more precision to keep yourself and others on the road safe. To help you prepare to tow a fifth wheel, we’ll answer your basic questions and provide tips to tow safely.

What is a Fifth Wheel?

The largest and most luxurious towable RV on the market is the fifth wheel! They’re named for their hitches, known as fifth wheel hitches, which are secured in the bed of a pickup truck. These heavy-duty hitches allow fifth wheel campers to be much larger and heavier and provide additional stability on the road.

You can spot a fifth wheel by the front piece that extends over the truck bed, which includes the king pin. People often choose a fifth wheel over a similarly spacious Class A motorhome because they can easily detach from your vehicle at the campsite without sacrificing any interior space.

Advice for Towing Fifth Wheels & Other Large RVs

Know Your Limits

Never overload the weight limits on your truck or RV. Make sure that your vehicle can tow a fifth wheel that’s weighed down with all your items inside. You can get an idea of whether or not you’re good to go by considering the dry weight of your camper compared to the tow rating of your vehicle. In general, you should keep your truck’s tow rating in mind when you’re shopping for fifth wheels. You definitely want to stay away from campers that will exceed the weight limit when fully packed and outfitted for a trip.

A fifth wheel trailer and campsite in the woods.

Additionally, you will need to keep height in mind if you plan to tow a fifth wheel. The king pin section of your fifth wheel that’s connected over the truck bed will be taller than your vehicle. This means that any low bridges or underpasses are a no-go. Make sure you plan a route that’s safe for the extra height added by the fifth wheel.  

Practice First

Just like when you first learned to drive a car, you should practice driving with your fifth wheel before you head out on a long trip. We recommend an empty parking lot where you can get a feel for the added weight on your vehicle and begin to understand how the camper will affect your driving. You can also use the space to practice those extra-wide turns you’ll need to take when you tow a fifth wheel.

Park with a Partner

The easiest way to maneuver your RV, travel trailer or fifth wheel, is with the help of a second person. Plan out the easiest way to communicate before your partner gets out of the car. We recommend a phone call – it’s often easier to hear each other on the phone than to shout over the truck’s engine.

A second person will make parking your fifth wheel much easier. Plus, the last thing you’ll want to do is get back in your truck and adjust after you’ve parked. Your partner can help direct you into the perfect spot. Just make sure to have plenty of patience!

Consider Outside Influences

Wind and altitude are two important conditions to consider before you tow a fifth wheel. First off, you should avoid towing your fifth wheel if winds reach 30 miles per hour or more. Strong winds can threaten the stability of your setup, especially with the height and weight that comes along with a fifth wheel. Fighting the wind can also quickly drain your gas tank as your truck has to work harder to move forward. If you have to tow a fifth wheel in strong winds, you should definitely plan more stops to re-fuel than normal.

Mountain vacationers should also think about altitude. Higher altitudes increase stress on your vehicle’s engine and transmission. As you gain altitude, your truck’s engine power decreases. And as the engine power drops, the stress on your transmission increases. You can help decrease stress on your transmission by lowering the weight of your camper, learning how to downshift and follow other high-altitude towing recommendations.

While it can be intimidating to hitch up to a fifth wheel for the first time, a little practice will go a long way! Whether you need advice on which camper will work for you, or you’ve found your dream fifth wheel online and are ready to buy, Scenic RV Centers can help! Shop new and used fifth wheels for sale from the comfort of your home on our website! Then, visit our locations in Slinger and Baraboo, Wisconsin, when you’re ready to take a tour.

Ready for a New RV?

Shop new and used RVs at Scenic RV Centers! Our team will help you find the perfect travel trailer, fifth wheel or toy hauler for your family. Stop in at one of our two Wisconsin RV dealerships, or start by browsing our inventory online today.