Fifth wheel towing comparison to WD hitch towing?

spasm3

Active member
@Wayne posted a video about how fifth wheel hitches operate. I found it interesting, so i have to ask. How is towing now with the fifth wheel compared to when you towed with a weight distributing hitch.

I understand the physics of the hitch over the axle and the better turn radius , but whats it like? Is it markedly easier? How hard is navigating a parking lot, or for us gassers, getting in and out of gas stations? Campsite maneuvering ?
 

Wayne

Administrator
Staff member
@spasm3 great questions, which I will try to answer from my experiences towing both a bumper hitch trailer and a 5th wheel. I know @Azjeff has done both extensively, so many he will add his prospective.

A bit about my experience pulling trailers, just to give you an idea where I'm coming from. Growing up on a farm gave me to opportunity to pull many different sizes, weights, and types of trailers. The smallest trailer was probably our fuel wagon, which was a 300 gallon diesel tank mounted on a short single axle trailer. While the largest was a combination of a large four wheel drive tractor pulling two 700 bushel center dump grain wagons. The whole rig scaled at up to 140,000 pounds. Most trailers were somewhere closer to 10,000 pounds and two axles, both bumper hitch and gooseneck.

First, my thoughts on pulling our 30' Airstream, which is a bumper hitch. Most of my 30,000 miles pulling the Airstream was with the Propride anti-sway and weight distribution hitch. I pulled the Airstream without the Propride, directly on the ball. Frankly, it's scary as hell and I do not recommend it, period. Pulling the Airstream with the Propride was like the truck and trailer were a rigid unit. The Propride completely eliminates sway and it doesn't matter how much push you get from a crosswind or being passed by a semi. When you are in a cross wind or get passed by a semi, there is still energy to overcome and you WILL get pushed, but you WILL NOT sway. It may seem like that's an exaggeration, but it isn't. I'm stating this, because almost all of my miles towing the Airstream were with the Propride, which biases my view, as I never had to deal with sway.

Second, our 5th wheel hitch is a Trailersaver, which has airbads to decouple the truck and trailer vertically. This hitch makes a big difference in ride quality vs. a rigid 5th wheel hitch. Because of this, my viewpoint of ride quality is biased as most 5th wheel hitches I see are rigid.

Here is my opinion.

The good:
  • The bumper hitch trailer opens more room for cargo in the back of a truck.
  • You can use a tonneau cover with a bumper hitch, but can't with a 5th wheel. When people can't see what's in the back of your truck, they don't tend to steal it.
  • 5th wheel and gooseneck trailers do not have nearly as much tendency to sway. However, don't believe for a second that they can't sway. The faster you go, the more risk of sway.
  • The 5th wheel is much easier to hitch and unhitch.
The bad:
  • Since the hitch is on the bumper, you need a weight distribution and anti-sway hitch.
  • Connecting the trailer farther to the rear (the bumper) every bump seems to get exaggerated. Some bumps make it feel like the truck and trailer are 180 degree opposite out of bump phase with each other and are jerking each other around. We hit a few bumps that I swear the trailer lifted the back tires of the truck off the ground. The bumper hitch loses to the 5th wheel in ride quality.
  • The 5th wheel hitch removes much of the bed capacity of the truck, especially in short-bed trucks.
No difference:
  • I don't see any difference between backing a bumper hitch, 5th wheel, or gooseneck trailer. It's a trailer and you just back it up. Learn to use your mirrors and backing is simple. Really it is. :)
 

Azjeff

Active member
I had an 07 2500 Duramax and pulled a small 5th wheel and it was just rock solid pulling, you didn't even know a trailer was back there. No rocking horse and no swaying at all. We wanted a bigger trailer but things happened and we got out of camping for a few years, sold the truck and trailer.

Now we have the 3500 gas truck and a 6500lb hitch trailer. Even with the WD hitch you know a trailer is back there on uneven roads when the truck and trailer axles are out of phase (in phase?) over dips. My truck is heavier than the trailer so maybe that's why I haven't felt any sway yet with over 3k miles towing. I like having the full bed available for stuff.

Backing up is just different between the 2. With the pin over the axle I felt like I had to start the backing turn into a spot earlier than a hitch trailer because you don't get that added angle of swing from the axle back to the ball to get the trailer turning. Wayne's farm experience probably makes that all 2nd nature.

I drive at 65 on the highway and speed limit or less on secondary roads and am averaging almost exactly 10 mpg towing. We bought this truck after getting the trailer thinking we'd probably go one step bigger on the trailer for cross country travels, maybe a 5th. It's looking like we won't be going bigger (never say never) as we've been happy so far. This fall after wife retires we're planning an AZ to PA to FLA to AZ 5000+ mile road trip that will really let us know.

One issue my BIL is finding out with his 2500HD gas truck and a 32' 5th wheel is having to watch at gas stops because he has to go to the passenger car pump islands usually and the 5er is tall. Same for us but we try to hit the Love's travel centers, they usually have lots of room to maneuver.
 
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