A 5th wheel hitch is a truck bed hitch that couples to the kingpin of a 5th wheel trailer. Metal jaws or a locking bar secure the kingpin, and a pivoting head plate on the hitch provides the necessary movement to tow the trailer smoothly.The term fifth wheel comes from a similar coupling used on four-wheel horse-drawn carriages and wagons. A wheel would be placed on the rear frame section of the truck, which at the time had only four wheels, making the additional wheel the “fifth wheel“. So, here everything is explained on how to install the 5th wheel hitch in your truck bed.
How to install the 5th wheel hitch? To Install a 5th wheel hitch remove the spare tire, measuring where bolt holes need to be drilled, drill into the truck bed, assemble the 5th wheel hitch, measure the trailer height, install bolts and torque hardware.
Here is a guide that we have curated for you to let you know the entire process of 5th wheel hitch installation. You should follow the specific instructions for assembly when mounting your own 5th wheel hitch.
Tools required to install the 5th wheel hitch in your truck bed
- Socket Set
- Crescent Wrench
- Drill with drill bits
- Torque wrench
Steps to install the 5th wheel hitch
1. Remove the spare tire
The first step to install the fifth wheel hitch involves removing the spare tire. If you want to install a 5th wheel with brackets and base rails, then you need to go to the underbelly of your truck bed. Hence, at first you have to remove the spare tire to give yourself more space.
If required, you may also need to remove a heat shield or other components throughout the process of removing. However, you need to follow the instructions that suits your specific hitch.
2. Locate the front base rail
Then you have to place the base rail that is closest to the truck cab into position. To do this you need to measure the correct distance from the front of the truck bed; the distance varies between long-bed and short-bed pickup trucks. Follow the instructions for exact measurements. Then centre the base rail between the wheel wells.
3. Mark the drill locations
After you place the base rail properly, find the bolt-hole locations for the rail and mark them with the help of a paint pen.
Then, mark just one of the drill locations using a centre punch. The centre-punch will mark exactly where you need to drill; this will also save you time from searching the drill point during the drilling. Then, drill a pilot hole down through the marked drill location.
4. Check the pilot hole under the bed
Temporarily locate the required under-bed 5th wheel bracket, with respect to the pilot-hole location that you have drilled.
If the bracket and the pilot-hole line up correctly with each other, then drill the remaining bolt holes. Follow the previous procedure of marking them with a paint pen, moving the base rail out of the way, center-punching the drill locations and drilling down from above the truck bed.
5. Enlarge the bolt hole
Drill out the pilot holes until they become large enough to adjust to the bolts of the 5th wheel rails using a step bit. You can do this process by drilling very carefully. After you have finished drilling the holes to proper size, use a touch-up paint to protect any exposed metal edges to protect it from corrosion. Smoothen out the drilled holes to apply the paint.
6. Bolt in the under-bed brackets
Locate the under-bed brackets on each side of the truck bed that is installed from the wheel well opening. Then place the appropriate brackets into position and secure them to the frame of the truck with the nuts and bolts provided. Then, secure the other brackets on the opposite side of the truck.
7. Bolt the 5th wheel rail
Place the base rail again in the truck bed over the appropriate bolt-hole locations. If the truck features bed rails in the bottom of the truck bed, it may have spacers. You need to place the spacers under the 5th wheel rails, between the truck bed rails so that you get a consistent metal-to-metal contact.
After placing the rails in position, insert the bolts through the holes and fasten them with nuts provided underneath the truck bed.
8. Measurement of the 5th wheel hitch height
You need to install the 5th wheel hitch at the correct height that accommodates your truck bed. The minimum height difference between your truck bed walls and the trailer should be 5-1/2″. Park the trailer at surface level and measure from the ground to the underside of the kingpin plate. Then measure the distance from the ground level to open tailgate of your truck.
9. Attaching the 5th wheel legs
The next step will be to attach the 5th wheel legs. After measuring the height, locate the correct mounting holes on your 5th wheel hitch head, which can accommodate the necessary height.
Most 5th wheel hitches come with a range of vertical adjustment. Now place the legs onto the head and fasten them in proper place, using the bolts provided.
In some case, you may need to remove the head plate to have access to the leg bolt holes. You can turn the head upside down to follow this process.
If you have a short bed truck, you can use a 5th wheel slider.
10. Placing the second (rear) 5th wheel rail
After you assemble the 5th wheel hitch, you can now locate the position of the rear base rail. You can take someone’s help to lift the 5th wheel hitch into place, while installing the legs into the base rail that you have already installed.
Then, position the second base rail with the help of leg anchors on the 5th wheel hitch as a reference for the correct location.
11. Drilling holes for the rear base rail
Before marking the drill locations for the second base rail, the rail should be in centre of the truck bed, between the wheel wells while marking the drill location for the rear base rail.
Mark the drill points using a paint pen. Make center-punch while moving the rail out of the way and drill pilot holes. Enlarge the holes slowly with the help of a step bit so that it adjusts properly to the rail bolt size. Use the touch-up paint on the bolt holes to prevent corrosion.
12. Bolt the rear base rail
Place the second 5th wheel rail again and insert the included bolts through the holes that you just drilled in your truck bed. The bolts should pass through the rail, the truck bed and the under-bed brackets already installed.
Fasten the bolts by installing the nuts from underneath the truck bed, exactly in the same way that you follow for the first base rail. If there are spacers, ensure that you have secured them properly.
13. Installing the remaining bolts
There may be some supplemental bolts to be installed in both rails, which will provide great security and strength. To secure them, make center-punch using the rail as a guide. Then follow the same procedure of drilling the pilot holes. Enlarge the holes using a step bit to accommodate to the bolt size.
Insert the appropriate bolts and fasten them underneath the truck bed.
14. Torque all hardware
After you install the base rails properly, you need to tighten the bolts with the help of a torque wrench. Torque values may vary depending on the bolt size.
You need a 100-foot-pound torque wrench for the 5th wheel hardware. You can rent this wrench from the nearest automotive store instead of purchasing a new one.
15. Reinstalling the 5th wheel hitch
Finally, lift the 5th wheel hitch assembly back into its place, bending it into the fully installed base rails. You can torque the hardware if you have not done it yet. Make sure you have installed all the other hardware properly.
The More Related Queries
Can I install a fifth wheel hitch without professional support?
Yes, you can install most fifth wheel hitches without professional help if you have the required tools. The tools you need include a ratchet, socket set, crescent wrench, drill with drill bits and a torque wrench. However, you need to read the instructions for your brackets, rails and hitch model thoroughly before you plan to install them on your own.
How long will it take to install a fifth wheel hitch?
Installation of fifth wheel hitch depends on your level of expertise. If you are an expert, it will take you about 1 hr to install the fifth wheel hitch, which may go up to 2.5 hrs if you are just learning how to install a fifth wheel hitch.
Typically, it takes 40 to 90 minutes to install the custom brackets, where as assembling the fifth wheel will take around 15 to 30 minutes. If you are using a roller or slider, it may take an extra 20 to 40 minutes.
Where should I place a fifth wheel hitch?
A fifth wheel hitch should be installed in a truck bed, placed between the wheel wells and mounted directly above or in front of the rear axle. You can disassemble and remove a fifth wheel hitch from the truck bed base rails that you can store in your garage, shop or shed.
What is the cost to install a 5th wheel hitch?
You can expect to spend anywhere from $70 to $250 for a professional 5th wheel hitch installation. The cost depends on the hourly labor rate and the components that you need to install on your truck.
It may cost you lower if custom brackets and a basic 5th wheel hitch have to be installed. If you need more complex 5th wheel components, then it may cost you a few more bucks. If you want the professional 5th wheel install within your budget then you can call a local installer.
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