The Most Common Mistake New Fifth-Wheel Owners Make 4737

Reading through our forums at RV.net, there’s a mistake that happens fairly often to new (or even very experienced) fifth-wheel owners.

The All Too Common Mistake

Imagine you’ve just driven a couple hundred miles to your destination. You’ve been in your truck for hours and have finally arrived at your campground and found the perfect spot.

After a couple cycles of forward, reverse, and some slight adjustments, you’ve positioned your fifth-wheel in the campsite. Everything is perfect.

You lower your landing gear, disconnect from the hitch, and extend your slides. You start setting up some chairs around a campfire and get dinner started.

All of a sudden you remember you need to grab something small from the local store. Maybe some drinks or sides to go along with dinner.

You make sure all the cables are disconnected between your truck and Fifth Wheel, hop in, start to pull away, then CRACK! What mistake did you make?

You forgot to lower the tailgate and the Fifth Wheel pin box dented up your tailgate pretty good. Don’t feel bad—this isn’t the first or the last time this will happen to a Fifth Wheel owner. One solution is to remove your tailgate during camping season or replace it with a model that has a V-cutout.

For a more in-depth walkthrough on how to hook up and disconnect your fifth wheel, watch the video below.

26 Comments

  1. you should not even have started the leveling process without completely removing your truck from under the hitch.. unhook and pull away. keep the same steps in the exact same sequence every time and reduce your mistakes.

    1. KT and a few others hit the nail on the head. First, always have a checklist, and stick to it. After repetition it becomes habit, no matter how old you get. And second, NEVER level your landing gear until you’ve disconnect and pulled away. I would never really on a V-Gate. Another time, but perhaps too costly for some, have your power connection moved to inside your truck bed. It’ll force you to open the tailgate. It works for me…

    2. Errr !! Goes without saying this is on the hit list as prehaps THE most important task when unhitching every time …..as its usual to park alongside the Fifth Wheel NOT in front of it ??

  2. I have a notched tailgate and still have had it catch on the fifth wheel pin! The reason, while the site itself may be level, the truck has to go down an incline in front of it. This raises the backend of the truck and bang, you come to a stop. Point is, always look in the rear view mirror and pull ahead slowly, while looking at the pin.

  3. Yep. I have a list. In the truck, in the trailer, on my phone. The same list at all 3 places. I ALWAYS do the same things religiously and in order so that I don’t do anything stupid that will ruin my trip. At least NOT on the first day. Now, hooking up to go home? That’s different. Ha, no not really.
    I spent too much on my trailer to do any damage to it before I have a dozen trips on it. So you HAVE to make a list and follow it. DONT let the wife and kids jump in line and make you lose your place. They will eventually love you for it.

  4. I agree and I do Anyone who has a CDL licence (I recomend) knows about pre check before leaving on trip, at every stop fuel or lunch post check at campground or sleep stop. Like a pilot,,,, SAFETY FIRST…….

    1. I’m confused.. if you need to totally disengage from the tow vehicle before leveling, how to you level, if one side needs to have a block underneath one tire? Hook it all back up again?

  5. It is not always possible to find a level camping spot, as a result when disconnecting my fifth wheel it will often bind up, and I will have trouble disconnecting. This can be very frustrating and embarrassing. My solution is to move the truck forward or reverse until it releases. I don’t know if this is the best way or not, any help would be appreciated.

    1. What helps on very uneven ground: if you have to put more than 3 inches of blocks under your trailer wheels try putting blocks under your truck rear wheel on the same side to help align the truck with the trailer. That little bit of alignment makes it easier to pull away from the trailer.

  6. Always makes sure your trailers wheels are have chokes before releasing the hitch. Trailer has no brakes once the power cord has been disconnected, being on a hill your trailer could start rolling from the site. Some trailers have ended ups in the lake because the tires were in choked.

  7. Hi I am new to this Rving and will be purchasing our use RV this month, we are very excited and any of these tips that you guys mentioned will be noted, a check is indeed needed so thanks for all the tips

  8. Hi I am new this Rving and we will be purchasing our used RV this month and any of these tips that you guys mentioned will be noted and greatly appreciated. Check list indeed is needed as I already started one.

  9. Can anyone tell me if any mfg. co makes a v-type tailgate with a back up camera? I hate to give that up. I’m fairly new to 5th wheeling, in fact I backed into the king pin with the tailgate up with only a little scratch, got lucky. With a v-type I would have got away with it. I didn’t follow my check list.

  10. New RVers should NOT trust GPS directions to a RV park. Look up written directions in a campground directory. Many times it will advise to not use gps directions. I’ve replaced my front ac cover too many times to trust them.

  11. Sorry Ken!! I’ve now done it three times! All in a hurry and in the rain!! Stupid, I know. Interestingly, we are on a long time pitch and need to move the ‘van to empty tanks and replenish water so I don’t connect the electrics (in the truck bed!) so don’t have that reminder. Maybe I should connect up each time!! 🙂
    By the way, I’m in Spain but from the UK, pulling a 32ft 5th wheel with a 5.7 1500 Ram!

  12. Hi just had this 5th wheel 9 weeks I want to put new carpets in what is the process Is there any dos or donts

    1. I would like info also and a check list please! I’m a single mother who just moved into a 5th wheel and I know nothing about them

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