The Most Common Mistake New Fifth-Wheel Owners Make 11744

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.

29 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. KT: Very good point! You should never get all comfy cozy without a checklist. Pull the Tow vehicle away from the RV and make sure you are clear.

  5. 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?

      1. There is a sequence you follow! The front legs are extended just enough to lift the fifth wheel off the truck hitch (don’t forget to release the hitch prior) move your truck and then hit level all!! Done!! We use laminated directions so WE DO NOT SCREW UP!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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

  14. Here’s my checklist for those interested;
    1.Pull all valves open to drain tanks that you don’t want loaded.
    2. Unhook all cables and hoses.
    3. Thoroughly rinse the sewer hoses and drain all hoses very well before storing them. (A box with lid is a good idea to store hoses in)
    4. If you have a raised antenna always lower it.
    5. Secure all items that may fall during travel, Tv’s, pictures, dishes, food, bottles in refrigerator, etc.
    6. If you have a lock for doors, make sure all locks are in place, Refrige, slide doors, etc.
    7. Check in front of all slide outs inside the RV, make sure no items are in the closing path.
    8. Check under the slides outs on the outside of the RV to make sure there are no items in the path of the slides.
    9. Check under RV to make sure all stored items underneath are put away properly.
    10. Make sure all unwanted appliances are turned off for the trip. Lights, coffee makers. etc.
    11. If you do NOT have a converter, take all items from the refrigerator & freezer. (unless its a short trip)
    12. Lift all steps and secure properly. If you have lift steps always lock the door after lifting into place, lock all storage doors as well.
    13. Check air pressure in all tires.
    14. Check all lug nuts on all tires for tightness.
    15. KNOW YOUR TOTAL HEIGHT OF YOUR RV, DO NOT CHANCE LOW LIMBS OR BRIDGES. CANOPY’S ETC.
    16. Lower tail gate of truck.
    17. Release the locking mechanism of the hitch for landing RV into place.
    18. ALWAYS HAVE CLEAR SIGHT OF PIN AND HITCH, OR GET HELP!
    19.Make sure pin is aligned left and right and up and down with the hitch before making contact with truck hitch.
    20. Engage hitch lock, and emergency brake on truck once pin is hitched.
    21. Plug in cord, safety brake cable, double check hitch lock and safety pin in place and or carter pin etc. and chains if you have them usually on smaller campers.
    22. Make sure when retracting level jacks that you (DO NOT LIFT) the front end and damage the hitch. Pay attention here you can only retract jacks once hitched.
    23. Remove all scotches, blocks, bricks, etc. that you use for jack bases (Store in secure place)
    24. If you have a pigtail or rear rack; double check all items are secure and straps are tight, and lock pin in place. (Too many tie downs is always safer than not enough)
    25. Make sure your rear rack is not loaded so much that it blocks your tag or rear lights.
    26. Start truck engine; turn on running lights and check all lights on the RV and truck. Brakes, signal and running lights. (Check fuse if light bulbs are not working (or replace bulb, repair light socket or wiring if necessary)
    27. Once you have checked off all of these items, go back and double check everything. You may have meant to do something and got distracted. neighbors, phone, had to use restroom and forgot where you were on the list. etc.
    28. When you are ready to go, check you route, remember routes don’t account for tall trucks or RV’s
    you have to know that low items will hit your roof on your RV and may cause a lot of damage.
    29. A few safety tips for driving, Check all mirrors and adjust side mirrors a little wider than usual, to help see blind spots. When pulling onto a road make sure you have plenty of clear roadway as large loads do not accelerate fast. Give your self plenty of time before any traffic can catch up to you. When changing lanes; ease over very slowly as someone could be in your blind spot, do this very very slowly. Always double check your side mirrors and rear camera if possible. Never ever change lanes quickly. When anticipating a stop ahead let off the gas and come to a slow stop, always pay attention a mile ahead of you. When making right hand turns you MAY have to swing out to your left first to make a right turn, otherwise you will be off the road in a flash. This will help ensure you, your family and your vehicles a safer trip. I’m not perfect and I probably missed a few things, please reply and add things if you notice I missed something.
    EYAshua

  15. P.S. Close all roof vents and secure all propane tanks. I knew I forgot somethings RV’s have a lot more to look after than a camper so always double check EVERYTHING! Good luck and happy travels.

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