Picking the right fifth wheel hitch is hard enough when you’re confronted with multiple kinds of fifth wheel hitches deciding can be hard. On top of that trucks can have different types of beds or cargo area in the back of the vehicle. Luckily, a safe bet for almost all fifth wheel trailers and trucks is a sliding fifth wheel hitch.
When picking a sliding fifth wheel hitch for your truck, there are a few things to consider. Size of the truck bed, the location of the hitch, price, towing capacity, and ease of use. Generally, short bed trucks benefit more from a sliding hitch vs. full size or long bed truck beds.
What is a sliding fifth wheel hitch?
A sliding hitch is a type of hitch that is able to move or slide back and forth in the bed. Sliding hitches are only found on fifth wheel hitches and mainly used in the camping and RV industry. The reason it “slides” is to allow more room when the trailer turns. When you go into a tighter turn, the front left or right corner of the camper gets closer to the cab part of your truck. The tailgate of a truck can also get to close with the underside of the camper when turning. RED Arrow shows where a contact point can be when making a tight turn.
The advantage of a sliding hitch is that it allows the trailer to be moved away from the truck when making a tight turn. This keeps the trailer and truck away from the contact points and from causing any damage.
Types of sliding fifth wheel hitches
There are 2 options to consider when buying a sliding hitch. Both options have around the same towing capacity (automatic can do slightly more). Necessary maintenance is about the same with both options needing a considerable amount of lubrication to operate correctly.
This option involves actually getting out of your truck to set the hitch to one of two positions. One is for highway driving, better gas mileage, and better payload because it keeps the kingpin directly above the axle. The other is for backing up and moved the kingpin towards the back of the truck allowing for tighter turns.
The Manual option is much more cost-effective and has a smaller box around the unit. Since it’s manual, there are fewer things to break or fail over time. Maintenance is generally easier on this type.
Having to get out of the truck to manually release the slide lever every time can get annoying. At times I feel this can be unsafe because I’m worried if I press the gas too hard it will come off the sliding rails. It is also hard to do without another set of eyes telling you when to stop. Lastly, they are more prone to locking up or getting stuck in one of the positions.
This option does the same thing as a manual but does it while turning. When you make a tighter turn, the kingpin automatically slides towards the back of the truck. This saves time not having to get out and manually slide the hitch and lock it in place.
The drawback to this option is the price, they are much more expensive than manually sliding hitches and can require more maintenance. They need routine lubrication and if not properly maintained can lock up worse than a manual sliding hitch. Lastly, they are louder than the manual option.
Overall, my personal choice, if you have the money and can keep it lubed up and clean the ease of an automatic sliding hitch is excellent.
Sliding hitches for different truck beds
Fifth wheels are my favorite type of trailer and a great reason to buy a truck. Because you can’t tow a fifth wheel with a van or SUV. Finding the right sliding fifth wheel hitch is essential, it can save you money and even give you the most towing capacity.
Short Bed (5’8″)
A common thing I notice about campers with children is they have a crew cab (4-door) truck. This often means the truck bed is smaller to make up for that extra passenger room. While this isn’t a bad thing, It is important to consider a sliding hitch, so you don’t damage your camper.
Since the axle is closer to the cabin of the truck, the fifth wheel camper has a smaller turning radius. I highly suggest getting a sliding hitch for your truck. I recommend the automatic, but at least a manual can give you much more freedom when maneuvering a trailer.
Standard / Long Bed (6′-8′)
Standard and long beds are great at towing fifth wheels, but you may have to sacrifice extra passenger space usually. While standard and long beds can get away with a fixed fifth wheel hitch(one that does move) that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a sliding hitch still.
If your primary concern is towing the most, you can just get a fixed one and be done. If you have a long bed, a fixed fifth wheel hitch is perfect.
An essential part of your sliding fifth wheel hitch is the maintenance. As stated above keeping the hitch parts lubricated is the best way to prevent the slide from locking up and damage from occurring.
Manual sliding hitches are more prone to locking up because humans have to operate it. A problem I use to see is when the slide is free and released but when the truck moves the hitch doesn’t slide. So here are the options I found work the best, be patient and don’t just slam the gas pedal.
- Spray some lubricant on the slider bar and wait for a little.
- Bounce or rock the truck a little.
- Drop the trailer’s front stabilizers to take the weight off the slider.
Frequent questions I’ve heard
Q: Is backing up more difficult with a sliding hitch?
A: With a fixed and manual hitch, no. The automatic hitch will move slightly when turning and backing up. Often times you won’t notice it for the most part but can take a few tries to get used to it.
Q: Which slider type is easier to install?
A: Both are pretty easy to install. However, the manual is more straightforward in my opinion. First, it weighs far less than the automatic sliding hitch. Also, there is no metal box around the manual hitch so finding the screws to mount it is easier than an automatic sliding hitch.