Many RV’s these days are towed by means of a “fifth wheel”. What this actually refers to is a coupling that connects an RV, or some other trailer or pull behind, and the vehicle pulling it.
Fifth Wheels tow slightly differently than your common hitch-tow that puts all the weight on the bumper. The fifth wheel attaches further up into the body of the towing vehicle, therefore there are some tips that might help with this form of towing.
1. Don’t Rush The Trip: If you are traveling great distances, you might get the urge to put as many miles behind you as possible, and do so as quickly as you can. However, traveling about 100-200 miles per day is about the right amount to avoid fatigue and other things that might put your trip in peril. Err on the side of caution and leave early if necessary.
2. Avoid The Wind: Wind is one of the greatest enemies of anyone towing something large. It can your gas mileage to drop immensely, causing you to spend a lot more money than you should have to. Winds of more than 30 mph or more means it’s worth sitting it out and waiting until things are less windy.
3. Check Those Tires: Before any trip, make sure you check your tires for the proper pressure and any inconsistencies that might translate to trouble later on. A blow out can send your camper fishtailing all over the road and that can lead to a wreck for the more inexperienced drivers.
4. Plan In Advance: When traveling with something in tow that can be up to sixty-five feet in length, it is immensely important to have your route planned ahead, especially if there are any detours, construction or overpasses to deal with. This can shave time off your trip that might be lost if something unexpected happens concerning the size of your tow and your tow bar.
5. Mirrors Are Very Important: Mirrors are going to be your best friend when you have an RV in tow. You want mirrors that are big enough to see all the way to the back as well as down to your tires. Adding a fish eye mirror also helps when backing and maneuvering.
6. Know How Much Vehicle Weight You’re Pulling: The larger your tow, the more it’s going to weigh, and you also have to consider anything inside the RV. When the load is heavy, you absolutely cannot make jerk-type movements safely. In addition, keep in mind that even with electric brakes, your rig will not stop on a dime.
7. Practice Maneuvering: Just like learning how to drive a car before taking your license test, you must also practice driving with an RV or other large tow behind. It takes time to get use to the sheer size and weight of this new setup.
8. Use Two-Way Radios For Backing: Backing an RV or any other large tow-behind can be a tedious situation. Using a two-way radio is a great way to keep an open line of communication without the need for yelling and without the possibility of misunderstanding what is said.
9. Exhaust Pipe Routing: If you’ve never pulled an RV with a straight routed pipe, you will soon learn that the noise will become nearly unbearable. If you are pulling with a truck that runs on diesel, the line of sight will also be greatly reduced. It is best, by far, to reroute your exhaust pipes to the side of the vehicle.
10. Regularly Check Lug Bolts: Learning to check your lug bolts is a very important thing to remember. Once every hundred miles or so should work, but it doesn’t hurt to check them every time you stop for food or gasoline as well.
11. Avoid Using Overdrive: Many of today’s vehicles come equipped with automatic overdrive. However, if you are towing a fifth wheel, allowing automatic overdrive can cause the transmission to be in a constant “seek” mode, which will overheat your transmission. Lock it out when towing.
12. High Altitude and Load Lightening: When driving at high altitudes, keep in mind that gasoline engines lose 3-4% power for every 1000 feet of elevation. It is sometimes advisable to gear down if the incline is steep, and sometimes it is necessary to lighten your load to make the grade. A good way to lighten a load is getting rid of excess water storage, especially if you can get your supply back easily within the next few miles.
13. Lighting Needs: Your trailer or RV needs good lighting, but if you are traveling out of state or further, be aware of any local lighting regulations. They can differ slightly from place to place.
14. Don’t Be Afraid To Start Over: If you are trying to park or back in with your fifth wheel and find yourself completely off, don’t be afraid to pull out, drive all the way around the loop or area you are in and start all over. Sometimes a fresh start can make all the difference.
15. Know Your Weight Limit: You should know exactly what your truck or vehicle used for towing can manage. Every vehicle is different, but going over that weight limit could have disastrous effects on your transmission. Don’t forget to take into consideration anything you’ve loaded into your RV, which will add to the weight, and therefore your tow weight. An example would be that every full propane tank adds between 30-40 pounds alone.
16. Watch Your Tailgate: Before hitching up to your fifth wheel, make sure that your tailgate is down. Forgetting this one simple step can cause you to wind up with a crushed tailgate as the fifth wheel hitch smashed into it. Remembering it before you actually get started backing up will save time as well.
17. Turn With Caution: Making turns with a fifth wheel in tow can be a tricky situation. The camper or RV will track just inside the tow vehicles tracks, so be careful when cornering around tight places. Make sure you slow down, use your mirrors and use a spotter if necessary.