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Old 08-08-2013, 04:48 AM   #1
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5th Wheel Hitching Procedure

Early last year I moved up from a pull-behind to a 5th wheel. I have a Ram 2500 "gasser" pulling a 2007 Forest River Cherokee lite. Truck and camper combo works great, most of the time I don't even notice the truck towing unless I get into a high head-wind or a hill. But I have a question about the actual hitching process, as I have been told two different ways about how to do it. I should also explain that I use one of the new Reese Sidewinder Pin boxes, that moves the pivot point from the hitch, back to the 5th wheel, allowing a more than 90 degree back-in/pull-out radius. I use this due to my truck being a short-bed and have gotten several positive comments at different campgrounds about the ability to get into really cramped sites more easily. The downside to using this type of pin box is that is uses a "key" underneath it, right behind the king pin that basically "locks" the system (when hitched) from moving. Sort of a like a wedge. However, this also makes the hitching process a little more difficult as you must hit that "key" dead-on straight for the king pin to latch properly. On more that several occasions I have had to re-align my truck while backing up. Enough blabbering, on to my question.

My method of hitching: I ensure the locking device on my release arm is "up" to allow free movement of the release arm itself, but do not pull it out (full unlocked position). While backing in, when the king pin enters the hit, I watch for the release arm to "open" about 2" and then close back around the king pin, and into the closed position. I then secure the release arm "lock" and go through the rest of the hitching up process, checking that it is properly latched, etc. This was how it was explained to me to hitch from the person I bought the 5th wheel from - doesn't mean it is right, but that was how I was "taught".

However....I have see references to hitching where it instructs to pull the release arm all the way out into the full "open" position, back in to the hitch until the king pin is all the way into the hitch, and then manually close the release arm, secure the lock, etc, etc.

Is my method wrong, and more specifically, could my method in some way damage the hitch? For me it seems natural because if if the king pin is not seated exactly to the right depth, I can visually see this from the cab of the truck, as the release arm will not be fully closed.

Thanks for any input from those "experts" who have been "pulling" for many more years that I have!
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Old 08-08-2013, 05:41 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TowAndGo View Post
However....I have see references to hitching where it instructs to pull the release arm all the way out into the full "open" position, back in to the hitch until the king pin is all the way into the hitch, and then manually close the release arm, secure the lock, etc, etc.

Is my method wrong, and more specifically, could my method in some way damage the hitch? For me it seems natural because if if the king pin is not seated exactly to the right depth, I can visually see this from the cab of the truck, as the release arm will not be fully closed.

Thanks for any input from those "experts" who have been "pulling" for many more years that I have!
Whatever works for you, this is one place where practice and routine will pay off. The important thing is the hitch is latched and locked.
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Old 08-08-2013, 06:19 AM   #3
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When you say release arm, you mean on the hitch that opens the jaws?
What hitch do you have.
If it's a standard Reese 16k, definitely leave the jaw arm closed, but just loose and unpinned. It is designed to allow the jaws to open and then close. That way, if you are on a hill or roll after putting it in P, then the jaws are still grabbing and it makes locking the arm easier. Don't lock it open, cause then you don't know if it grabbed or not.
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Old 08-08-2013, 06:34 AM   #4
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jesilvas - yes, your are correct, it is the standard Reese 16k. Thanks for your reply as what you mention confirms that I doing it correctly.
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Old 08-09-2013, 07:59 AM   #5
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one thing that helps us (DW backs the truck in to hook up while I watch/adjust the pin height) is that I put a piece of tape on both the pin box and the back side of the hitch to make it easier to line up from inside the cab. I use white tape, but you can use any color you like. The next time you are hooked up, put the tape on the hitch and pin box so that they are perfectly lined up.

Most hitches you should leave the jaws closed and back in so that they open then close around the pin. In fact my Reese 20K manual described doing just this. My new truck has the Reese Elite hitch. This hitch MUST be opened prior to backing in. When the pin "hits home" the jaws close automatically.
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Old 08-09-2013, 08:45 AM   #6
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B&W Companion 5th wheel hitch - the jaws should be OPEN during hitching. The kingpin will strike the back of the jaws, closing them and moving the release handle to the "closed" position. Visually check the jaws for a clean hitch in the kingpin groove, put the locking pin in the handle to lock it in the closed position and hook up the breakaway cable.

One thing I didn't see mentioned (perhaps I overlooked it) is to have your trailer wheels securely chocked when hitching or unhitching. When hitching, be SURE the jaws are firmly engaged and locked before unchocking.

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Old 08-09-2013, 09:19 AM   #7
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As Rusty stated...
Of course the trailer is low enough that the plate of the hitch pin slides (pushing down) on the plate of the hitch.
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Old 08-09-2013, 12:37 PM   #8
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I have a Pull Right Superglide that requires the jaws to be open. They close automatically and lock into place when hitching.
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Old 08-09-2013, 03:02 PM   #9
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We have a Reese fifth wheel hitch and you just lift the lock off the arm and back in. It automatically opens for the trailer pin to go in and latches itself. Then you push the lock back down on the arm so it can't open again.
So I believe you were taught correctly, the other brands may have different set ups.
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