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Old 05-05-2012, 02:46 PM   #1
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What tows better: TT vs. 5er?

This could be a HOT issue, but I'm really curious since I've never pulled a 5er. Here is why I ask:

I drive a tractor trailer and find that the combination always handles better when the weight is biased heavy on the tractor. Fully loaded, on a 5 axle combination, weight limits will dictate that the tractor will be heavier. But given the opportunity, I load the front heavy and the rear light. Maxed out it works out to 58/42 with a 2 axle trailer and in Canada, about 49/51 with a tridem.

IMO: The more the trailer outweighs the truck, the worse the handling gets.

With my van and TT, I keep this in mind and load the front heavy, even filling the water tank because a heavier tongue weight means a heavier tow vehicle. Coincidentally it too works out to a 58/42 split and handles great.

But when I look at the GVW's of 5th wheels and 20-25% hitch weights, I'm guessing the trailer ends up quite a bit heavier than the average tow vehicle. So I assume the handling is worse.

What say you?

(sorry for the long post)
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:15 PM   #2
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I never pulled a TT but I have driven a tractor trailer and once owned a 5th wheel and I thought the 5th wheel handled very well. I have talked to people that pulled a TT without the sway and weight control on it and said that there was a lot of swing and sway on the road.
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:27 PM   #3
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If you set up the trailer properly with a good weight distributing hitch and sway control, the trailer will tow fine. We pulled a 35' triple axle Avion (silver) with our 1 ton dually and never any issues. We used a Reese Dual Cam straightline hitch. As for wind bothering the travel trailer, it was never an issue.

A 5er can reach 14,000 to 18,000# with pin weights in excess of 3000#. If you have the correct truck, it will easily handle such a 5er. The F350/3500 or F450/4500 series truck is not bother by the heavier trailers.

My truck actually rides better with the heavier 5er than the lighter travel trailer. You assumption on the heavier traielrs simply is not true. as long as you have the correctly equipped truck.

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Old 05-05-2012, 03:27 PM   #4
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The fifth wheel handles a lot better then a TT. Before we went to a MH I use to travel a lot to Southern Calif with our fifth wheels and the fw handled a lot better in the Santa Ana winds. Even with 18 wheelers passing you the fw is a cake walk compared to a TT. Even though you drive a tractor/trailer and can back her up easy, the FW is a whole new ball game. That would be the only thing I can think of where the TT would come out on top.
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:35 PM   #5
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I've seen lots of travel trailers wrecked in the median after falling victim to a bout of sway. I've been towing 5th wheels for many years and have never had one even offer to begin swaying. Unless the travel trailer is equipped with a complex hitch arrangement such as the Hensley Arrow (or its equivalents), my money is going to be on the 5th wheel as the more stable trailer.

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Old 05-05-2012, 03:37 PM   #6
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Being that I drive everything on a regular basis towing a 5th is the easiest for sure.
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:40 PM   #7
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Maybe the fact that an E350 van is such a tank compared to other vehicles pulling TT's us the reason my combination feels so steady.


So what is the weight distribution TV/FW on y'alls set ups anyways?
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:49 PM   #8
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I think a 5th wheel will almost always be more inherently stable than a TT because when the towed vehicle exerts a force on the tow vehicle that force is applied at the rear axle instead of several feet behind the rear of the vehicle, giving the TT much more leverage to upset handling or affect directional stability.
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Old 05-05-2012, 04:03 PM   #9
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Smiler: you're hitting where my thinking is on this. Leverage certainly must be a factor in input from the trailer onto to TV, but so is the gravity of the 2 vehicles in the combination. 58% of a combination can't easily be pushed around by 42% of the same combination without a lot of external help.
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Old 05-05-2012, 04:25 PM   #10
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I have pulled both. My vote goes to the 5th wheel. In fact I feel a little safer pulling a 5th wheel than driving my Motorhome. But just my opinion.
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobsbeatter View Post
Smiler: you're hitting where my thinking is on this. Leverage certainly must be a factor in input from the trailer onto to TV, but so is the gravity of the 2 vehicles in the combination. 58% of a combination can't easily be pushed around by 42% of the same combination without a lot of external help.
Well it's true that the more capable the tow vehicle the better, and it may be ideal to have the tow vehicle heavier than the towed unit, but the question isn't what is theoretically ideal, it's what is necessary to do the job with an acceptable degree of reliability and safety. And practical experience would seem to bear out that if one stays reasonably close to the manufacturer's tow ratings (even though in the RV world those ratings frequently allow a vehicle to tow a load heavier than the vehicle itself) then that standard will be met.
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RustyJC View Post
I've seen lots of travel trailers wrecked in the median after falling victim to a bout of sway.
Where have you seen all these wrecked trailers? We travel quite a bit and we've yet to see even one.

I don't disagree with 5th wheels being more stable, but I have yet to see any TTs in the ditch. We use a WDH and anti-sway bars and have no problems at all with our TT. Those that do wreck may not have their TT loaded correctly and have none of these bars. I have seen some TTs going down the road with the front much higher than the rear. Others with the rear higher than the front, pulling down the rear of the TV.

But when the person towing doesn't know any better we can't blame the TT.

If we ever decide to go larger, we'll most likely get a 5th wheel.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtjoe View Post
The fifth wheel handles a lot better then a TT.
True only if the TT is hooked up with a cheap hitch. By "cheap" I mean less than $1,000, such as the normal Reese, Curt, Valley, DrawTite or other brands of weight distributing hitch with sway control. Click on the following link for a (relatively) cheap TT hitch on the upper end of that category. Reese Strait-Line that Ken mentioned, rated 1,500 pounds max hitch weight, which you need for a 10,000 pound TT with 15% hitch weight. Cost about $600 from this source:
Strait-Line Weight Distribution w Sway Control - Trunnion Bar - 15,000 lbs GTW, 1,500 lbs TW Reese Weight Distribution RP66130

But if you invest in a Hensley Arrow or ProPride hitch, the TT will tow just as good as any 5er. And I've heard that Pullrite also makes an expensive TT hitch that is as good as the Arrow and ProPride. Click on the following link for the ProPride, and notice it's a lot more than $600.
Trailer Sway Control Hitch Guaranteed to Eliminate Trailer Sway - ProPride 3P
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:03 PM   #14
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Actually, I'm just using an El Cheapo DSP 1000# WD hitch, no anti sway extras. I think they retail for about $300. Maybe the fact that the van weighs more empty than the trailer does loaded, has something to do with the stability.
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