When you get serious about camping, the fifth wheel is a natural choice. These versatile RVs often have the features and space of a large Class A motorhome, but also come in at a price range closer to a travel trailer. But if you’re new to the practice, towing a fifth wheel can be somewhat complex. It’s best to come into your first fifth wheel towing experience with some knowledge, which is why we here at Athens RV designed this brief guide.
Read on to learn some helpful tips and tricks for towing a fifth wheel, and when you’re ready to take a look at new models for yourself, stop by Athens RV in Athens, Texas. We’re just a short drive from Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Longview, Tyler, Fort Worth, Houston, and Dallas!
Before you ever head out with your fifth wheel, you should check a few basic elements to make sure your tow vehicle and trailer are ready to hit the road. Being totally sure about these basic elements of vehicle safety will greatly reduce the chance of mechanical problem when you’re on the road.
Tire pressure might be the single most important element of preparation for towing. This is because the huge amount of weight that is added by a trailer will greatly increase the chance that your tires blow out. If they are evenly inflated and the weight in your trailer is evenly distributed, a blowout will be much less likely.
Like tires, lug nuts are extremely important. One or two lug nuts slipping off can lead to a series of problems that could result in an entire wheel flying off—not a good outcome. You can make sure your lug nuts aren’t getting too loose by marking their positions with a mark from a paint pen. Or you can check their tension with a torque wrench.
From running lights to turn signals and brake lights, the lights on your trailer help make your trailer much more safe for other drivers on the road. Before you head out, make sure the wiring harness is firmly connected and double check each light to make sure it’s working. Replace dim bulbs, too.
Many fifth wheels come with independent braking systems that are controlled by a lever in the cab of the tow vehicle. As you start rolling out for your trip, slowly engage these brakes to make sure they work and that they pull evenly from side to side. If one side pulls hard, you know that the other side probably isn’t engaging and needs to be worked on by a professional.
A fifth wheel adds a great deal of height, length, and weight to your tow vehicle. For this reason, mirrors become even more important than they are normally. Every turn when towing requires glancing in the mirror to make sure the trailer won’t hit anything, and since you won’t have the benefit of your rear view mirror, reversing is done entirely through the side mirrors. If you need bigger mirrors or mirrors that extend farther out, try finding a mirror extender kit made for your specific vehicle model.
Keeping your engine fluids in good shape will reward you in multiple ways. For one, it will keep your engine from failing catastrophically due to not having enough oil or overheating from a lack of coolant. But you’ll also get other benefits from staying on top of them, too. Clean motor oil will extend the life of your engine parts and it will help keep your engine running more efficiently. You’ll get better gas mileage and it will run cooler, too.
Even weight distribution is the key to keeping your trailer tires in good shape and it will also help your fifth wheel steer more predictably. The weight should be distributed evenly from left to right when you’re looking at the trailer from behind. From the side, the weight should be lumped on and just ahead of the front axle. You want about 10% of the total trailer weight to rest on the towing hitch. Not only will loading the weight slightly towards the front make the trailer steer better, it will also keep it more stable at highway speeds.
Getting ready to tow a fifth wheel for the first time? Stop by Athens RV and check out our full selection of RVs. Not only can we help you find the perfect model for your needs, we can also make sure you are fully setup with your towing vehicle to make sure you’re ready to drive when you roll off the lot. Located in Athens, Texas, we’re the home for RV sales for Nacogdoches and Lufkin, Fort Worth, Dallas, Longview, Tyler, and Houston, Texas. Give us a call today!