5th Wheel and Short Bed Trucks
Nothing is more confusing than deciding the proper 5th wheel hitch when you are using a “short” truck, meaning a truck with less than an 8' bed. The concern about using a short bed is that, depending on the trailer configuration, you may have a limited turning radius, which can leave you vulnerable to a costly accident, often busting out the rear window of your truck if you turn too sharply.
A typical short bed rig will invite disaster if you attempt a sharp turn.
Short bed trucks come in 2 varieties: a 6’-4” bed like you would find with a Dodge mega cab and the standard short box of 6’-6”. About 10 years ago, RV manufacturers began installing extended king pin boxes. This improved the turning clearance in a short bed from about 70 degrees with the straight down telescoping pin box, to about 80 degrees of turning range. The newest innovation, which has become very popular (and common), is the radius front nose like the one shown here, which generally improves the turning radius in the short bed to 88 degrees or more.
5th wheel designed for short bed trucks.
Most 5th wheel dealers, as a matter of policy, will instruct new 5th wheel customers to purchase what is known as a “slider” hitch to improve the turning range. Whether you actually need a slider is a matter of debate, and depends largely on where you camp and store your trailer. Many people would like the peace of mind to know they could turn a full 90 degrees and perform a true jackknife maneuver, but this type of turn would be extremely rare for most RVers.
Slider hitches come in two varieties: manually operated and automatic. The manual slider entails releasing a lever on the hitch, pulling forward allowing the trailer to slide (usually between 8-12 inches), where it latches into place. This additional distance will give you enough extra room to make a full 90 degree turn in just about every short bed truck. It is important to note that most people will only need to release the slider hitch as they check into the RV Park, in preparation for a possible tight fit into their camping space.
Pulliam Enterprises manufacturers an automatic sliding hitch known as the Super Glide. The Super Glide works on a patented cam system that allows the hitch to progressively slide as the vehicle turns, and then return to the standard towing position. If you have an unusually short truck bed (less than 6’ 4”), or if turning clearance is your greatest towing concern, the pull rite may be a good choice and is arguably the best slider technology on the market. Three downsides to this systems are that they can be quite heavy, do not provide height adjustment, and you have to be no more than 17 degree from dead center of the hitch when you hook up.
Reese manufactures a system known as the sidewinder pin box. The sidewinder is a replacement kingpin that is equipped with a locking wedge at the point that enters the hitch. After you hook up, this wedge locks out movement at the kingpin and the entire pin box pivots at a turret located directly under the overhang of the 5th wheel. This effectively provides up to 15” of additional turning clearance, allowing 90 degree turns in virtually any short bed truck. The sidewinder works well with many hitch combinations, but I should point out the locking wedge is a universal component and will not fit as tightly in every hitch. This can create extra tolerance at the kingpin, causing the 5th wheel to shift to the side while making a turn.
Air Ride Hitch designed for a short bed
Thankfully the RV industry has caught up with the trend of short bed pick-up trucks and eliminated the need for special hitch designs in most cases. However, a few manufacturers are still making trailers that might require some turning assistance. Many of our customers will purchase a TrailerSaver air ride hitch, and evaluate the turning clearance first hand. If these customers determine they need more clearance after a close call, they purchase our SimpleSlide retro-fit and turn the fixed air ride TrailerSaver hitch into a manually operated slider, solving the problem.