How to Pull a 5th Wheel with a Bumper Hitch: 4 Alternatives Revealed!
If you are wondering how to pull a 5th wheel with a bumper hitch, you have to come to the right place! This idea came to many innovative gear-heads. Two major factors that come into play are the size of the trailer and the pulling capacity of the tow vehicle.
Let’s discuss the legal aspect of this, the conversion of the 5th wheel to a bumper hitch, and alternatives to bumper pull or 5th wheel towing. Let’s begin!
Pulling a 5th Wheel with Automated Safety Hitch – Steps
We have to make it clear that, if you are planning to pull a 5th wheel, it is very likely that the towing capacity may not be enough. In ideal situations use trucks with tow ratings to pull your RVs.
Follow the steps below to link your fifth-wheel camper and the bumper hitch. You should also watch this video to perfectly understand the process and preparation.
- Park your vehicle, or trailer, with a bumper hitch on a smooth, leveled surface.
- Put chocks around the wheels to make sure the trailer does not move.
- Measure the height of the trailer’s kingpin box skid plate and the height of the pickup bed of your towing vehicle from the ground.
- The difference between the trailer’s kingpin box height and of pickup bed elevated from the ground will be the hitch’s height of the fifth wheel trailer.
- Make sure that the locking mechanism is greased and does not have debris.
- Set the hinge into the linking position then back the towing vehicle/lifted truck. Precaution! Ensure that the tailgate is down and no one is around the kingpin box.
- Back the towing vehicle, till there is about 4 inches distance left from the hitch.
- Adjust the trailer jack to place the kingpin skid plate half an inch above the fifth-wheel trailer skid plate.
- Now slowly back the towing vehicle to fix the fifth wheel camper by the hitch so its jaws can clutch the trailer.
- Check the jaws if they have successfully clutched the trailer. After you are satisfied insert the safety pin to lock the jaws.
- Confirm that the handle safety linchpin is installed.
- Now connect the electrical harness of the trailer to the towing vehicle.
- Now you will attach the lanyard of an electric breakaway switch.
- After, closing the vehicle’s tailgate, and removing the chokes your truck will be ready to go.
For more details, check out this video.
Is it Illegal to Pull a 5th Wheel with a Bumper Pull?
The rule varies state-to-state. To confirm whether your state allows setup where the bumper pull drags a fifth wheel, you should call either of the following:
- Highway patrol,
- The department of motor vehicle,
- The local police office.
Some states see safety hitches towed as another vehicle. They may term the pulling as double towing. It is illegal to double tow for non-commercial use in many states.
However, you have to make sure that the brakes of both trailer and vehicle are perfect.
5th Wheel to a Bumper Pull: Is the Conversion Possible?
It is definitely possible to convert the 5th wheel into a bumper pull. Using a bumper pull adapter manufactured for this purpose can help you with the task. Let’s look at the type of adapters:
- The best one is the “Automated Safety Hitch“. It does not require you to customize its design. It is able to hook the trailer on its own. You just have to back the vehicle correctly.
- Some have three legs. The two legs are used for the stability of the trailer. To hold it straight. The third leg attaches itself to the 5th wheel and bumper pull hitch ball.
- Another adapter simply attaches one end with the 5th wheel and the other with the bumper pull.
The benefit of the Automated Safety Hitch adapter is that it is a separate vehicle. This means that is easier to make turns and reverse without the vehicle bumping and damaging.
This also gives you space to put things such as propane tanks, tools, or bulky batteries on it.
Things to Remember When Preparing to Pull the 5th Wheel
Trailers, fifth-wheel camper vans, and RVs are bulky automobiles. Moving these around is not easy. These require proper safety precautions and preparation. Please read the following before undertaking the task of pulling a 5th wheel with either a safety hitch or bumper pull.
Inspect Trailer Tires
Checking the wheels is vital! Read below on how to take care of the tires.
You should test the tire pressure to avoid wear and tear. It is a must if you have not driven the trailer in a few months. If the weather is cold, you should check the tires in 3-4 hours just to be safe.
In case the pressure is low the vehicle maneuvering can be difficult and can become the cause of an accident.
The ideal should be above one-sixteenth of an inch and below one-eight. A useful hack to check if the tread depth is correct is, by slipping a penny coin into the grooves with Lincoln’s head upside down. If the president’s head is visible you need to replace the tires.
If the tread depth is incorrect, it can cause a blowout.
Inspect the tire for smoothened spots. Check if one side has more wear than the other. If the tires are uneven, an unsafe driving situation can come up. Do not take your vehicle on the road if the tires are skewed.
Cracks and Bumps
Thoroughly check the tires for any cracks or bulging. If there is even a slight sign of rotting, cracking, or bruising, involve a professional. It is better to be safe than sorry. It is possible you would be away from home, middle of nowhere If a tire causes a problem you will be helpless.
Switch the Tires Positions
This is a tip rather than a precaution but a crucial one. If you switch the tires’ positions, it will create even wearing.
Top-Notch Tow Vehicle Maintenance
Your tow vehicle has to be in top-notch condition. It will be assigned the task to bumper pull a heavier camper hence you should:
- Change its oil to a fresh one.
- Have a new oil filter.
- Check brake pads for their remaining thickness.
- Check for the engine’s coolant level. If below the level, add more coolant.
- Having transmission fluid filled up is a good idea as well.
Match the Ball Hitch Size
Ensure that the ball size of your trailer hitch is a perfect fit for the hook of your wheel camper. Wrong sizes can cause accidents. Though there are standard sizes, measure just to be on the safe side.
Trailer Safety Chains
Purchase a set of safety chains to further secure the connection between the bumper pull camper and the tow vehicle. Connecting the chain in an “X” shape. The cross will be able to catch the trailers’ tongues in case the trailer disconnects. This will prevent tongue dragging on the road.
Ensure That Trailer Lights and Wires are Working
Switch on each light and have someone tell you if they are turning on or not. You have to check the wiring of these lights as well. Make sure they are not loose, and vulnerable to sparking by tangling up.
Use Clip-On Wider Tow Mirrors
Trailers would more likely be wider than your towing vehicle. Add clip-on mirrors to have a broader view of cargo from your sides.
Use a Larger Fuel Capacity Tank
You will be utilizing more fuel than usual. It is better to increase the size of fuel containers rather than make multiple stops as that would not be always feasible.
What is a Better Towing Option: 5th Wheel or Bumper Pull?
Basically depends upon your preference, but if you were to ask us, we would choose the fifth-wheel camper over the bumper pull. View our reasoning below.
Fifth Wheel Benefits
The reason is the fifth-wheel camper does not require any additional equipment such as safety chains, sway bars, and weight distributors. Whereas, the bumper pull does.
Backing up is comparatively easier with the axle of the fifth-wheel camper. Although if your driving skills are good bumper pull would not be a problem either.
Bumper Pull Benefits
The benefit of the bumper trailer is that it is not as heavy as the fifth wheel. This means bumper pull can allow less towing capacity than a fifth-wheel camper would.
About Automated Safety Hitch and Its Pros And Cons
Dragging the fifth-wheel camper in the past might have been a problem but not since the invention of the automated safety hitch. Its benefits are numerous but it does come with a few flaws. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons:
- The safety hitch creates additional towing stability for the tow vehicle.
- Easier to maneuver, especially on turns.
- Does not require other equipment such as safety chains etc.
- The hook claps on itself fifth wheel camper kingpin is pushed on it.
- It has hydraulic brakes.
- It is possible that it could be illegal in some states.
- Requires more towing capacity than a bumper pull trailer hitches.
5th Wheel Towing Not Possible? Here’s What to Do Instead
Not everyone can afford an automated safety hitch or a bumper pull. Oftentimes, there is no option to arrange one. This is why we have listed below some alternatives to fifth-wheel camper towing. Check them out!
Install Bench Seats in the Truck
If you have a large family or traveling with a group of friends, you should look into purchasing seats that can be hooked on a truck bed. Additionally, use bench seats. These will help fit in more than 6 people inside only. However, you will need to pack less to accommodate space.
Attach a Sleeper Cab in the Truck For Seating Space
You can install a sleeper cab at the back of your truck camper with the help of a professional. It will increase the passenger seating space. It will make space for the storage of coolers, daypacks, and kids.
Having said that, it can be a hefty investment so assess your need and choose accordingly.
Buy a Mini-Van or 8 Seater Truck
If your family is large or your friends like to be on the road a lot, we suggest investing in a minivan or six-door truck. It can seat 8 people easily. The driver should be an expert as these are hard to maneuver due to their huge size.
Use Two Vehicles
Go to the basics! Take two vehicles with you. Use a bumper pull to tow the fifth wheel or haul the camper with one vehicle and another one can carry luggage, food items, and other essentials while seating a few people.
Can you tow a fifth-wheel with a regular hitch?
Yes. You can tow a fifth-wheel camper with a regular hitch. Make sure there is enough towing capacity and you have an adapter to link these two.
Why is a fifth wheel better than a bumper pull?
The fifth-wheel camper is better than a bumper pull because it is easier to control and handle. It does not require additional equipment such as safety chains, weight distributors, etc. It is also simpler to back. It does not damage the vehicle by bumping into it.
Is a fifth-wheel a bumper pull?
The fifth-wheel camper and bumper pull are not the same. The fifth wheel trailer connects to the truck beds while the bumper pull trailer hitch tugs on, as the same suggests, by the bumper.
What is one disadvantage of the fifth-wheel hitch?
One disadvantage of the fifth-wheel hitch is the low tow capacity, and the truck bed space it acquires.
What is the lifespan of a fifth wheel?
The lifespan of a fifth-wheel trailer ranges from 10 to 12 years. You can further extend its life by 5 years if you take excellent care of it.
So far we have learned that in order to pull a fifth-wheel camper a heavy-duty vehicle is required. A pickup truck has sufficient tow capacity and the truck bed allows space for fifth-wheel hitches.
To convert a fifth wheel into a bumper hitch switch many adapters are available. The best one is an automated safety hitch. It provides more stability, easy maneuvering, and space for storing a few items, and its jaws clutch onto the frame of the camper perfectly.
Are you now planning to arrange a safety hitch or just using the traditional method of chains and tugging? Please share your experience with a bumper pull trailers in the comments section.
I`m a current Law Enforcement Officer working within the Counterterrorism Bureau in New York State. I have been Camping for over 20 years. My styles of camping include tent, car, truck, van, and RV travel trailer. I have a YouTube channel where I teach all types of camping with an entertaining method: https://youtube.com/@TheSmallsRVAdventures