Avoid This Costly Mistake by Having a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch

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Source: Facebook

A 5th wheel slider hitch can help you avoid making a costly mistake. While there may be sufficient space between the cab of your truck and trailer when driving straight, tight turns and maneuvering your rig can change that.

Sadly, we’ve heard of countless RVers busting out their rear window and damaging the cab supports of their truck by not using the right hitch.

We want to help you avoid making this same mistake. So today, we’ll share everything you need to know about 5th wheel slider hitches and how to use them.

A Common Short Bed Towing Issue: Breaking Your Back Window

Towing a 5th wheel requires some distance between the cab and the front of the trailer. A short bed is typically two feet less than a comparable long bed truck. This provides very little clearance between the vehicle and trailer, especially when turning or making tight maneuvers into campsites.

Because maneuvering a large 5th wheel requires keeping an eye on so many things, many drivers forget to watch the distance between the truck and trailer. This typically results in the front cap of the trailer hitting the rear window and shattering it. 

Some owners have even had the cab’s structural supports dented and damaged. Neither option is fun, and you want to avoid both scenarios.

What Is a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch?

A 5th wheel slider hitch sits on a set of rails in the bed of a truck. It can move forward and backward to provide more separation between the vehicle and trailer. The tighter the turn, the closer the truck and trailer get to each other.

If you own a short bed or regular bed truck, you’ll likely want to consider this type of hitch. It can allow you to make tighter turns and maneuvers and worry less about damaging your truck or trailer.

A slider hitch is typically more expensive and heavy but is worth the added weight and cost.

A 5th wheel sliding hitch installed in the back of a short bed truck
Source: Amazon Review

Do You Need a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch?

The greater the distance between the truck cab and the front cap of your trailer, the less likely you’ll need a 5th wheel slider hitch. If you drive a long bed truck, you’ll likely not have to worry about the distance between the two.

However, if you drive a short or regular bed truck, you’ll need to measure. More specifically, measure the distance between the middle of the jaws to the rear of the truck’s cab.

You’ll then need to measure the space between your trailer’s kingpin to one side of your trailer. You should have at least a 4-inch difference between the two measurements to avoid contact.

When in doubt, get a slider hitch. You may not need to use it often, but you’ll be glad you have it when you do.

How Does a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch Work?

There are two types of sliding 5th wheel hitches. Despite doing the same job, they complete the task differently. So let’s look at which one might be right for you.

Manual Sliding Hitch

B&W Trailer Hitches Patriot 18K Slider Fifth Wheel Hitch - RVK3270
  • Fits industry standard mounting rails
  • 12" of slide for additional turning clearance

A manual sliding hitch requires the driver to engage the sliding functionality. You’ll need to pull a handle to unlock the slides. You then apply the trailer brakes and slowly pull the truck forward until the hitch reaches the rear of the sliders.

It will then lock in place and allow you to make tighter turns without hitting your vehicle. Once you complete the turn or maneuver, you’ll need to unlock the hitch on the sliders. Then apply the trailer brakes and reverse until it slides back into the towing position.

Overall, with a manual sliding hitch, the driver must know when to use it.

Keep in Mind: When thinking about your 5th wheel hitch installation, you may wonder, “DIY or Bring in a Professional?” Click the link to learn more!

Automatic Sliding Hitch

Demco 8550034 Autoslide 18K Above-Bed Mount Fifth Wheel Hitch
  • Wrap around jaw with locking bar for a smoother, safer and more secure ride
  • No locking plate required for standard pin boxes to activate slide mechanism

An automatic sliding hitch might be better if you don’t want to remember to use it. An automatic one can recognize that the positioning has changed and will automatically slide back on the rails to increase the distance between the truck and trailer.

Once you complete the turn or maneuver, the automatic sliding hitch will return to the correct position.

An automatic sliding hitch takes the stress and effort out of your hands. You don’t have to jump out of your truck each time you need to use it. And it can save you when you underestimate a turn or aren’t keeping an eye on the distance between the truck and trailer.

Can You Use a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch in a Long Bed Truck?

The odds of needing a slider hitch when towing with a long bed truck are very low. However, if you find yourself with a sliding hitch and a long bed truck, you can still use it.

It will get the job done as long as the hitch has a capable towing capacity. So you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Pro Tip: If you do have a regular or long bed truck and don’t need a sliding hitch, here are the 5 Best 5th Wheel Hitches On The Market!

Close up of a 5th wheel slider hitch

Additional Tips When Using a 5th Wheel Slider Hitch

Having a 5th wheel slider hitch can help you avoid breaking your window, but there are a few things you should always keep in mind.

Let’s look at a few important reminders when towing your 5th wheel.

Know When to Use Your 5th Wheel Slider Hitch

The most critical factor in using a slider hitch is to know when to use it, especially if it’s a manual one.

Simply having the hitch installed in the bed of your truck isn’t enough. If you don’t engage the sliding functionality when needed, it’ll defeat the purpose of even having it.

When needed, take the time to use it correctly. It’s worth practicing beforehand to ensure you know how to engage and disengage the sliding function. You don’t want to try figuring it out for the first time when blocking traffic in the campground trying to get into your campsite.

A truck doing a 90 degree turn with their fifth wheel attached to their sliding hitch
Source: Amazon Review

Use a Spotter

Even if you have a backup camera, a second or third set of eyes is always helpful. Communicate with any spotters using cell phones or walkie-talkies so everyone is on the same page.

Never back up your rig without knowing where all the spotters are to avoid accidents or injuries!

Always Return to Towing Mode

A 5th wheel hitch places the weight of the fifth wheel over the rear axle of the tow vehicle. The weight moves behind the axle when in the maneuvering position. Once you have completed the turn or maneuver, you should return the hitch to the towing position. 

If you back into a campsite, return the hitch to the towing position before detaching your rig. Always apply the trailer brakes and do a tug test to ensure it has locked.

Keep in Mind: No matter which hitch you choose, we don’t recommend a very particular one. Read Why We Think This Is the Worst RV Hitch.

Don’t Forget to Move Gear

You may store camping gear like leveling blocks or even a generator in the bed of your truck. However, you must move these if you place them behind the hitch. If not, you risk damaging it or your camping gear when the trailer slides back on the rails. 

If you have an automatic slider hitch, you should never store items behind it to avoid potential issues. You don’t want to damage or have to replace anything.

A 5th wheel hitch installed in the back of a white RAM truck with camping accessories in the bed of the truck

Use A 5th Wheel Slider Hitch To Prevent Disaster

A 5th wheel slider hitch can save the day when backing your rig into a difficult campsite or making a tight turn. The increased cost of these hitches can pay for themselves if they help you avoid a single incident of busting out your back window.

As we said earlier, it’s better to have a slider hitch and never use it than to need one and not have it.

Do you use a 5th wheel slider hitch for your rig?

Last update on 2022-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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