Earlier this year, my family decided we wanted to buy a new camper. We began considering the purchase of a fifth wheel; however, the question arose of whether or not the hitch could be removed from our truck.
So, are fifth wheel hitches removable?While many hitches are removable, the rails required to hold the hitch in place often remain. However, companies have designed some newer hitches that when removed do not obstruct the bed of the truck.
While considering the installation of a fifth wheel hitch, we learned of the many different types and ways one can be installed. To decide which one to choose, one must consider how they plan to use the bed of their truck when the hitch is NOT in place since the style will determine how much room is left when the hitch is removed.
Differences in Styles of Fifth Wheel Hitches
At first glance of purchasing a fifth wheel, one might think there is only one style or type for installation. However, this is not true. In fact, there are most notably two different styles that allow for the complete or limited use of the truck bed when the hitch is detached.
The most common fifth wheel hitches require the installation of what is called “bed rails.” These rails are what hold the hitch in a safe, sturdy position for towing use. The rails themselves are installed perpendicular to the bed itself and go directly into the frame of the truck.
The hitch itself is attached to these bed rails with “pins.” These pins are able to be removed so that the rather large hitch is not always obstructing the use of the truck’s bed. Once the hitch is removed, the bed rails still remain and cause a slight disruption of space. If you use your truck bed to haul large flat objects, this design may not be for you. While the rails are not as obtrusive as the larger hitch, they do make it so that the truck bed is no longer flat.
The second style that I came across offered a more ergonomic design and came from the B&W Trailer Company. They offer a product called the “Companion” which utilizes an under-bed system.
This system attaches the bed rails underneath the bed and allows for the truck’s bed to be completely empty when the hitch is removed. This creates a more desirable design since you can still use your truck just as you had before the installation of your hitch.
If you don’t specifically want the completely clear truck bed, the design you choose may not matter as much. The design decision may,
Removability Versus Price
Each design of hitch comes at a different price. Depending on how much of the hitch you want to remain in the bed of your truck after the hitch has been removed, your hitch can come anywhere between 200 to 2000 dollars.
The more common in bed rail hitches can range anywhere from 300 to 500 dollars. These prices may or may not include the price of the bed rail kit, which can be up to another 200 to 300 dollars.
For a cheaper price you can get a fifth wheel hitch that partially removes, but does leaves the pesky bed rails behind.
With the basic design, your fifth wheel hitch can add up to anywhere between 500 to 800 dollars, not including the cost of installation.
The sleeker design of the B&W Companion does come at a loftier price. This hitch (depending on the model and where you buy it from) can range anywhere upwards of 800 to 1800 dollars. Once again this price does not include the cost of installing the hitch.
If you are certain you want a fifth wheel hitch that when removed leaves the bed of the truck completely empty, the more expensive hitch may be the way to go.
How to Install A Hitch
Once you have decided which style of hitch you want to put in your truck, you then can decide HOW you want it to be installed.
Many car dealerships, camper lots, or trailer companies offer the installation of fifth wheel hitches. While commissioning one of these companies to complete the installation is the easiest option, many hitches are designed so that you can install them yourself.
However, before installing the hitch yourself there are some things to consider:
- Is your truck designed to haul the amount of weight you are planning to haul?
- The information on how much your vehicle can handle is often found in the owner’s manual and may even offer some more detailed information on the specific installation of a hitch for that model. It is very important to know this information since a hitch is directly attached to the frame of the truck and overworking it can cause damage to the entire structure.
- Obtain an installation or bed rail kit
- There are different kinds of kits that aid in the installation of fifth wheel hitches, to best secure your hitch in place, look for one that is made for your exact model of vehicle. If you can not find one of these they do offer universal kits; however, these kits may require more demanding ways of installation. For example, universal kits may ask you to drill holes into the frame or to even weld brackets to it.
- Remove any bed liner from the truck bed
- Many of us have plastic liners in the beds of our truck to protect it from scrapes and dents that may occur from hauling certain items. However, these liners can cause a looseness between the rails and the frame. Since the rails hold your hitch- and inevitably your camper/trailer- in place, you want to ensure that it is attached as securely as possible. For this reason, removing the bed rail is the SAFEST option.
- Luckily, spray on bed liners will NOT affect the durability of your hitching system since the liner is in fact “part” of the bed itself. You will NOT need to remove a spray on bed liner to install a fifth wheel hitch.
If you are not confident in your ability to safely and properly install the fifth wheel hitch, it may be the right idea to call in a local professional to do the work for you. This process will cost a little more, but for that extra price, you can have the peace of mind, that the installation was done correctly.
Why the Rails are NOT Removable
If you are considering purchasing the in bed rail hitch, and just removing the rails when you want to use the bed, let me tell you why NOT to.
As I stated before, the bed rails attach DIRECTLY to the frame of your truck. These brackets are then tightened to the specifically needed torque to hold your trailer firmly in place. The untightening and retightening of these bolts and brackets will weaken the structure and cause your bed rails to break. Which is NOT a scenario one would want while driving down the road. As well as causing damage to the mounting structure, one would not want to cause any damage to the vehicle’s frame with this unsafe, “money saving” idea.
If you think you will EVER want to have a perfectly empty truck bed, take into great consideration the under bed rail kit. These rails will not need to be removed to give complete access to the truck bed and therefore is a much safer option than choosing to remove and re-install the rails repeatedly.
Do I ever have to replace my fifth wheel hitch? If your hitch endures any extreme damage while in use, seriously consider replacing the system with a new one as a safety precaution. Be sure to also watch for the appearance of any rust as this may weaken the structure and be unsafe. Other than that you should be set for a long time camping and having fun with your fifth wheel!
What is the difference between a gooseneck and a fifth wheel hitch? A gooseneck hitch is similar in installation to a fifth wheel hitch. The main difference is that a gooseneck hitch connects to the trailer with a call and coupler; meanwhile, a fifth wheel utilizes a hinged plate to connect the truck and trailer. This system is similar to that of a semi-truck’s hitching system.