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Average First Timer 5th Wheel Purchase

Mr.& Mrs. Gene Anybody, Gene age 56 and Mary 52. Gene an electrician engineer takes an early retirement offer.  Mary owns a small business and maintains the household.  Mary and Gene have raised two children and have 4 grandchildren.  They decide to sell their home of 40 years to one of their grown children and proceed to go full time RVing in a 5th wheel with their existing pickup truck. A 2004- ¾ ton 4×4 Short Bed heavy duty rated to tow over 13,000 pound 5th wheel trailers.

They visit 5 different 5th wheel RV dealers and settle on a trailer based only on the couple’s floor plans options.  They take for granted or assume that the trailers are manufactured for safely towing for their floor plan.  They also ended up with a local dealer of over 35 years in one location.  Gene spends two days trying to lower the price of the 38′ 2 axle 3 slide trailer with a 8″ extended king pin for short bed trucks. The dealer states the trailer G.T.W. (Gross Trailer Weight) 11,225 pounds empty and Gene figures loaded 13,000 pounds G.T.W. leaving 1,775 for personnel contents. Gene double-checked with the truck manufactures recommendations less than 13,000 pounds.

Gene states to the RV sales man (Rob) that he wants to get the best 5th wheel hitch on the market as he knows he is close to overloading the truck.  Asking Rob if he needs to buy a dually 3500 with an 8′ bed as his existing 5th wheel towing uncle recommended.  Rob states that the existing 3/4 ton truck was designed by the manufacturer to tow this trailer and he sells him a rigid standard double swivel 18K slider hitch for $1,300.00 that the dealer installs.

Gene and Mary are outfitted and pick up the trailer totally hitched when they arrive to drive their new portable castle.  Functions of the operations of trailer accessories are briefly demonstrated. So they go to the home of 40 years and load the portable castle with their personnel items. They live in Michigan and plan to tow to Arizona for the winter.  They get on the interstate and drive the speed limit 65 mph. Because of road conditions and normal road issues, the truck and trailer are bouncing and jerking side-to-side, up-and-down, forward-to-back.  Gene tries to maintain his speed while other vehicles, including many 18-wheelers, are passing him causing him to move all over the road.  Mary is uneasy and feels a motion sick along with some white knuckles.  Gene has been gripping the steering wheel with both hand and has tightened his grip and also has white knuckles. They tow 6 hours and pull off at a campground exit very tired.  They pay the fee to camp and proceed to their camping space. Gene knows he was sold a slider hitch and decides to set it before he backs into the space. He reads the instructions for the slider and it takes him 5 times getting out of vehicle to operate the slider for the parking maneuver. Half an hour later they are backed into a camping spot and set up. Gene needs to go to the store and tries to disconnect the trailer/truck, but the coupler is jammed.  He decides to leave it coupled and they spend the night.

The next morning he talks to a neighbor (Bill) about not uncoupling.  Bill shows him the trick to uncouple and the truck and trailer are now uncoupled.  They spend 1/2 day at campground, Gene backs the truck up to the trailer to couple after several attempts, and four times in and out of the truck, he thinks he is connected. Gene prepares the trailer jacks and contents. Gene and Mary gets into the truck and they go to pull off and they hear a loud crash and find out that the trailer did not couple. After Gene and Mary get out of the truck they find the trailer kingpin and slammed down on the truck bed. The trailer has come in contact with the truck bed sides and damaged the trailer and truck. Neighbor Bill heard the crash comes running over to help.  After correctly hitching up, Bill states he has done the same thing 6 months ago and it cost him $3,095 to fix his truck and trailer, which the insurance company paid for, but he had to wait on truck and trailer for 3 weeks.  Gene also has to get in and out of truck to operate slider hitch and Bill tells him he has an extended king pin on his trailer and he does not need to use the slider. Gene tells Bill that the dealer said that he needed both the kingpin extension and slider if he had to back into a space and needed to get the truck and trailer at a 90-degree angle to get into the space. Bills tells Gene that he should never get his truck and trailer into that position because the trailer will be turning at a 90 degree and the tires could be forced off the rim.

Gene and Mary decide to head back home and get the trailer and truck fixed and then thinks what they want to do now that they have had their first real experience.  They decide after the rough ride home to consider selling both truck and trailer and buy a motorhome.  They go back to RV trailer dealer and they have it estimated.  For repairs to trailer it costs $2,680.00 and 4 weeks to repair and $1,400 for repairs to the truck.  They look at motor homes to trade truck and trailer and discovered a $150,000 difference!  They go to their sons home disgusted.  They then decide to get on the internet and check out some of the forums and other potential solutions to their problems.

What Went Wrong:

Now let’s take a look at the different things that should have been done or mistakes that were made: (The following articles have been published in back issues of our Newsletter. Use the link to review the newsletter with that article.) This document contains a copy of the articles noted below.

  • Before going to your RV dealer research information for the correct tow vehicle.
  • Did not get basic 5th wheel information before going to dealers.
  • Paid $1,300 for a slider hitch they did not need.
  • Under estimated the weight of the contents of the trailer.
  • Did not research towing articles and forums to find out from other people what the real issues were?
  • If you are considering full-time towing look into medium duty trucks and truck conversions
  • Internet search for Positive Locking 5th Wheel Hitches using Holland-Binkley head assemblies.
  • To get a smoother and safer ride look for a omni-directional controlling 5th wheel.
  • Check out on-line forums to get the opinion of other people who have experience.