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Monday, July 13, 2020

From a 5th Wheel Hitch to a Gooseneck: A Look at Some Popular Hitches

It’s no trade secret that camping is a ton of fun and half of the time doesn’t require specialized tools to enjoy, unlike other hobbies. Sometimes, all you need to have a good time camping is a bedroll and some outdoor skills coupled with a love of learning and the ambition to figure out a way to overcome obstacles.

That’s when you’re roughing it, and although you can make camping as simple or as involved as you like, when you start to up the ante and take a camper out on the road, you will need some specialized skills as well as the knowledge to know how to use a number of different tools.
We’re not talking about tools for building fires and finding water in the wilderness, either. We’re talking about the logistics of getting your camper to and from a campsite safely and successfully.

While you can improve your camping experience by bringing along some of the comforts of home in the form of a camper, camping with one will require you to understand the systems that are in place inside of your camper as well as how to take care of it. Part of care is transportation, and for transportation, you will need the proper coupling to get your camper on and off the road and in and out of camp.

Admittedly, there are plenty of RVs that are self-propelled and thus do not require any form of coupling to move them around, but at the same time, many people choose to tow boats and other camping accessories behind their RVs. That in and of itself makes it necessary to understand some of the basic mechanics behind hitching and towing, as well as the different types of hitches out there and how to use some of them.

While it can be somewhat intimidating trying to learn on your own what each of these different types of hitches is good for, where and how they can be used, and how to work with them, there are plenty of resources out there for learners to use as they get more familiar and thus more comfortable with their equipment. Start here if you need a little introductory information on some of the many hitches that are out there, and be sure to contact us for more information. We’d be happy to help clear up any confusion on the matter and work with you to come up with a solution that works for you and your family.

5th Wheel Hitch
If you don’t know firsthand what a 5th wheel hitch is, it’s more than likely that you have seen one in operation before even if you were unaware of it. Have you ever seen a camper that was being towed by a truck and hung over the back of the truck bed, extending nearly to the cab? Think of those styles of hitches that swivel over the rear axle of a pickup truck; that’s a 5th wheel hitch. They’re very similar to the designs of hitches that are used with tractor-trailers; though they are generally only compatible with pickup trucks, they are extremely strong and offer a lot of benefits.

Designed for carrying much heavier loads than other types and classes of hitches, a 5th wheel hitch consists of a large, flat steel plate shaped like a U that is connected via metal rails to the frame of the truck to add strength. This type of hitch is connected by a pin called a king pin to the U shaped plate; it sits over the rear axle of the truck and can accommodate very heavy loads, like a camper, and is capable of swiveling from side to side.

If you’re wondering why it’s called a 5th wheel hitch, that goes back to its origins; the original 5th wheels consisted of an actual “5th” wheel attached to the frame of a wagon or cart. Because the wheel was able to swivel around its axle, this gave the machine doing the towing the freedom to make easier turns and absorb some shock.

Generally speaking, this type of hitch is one of the safest and most fuel-efficient hitch mechanisms available, although they are typically the most expensive as well. Here at RVUpgrades, we sell plenty of 5th wheel hitches, attachments, and accessories, so if you need a part or just some advice, be sure to reach out to us.

Receiver Hitch

Then we have receiver hitches. Calling a receiver hitch simply a receiver hitch can be a bit vague because there are so many different types; however, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on a specific type of receiver hitch being the rear receiver hitch.

Again, there is more than one style, but generally speaking, a receiver hitch is called so because it receives other components. Rear receiver hitches mount to the rear frame of a vehicle and has a square receptacle that can “receive” a number of different components. This

style of hitch is probably the most commonly used, and although it is not as strong as a 5th wheel hitch, it can be a lot simpler to use and much more affordable to install.

Receiver hitches are based on a system of 5 classes according to the strength and integrity of the installation and design. For the sake of clarity, the higher the rating, the stronger the hitch; a class 1 trailer hitch is not as strong as a class 5, for example.

Although the strength of the hitch will vary by its rating, you will potentially have a lot of flexibility in towing, as the square receptacle can accommodate a number of different types of accessories for towing. This is one of the reasons that these types of hitches are so widespread. Generally speaking, if you have a light camper that you can safely tow from a receiver hitch, and you tow more than one load (also using a receiver hitch and coupling) then that would make one of these classes of hitches a practical solution for most towing applications.

One other thing to remember with receiver hitches is that they can often accommodate a number of different styles of ball hitches as well as drop/rise hitches and that the couplings can usually be fairly easily removed. That makes them all the more convenient for those who tow a lot and tow more than one load.

Pintle Hitch
Pintle hitches are somewhat different from the other hitches that you will see outlined in this article, but despite their differences, they have a few unique features that make them highly suitable for towing some very heavy loads. Because of this, it is common to see pintle hitches used in construction, agricultural and industrial settings where very heavy-duty hitches are required and heavy loads are towed regularly.

A pintle hitch takes the form of a hook or a hook and ball combination that is attached to a ring called a lunette. In this manner is it slightly less complicated mechanically than many other forms of hitches. In fact, some pintle hitches allow for some room in the coupling by design. This gives pintle hitches a large range of flexibility since the engine and whatever is being towed are more or less “chained together” than connected. In some ways, this actually lowers the stress on the coupling.

While it makes them more flexible along most axes than other forms of hitches, it also makes them customarily louder, which is one of the reasons that industrial couplings are so famously noisy. At any rate, because of the amount of flexibility and freedom afforded by a pintle hitch, they are suitable for extremely heavy loads.

One more thing to keep in mind with pintle hitches is that the components that work together are highly specialized and sometimes need to be purchased together. It’s a specialty hitch, to be sure, but we offer pintle equipment and accessories here at RV Upgrades and if you need help, don’t be shy about reaching out to us.

Gooseneck Hitch
A gooseneck hitch is similar to a 5th wheel hitch although it is somewhat mechanically less involved. Some might also say that gooseneck hitches offer most of the benefits of 5th wheel hitches while at the same time generally being more affordable to install and potentially easier to use.

Basically, in place of the U shape plate and coupling of a 5th wheel, a gooseneck hitch uses a ball coupling that, like the 5th wheel, is mounted in the back of a pickup truck over or nearly over the rear axle. Some gooseneck hitches mount using the same set of rails as some 5th wheels, which means that in some scenarios you can use both a 5th wheel and a gooseneck using your existing equipment. There are also hitches known as under-bed and fold down gooseneck hitches that can store out of the way when you are not towing, allowing you to maintain the use of the space in your truck’s bed.

This can be very valuable for people who need to be able to use their truck bed when they aren’t towing, and after all, most of the use in a tool is its versatility. Many 5th wheel hitches are very obtrusive and take up a significant amount of space in the bed, whereas the same cannot be said for gooseneck hitches.

While one of their main benefits is the fact that they use less space, as mentioned above, because they sit over the rear axle that is also able to tow a lot of weight, which makes them suitable for a lot of applications.

Weight Distribution Hitch
Finally, we have weight distribution hitches, which actually are not a specific class of hitch in and of themselves, but rather an accessory mount to other hitches that can help manage issues with tongue weight.

For clarity, the tongue weight is the amount of weight that presses down on the tongue of the trailer where the hitch is coupled. As a general rule of thumb, tongue weight should be between 10 to 15% of the gross trailer weight, and should not exceed 15%. Much of the time you will hear it advised that 10% is ideal and should not be exceeded.

What a weight-distribution hitch does is attach to existing hitch infrastructure to redistribute (unsurprisingly) the weight of whatever you are towing. Therefore, if you are experiencing issues with tongue weight, you may be able to rectify the problem with a weight-distribution hitch.

While this is not going to be a concern for some people, if you are having issues balancing the tongue weight then you absolutely need to address the situation, with or without a
weight-distribution hitch. Towing a load with improperly balanced tongue weight can throw the entire rig off balance, cause fishtailing or jack-knifing, or otherwise just make it impossible to safely drive.

These are some of the different styles of hitches we offer here at RV Upgrades along with some of the useful features and potential benefits of each kind. In most situations, more than one type hitch would be viable, although in others there are hitches that would not be classed as proper for towing. Understanding the classes of hitches, the ratings of each, as well as appropriate situations for the use of each, is critical to safely towing any load, camper or not.

Here in our online store, we offer plenty of hitches and other towing accessories, and we welcome you to look through our collection to find what you need today. Regardless of what you’re looking for, don’t feel the need to go it alone. We’d be glad to help walk you through the process of finding the equipment you need, and the first step to that is reaching out to our team. We have a long history of ensuring customer satisfaction, and if that means putting you in touch with the hitch or towing accessories that you need we’d be glad to do so. Call us today at
866-332-7881, let us know what you need, and we’ll work with you to provide a solution.

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