Heavy Haulers Daily Blog

Rock truck loaded for transport on a lowboy trailer

How to Hook Up a Fifth-Wheel Hitch

Often, many shipping companies use fifth wheel configuration when towing heavy and oversized equipment and vehicles. Fifth-wheel hitches offer a more stable and smooth towing experience. That’s why you should choose the right one from variations suited to a specific task. Besides picking up the right fifth-wheel hitch, you should also think about one key detail – hooking up a Fifth-wheel hitch safely and efficiently. Read on to learn more about the fifth wheel hitch, how to hook it up, and why it’s important to attach it correctly.

Rock truck loaded for transport on a lowboy trailer

What is a Fifth-Wheel Hitch?

The fifth-wheel hitch is a large metal plate that allows trailers to be securely attached to the rear of heavy-duty trucks and other larger vehicles. The horseshoe-shaped coupling mechanism connects the trailer and the towing truck to articulate and steer hitch-free.

The critical components of the fifth-wheel hitch include:

  • The kingpin secures the truck to the trailer.
  • The body is the central part of the hitch.
  • The head, jaws, pivot mechanism, handle, safety pin, and legs.

Understanding the fifth-wheel coupling mechanism is essential to the safety of towing by any fifth-wheel transport company.

Step-By-Step Fifth-Wheel Coupling Hookup

Fifth-wheel hitch coupling can be daunting, especially if it is your first time. That’s why you should work with adequately trained operators knowledgeable about the steps and safety procedures of hooking a fifth-wheel hitch. However, you can learn how to hook up your fifth-wheel transport in these simple steps:

Step 1: Position your Truck

Ensure your truck’s tailgate is lowered before backing up to the trailer. The truck should be on level ground to provide a stable foundation for the hitch-free fifth-wheel coupling process.

Step 2: Adjust the Height of the Hitch

Once the truck is backed close to the trailer, the next step is to ensure the height of your fifth wheel hitch matches that of the trailer’s kingpin for a smooth connection.

Step 3: Ensure that the Kingpin Jaws are Open

Before backing up your truck towards the trailer, ensure that the kingpin jaws are open, aligned with the hitch, and ready to accept the trailer. You can use the latching level to ensure the accuracy of the hitch. However, it’s best to check if the jaws are open visually.

Step 4: Verify if the Hitch is Properly Greased

Before lowering the trailer onto the hitch, ensuring the fifth-wheel hitch is adequately greased or the friction plate is in place for the kingpin is vital.

Step 5: Slowly Lower the Trailer

Once you have verified that the trailer’s kingpin aligns with the hitch, slowly lower the trailer onto the hitch by adjusting the landing gear. Ensure the kingpin slides smoothly into the hitch to create a secure connection.

Some modern trucks have bed cameras that give an on-screen line to help align the kingpin with the hitch.

Step 6: Latch and Lock

Once the kingpin is securely in the hitch and the jaws are closed, engage the handle, lock the safety latch, and put the pin in place. It’s important to note that some hitch models have kingpin jaw handles with color-coded indicators for secure fifth-wheel couplings.

The green color signals that the kingpin jaws are locked and the trailer is ready to haul. Yellow indicates the kingpin is prepared to hitch, while red shows the jaws are still open and ready to uncouple.

However, though the color indicator is an easy way of ensuring a secure connection, it’s recommended that you visually verify that the kingpin jaws are appropriately engaged.

Step 7: Test the Connection

Before hitting the road, test the hitch connection and ensure the trailer wiring is well attached and the tailgate is closed and safe. You can test the connection by lifting the front landing legs slightly off the ground, and if the hitch is undone, the trailer will land on the legs, not the bedsides.

Komatsu Excavator prepared for transport

Why Attaching The Fifth-Wheel Hitch Right is Important

Fifth-wheel hitch coupling installation is not just a matter of convenience but a safety concern. If you are still wondering if the fifth wheel hitch proper attachment is worth it, here are key reasons:

  • Ensures stability during shipping
  • Reduces the risks of accidents or damage to the equipment
  • Prevents unnecessary wear and tear to the truck and the trailer
  • It allows you to carry more weight without putting extra strain on your truck

Before choosing fifth-wheel coupling installation, consult a reliable fifth-wheel transport and shipping company with experience with different hitch variations. Depending on your equipment type, there are several hitch types, such as ball hitch, pintle hook, and other variations. Otherwise, consider fifth-wheel transport services from a company specializing in oversized load-hauling for hassle-free towing.