Do you have a new trailer and want to know how to install a fifth wheel hitch on your short bed truck? You've come to the right place, for we have researched this question and have the answer for you.
Here is a summary of the steps you can follow to install a fifth-wheel hitch on your short-bed truck.
- Remove the spare tire.
- Mark the location of the placement holes.
- Drill the holes.
- Install the under-bed mounting bracket.
- Fasten the front mounting rail to the mounting bracket.
- Install the fifth-wheel hitch.
- Bolt the rear mounting rail.
- Torque all bolts to spec.
- Secure the fifth-wheel hitch.
Let's talk more about fifth-wheel hitches and trailers in the succeeding sections. In the sections below, learn about the complete steps to install a fifth-wheel hitch on your short bed truck.
Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch Or A Regular Fifth Wheel Hitch
A fifth-wheel hitch is a hitch that connects to the kingpin of a fifth-wheel trailer. Unlike conventional hitches, you install a fifth-wheel hitch on the bed of your truck. Thus, part of its effectiveness will depend on your truck's bed size.
A fifth-wheel hitch is ideal for towing medium to heavy loads. Its design allows it to carry the weight of the trailer over or near the truck's rear axle.
Thus, it is preferable to tow large camper trailers and other recreational trailers.
Ideally, a fifth-wheel hitch is made for long beds. A long bed gives the fifth-wheel trailer the clearance it needs for tight turns.
However, the development of fifth-wheel hitches and fifth-wheel trailers now allows trucks with short beds to use fifth-wheel hitches for their trailers.
Sizes Of Truck Beds
There are four sizes of truck beds. Standard long and short beds are the most common sizes you see on the road. You probably have one of these on your truck.
A standard short bed has a length of six feet and five inches. You'd see this bed in pickup trucks with crew cabs that have a pair of full doors in front and a pair of half doors. Many off-roaders prefer this configuration for its shorter wheelbase.
The length of a short bed ranges from five feet and five inches to five feet and eight inches. This type of bed is common in medium-sized pickup trucks. Pickup trucks with a crew cab and two pairs of full-size doors often have a short bed.
A standard long bed has a length of seven feet. This is a common bed size for pickup trucks for farming and construction. This is the ideal bed size for fifth-wheel hitches because it gives the trailer enough room to make tight turns.
A long bed is longer than a standard truck bed by a foot. They are usually paired with single-cab pickup trucks that prioritize the amount of cargo they can haul over the number of passengers. Because of this, they are more common in larger heavy-duty trucks.
How to measure truck beds?
Measure the length of the truck from the inside of the pickup bulkhead to the inside of the tailgate. The pickup bulkhead is what separates the cabin and the bed of the truck.
Look for the widest inside area of the truck inside the bed. This is the width of the bed.
Never measure from the outside of the truck bed. The bodywork of a pickup truck will add a few inches to the bed measurement. Additionally, never include the size of the tailgate in the measurements.
How to install a fifth-wheel hitch on a short bed truck?
It is important to pick up a fifth-wheel hitch that can support your trailer and can give it the room it needs to allow you to make tight turns when required. Ideally, your trailer should have round front corners. This will give your trailer more room during turns.
There are trailers with a pin box that sticks out in front of the trailer. This creates more room in front of your trailer, adding distance from the pin box to the front cap of the trailer.
Here are the steps to install a fifth-wheel trailer hitch on your short bed pickup.
Preparing Your Truck
- Park your truck on a level surface that will allow you to slide under it from time to time.
- Activate the parking brake.
- Place the shifter on your truck to Park[P] if it has an automatic transmission. Place it on first gear if it has a manual transmission.
- Turn off the engine.
- Remove the spare tire. This will give you more room to work under your truck.
Raising Your Truck
Ideally, raising your truck by at least a foot and a half is best. This will give you room to install mounting brackets under the truck. This will also make it easier for you to drill holes into the truck's frame.
If your truck has mounting holes from the factory, you can pick up a fifth-wheel hitch with mounting hardware that will go into these holes. This saves you from having to install support rails on the truck bed.
However, if you have a truck bed that doesn't have these mounting holes or if you prefer to use a different fifth-wheel hitch, you will need to make measurements to know where you need to drill mounting holes.
- Measure the width of the truck above the rear axle of your truck's bed. Get the center of the width.
- Measure the length of the rails for your fifth-wheel hitch. Get the center of the rails.
- The center of the rail's length must align with the center of the truck bed's width.
- You will install the two rails along the width of the truck bed.
- Get the width of the hitch. Measure from one mounting hole or tab to the opposite. Get the center of this distance.
- Measure from the center of the rear axle a distance that is equal to half of the distance between two mounting holes going to the back of the bed.
- Align the rear rails to your measurement above and center the rail on the width of the truck.
- Mark the four bolt holes of the rear rails that will align with the truck's frame.
- Mark the two center bolt holes of the rear rail.
- Do the same thing to position the front support rails and mark the mounting holes for them.
- Center punch a hole in your markings.
- Position the mounting bracket under your truck and ensure it aligns with the hole you punched.
- Drill a 1/8-inch hole where you punched.
- Use a step drill bit to increase the size of the hole to match the size of the mounting bolts.
- Repeat Steps 1 to 4 to drill a hole for the other mounting holes of the front rail.
- Position the mounting bracket under your truck and mark its mounting holes on the frame of the truck.
- Center punch a hole on the frame that matches the location of your markings.
- Drill a 1/8-inch hole in the frame.
- Use a step drill bit to increase the hole size to match the mounting bolt size.
- Repeat Steps 6 to 9 for the other mounting holes of the mounting bracket.
AugTouf cobalt spiral flute step drill bit is available on Amazon.
NEIKO Automatic Center Hole Punch is available on Amazon.
Installing The Mounting Bracket
- Deburr the holes with a deburring tool.
- Apply some rustproofing paint above and under the truck bed.
- Position the mounting bracket under your truck.
- Insert a washer into each mounting bolt and secure the mounting bracket with the bolts.
- Do the same for the mounting bracket on the other side of the truck.
AFA Tooling Deburring Tool is available on Amazon.
POR-15 Rust Preventive Coating is available on Amazon.
Securing The Mounting Rails
- Position the front mounting rail on the truck bed.
- Place a U-shaped spacer to make the rail flush with the bed.
- Insert the carriage bolt through the rail, spacer, and truck bed mounting hole.
- Repeat on the other mounting holes. You don't need spacers if the rail is flush with the mounting holes.
- Insert a spacer into the mounting bolt under the truck and lock it into place with a hex flange nut.
- Repeat for all other mounting carriage bolts.
Installing The Fifth Wheel
- Mount the fifth wheel on the front rail. Secure the tabs into the front mounting rail or align the mounting holes.
- If you have mounting holes instead of tabs, insert bolts into the holes to secure the position of the fifth wheel.
- Position the rear rail under the fifth wheel and check the position of the hole markings.
- Drill the holes for the rear rail and install them following the same steps for drilling holes and installing the mounting rail.
- Torque all nuts and bolts to manufacturer specifications.
- Reinstall the spare tire.
- Install the fifth wheel and secure it.
- Grease your hitch.
Always match the trailer to the size of your truck's bed. You can successfully install a fifth-wheel hitch, but if your trailer is not made for a short-bed truck, you will have problems maneuvering.
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