If you’re new to RVing, then hitching and unhitching your RV may sound scary. But if you follow the instructions below, you will be hitching and unhitching like a pro in no time. Just be sure to double check everything and don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, especially when backing up toward the hitch. It’s always helpful to have an extra set of eyes to make sure everything lines up properly.
Travel trailers rest on a ball mount hitch that is attached to the rear of the vehicle. The trailer tongue rests on the ball which allows it to swivel when it’s being pulled. Make sure you have the right-sized ball for the trailer before you attempt to hook it up. The tongue of your RV will typically show what size ball it needs. And the ball will show what load rating it can handle, so make sure the ball can handle the weight of the trailer.
The first thing you want to do it raise up the trailer so the bottom of the tongue is higher than the ball. This will allow you to back the truck up so that the ball is under the tongue. You may want to have someone guide you back so that you can line them up correctly. Then just lower the tongue down onto the ball until some of the weight of the trailer is resting on the ball. Make sure you lock it into place so that it doesn’t slip off when you hit a bump or an uneven road. Now hook up the electrical plug, breakaway cable, and safety chains and test the lights on the trailer. The next step is the add the sway bars to control sway and the equalizer to help balance the load. There are different types of bars so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions with adding this part. Now you can lower the jack and make sure that all cords and cables are secured to make sure they don’t end up pinched while you travel.
First chock the wheels and place a block under the tongue jack to ensure it’s not going to move or dig into the ground. Then lower the jack until the weight is taken off the tow vehicle but the trailer isn’t pulling up on it. You can now remove your sway bar and equalizer and unlock the tongue. Disconnect the chains, electrical plug, and breakaway cable. You can now lift the trailer the rest of the way off the ball and pull the tow vehicle forward.
A 5th wheel hooks up to a hitch that is mounted in the bed of the truck over the rear axle. Because 5th wheels are much heavier, this design was developed since a regular ball hitch would simply break under the pressure. The weight of the rig is then carried between the cab and the axle which helps to distribute more of it throughout the truck. The hitch that is installed in the bed of the truck has rails that run under and attach to the frame. The part that is on the 5th wheel is called a king pin. The king pin is then lowered into the hitch and locks into position with the ability to pivot.
First raise or lower the front end of the trailer jacks to make sure the hitch is just below the head of the king pin so that it will be slightly lifted once it locks in. If your tailgate is still installed, make sure you put it down before you do anything to avoid hitting it with the king pin. You may want to consider either removing it or getting one that dips down in the center so that this isn’t an issue. Next you want to pull the handle on the hitch to open it up. Now it’s time to back it up and snap the pin into the hitch. The handle will snap shut automatically but you will want to get out and double check to make sure you have it all the way in there and that it is indeed snapped shut. You don’t want to find out halfway down the road that it wasn’t all the way in! Once you’ve confirmed that it’s in there, secure the safety lock. This will ensure that it’s not going to open back up later and allow the 5th wheel to slide out. Now you can pop your tailgate back up and raise your jacks. Get them up pretty high to help keep road dirt out of them so they don’t get jammed. Lastly, make sure you connect your light cord and breakaway switch lanyard to the truck and test out the lights. Now you’re ready to go!
Make sure you chock the wheels to keep the rig in place. Disconnect your light cord and breakaway switch lanyard and lower your landing gear. Now you want to raise up the trailer until you take all of the weight off the hitch and make sure it’s level. Now you can unlock the safety latch and open up the hitch. Don’t forget to open the tailgate if you have one so you don’t rip it off. Slowly pull forward. If there is any pull back from the trailer, you may need to raise it up further. Now you should be unhitched and ready to camp!
Practice at home until you are completely comfortable with the set up. If you don’t have enough room, take the RV to a large parking lot to practice, practice, practice so you can hit the open road with confidence!