There’s a tell-tale sound when it’s past time to lubricate your 5th wheel hitch and kingpin box connection. It’s screeching/growling metal-against-metal in the back of your truck calling for a new round of grease. But wait! There might be a better method of lubrication. Let’s look at the two options: a 5th wheel lube plate or the traditional grease.
Why Does Your 5th Wheel Need Lubrication?
You want to keep a regular maintenance schedule since a 5th wheel hitch has multiple metal components working together for safe travel. You definitely don’t want a stuck hitch release or noisy turning. Lubrication protects the inner parts of the hitch and provides a smoother connection each time you hitch up because the parts move freely.
Since the 5th wheel is the only part attached to the tow vehicle, following a regular maintenance schedule helps promote safe travels. Manufacturers recommend lubricating and performing other maintenance tasks every three months. By lubricating the 5th wheel hitch at the beginning of each season, you’ll check it four times a year and hopefully avoid damage from a dry connection.
Degreasing is a big part of this regular maintenance, too. Don’t just slap on more grease. Take the old oil off, inspect for cracks, holes, and damage, and then regrease. Especially in the winter, it’s vital to degrease so it doesn’t freeze up with road grime. After the winter season, wash the 5th wheel hitch well to remove the winter solutions used on the roads to prevent corrosion and rust.
What Is a 5th Wheel Lube Plate?
A 5th wheel lube plate is a thin piece of metal that slides on top of the kingpin box. This barrier between the bottom of the pin box and the hitch prevents friction and vibration, so you don’t hear scraping and clunking. It also protects the inner components from messy grease deposits and dirt build-up.
Most lube plates are made from polyethylene; some newer plates include graphite. These materials stand up to the constant grinding of the kingpin and hitch.
- WEAR-RESISTANT. This 5th wheel lube plate helps protect your 5th...
- LESS MESS. A 5th wheel lube plate is a far superior method to...
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Pro Tip: Make hitching up easier with one of these 5 Best Fifth Wheel Hitches for Solid RV Towing.
What Is 5th Wheel Grease?
Other RVers use the traditional method of lubrication with grease. This lubrication functions the same as a 5th wheel lube plate but requires regular maintenance to protect the hitch and kingpin box from friction and weather conditions.
Grease is inexpensive, so it’s an easy investment to make for RV maintenance. You’ll also want to buy a trowel to spread the grease evenly and cover the area without dripping the oily stuff on the ground.
The Pros of Using a 5th Wheel Lube Plate
The biggest pro of using a lube plate is no mess. You slide the metal on top of the kingpin box and then attach your 5th wheel hitch without any need for grease. It’s not a complicated installation, and lube plates aren’t expensive. Most of them are around $12-15.
The Cons of Using a 5th Wheel Lube Plate
There are really no disadvantages to using a lube plate other than you may forget to lube the other parts of the hitch. While the lube plate takes care of the top surface, most fifth wheel hitches need lubrication on other pivot points and around the kingpin itself.
Per application, it can be cheaper to use grease, so you might prefer grease if you’re on a tight budget.
Pro Tip: Keep your 5th wheel safe while on the go with these 5 Best King Pin Locks to Prevent 5th Wheel RV Theft.
The Pros of Using 5th Wheel Grease
It’s inexpensive. And it doesn’t take a lot to do the job. You can buy a tub of grease, and it will last you a really long time. But other than personal preference, there aren’t many reasons to use grease instead of a lube plate. Both are inexpensive ways to protect your hitch, except one creates a mess and the other doesn’t.
The Cons of Using 5th Wheel Grease
The major con to using grease instead of a lube plate is the mess. Many RVers who use grease will have their “grease shirt” handy. You also have to degrease before you regrease to wipe off the old oil that’s collected dirt and grime. You’ll want to inspect for any damage when you degrease, too.
It also requires regular maintenance. Although not time-consuming or hard labor, it’s just something else to add to your routine maintenance list.
Pro Tip: While you have your grease, don’t forget to use this guide on Greasing Trailer Bearings: The Step-By-Step Guide to Repacking the Easy Way.
Which Is Better?
As mentioned before, it comes down to personal preference. But using a lube plate is the easier method. You’ll still have to conduct regular inspections on the hitch and kingpin box. And you might have to replace the lube plate down the road. But because it’s so inexpensive, that’s not really anything to deter you from purchasing one.
RVers who have switched to a lube plate rave about its convenience. They love not having to wear their grease shirt or deal with the mess of grease as regularly.
But it’s up to you. Which method do you prefer? Drop a comment below!
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