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How Much Clearance Do You Need Between a Truck and a Fifth Wheel?

When setting up a truck and fifth wheel, there are many things to consider, including the clearance between the bed and trailer. Because a fifth wheel sits partially over the bed of the truck its important to get the clearance between the two correct to allow movement when going down the road. Today, we’ll look at how much clearance between truck and fifth wheel you need. Let’s get started!

How Much Space Do You Need Between Your Truck and Fifth Wheel?

The general rule of thumb is no less than six inches of clearance from the bottom of the fifth wheel to the top of a truck’s bed rails. This provides enough space to ensure that as you travel uneven terrain, not going to have issues with your bed rails and RV hitting.

It’s also essential that you don’t have too much space between the truck bed rails and fifth wheel. You likely want no more than nine or 10 inches between the bottom of the RV and your truck’s bed rails. Most RVs probably won’t sit level while hitched at this height, which is essential for optimal towing.

Mortons on the Move truck and fifth wheel hitched up.
Your should have no less than six inches of clearance from the bottom of the fifth wheel to the top of a truck’s bed rails.

Does The Type of Truck and Fifth Wheel Affect Needed Clearance?

If you have a lifted truck, you may struggle when it comes to bed rail clearance. You’ll need to be mindful that the trailer should ride level to ensure proper towing and consistency in terms of the bed rail clearance. You may need to purchase a low-profile fifth wheel hitch or adjust the pin box accordingly.

You may also have issues if you have a newer truck and an older camper. This is because newer trucks tend to sit higher than some of their previous models. Fifth wheels made a decade or two ago have pinboxes that sit lower, making it challenging to keep your trailer level if you’re towing a newer truck. We had this situation and ended up lifting our entire camper 2 inches on its axles to get proper ride height and clearance.

If you have troubles with your truck and fifth wheel affecting your bed rail clearance, you may need to seek the help of a qualified professional. They’ll be able to come up with a recommendation for towing your unique combination.

Pro Tip: With a higher clearance, a lifted truck can impact how you tow. Read more to find out Can You Tow an RV with a Lifted Truck?

Lifted flatbed truck
This is our lifted flatbed truck hitched to our fifth wheel, it tows it very crooked and there is very little space between the boxes. We don’t tow on the road with it and have to be careful moving it around because of clearance issues.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Have Enough Space Between the Truck and Fifth Wheel?

If you don’t have enough space between the truck and fifth wheel, some maneuvers could cause the bed rails and the bottom of the fifth wheel’s overhang to collide. This can cause minor scratching or substantial damage to the railings and the bottom of your RV’s overhang.

If you don’t have adequate clearance, this will typically occur when you’re going over uneven ground. Inclines and declines are also notorious for causing this. The damage can be severe, especially if you’re traveling at higher speeds. 

Mortons on the Move truck and fifth wheel parked amongst the trees.
Maintain a balance between not enough and too much clearance from your truck to your fifth wheel.

Are There Disadvantages of Having Too Much Clearance?

While you want to ensure you have enough clearance, you don’t want to have too much. Having too much clearance will likely result in the nose of your RV sitting too high. This increases the amount of weight put on your rear axle, which increases the risk of trailer sway and can cause chucking between the truck and the RV.

If you notice that your trailer doesn’t sit level when hitched, you’ll need to make some adjustments. The trailer should sit level with the ground when on a flat surface whenever it’s hitched. This helps equally distribute the weight between the RV’s axles.

Pro Tip: Ensure you know your correct clearance by Measuring Your RV Height.

fifth wheel towing with flat bed
If towing with a flatbed there is usually lots of clearance. This setup type allows lots of clearance while maintaining the correct ride height and is great for light off-road use.

How Do You Adjust Your Truck and Fifth Wheel Clearance?

If you need to adjust due to the clearance between the truck and fifth wheel, it can be relatively easy. Look at your hitch and see if there are any options for adjusting the height of the hitch head. Many fifth wheel hitches have several options when it comes to the height of the hitch head. A couple of simple adjustments can lower the front of the RV by a couple of inches.

If your hitch isn’t adjustable, look at your pinbox. You may be able to alter the height of your pinbox to adjust for any issues. No matter which method you pick, make sure to torque all bolts appropriately before towing.

Pro Tip: Understanding the impact of ride height in RVs is important. Take a closer look at Who Needs 20″ of Ground Clearance?!

Moving Our Home On Wheels (Without yelling at each other)

A final option to consider for adjusting the clearance between the truck and fifth wheel is to raise the trailer’s suspension. Modern trucks sit higher than older models, and this may solve your clearance problems. However, when you raise the height of the trailer, you’re also messing with the RV’s center of gravity. You should make sure to slow down when turning to avoid tipping over.

Our trailer had 2 inches of suspension adjustment we could make by disconnecting all the springs and moving them down a notch on the bolt holes.

To provide the smoothest and safest towing experience, you must ensure your truck and fifth wheel are set up appropriately. Having too much or too little clearance can create issues and be unsafe for towing. Make sure you have your hitch set up appropriately for your rig.

What are your tips for adjusting the clearance between truck and fifth wheel? Drop a comment below!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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