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Do You Need a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch?

Do You Need a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch?

A shattered back window isn’t the way you want to start your camping adventure. A sliding fifth wheel hitch can help you avoid damaging your RV and truck. It can save you from an expensive repair bill. Keep reading to see if a sliding fifth wheel hitch should be your next big purchase. 

What Is a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch? 

A sliding fifth wheel hitch is a fifth wheel hitch that sits on rails mounted in the truck bed. The hitch functions like a standard fifth wheel hitch but can slide on the rails. This increases the separation between the truck and the trailer.

This type of fifth wheel hitch often weighs substantially more and is slightly more expensive. However, it can save you from costly repairs.

Do I Need a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch?

What Is the Point of a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch?

Using a fifth wheel hitch that slides means the entire hitch will slide farther back in the bed. This sliding creates more space between the truck and trailer while maneuvering turns or getting into or out of campsites. Long bed trucks typically won’t benefit much from a sliding hitch. The distance between the truck and trailer allow for 90-degree turns without risking damage.

sliding hitch in towing configuration
The Hitch here is in the maneuvering or turning configuration slid to the back

Whether you’re backing up or driving forward, tight turns mean the cap of your fifth wheel, and the cab or back window of your truck can get extremely close. The tighter the turn, the closer the two will get. Many RVers with short or standard size truck beds will purchase a sliding fifth wheel hitch just in case. It’s better to have a sliding hitch and not need it than not to have one and need it.

Pro Tip: Keep your 5th wheel safe and secure with one of these 5 Best Trailer Hitch Locks to Secure Your RV.

Sliding Hitch in maneuvering position
A sliding 5th wheel hitch creates more space between the truck and trailer while maneuvering turns.

How Does a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch Work? 

Now that you know the importance of this type of hitch, let’s look at how the two types of sliding hitches work.

Manual Sliding Hitch

If you choose a manual sliding hitch, it’ll require a little bit of effort on your part. You’ll have to know when you need to use it and get out of your truck. You’ll pull a handle to unlock the slide mechanism. Once the slide is unlocked, you can apply the trailer brakes. Pull forward until you feel the hitch reach the farthest spot on the sliders. The hitch will lock into place on the rails. You’ll be able to maneuver at a tighter angle without fear of damaging your truck or trailer. 

Once you’ve completed the maneuver, unlock the slider again. Press the trailer brake and reverse to return the hitch to the regular position. The most important part of having a manual sliding hitch is knowing when you need to use it. Make sure you return it to the towing position before hitting the road.

Sliding Fifth wheel hitch rails
A regular hitch does not include rails whereas a sliding hitch sits on rails allowing it to slide when making turns.

Automatic Sliding Hitch

While a manual sliding hitch will require some work on your part, an automatic sliding hitch does the work for you. The hitch can recognize when the distance between the truck and trailer could be an issue. An automatic sliding hitch will then automatically slide back on the rails to create separation. The hitch will return to the ideal position for towing after completing the tight maneuver.

Autoslide Operation

How to Know if You Need a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch

If your truck is a long bed truck, a sliding fifth wheel hitch will likely be of little use. However, if you drive a short or regular bed truck, get out your measuring tape.

First, measure the distance from the middle of the jaws on your hitch to the cab of the truck. Next, measure the distance from the kingpin to one side of the cap of your trailer. To avoid damage while making a 90-degree turn, there should be at least a four-inch difference in this distance. Anything less than four inches, and you’ll need to use a sliding hitch.

automatic sliding fifth wheel hitch

It’s better to err on the side of using a sliding hitch than not, often. If you choose not to use one and damage something, you’ll have to add up the repair bills instead.

Pro Tip: Unsure if the size of a 5th wheel RV is right for you? Read more to find out Which Is Best? 5th Wheel vs. Travel Trailer.

How Much Is a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch?

The cost of a sliding hitch will vary depending on the weight rating. A hitch with a higher weight rating will typically cost more than a hitch with a lower weight rating. For a quality sliding fifth wheel hitch, you can easily expect to pay $1,200 to $2,000, depending on the brand. With such an important job, this isn’t an area where you want to skimp. Here are two great sliding fifth wheel hitches that we think are worth considering.

Pulliam Enterprises 2900 Superglide

The Pulliam Enterprise 2900 can handle 20,000 pounds and is an excellent choice for larger RVs. The automatic slide capabilities mean you’ll no longer have to worry about your truck and trailer hitting during tight turns. The hitch stands 18.5 inches tall and weighs a beefy 183 pounds. The jaws automatically close around the kingpin when hitching. 

It may be difficult to remove from your truck due to the weight, and you’ll likely need help. It costs more than $1,600. However, this is an excellent option for those needing a sliding hitch.

Demco Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch 

The Demco 8550022 sliding fifth wheel hitch is another quality automatic sliding hitch. This beast weighs 285 pounds. The hitch can tow up to 18,000 pounds and provides an additional 14 inches of space. It mounts to the truck using rack and pinion technologies, which means a clear space when you remove it from the truck bed. If you’re considering this hitch for your rig, expect to pay $1,600-$1,800.

What to Look for When Buying a Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch

One of the most important factors when buying a hitch is its compatibility with your truck and trailer. Hitches aren’t cheap, and due to their weight, if you’re paying for return shipping, it’s not going to be cheap.

Some hitches may require adaptors or other accessories to get optimal functionality out of the hitch. Factor all of these expenses into your decision before making a purchase. Several hundred dollars in additional accessories could break the budget.

Sliding Fifth Wheel Hitch and Louvered Tailgate
This sliding hitch is combined with a louvered gate that allows you to hitch without opening the tailgate.

Additionally, you might want to consider the weight of the hitch. If you’re only using your fifth wheel occasionally, you don’t want to take your hitch in and out constantly. These hitches take up a tremendous amount of space in the truck bed and make hauling other items difficult. Ensure you can easily remove or install the hitch.

A sliding fifth wheel hitch can make the difference between getting into a site or not. It can also save you frustration and a hit to your wallet. And that means more money for camping reservations and gear.

Do you use a sliding fifth wheel hitch with your rig? Drop a comment below.

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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