Why We Love the Fifth Wheel

rv-fifth-wheel

Shopping around for the best RV for your needs can be a lengthy process that requires extensive research and a full understanding of what’s available. Based on the type of traveling you’re looking to do in your new RV, you’ll probably be able to select from a wide range of styles, modifications and RV accessories.

Whether you’re in search of a toy hauler, fifth wheel trailer or full-sized motorhome, you should take into consideration everything your journeys will demand and the accommodations you prefer. Better to over-prepare than to discover many miles from home that you overlooked an important detail.

[RV Repair Club Video: 5th Wheel Hookup: A Step-By-Step Demonstration]

For years now we’ve been huge fans of the fifth wheel trailer. We recommend this type of RV for many reasons, from durability to drivability. If you’re considering investing in a fifth wheel for your cross-country adventures, here are a few of our favorite things about this versatile vehicle:

It’s shorter, yet somehow roomier

Despite its truncated frame, we’ve found that the typical fifth wheel actually offers a greater sense of space than the more claustrophobic motorhome. Without a front dash area, fifth wheels boast open and flexible living quarters, as well as high ceilings that make spending time onboard more comfortable for those taller lodgers. Plus, most fifth wheel manufacturers offer a variety of floor plans, allowing you to customize your layout according to your preferences.

It’s easy to maintain

When you’re out on the road, the last thing you want to worry about is an unexpected engine breakdown. When you opt for a motorhome/towed vehicle combo, you have two engines to care for, whereas with a fifth wheel, you need only consider your tow vehicle.

[More from RV Repair Club: RV Service Center Overview for 5th Wheel Units]

Repairs on a diesel engine are hassle enough; we don’t prefer to throw drivetrain, propane and faulty electrical systems into the mix, if we can avoid it. And as a bonus, if you run into trouble with your truck or SUV and need a tow to the shop, your fifth wheel (your room for the night) and all your vital RV accessories can stay right where they are while repairs are conducted.

It’ll fit whatever you’ve got

If cargo room is high on the list of must-haves for your next RV, you’ll find few more capable candidates than a fifth wheel. Unlike the shorter travel trailer or motorhome, these taller tow units tend to offer up overhead cabinets and spaces, as well as a basement storage area with ample space for all the trimmings. Whether you need stowage for bulky luggage or extra RV accessories, you should have no trouble fitting whatever you plan to bring along.

In addition to these select selling points, fifth wheel trailers can be maneuvered in tight spaces with far greater ease than the cumbersome motorhome, simplifying the way you get into and out of campsites and congested areas.

Of course, these practical RVs bear certain shortcomings when compared to other kinds of vehicles, from a generally lower level of security to weaker fuel efficiency under heavy weight, but the upsides of the fifth wheel trailer make it one heck of an option, if it suits your needs. So if you find yourself in the market for a new RV, we hope you’ll give the fifth wheel close consideration. We love what it’s got to offer, and we think you will, too!

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Discussion
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43 Responses to “Why We Love the Fifth Wheel”
  1. Eddie

    RV Make: Montana, RV Model: 3790 RD, RV Year: 2016, Brand: Montana, Model Number: 3790 RD

    Proper set for the thermostat. Dometic electronic

    Reply
  2. Gary

    RV Make: Heartland, RV Model: Big Country 3250TS, RV Year: 2011

    Gate valve on the grey water #2 (kitchen galley) opens and closes (I observed this after opening up the coroplast) but only trickles out very slowly when opened all the way. Could this be due to a faulty gate valve or possibly a clog near the gate valve? Eventually, the tank seems to empty but not sure how much grey water remains. I don’t trust the sensors. I am the second owner and have had this problem since I bought it a year ago. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to figure out the problem would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Gary. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club and the opportunity to assist with your gray water tank issue. It could be either, if it’s a 5th wheel, they usually have the valve a long distance away from the actual hose connection and use a cable hooked to the valve and the handle which can stretch over time and the handle acts like it’s traveling all the way, but the valve doesn’t move much! You’ll need to crawl under the rig to find where the cable actually goes to and see if the mechanism is opening all the way. Otherwise you can try a manual or hand snake to break up the clog or even a drain cleaner that is safe for plastic pipes? Most homes today use plastic instead of metal so the newer drain cleaners are ok for the plastic in RVs as well.

      Reply
  3. Charles

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Cardinal CAF3727 RE, RV Year: 2014

    No specific concerns. Would like to know any peculiarities to the unit, if you are familiar with the Cardinal.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Charles. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your 5th wheel question. The Cardinal is a Forest River product owned by Berkshire Hathaway which means they are financially strong which is a good thing. The amenities seem very good although you’ll find a lot of particle board and paneling which is typical in a mid range 5th wheel. All depends on how much time you are spending in the rig and what’s important. I don’t need solid oak cabinetry, corian countertop, and tile flooring in my RV, I’m not inside it much other than sleeping. One really important aspect to consider when purchasing a unit is the dealership. Ask about their pre-delivery inspection process (PDI) and ability to get your rig into the shop in a timely manner. I’ve searched the owner’s groups and forums for reviews on the Cardinal and they seem to get 3-5 star ratings other than a few I saw that were really dealer issues that should have been taken care of before the unit was delivered!

      Reply
  4. Anne Kuchar

    RV Make: Coachman , RV Model: Chapparral 27RKS, RV Year: 2004, Brand: Coachman Chapparral , Model Number: 27RKS

    Our second Coachman. We love our Fifth wheel, a lot of room in this mobile apartment for us. It’s a 2004 and is still in great shape.

    Reply
  5. Mike Denison

    RV Make: Newmar, RV Model: 1987 American Star, RV Year: 1987

    I’m trying to find an owners manual for this unit

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Mike. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your owners manual question. Not sure what unit you are looking for, the photo in the blog is a generic clipart photo with no brand markings. To provide more specific information, we need the make, model, and year of the unit. Most manufacturers have the owner’s manuals available on their website.

      Reply
  6. Donald cooper

    RV Make: Forrest river, RV Model: 5th wheel Cardinal, RV Year: 2014

    How do you replace a roller in the shower door? I am missing the bolt for the middle door on the sliding glass door. What size is the bolt and how do you get to it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Donald. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with the roller on your shower door. To provide more specific information we need the make, model, and year of your rig. It would also be helpful to have a photo as many trailer manufacturers have poor documentation on smaller parts such as showers and doors and use a variety of different manufacturers and brands over the course of a year as well. Is it a top mount roller system or on the bottom of the door? I would take the entire door off and look at the other rollers and you should be able to match it at any ACE Hardware store?

      Reply
  7. michael

    RV Make: Laredo, RV Model: 295RK, RV Year: 2012

    I am new to your site and thought you could give me some good advice on upgrading a 5th wheel to auto leveling.

    I have a lot of back problems an the bending and stooping while leveling gives me problems. I have read about the auto-leveling feature and thought this would be the way to go. We love our Laredo 295RK in all other aspects. I know this is not a cheap upgrade but feel it will be a good investment. I’ve seen advertisements for electric leveling and hydraulic leveling. Which type of leveling do you recommend and why?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Michael. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your leveling question. The best type of leveling system depends on the weight of your rig. Electric levelers are OK for the smaller trailers, however if you are getting into the 8-10K range, I would go with hydraulic. Lippert Components Inc is the leader in the market for both systems and if you have a hydraulic slide room, the levelers can be added easily.

      Reply
  8. david

    RV Make: forrrest river, RV Model: XLR thunderbolt375AMP, RV Year: 2016, Brand: inverter

    when you are hooked up to shore power should you turn your inverter off?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, David. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your inverter question. Since you did not indicate the size and model, I assume you are talking about the larger inverter rather than the 130 watt model that just powers the TV? You need to leave the larger inverter on when plugged into 120-volt AC power such as a campground source as this charges your house batteries when plugged in.

      Reply
  9. Julie Dunn

    RV Make: NuWa, RV Model: Hitchhiker Champagne, RV Year: 2007

    We just bought this 5th wheel RV from an individual and it has the TV, DVR, and surround sound all hooked up to the satellite antenna on top of the unit. Is there any way to hook all of this ALSO to the regular antenna so when we can’t get a satellite signal somewhere, we can still watch local TV from the antenna? Can this be done? If so, how??

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Julie. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your television question. Check out the video in the library on the entertainment center. There is a box most RV have which brings in the antenna signal, DVD player, satellite receiver, and a aux for campgrounds that have a coax cable connection. You simply press the input you want and it will route that signal. Winegard makes a model called Winegard Entertainment Select. You will need to purchase it from a dealer or on Amazon.

      Reply
  10. Albert

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Rapter, RV Year: 2017

    We just purchased a 2017 Keystone Raptor 5th wheel. We had a bumper pull prior to this. This unit has auto leveling. One site we go to annually in very uneven. With my previous travel trailer, I leveled with lots of wood and blocks sometimes as much as a foot or more. I just picked up the Raptor and where I store it is also uneven. The Raptor has 6 hydraulic legs on it. I wanted to know if it is OK for any of the wheels to be off of the ground when the unit finally levels itself?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Albert. It is not recommended to have the tires off the ground by most manufacturers and you are putting undue stress and weight on the jacks or stabilizers plus creating a very long weight bearing distance for the chassis rails. If your spot is fairly unlevel, it’s best not to use the auto level feature and do it manually. At times, Lippert Components Inc (LCI) have recommended doing a zero procedure where you level the rig manually and reset the computer. This should be in your owner’s manual, however you can get a copy from LCI at LCI.com

      Reply
    • Ronald Bean

      RV Make: 2014 Grand Design, RV Model: Solitude 305RE, RV Year: 2014

      I also have a fifth wheel that will take the wheels off if the pad is too uneven. I put extra wood under the tires and leveling jacks. Then, I level manually. Is that okay?

      Reply
  11. Mike Freeman

    RV Make: Airstream, RV Model: Integrity 5th wheel 34RK, RV Year: 1996

    The trailer has been setting for several years with the slide outs out. We need to move it and put the slide outs in. It has a hydraulic system. The front slide went in but the rear one will not budge. Looking under the trailer I can see hydraulic fluid but cant tell where it is coming from. Is there a manual override that will allow me to move the slide in. Any help will be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Mike,

      What is the year and make of your trailer?

      Thanks
      RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  12. Steven

    Brand: Arctic Fox, Model Number: 32'

    I’m trying you to replace front jacks. Trying to figure out the removal of the gear box to the main jack.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Steven. To provide more specific information regarding the replacement of your front jacks, we need the make, model, and year of your rig and the type of jack. It’s probably a Lippert Components Inc (LCI) system. If it’s on a 5th wheel, we have several videos on a Keystone Raptor on maintenance, overriding the motor if it fails, and other although not a full R&R. If you can provide the information requested, we should be able to assist.
      Thanks
      David-RVRC

      Reply
  13. Gloria L Schultz

    My question is not about the 5th wheel but about the trucks we buy to haul them. My husband and I just bought a new F250 Super Duty 4X4 pickup. We love the truck but…..they are making them so high off the ground it is becoming a problem of hooking up and not hitting truck and trailer. We happen to be fortunate with our 5th wheel as we swapped the axles so the trailer is higher but I was not so lucky with my goose neck horse trailer. Can you tell me what the RV market is doing to help this problem especially with the 5th wheel? My truck measures 58 inchs from ground to top of bed of truck.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Gloria,

      I agree, I just sold my 2002 Chevy Silverado that I loved and could level tow most RVs and utility trailers and bought a 2016 Silverado. Both are 1500 and the new one is so much taller I can hardly reach the dipstick without a milk crate. Plus I hate the raised hood with the “scoop” that means I can not see the ground in front of my truck for about 20 feet! Now I also need a drop hitch in the back to get anywhere close to level towing…why did I buy this again??? I have seen the RV industry offering heavier axles as an option as you have suggested and this typically means bigger tires and a higher hitch. Most dealers have addressed the problem with lift suspension for the rigs and drop hitches.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  14. Steve

    RV Make: Dodge, RV Model: Roadtrek 190 Versatile, RV Year: 1998

    How to change lights to LEDs

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Steve,

      To provide more specific troubleshooting information on your RV we need the make, model, and year of your RV.

      Thanks
      Becky RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  15. Mark

    RV Make: Forest river, RV Model: Sandpiper , RV Year: 2018

    Watched your 5th wheel hitch up video. Your automatic hitch takes the same action as my non-auto model. Also, when you showed how to make sure kingpin was attached to trailer your procedure was in error. Never, ever, let front hyd.pads down until you test that kingpin is secure-trailer could fall off. Only after you pull up an inch and feel kingpin is in place is it safe to lower front hydraulic. You should add a note to your video.

    Reply
  16. Jeff Titus

    RV Make: Grand Design , RV Model: Solitude , RV Year: 2015

    This is one great 5th wheel. Front living room

    Reply
  17. Arthur Gravatt

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Sandpiper, RV Year: 2017

    The video with this lesson on hitching up the 5th wheel doesn’t play.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Arthur,

      We are sorry that you are not able to play this video. We have tested it successfully. We will send you an email with some troubleshooting tips that should assist you with viewing the video.

      Thanks,
      Becky RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  18. Rodney

    RV Make: winnebago, RV Model: Luxor, RV Year: 1998

    Nice Video. i’m wondering if the same level of quality i get in a high end motor home is available in a fifth wheel. I”m speaking of high quality cabinets, heavy sturdy level floors, high end plumbing fixtures. I’ve had campers that were cheaply built so I like some features of fifth wheels but just wondering if i would feel like the environment would feel cheap. I don’t mean to sound snooty, just appreciate a heavy high quality feel . I could afford a new fifth wheel much easier than a high end motorhome so that’s why I ask.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Rodney,

      There are several levels amenities and construction materials used in 5th wheels so yes you can find high quality furnishings and fabrics, you just need to look very closely. I conduct RV Buyers Seminars around the country and I see to many people getting “WOW’ed” by fancy graphics, full body paint, and solid surface countertops and they just glance over any craftsmanship in cabinetry, high end hinges and pulls, and other furnishings. They are impressed with a cheesy electric fireplace and don’t notice that most of the cabinetry is paneling? Spend the time looking at these items as you would buying or building a home and you’ll find some really nice product out there such as the higher end Keystone, Grand Design, and Jayco as well as others.

      Hope this helps,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  19. Rick Colston

    RV Make: Teton, RV Model: 39' Grand Sundance, RV Year: 2004

    This is our 2nd 5th wheel. Bought this one new. Advantages definitely storage, roominess, livability as well as having a place to stay in the event of mechanical breakdowns. Sometimes wish it was a little shorter but we have never let that get in the way. Alaska trip last summer, some tow vehicle issues, was sure nice being able to find a park and be comfortable while issues were resolved. Only real con is having to stop for the occasional potty break. I give 5th wheels a +++!!!

    Reply
  20. Dan Petr0

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Cougar 333MKS, RV Year: 2015

    Hello, I have a 2015 keystone cougar 5th wheel. It has a little round led lite by the 5th wheel hitch. it has a switch on outside of unit called ‘dome light” it comes on when towing but when I disconnect unit and turn battery kill switch off it still stays on!! I can not control by switch as it does nothing. the only way I can get it to turn off soit does not drain battery when stored is to pull the positive cable off battery then replace it. That seems to turn it off. any help ??

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Dan,

      I do believe that light is the dome light and supposed to be controlled by the dome light switch with power from the house batteries? Connecting or disconnecting to the tow vehicle should not affect the operation unless your house batteries are dead and then it would draw power from the tow vehicle engine battery. Your question is a little confusing as you state the light “comes on when towing” but does not go off when disconnecting, with the kill switch off, and can not be controlled by the dome light switch. This would indicate it is always on unless you disconnect the batteries, so how does it “come on when towing”? I’ve asked for some clarification from my Keystone technician, but have not heard back yet. I would assume somehow this unit got wired direct to the house batteries or a circuit that bypasses the disconnect switch such as the LP leak detector or CO detector? Did you buy the unit new? If not, maybe the switch went bad and would not turn on, so the previous owner ran new wiring to the batteries directly or to a spot on the 12-volt terminal block that is always live? I would start by pulling 12-volt fuses to see if it goes off and find the terminal, then pull the switch and bench test it for continuity with a multimeter. Another option would be to pull the light down and see if there are new wires and old ones hanging around? Same thing for the switch location. It would probably easier to run a new wire at the switch location through the basement compartments than at the light under the 5th Wheel overhead?

      Thanks,
      Becky RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  21. Robert Laird

    In your article, you said 5th wheels are less secure… can you please elaborate?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Robert,

      I included the statement that 5th wheels have a lower level of security because I read on message boards that some owners worry about theft (if would-be robbers have a fifth-wheel hookup, they could simply drive away with a rig and crack it open back at their lair). I assume there are ways to ensure that doesn’t happen, so I didn’t emphasis security as a major issue or downfall of the 5th wheel. It’s probably a minor concern at best.

      Thanks,
      Tyler RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  22. Peter

    RV Make: Sandpiper , RV Model: 365saq, RV Year: 2013

    Just curious about any major issues anyone has had with these

    Reply
  23. Richard

    RV Make: Holiday Rambler, RV Model: Presidential, RV Year: 2006, Brand: Sharp

    I need to replace the microwave and can not find the screws that hold it in. I have replaced others and the screws were in the cabinet above it or under the filters. Am I missing something?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Richard,

      To provide more specific information on the location of the mounting screws or brackets for your microwave, we need the make, model, and year of your rig as well as the brand of microwave.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  24. Randy Aspinall

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Everest 320T, RV Year: 2007

    The lower clearance light on the front door side of the trailer has lost power. It is an enclosed belly and I would like to follow the wiring to look for a break and wonder where it might be going. I pulled the next light to the rear off and it doesn’t seem to be tied in at that point. Any ideas on how to diagnose where the problem is?

    Reply
  25. michael larrry

    RV Make: keystone, RV Model: everest 345s, RV Year: 2008

    front jacks

    Reply