Have you ever noticed the pickup trucks cruising down the highway, pulling trailers hooked up in a very strange way? I mean the trailers with the tongue that arches over the tailgate of the truck and joins in the middle of the truck bed. This is a fifth wheel or gooseneck trailer hitch. Basically, it transforms a pickup truck into a mini semi truck to improve its performance in two main ways.
What’s the point of gooseneck trailers?
A gooseneck trailer setup, named for the curved neck of the trailer tongue, moves the truck/trailer axle toward the center of the pickup. This better distributes the weight of the trailer between the axles. It also greatly increases the axis of rotation of the entire team.
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A gooseneck trailer hitch mechanism is quite simple. The trailer has a long, curved tongue that attaches to a regular trailer hitch ball mounted in the middle of a pickup bed.
Think of enhanced weight displacement like this: A loaded trailer tongue can carry hundreds, even thousands of pounds. When you connect all of this to a truck bumper-mounted trailer hitch ball, the weight is far from evenly distributed. In fact, this can lift the weight of the front wheels, making braking and steering difficult. If you put the full tongue weight of a trailer between the axles of a truck, then the truck can handle the load much more smoothly, according to HowThingsWork.com.
Also, if a truck turns a sharp corner with a trailer attached to its bumper, the trailer must follow around the corner. If the trailer is connected to the center of the truck, the truck can take a sharp turn and the trailer will essentially follow the center of the truck. This allows better control of the trailer. It also prevents the truck and trailer from colliding or colliding when the truck takes a sharp turn.
Why is it called the fifth wheel?
A fifth-wheel trailer setup gets its name because the pivot point on the truck bed rotates like a fifth wheel, in addition to the four the truck has on the ground. And because a fifth-wheel trailer has a kingpin that fits into the jaws of the truck bed, it functions like the axle of a wheel.
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A fifth wheel hitch is essentially a tower on a truck bed. It ends in a clamp to hold a special 5th wheel trailer. The fifth wheel trailer has a tongue long enough to go over the tailgate of the truck. Terminates in a vertical “center bolt” that fits into the fifth wheel hitch.
The technology used in a fifth wheel is similar to that of a semi-trailer. The larger trucks you see on the highway also have a kingpin and hitch with a set of jaws.
Which is safer, the fifth wheel or the gooseneck?
Because it has fewer moving parts, the beefier gooseneck hitch can pull a few hundred pounds more than a fifth wheel (30,00 pounds vs. 27,000). But by moving the axle point up, a fifth wheel is a much safer way to haul a heavy trailer on top. This is especially true in a crosswind.
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A fifth wheel is a more advanced towing solution. With its higher axle point, it gives the driver better control over a tall trailer. It also suffers from less noise and vibration than a gooseneck while driving down the highway. This is because a gooseneck hitch is essentially a regular trailer hitch ball attached to the center of a truck bed.
Below, learn why some trucks have four rear tires, or see a gooseneck hitch vs. a regular bumper hitch in action in the video below:
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