Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Learning to Hook up a 5th Wheel

Today was a productive day for me.  Since my truck was delivered yesterday, I decided to take time today to get acquainted with a few things in my truck - the shiny new Reese hitch and the Sirius XM radio my brother put in for me.  I also loaded all the safety gear from my car to the truck. 

I got out the instructions for the radio, tuned to the FM station as instructed and started playing with the buttons.  It was so easy to find the ones I wanted to put on the preset buttons - they made it pretty easy to figure out how to get around in their program.  So now I have music, comedy, or whatever else from the extensive list of channels they have on there.  OK, that was easy - let's hope the hitch is just as user friendly.

I had a general understanding of how the 5th wheel hitches worked.  In looking over the book, I found that mine doesn't have the jaws I've seen on most of them.  Instead, it has a heavy bar that pulls back with the handle, when your king pin goes in there completely, it clicks into place.  Makes sense to me.  There's a padlock that goes on the handle to keep it in place,  so I decided to give that a little squirt with some T-9 so it won't rust up. 

Later in the day, I met a friend of mine over at the storage unit where my 5th wheel has been incarcerated until this weekend.  This would be the first time in my life that I have ever attached any kind of trailer to any kind of vehicle  - in my whole life!  I had not driven this truck much, and in truth, I am very used to cars and very rarely drive a truck.  Not any more!  So, I put tailgate down and pull in front of the 5th wheel and prepare to back up the truck to put that king pin into my shiny new hitch.  This is just practice, to see how close I can get it - we're not planning on going anywhere.

I start backing up, trying to line up that small pin with the hitch I can see in the back of my truck.  I go slowly, trying to keep them in line, and when I get close - I can see that I'm only an inch or two off to one side.  OK, I pull forward a bit and back up again, not coming closer, but now about 3 inches short of success.  My friend explains that I need to pull further forward than I did, since the minute changes I made in steering don't work when I'm too close because the hitch is right over the axle.  So, I pull way forward and start my slow trip back again, lining up the pin with the hitch.  This time, it works and the king pin is in perfect position to jump right into the hitch.  We closed the tailgate because it looked SO close, and I backed up just a teeny bit and heard the hitch lever clunk into place.  Success!!   

Since it was solidly on, we decided to hook up the power cord; we checked the lights and they all worked fine.  I retracted the forward landing gear and we could see the weight of the 5th wheel settle into the bed of the truck.  OK, great, things are working nicely!  It was late in the day, so that's all we planned to do.  So, we put down the landing gear, unhooked the power and pulled the truck away from the 5th wheel - yes, remembering to lower the tailgate again.

I feel better about hooking up now, since the first lesson is usually the worst (I hope).  We'll see on Saturday when I hook it up again and take it up the road about 20 miles or so to get her roof cleaned and coated and get her some new tires. 

More fun to come!

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