While you can save money and fill in your time by doing many projects yourself, this particular one is not one of them. You will need professional help unless you were a professional in this area when you were working. It takes skill and good craftsmanship to do this project right.
One method begins with removing anything that will be in the way of the hitch. Once that is done, you mark & drill your pilot holes, then widen the holes. Next, position your hitch and bolt the under-bed brackets after that followed by bolting the front 5th wheel rail.
There are more steps, but that gives you an idea of what you need to do. Keep reading to find out more details about doing this project. It should only take a few minutes to get all the facts before you get started.
Yes, this is possible and it is done all the time. One positive aspect of adding a 5th wheel hitch is that you get better weight distribution when you are towing. Plus, you also get a more level ride, better braking control, and minimal sway.
The hitch will look and act like a semi-truck 5th wheel hitch. These hitches use a center pivot receiver and pin that is mounted on the bed of a heavy-duty pick-up truck. Again, they are like a semi-truck diesel drill rig combination.
It is a custom install and if you are going to tackle it on your own, you should get someone who is a professional at this type of installation to help you. Keep in mind, that you are losing quite a bit of space on the flatbed so make sure you have the right size of truck to handle this conversion.
The type of items you can carry alongside of the hitch will be limited in size and type. It could be a very tight fit in some cases.
One expert stated that standard 5th wheel rails are not the optimum part to use on a flatbed. The reason is that if the flatbed section is not built very well you can have problems, a lot of problems.
Then the height of the flatbed is higher than a standard pick-up truck. You may not be able to tow level with standard 5th wheel rails. many outlets may not carry standard 5th wheel rails that will work on a flatbed. Those are geared for pick-up trucks.
There are some custom options, for example, the Demco Hijacker SL Series Flat Deck 5th Wheel Trailer Hitch # DM6076SL-FLAT or the Base Rails for Demco Hijacker SL Series 5th Wheel Trailer Hitches # DM6012 that should work.
We suggest you talk to some experts and get their advice before you get started. The reason we say that is that every flatbed is different and has different issues and they may know of a better way to go about installing this hitch. This is not a plug & play type installation as it will take a lot of work and planning.
There are three good reasons why using the former is better than using the latter. However, your camping and towing situation may not be the same as other people’s and you may have some good reasons this sub-title is reversed. Here are those 3 reasons:
#1. Better and easier access to the trailer or even the bed- With a pick-up, the sides of the bed can get in your way while there are no sides on the flatbed to impede your access. Also, you may have better clearance as flatbed beds are normally longer than a pick-up bed.
#2. Better storage space- the flatbed option makes it easier to store items in and around the hitch and you can go under the trailer. Using lockable tool boxes that can easily be secured will help you with this objective.
#3. Towing with the flatbed is both easier and safer- As we mentioned earlier, you will have better clearance and should not have to worry about hitting the back of your cab when you make turns. You won’t be hitting the tailgate or side rails as they are non-existent on a flatbed.
This arrangement means that you won’t be damaging your truck.
It is advisable that you do not do this project yourself. There are a lot of details to installation that require experienced hands to do the work. It is easy to get injured and having some experienced help with you, those situations can be avoided.
There are some exceptions to this advice. Newer trucks that are made with the purpose they will be tow vehicles already have a 5th wheel prep package installed at the factory. In this case, you should be able to do the installation yourself.
If the vehicle does not have this package you can still do the work but there is a lot of work involved as the installation is more complex. Just know your limits and hire a professional when it is beyond your installation talents.
There are about 15 steps involved in this process.
1. Remove any spare tires, heat shields, and other equipment. Follow the instructions that came with the hitch
2. Install the base rail as close to the cab as possible. Make sure the distance is accurate and precise.
3. Mart and drill your pilot holes. A center punch should help you mark and get the drill started
4. Once the bracket lines up mark and drill the rest of the pilot holes. Also, make sure the under-bed 5th wheel bracket lines up. You can temporarily attach this.
5. Drill the regular-sized holes so they are large enough to hold the bolts. Do not leave any jagged or rough edges.
6. Install the brackets under the bed. Their location should be in the instructions that came with the hitch.
7. Place the bed rail in its position and use spacers if needed. You will need consistent metal-to-metal contact.
8. Make sure the 5th wheel hitch can be placed at the right height. Have your trailer level when you take the measurement. Two measurements are needed. One from the ground to the underside of the kingpin plate and the other to the top of your flatbed’s bed
9. Now it is time to connect the 5th wheel’s legs. There should be a vertical adjustment range to help you get the right height.
10. Install the 5th wheel rail that goes in the back again, and follow the instructions that came with the hitch.
11. Now it is time to drill the foundation holes and make sure they are centered and in the right place
12. Bolt the rear rail securely and attach them to the under-bed rails.
13. Install all remaining bolts that are lying around waiting to do their duty.
14. Once installed torque all the bolts to the right specs.
15. Position the 5th wheel back into its proper location and you are done.
The correct position of the 5th wheel hitch is centered between the wheel wells and mounted directly above or slightly in front of the rear axle. You want to have the most secure spot possible and this should be it. You should also get great weight distribution from this location.
Also, you have to make sure it is properly anchored as you will be pulling a lot of weight. This is not a simple attach and tow situation. There is a lot of work involved. the cost for a profession is between $800 and $1600 and if you DIY it your costs will be roughly $200 to $400 and all figures are approx.
The time it takes is roughly 6 hours.
This is going to be a little bit easier and safer task. of course, there are different 5th wheel hitches so you need to make sure you get the right one for your trailer.
If you like working with your hands and know how to use the proper tools, then this may be a project for you. However, it is a complicated and labor-intensive task so you should have help.
Even though you can do this project yourself, it is often better to hire a professional. They know how to handle any problems that arise and may even have templates to make the installation go faster and smoother. Be careful no matter which option you choose to take.