Installing a Generator in a 5th Wheel: Helpful Guide + Tips

You can’t be without power. Even if you are boondocking, you need a little power to run the essential appliances to heat your water, cool your food and run your air conditioner. Making sure you have back up electrical source when the power goes out is vital to a good RV experience.

Installing a Generator in a 5th Wheel: There is some debate between whether you should use a portable instead of a built-in model generator. The good thing about having it built-in or installed is that it is always ready to go when you need it. You should also go with a propane model for a variety of positive reasons.

To learn more about installing a generator in your 5th wheel, just continue to read our article. It is filled with the information you need to know when it comes to installing a generator in your 5th wheel trailer.

  • Tip #1: When looking for a new generator, make sure you get one powerful enough to run those appliances, etc., without issues. Some RVers have bought units that were too small and could not run anything.
  • Tip #2: If you do not use your RV that much and the generator will sit idle for long periods of time, you want a generator that is not susceptible to problems if it isn’t started for weeks.

Do 5th Wheels Come with Generators?

The answer to this question is yes, they do. Maybe not on earlier models but most certainly on more recent 5th wheel trailers. The question you have to answer is not does it come with a generator, but will it be big enough to handle all the electrical appliances you want to run at the same time.

Some built-in generators may not be big enough to handle the air conditioner and the water heater. Others are and still some will run all the appliances at the same time except the air conditioner.

Manufacturers are notorious for putting in equipment that is not up to the task you want it to do. So double check the power and size of the generator to make sure it will do everything you want without causing you problems.

  • Tip #3: Locating the generator may be the problem. On a 5th wheel you may have a compartment at the front but if that is taken, place it at the rear using the bumper as support.

On Board Generator vs Portable RV Generator

This is a preference call. There are many experienced RV owners who like having the generator built-in. The reason for this is because they do not have to waste any time setting up a portable model. They just turn it on and it is working.

Others prefer having a portable unit because they are worried about the fumes and the noise the generator produces. Storage is another issue in their decision as well. Both ways are efficient and will handle your power needs without complaint.

You just need to decide which way is best for you and your family and go with it.

  • Tip #4: If your gasoline styled generator gas supply keeps going stale, try adding some some 2 cycle engine oil to your supply. This oil will keep the gas fresh indefinitely. Only about a few ounces per 5 gals will do the trick.

How to Install a Generator in 5th Wheel

It is not hard to install a generator on your 5th wheel. There are only about 5 steps involved to make sure it is done correctly:

  • 1. Find the right location- this can be either in a front storage compartment or near the rear of the trailer
  • 2. Make a platform for the generator- attach it to your A frame for a front installation and your bumper for a rear.
  • 3. Use U bolts- this helps get you a sturdy, secure and stable fit
  • 4. Center the generator on the platform- then secure the generator to that platform through its pre-drilled bolt holes or using ratchet straps.
  • 5. Connect the electrical system of the generator to your RV and that is it
  • Tip #5: Only use a generator designed for RV use. These generators produce the power an RV computerized components need and are quieter than other models.

5th Wheel Generator Prep

The basic prep work that needs to be done on your 5th wheel may only come when you do a rear install. You will need to check your bumper to see if it can support the weight of the generator and platform.

Yo do this by checking how the bumper is attached to the frame. You are looking for at least a 12 inch weld or metal section that is bolted to the frame. If your 5th wheel has either of those, then you can attach the generator in the rear.

  • Tip #6: make sure any exhaust fumes are directed away from your 5th wheel. Also for safety, install carbon monoxide detectors or make sure those already installed have fresh batteries. Safety first.

Finding a Spot for the Generator

This is probably going to be the easiest task when trying to install your new generator. Some 5th wheels come with generator ready compartments. If yours does, then this decision is over and you can install.

If not, you may need to use a front storage compartment or a rear area of the 5th wheel near the bumper. These are basically your only options when trying to install a permanent generator to your RV.

If you want some other location, you should talk to an expert RV mechanic first to help you locate it properly.

Fifth Wheel Generator Mount

There are good steel or metal alloy fifth wheel generator mounts on the market today that you can purchase to help you install a generator. Some of these mounts go on the bumper but some Experienced RV owners do not like this because the rear bumpers are not designed to hold a lot of weight.

You may have to reinforce the bumper to make sure it does not drop your generator after going over a random bump in the road. Amazon has some generator mounts available but it would probably be best to find one at an RV parts store.

5th Wheel Generator Exhaust

Carbon monoxide is one of the main issues you have to deal with when you install a generator in your RV. You have to watch where the exhaust goes after you start the generator up on a test run. If the exhaust heads towards your RV you will need to make some alterations t the exhaust exit or the generator’s positioning.

Also, carbon monoxide fumes do not gather right away. They may build up over time. If you have not had a problem in the past, it does not mean you do not have an exhaust problem.

Check and double check to make sure you are your family are safe from generator exhaust fumes

  • Tip #7: When it rains, do not put your generator under your awning to protect it. This opens you and your family up to exhaust fumes. Build a separate canopy to keep your generator safe as well as you and your family

5th Wheel Generator Enclosure

One way to protect your generator from the elements is to make sure it is properly covered, whether in use or not. Rain do can do a lot of damage to a model if it does not have GFCI plug already installed.

If it does or doesn’t, it still is a good idea to buy or make a generator tent. These tents protect your unit from water, dust and other damage caused by the elements. They should not be that expensive and they should go up in no time.

  • Tip #8: You can cut the noise level of your generator down by sound proofing the generator compartment, using mufflers or baffle boxes. Which one you use will depend on the location you place your generator.

5th Wheel Generator Fuel Tanks

It may be difficult to locate a generator’s fuel tank on your 5th wheel. One option would be to attach it to the rear part of your trailer’s frame and run a rubber fuel line to the generator.

Another option may be to store it in the generator compartment if there is room for it and the generator. A better solution would be to use portable tanks that hook up easy when you need to run the machine.

You can store these tanks just about anywhere safely. Then the only hassle would be pulling them out and hooking them up. As well as reversing the process.

What Size Generator for 5th Wheel

Finding the right size of generator depends on a variety of factors. First, how big your 5th wheel trailer is. Second, how many air conditioners do you want to run. Third, how many other appliances do you want to run at the same time.

For some 5th wheel trailers a 30 amp is sufficient, but that is because the owners do not need to use a lot of power or appliances at the same time. You may want to go with a larger 50 amp to make sure you get the power you need when you need it.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you and those factors. Keep in mind that some campgrounds may limit noise levels to about 60 decibels so that will be an influential factor in your decision making process.

How to Hook Up a Generator to a 5th Wheel

You have a few options at your disposal when it comes to wiring your generator to your RV. First, you can simply plug in the shore cord. This method gives you both generator and shore power at the same time.

Or second, you can wire the generator’s AC power to one side of the transfer switch and your shore power to the other side. This method allows you to alternate power sources when you want a change.

Third, you can put the ground rod into the ground where you want your generator. Then, connect the copper ground wire to the portable generator. Next, make sure the exhaust exit is pointed away from your RV. Finally, plug in your RV’s connector cable to the generator.

Onan Generator for 5th Wheel

While more recent 5th wheel trailers already come with a generator built-in, it may not be as powerful as you would like. Usually they are 30 amp models and that means you may need to buy a second generator if you need more power.

Once installed, the Onan can put out the power you need as well as provide you and your family with enough safety protocols to protect everyone. Their 279 pound weight may be of some concern to you.

Running Generator in 5th Wheel While Driving

This should not be a problem. Since you cannot hook up to a continuous power supply and you do not want to run your batteries down while keeping food or your pets cold, this is the way to handle your situations.

This is also called exercising the generator which is also a good habit to get into. When you stop, your food remains fresh, cool and does not spoil. Plus, if your pets travel in your trailer, it is a great way to keep them cool as well.

Some Final Words

Installing a generator in your 5th wheel can be a good thing. While more recent 5th wheel models already come with a generator installed, you may want to add a second one just in case that unit is not powerful enough.

Some RV owners prefer propane fueled models because propane handles down time a lot better as well as other positive characteristics. No matter which fuel based generator you decide to use, make sure you take care of the exhaust issue.

It is better safe than sorry. Also, you can keep the generator running as you are towing. This protects your food, your pets and any family member who is riding in the 5th wheel (yes, that is legal if it is a 5th wheel).

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