Getting the Most Out of Your Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck Adapter Hitch: Best Practices and Recommendations
There’s a lot of information out there about whether a fifth-wheel gooseneck adapter hitch is good or bad. While some recommend it, others depict horror stories that make for a great Hollywood horror flick. But what’s the truth of the matter?
In this discussion, we’re going to point out the realities of gooseneck adapter hitches. These fifth-wheel hitch alternatives do have their benefits, but there are a few considerations that you need to keep in mind before you purchase one for yourself.
Join us as we show you how to use a fifth-wheel gooseneck adapter hitch correctly and what to keep in mind when using it.
What Is a Gooseneck Hitch?
A gooseneck hitch is a trailer ball that’s mounted in a pickup truck bed. The ball is strategically placed above the rear axles where the truck has the most pulling power. This type of hitch has the capability of towing up to 30,000 lbs.
Generally, livestock and utility flatbed trailers use this type of hitch mount due to its heavy-duty and stability benefits. Some truck manufacturers offer gooseneck prep packages on their vehicles.
What Is a Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck Adapter?
Some gooseneck trailers don’t fully reach into the truck’s bed. Therefore, using a hitch device that raises the ball may be needed. In the past few years, some hitch brands have offered a raised hitch with a gooseneck adaptor connecting to a fifth-wheel pin.
The gooseneck adaptor is a rectangular metal device with two holes. The first hole fits the gooseneck’s ball hitch, and the second is wide enough for a fifth-wheel kingpin.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using an Adapter
The Advantages of Using a Gooseneck Adapter Hitch
For many reasons, these newer fifth-wheel gooseneck adapter hitches have become popular among rural and urban RVers. Now that these hitches have had some time to be tested by experts and consumers, here are some of their benefits and burdens.
1. Adaptability Between Hitch Needs
The primary benefit of using a gooseneck adapter hitch allows for adaptability. Those that pull gooseneck trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, and fiver RVs can do so without having to spend money and effort reconfiguring their truck bed for a more common fifth-wheel hitch.
2. Strength and Weight
Hitches like the Andersen Ultimate Hitch (also available via eTrailer) are made out of aluminum. This particular gooseneck adapter hitch has a towing capacity of up to 24,000 lbs and weighs less than 20 lbs.
Of course, it only weighs 20 lbs, so virtually anybody can carry it back and forth to its place in the garage. So there’s no reason your pre-teens can’t put their phone away for a few minutes and help out.
3. Hitch Installation
Another advantage is how easy it is to install this hitch. Once the rail mounts are permanently installed, it locks in place. The same is true with the gooseneck adapter device.
The Disadvantages of Using a Gooseneck Adapter Hitch
1. Steel vs. Aluminum
Fifth-wheel hitches commonly use steel in their construction. All of the other hitch brands do this for a reason; you’re pulling a lot of weight. Fifth-wheel travel trailers are the heaviest towable RVs on the road. If you’re towing a 45 ft. Heartland Landmark Scottsdale, with a GVWR of 18,000 lbs, you want a reliable hitch that can tow this monster.
Granted, not everyone can afford a fifth wheel with an MSRP of close to $200,000, but with a length of almost 44 ft, the aluminum gooseneck adaptor hitch is going to find a corner to cry in when facing a fifth wheel of this size.
Realistically, steel can continue to do its job over time, even after being stressed over years of towing a heavy towable RV.
The aluminum gooseneck adaptor hitch may show signs of stress fatigue after a lot of use. Even though the aluminum tubing is thick, aluminum has a significantly weaker stress tolerance than steel. Part-time RVers may not see this type of damage for years, but eventually, the hitch will need replacement.
2. Don’t Max Out the Pulling Capacity
Every experienced RVer will tell you to save 20% of your tow vehicle’s maximum towing capacity for gear, people riding in the truck, and giving the engine enough horsepower to keep up with traffic.
The same can be said for a fifth-wheel hitch. While a gooseneck adapter hitch like the Andersen Ultimate Hitch has a towing capacity of 24,000 lbs, that doesn’t mean you should pull an RV with a GVWR that heavy.
You want to save 15-20% for road conditions, changes in your water tanks (refills), and other X-factors. Some accidents have occurred because the wind has hit the side of the fifth wheel the wrong way, the RV has started to ride loose on the road, or other unexpected occurrences.
The lighter the load, the better control you’ll have over the trailer. More importantly, the less stress on the hitch.
3. Hitch Destruction During an Accident
If you search the internet, you’ll find that this is the “Elephant in the Room.” We went back and forth on this one deciding if this was an advantage or disadvantage. Since this article is about the gooseneck adaptor hitch itself, it can be considered a disadvantage.
Gooseneck adaptor hitches made from aluminum are designed to collapse in on themselves during an accident. While there will be some damage to the truck and RV, the purpose of the hitch crumpling in on itself is a safety measure: it takes the brunt of the force of impact.
From the disadvantaged point-of-view, you’ll need to replace the hitch due to irreparable damage. In some cases, the gooseneck ball mount has even sheared off (which is not typical).
But think about it this way: the truck will need a new rear cab window, and the bed may need body work. The nose cap of the fifth wheel may be scraped up and have some other light damage. But in every case reported online, everyone walked away. That includes the driver and all the passengers.
How To Install a Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck Adapter Hitch
Installing a Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck adapter hitch is different than hooking up a steel fiver hitch. Essentially, you’re telescoping the existing gooseneck ball to a higher position that’s high enough for your fifth-wheel RV’s kingpin.
First, if your pickup truck doesn’t already have it installed, you’ll need to have the gooseneck ball and hitch bed attachments permanently installed in the truck’s cargo bed. The service department of the car dealership or other truck service garages should be able to install this for you correctly.
Second, the RV dealership or the same truck service garage should be able to install the mounting points for the fifth-wheel gooseneck hitch itself. Generally, car dealerships won’t install anything that isn’t an option from the truck manufacturer. While the gooseneck ball is an optional feature that usually comes from the manufacturer, the hitch isn’t.
Once the gooseneck ball and hitch points have been set in place in the bed of your truck, the difficult part (and most expensive) is over. When you don’t need the ball or connection points, there should be a way to disconnect them so you’re truck bed surface can be flat.
You should also be able to pick up some type of circular inserts to plug the holes to cover the connection points to keep your truck bed surface sealed if you used it to move sand, dirt, or other things that you don’t want siphoning through those holes made for the hitch and connection points.
Steps for Installing a Fifth Wheel Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck Adapter
When you’re ready to hitch up and explore the country in your fifth-wheel RV, installing your fifth-wheel gooseneck adapter hitch is a pretty straightforward process.
1. Reattach the Gooseneck Ball and Hitch Connection Points
Of course, you’ll want to reattach the gooseneck ball and hitch connection points in your truck bed. Make sure they’re tight because these points are where the hitch gets its “pulling power” from, and you don’t want any problems.
2. Attach to the Gooseneck Ball in the Truck Bed First!
This is one of those “Chicken or Egg” situations. It’s best to connect the center arm to the gooseneck ball in the truck bed, then adjust the hitch’s frame to the corner mounts in the bed.
You shouldn’t have to make any significant adjustments if everything was installed correctly. But we all know how it goes: Installing something metal when it’s 70° outside versus 90° will make the all-aluminum hitch a “stubborn so-and-so” that wants to make your life “challenging” (this is a family-friendly article, but you know those words we’re trying to express here).
3. Tighten the Hitch in Place
If you’re using the Andersen Hitch, they make a non-slip mat you can place the hitch on for added grip. This hitch doesn’t have the corner hitch attachments we spoke about above.
Whichever hitch you choose, you’ll need a torque wrench to tighten the hitch to the bed-mounted gooseneck ball. Set your wrench to 60 lbs/ft.
4. Place the Gooseneck Adapter on the Kingpin
You want to keep with the idea of bringing your truck to the fifth wheel, not bringing the RV to the truck. In this case, the gooseneck adapter device should already be connected to your fifth wheel’s kingpin as well as the handle that disengages the connection from your truck.
The way the adapter works, the device should line up above the hitch itself when you’re in position. You’ll need a spotter for this part since you won’t feel or hear that “click” that standard fifth-wheel hitches make when it locks in.
Once the gooseneck adapter is aligned with the hitch, lower your fiver’s front jacks and lock in.
5. Don’t Forget the Umbilical or the Safety Chains
Everybody thinks they’ll never forget to attach the electric umbilical cord or safety chains until they miss this step. Let’s be honest; we’ve all had those “Oops moments.” As fellow RVers, we like to take the high road and consider this the moment when we can call ourselves veteran RVers.
Hopefully, you haven’t hit the road yet, and the “people” in blue didn’t hand you a ticket saying, “Happy birthday from the city/county/state of wherever.”
Tips for a Successful Installation
Here are a few tips for a successful installation of your Gooseneck Adapter Hitch.
1. Don’t Use Grease Unless Stated
Like the Anderson Gooseneck Adapter Hitch, the adapter itself is designed not to use grease. They formulated the outer coating so both the fifth-wheel kingpin and the hitch’s gooseneck ball can move around without grease. Adding it can create problems.
2. Know Your Weight Tolerance
The last thing you want to do is max out the weight of these aluminum hitches. They’re best used with smaller lightweight fifth-wheel RVs. Mid and larger versions should use the steel hitches that can take the RV’s weight better, especially in a road accident.
3. Add the Gooseneck Adapter Hitch to Your RV Maintenance Checklist
When you go through your fifth wheel’s maintenance checklist, check the hitch itself. You want to look for significant stress damage like:
- Adapter damage
- Ball separation from the hitch
- Bending of supports
- Brakes in the welding or in the supports
Since the gooseneck hitch is so vital, you want to ensure it’s in the best shape possible. Remember, you have a lot of weight connected to it. Inside that fifth wheel, you probably have items that are valuable to you. So, make sure your gooseneck adapter hitch is in the best condition possible. You can easily keep track of RV maintenance, fuel, and documentation, with email alerts using the RV Maintenance, just one of many online features of the RV LIFE Pro membership!
Is a Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck Adapter Hitch Right for You?
Only you can determine if a fifth-wheel gooseneck adapter hitch is right for you. It does have its pros and cons, as we’ve discussed.
Gooseneck adapter hitches are lightweight, easy to install, and don’t add a lot of extra weight to your truck. Yet they’re designed to crush into themselves in a road accident, and it’s relatively easy to add more weight than they can handle.
Whichever fifth-wheel hitch you choose, make sure you travel safely on the road and follow all the instructions to hitch up correctly. After all, the best RV trip is the one where everyone comes home happy and healthy.