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What is the Fifth Wheel Tug Test?

This Simple Test Can Save You a Lot of Headaches

Fifth-wheel trailers are a popular choice for RVers because they offer powerful, stable towing that’s also easier to control. But just like with any trailer, if your RV isn’t properly connected, you risk major damage to your vehicle, your RV, and potentially to others around you.

To prevent these problems, you can do a simple “fifth wheel tug test.” Let’s take a closer look at the fifth wheel tug test, why you’d want to do it, and how it works. 

What Exactly Is a “Fifth Wheel Pull Test,” And Why Should You Do One?

If the connection between your truck’s pin box and your trailer’s kingpin isn’t secure, it can cause major damage to your truck. When you go to drive away, the insecure connection will result in your fifth wheel being left behind. The result? Your RV will fall onto your truck bed, doing major damage in the process. 

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The fifth wheel tug test is a simple test to ensure you have a secure connection between your truck and your trailer. In essence, all a tug test requires is for you to connect your truck and trailer and “tug” it forward to ensure it stays connected. This test is essential for anyone pulling a fifth wheel, and if you skip it, you’re risking heavy damage to your vehicle. 

The below video shows what can happen when one fails to do a fifth-wheel tug test.

You may be happy to know that the couple in the video have used their many years of experiences (some learned the hard way) since the above video to help new RVers hit the road in the RV LIFE Masterclass titled, A Beginner’s Guide To RVing. The Course is Also Part of the RV LIFE Pro Member Bundle which RV LIFE Pro members have access for FREE. Check out all the RV LIFE Masterclass courses here.

How Do You Do A Fifth Wheel Tug Test?

A fifth wheel tug test is simple and requires only a few steps. Before starting the test, ensure your RV still has the wheels chocked. If not, put your RV wheel chocks down.

  • The first order of business is to line everything up properly. Ensure the kingpin lines up correctly to slide into the pin box.
  • Reverse your truck to engage the fifth wheel hitch and connect your RV. As you do so, your RV will raise slightly.
  • Before continuing, do a visual inspection of the hitch to ensure the pin is properly in place.
  • Then, you can make all other connections for the hitch, like connecting the wiring harness. 
  • Retract your landing gear until there’s about a half inch between your landing gear and blocks. Leaving this gap ensures that, should the test fail, your RV won’t have too far to go when it falls. This protects your RV from damage as well as reduces strain on the landing gear. 
  • TIP: It’s also commonly recommended to drop your tailgate until the test is finished. That way, the small distance the trailer drops won’t ding or damage the gate in the rare case the test fails. 
  • With everything in place, you’re ready to carry out the test. Get in your truck and put the truck in gear. Apply just enough gas to give the trailer a good tug. 

If everything is properly connected, your truck won’t move forward, and your fifth wheel will stay connected. Congratulations, you’ve passed your pull test! Now, you can finish your RV hooking-up routine and hit the road!

Now You Know How To Do A Pull Test For Safety

That’s it! The fifth wheel tug test is super simple, but it’s also essential. With this simple test, you can always be sure you have a strong connection and avoid costly damage to your vehicle or RV. 

Don’t forget to check out RV LIFE Masterclass for more beginner RV information and courses like:

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5 thoughts on “What is the Fifth Wheel Tug Test?”

  1. Is there a good procedure to st your jacks to the suggested height when you have hydraulic jacks as both jacks do not operate simultaneously when raising and lowering the jacks in both manual or automatic mode. In other words, a single jack operates at a time until pressure is applied and or fully retracted, the the second jack will begin to move.

    Reply
  2. Professional truck drivers do a tug test as well. Although slightly different in method, it’s there to confirm the trailer kingpin and the 5th wheel are locked together. A HUGE recommendation you can take from professional truckers to add to this- never assume that because the hitch locking lever moved to the “lock” position you are ready to test. Actually look to see the kingpin is seated correctly. It’s possible to close the lever but have the pin to far up resulting in a “high hook”. If you high hook and do the tug test your trailer will come off the 5th wheel every time. It only takes a second to look – and we all know what happens when we assume. Look and then tug for a safe tow every time.

    Reply
  3. At Last !! This tug test is an absolute must for anyone with a 5th wheel regardless of the weight, length and model. as mentioned it only takes 5 minutes or less to save your truck bed. your nerves and insurance policy and potentially a motel or hotel for the night.
    As a retired transit driver from the “Great white North” even us folks did a tug test at the start of the AM shift just before heading out to deal with the public. a brake failure or dragging brakes can be worked on by the mechanics and you get a replacement bus while still not in service.Your travel partner should also be in the loop as he /she can provide a 2nd set of eyes when setting up and doing the test

    Reply
  4. I unfortunately had the same thing happen when I brought our new 5th wheel home the first time! I was tired after an all day affair, changing out the belongings in old RV and putting in the new model. Then going over all the things for walk-thru, I went to back up in the driveway and pulled the wrong level releasing the lock on the hitch. RV crashed down onto my tailgate crushing it. After raising the RV, I drove off from under the RV, but had difficulty lowering the bent tailgate! A lot of hammering, and beating on the tailgate, an hour later, it finally released, took gate off, thrown away, and got a louvered plastic tailgate to use. Not a good day!

    Reply

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