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Author Topic: Backing up a fifth wheel  (Read 34330 times)

baba

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Backing up a fifth wheel
« on: May 26, 2009, 04:55:43 PM »
Being a new owner of a great fifth wheel trailer, I am having  trouble backing it up.  Is it better to go very slow and steady or what. I have practiced in a parking lot but  I will get there but is it very frustrating.  If I cramp the  wheel it will turn but then won't straighten out. I have heard about holding the steering wheel it at the bottom but I can't seem to master it. I NEED HELP (in order to save my 40 year marriage).  Thanks to all who will contribute.
Barry

BruceinFL

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2009, 06:04:48 PM »
Practice, practice, practice and patience. Try not to overturn and start leading out of the turn early. Turn the bottom of the steering wheel in the direction you want the camper to go but remember that the unit will not straighten out as quickly as you get it to turn. It'll all come together after a while. Don't give up.
Bruce A.
2004 Alpenlite Valhalla 29RK 5W
2005 Ford F-350 SRW 6.0L

Carl L

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2009, 06:05:13 PM »
1.  Use a guide standing on the outside of your turn.  They should stand where they can see your side mirrors.   Accept directions from that person only -- refer kibitzers to the guide.

2.  Have the guide instruct you on the direction of the rear of the should go.

3.   Place your hand on the bottom of your steering wheel and push it in the direction that the rear of the trailer is to go.

4.   Remember that you have to allow the trailer to describe arcs of circles as it turns.  Start your turn and then ease up to let it follow thru on the arc.

5.   If you go too far, reverse the steering part way and pull forward to re-aim the rear and then back again on a new arc.

6.   Realize that the whole process will be slow and while you are learning with lots of backs and corrections.

7.  Do not be afraid to give up on a bad cut, pull out and start over again.  Style points are not being awarded for the efforts here.  ;D

8.  When you position yourself in the access road prior to backing remember to allow yourself room on the opposite side of the road to avoid conflicts there.  You can get too close to the far side and find obstacles like 42 foot motorhomes obstructing your turn.
Carl L/LA   [Forum Staff]  KI6SEZ

Prowler 23LV TT pulled by a '95 Ford Bronco

Gary RV Roamer

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2009, 07:51:20 PM »
With a fifth wheel, you have to crank in a lot of steering input to get the turn started, but must quickly back off to a very small turn of the wheel once the trailer begins to turn.  The exact timing of that change is a matter of experience with your tow vehicle and trailer. Fifth wheels are not easy to back up - it is a skill that has to be acquired.
Gary
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Gary Brinck
2004 American Tradition
2007 GMC Acadia
Homebase: Ocala National Forest, FL

Lou Schneider

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2009, 10:34:15 PM »
To start the 5th wheel turning, you have to get an angle between your truck and trailer.   To make it stop turning, you have to get the truck and trailer in a straight line with each other.

To back up your truck by itself, you have to turn the front wheels in a direction that moves the front of the truck towards the outside of the turn.

To back up the trailer, you have to do the same thing - position the truck so it's pushing the FRONT of the 5th wheel towards the outside of the turn.  Then to keep the turn radius the same, the truck has to follow the trailer through the turn - keeping the same angle between the truck and trailer.  If you don't follow the trailer, the radius of the turn will get tighter and tighter.

To stop turning, you have to get the truck and trailer in a straight line with each other.

Sometimes it's easier to pull forward slightly and position the truck at an angle to the trailer, then begin backing.

Likewise, if you reach the end of the turn and can't get the truck and trailer straightened out to stop the turn, or you find you can't get the truck to turn sharply enough to straighten itself out with the trailer, stop, crank the wheel over the other way and pull forward slightly until the truck and trailer are in a straight line.   Then straighten out the wheel and resume backing.

And, while backing, watch the wheels of the trailer - that's where the trailer will track, not at the rear bumper.  You'll drive yourself crazy if you try to back up watching the position of the rear bumper instead of the wheels.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2009, 10:50:45 PM by Lou Schneider »

Frank B

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2009, 09:45:30 PM »
Gary:

>Fifth wheels are not easy to back up - it is a skill that has to be acquired.<

Yes, it is substantially different from a TT as the pivot point is over the rear wheels rather than behind them, giving less 'leverage' on the turning angle.  I was pretty good at backing up trailers, but the two 5ths we've had meant learning new skills.  In addition, both 5ths we've had were about the same length as the trucks we used to pull them -- an 18' with our 94 Chev xcab shortbox, and now a 23' with our 1 ton crew long.  I think that makes it even tougher.

I'm glad to say, however, that after 5 years of putting these units into one side of our garage that I can now get the trailer within an inch of the door frame when going in, and not break anything.  :)

Frank.
Linux:  Free, open, elegant.
06 GMC 3500 Duramax crew/long pulling Westwind 24' lightweight 5th

RoyM

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2009, 10:46:44 PM »
My only experience with a box mount was a 32' goose neck horse trailer converted into a mobile shop. I had no difficulty learning to back it up, it was a lot easier than those damn 6' utility trailers. It did take more input into the steering wheel but was more forgiving as there was little overhang.
Start straightening out as soon as the tail is headed in the right direction, too many wait until it jacknifes and as has been suggested use a calm reliable spotter.
Ram 2500 diesel
Prowler fifth wheel
Urge to travel

Marsha/CA

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2009, 08:20:06 AM »
I also learned how to back a gooseneck horse trailer that works just like a 5th wheel.  The key for me was watching where the wheels were on the horse trailer.  I could put that horse trailer anywhere, like right between my barn wall and beside my motorhome. 

It also drives differently, on turns the gooseneck (5th wheel) would cut the corners if I didn't pull forward far enough into the turn.  Whereas my bumper pull horse trailers just followed the tires of the truck.  And, I agree a small little trailer on the back was a bear to back up or park.  The darn thing went everywhere with the slightest turn of my hand.  We had a utility trailer behind a riding lawn mower, that thing kept my parking skills tuned.

Marsha~
Allegro Bus Diesel Pusher with Hyundai Tucson SUV toad. 
In case of necessity, alternate transportation is available in the form of 1 old horse.

Marc L

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2009, 08:30:20 AM »
And, I agree a small little trailer on the back was a bear to back up or park....



That's true.  I have more trouble with my 10 cu.ft. garden cart behind the lawn tractor than I do with my travel trailer.
Marc...

Gary RV Roamer

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2009, 03:50:01 PM »
The longer the distance between the hitch and the trailer wheels, the easier it gets. And the closer the wheels are to the back of the trailer, the easier it gets too. A short wheel base tow vehicle with a short trailer can be one heck of a challenge!
Gary
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Gary Brinck
2004 American Tradition
2007 GMC Acadia
Homebase: Ocala National Forest, FL

Dave Stringham

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2009, 03:59:49 PM »
Having driven a semi for many years, and owned a couple of 5th wheels before I moved into my coach, the best advice I can give to you is keep the combination as staight as possible at all times.  Many want to crank hard one way and then hard another, I have found, moving slowly, to make small adjustments.  The less you hard crank, the less you have to correct.  Granted, there are those conditions where you must hard crank to jack knife into a parking spot but once the trailer begins to turn, start coming back underneith her and keep your unit as staight as possible.

I have never been one to use the hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, I am also not one to look out the back window, when driving a truck, there was no back window.  I strickly use the mirrors and revese steer (if you will) the direction I need to go.  Its just something you learn and get better the more you do it.

If possible, practice all you can in an open area by setting out cones or something, pay close attention to how fast or how slow your unit reacts to turning.  The shorter the trailer, the faster she will react, the longer, the slower she will react.  Go slow, make small adjustments.
Dave Stringham
Monaco Executive (The Luv Shack)

Lowell

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2009, 04:59:29 PM »
The key for me was watching where the wheels were on the horse trailer.  IMarsha~

I also find this tip to be verry good.  If you watch the trailer wheels, you can see if they are going where you want them.  If you get the wheels following the path you want into the parking spot, you have it made. 

Lowell

2005 Cherokee28A TT
pulled by 2009 Dodge 1500 Crew Cab 4X4
KF7YET

Tempe, Arizona

caissiel

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Re: Backing up a fifth wheel
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2009, 03:55:54 AM »
I have a hard time following instructions.   I carry 2 x 6 x 12 Lumber for leveling blocking and use these for guides.  I will get out of my truck and look at the location the trailer has to park and then laydown the blocks where the wheels will travel. I usualy put 3 or 4 down. These blocks are on the inturn and I can see them in my mirror. So I just follow these blocks one at a time. usualy I can do the turn without moving ahead.  If you miss the marks don't be afraid to move ahead.   I usualy let my wife drive If I have to park the trailer in a very tight spot, I can better guide her then she can me.  I use the Portable radio's. If she hits something then I am not to blame ha Ha Ha.

PS
I found that these 2x6x12 blocks are the real thing for leveling, blocking, guiding, safety jacks by stacking them. I even use them to level the trailer while going back and fourth while stacking them.  I always stack them sideways so as not the hurt the tire belt.  I tried 2 x 8's and they just split.