Backing a fifth wheel RV

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May 29, 2006
Newbie here, got my first fifth wheel RV last summer, and darned if I can master backing it.  First, let me say I am not new to backing trailers attached at the rear of the truck.  In my summer job, I routinely back our 18ft mower trailer back a 1/4 mile long, narrow farm lane at about 10mph, using mirrors only, with no stopping to straighten things out.

That darned fiver is a horse of another hue! When I turn the truck to start the trailer around a corner, it seems like nothing happens, and then, all of a sudden, things are out of control, and it's time to pull ahead and try again.  I have found that setting my slider hitch in its rearmost position helps somewhat, in that it makes the trailer behave a little more like the bumper hitch trailers I'm used to.

Any hints from you fiver veterans?

Keep the angle between the truck and trailer as small as possible and GO SLOW If you are trying to back up at 10 MPH that is way to fast. By the time you see it is moving,  it has already moved too much.  Small corrections are much better then over correcting

The secret is to dial in a LOT of turn to get the trailer moving in the right direction and then QUICKLY straighten the wheel again.  Since the fifth wheel hitch is located almost over the truck axle, it doesn't move a lot sideways when you turn the steering wheel, so you need a lot of steering input to get it started. But once the trailer king pin has been shifted sideways a bit and the trailer begins to turn, it turns as quickly as any "bumper hitch" trailer and you need to quickly get the steering wheel back toward cener to avoid jack-knifing the trailer.
There are a lot of great comments above -- here's my two bit additions. 1. assuming you are making sure you have enough clearance room for your RV box, concentrate on the wheels of your trailer, not the box. Using your rear view mirrors make your wheels pivot and track where you need them. 2. A lot of times I'll pre-start my backing turn by kinking my truck with the turn I want to make. In other words if I'm backing the trailer to the drivers side I'll turn my truck to the left (drivers side) while going forward. That way I have the turn started at the hitch point and I can then just controll the severity. 3. Finally make sure you are only using your outside mirrors. With a low bumper pull trailer sometimes people still look through the back window, but when you get that big box behind you there is little to no use for the rear window.
It takes a little time to get use to a gooseneck or 5th wheel set up; but once you get comfortable you'll find you can back those trailers into much tighter spots then a bumper pull; not to mention the difference of pulling them down the road.
Thanks RV Roamer and MTRancher; your suggestions are what I was looking for.

John in SW Ohio
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