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backing a fifth wheel vs motorhome

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We are downsizing to a smaller fifth wheel from a 40' motorhome. Looking at a 30' fifth wheel but have never driven or backed one up. What might the difficulty factor be using a crew cab pickup along with the 30' trailer. I think the pin to bumper is 30'

I am looking for people who have had experience with both to share their experience. I have backed up bumper pull trailers up to 28' but never into a tight spot where the road was narrow such as in a campground.

Thank you.

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I didn't find a lot of difference in backing a 5th wheel than a TT. 

Suggestions:

--  When backing, grip the steering wheel at the bottom, not the top.  With your hand at the bottom you always move your hand in the direction you want the rear bumper of the trailer to move. 

--  Buy 6-8 small orange cones, the kind you might find at children's soccer practice.  Go to a large empty mall parking lot, set out the cones or use the stripes on the pavement and practice backing.

--  Backing into tight spaces, just go really slow.  Stop and get out and look often if you are not exactly sure of where the trailer is.

When we first started traveling with a TT and later with a 5th wheel, I had Sharon outside directing my movements.  That was never as successful as I liked.  Many times I had to adjust where I wanted the trailer to be.  Finally I put Sharon at the steering wheel and I got outside and directed where to go.  Sharon had no experience in backing a trailer.  That didn't matter, I had lots of experience.  We used walkie talkies to communicate (or later cell phones).  I would have her steer from the bottom of the steering wheel.  I would say, turn the wheel 1/4 or 1/2 or 3/4 turn to the right or left and start moving back.  I would talk constantly, i.e. doing good, you are OK, etc.  If at anytime she couldn't hear my voice she would stop.  She would get some strange looks from people watching her back up as she really wasn't looking at the mirrors or paying much attention as to where the trailer was going.   This worked a lot better, having the experienced person directing the backing

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Backing is a learned skill.  Practice will make it easier.   I would find a vacant parking area and practice, and practice some more backing into a spot.  Most RVers are not experts and I don't think it is necessary to be an expert but knowing you can handle routine backing will be helpful.  Backing a MH is difficult for many who have not done it but with practice it becomes easier.

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The biggest difference between backing a bumper pull trailer and a 5th wheel is the 5th wheel will respond more slowly to changes in direction compared to the bumper pull.

With a bumper pull, the hitch location being several feet behind the rear axle creates a lever that moves the hitch sideways as you change the angle between the trailer and tow vehicle.  This amplifies the initial change in direction, making the trailer respond quickly to steering corrections.

The 5th wheel's pivot is directly over the tow vehicle's rear axle.  The trailer won't change direction until the tow vehicle actually changes it's angle with respect to the trailer.  This means the 5th wheel seems more sluggish responding to steering inputs.

In either case,  don't be afraid to pull forward a couple of feet to straighten out or establish an angle with the trailer, then resume backing. 

Edited by Lou Schneider

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Thanks for the replies. I am pretty darn good at backing my 40' MH into some pretty tight spots (knock on wood) but concerned that even with a smaller length trailer, the total length of the truck/trailer combination will be longer and I may not be able to swing the front of the truck (crew cab) on narrow campground roads. Generally the rear is never the problem but rather the front right corner as you are finishing a swingin, Note I do not have either the truck or the trailer yet but know I'm looking for a crew cab truck and about a 30' fifth wheel

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It takes a few feet before the rear end of the 5er reacts to your steering inputs.

As Al F said, put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand in the direction you want the rear end to go.  You want the rear to the right, move your hand up to the right.  You want the rear to go left, move your hand up to the left. 

And like I said, it takes a few feet before the rear end of the 5er reacts to your steering inputs.

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6 hours ago, GlennWest said:

If towing with hitch over axle this is true

 Mine is behind axle a lot and it turns instantly.

Since the OP stated he's going to use a CC p/u, it will be over the axle.

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I grew up pulling bumper pulls and sometimes long straight (box) trucks then four years ago started towing a 5th. We have both a 32' O.A bumper pull and a 35' OA 5th.....like towing the 5th allot more.

If I jump from backing the bumper pull and then to the the 5th I have to remind myself to turn the 5th sooner and to turn harder.   

Going forward turning the 5th is similar to a strait truck while the bumper pull is more of a sweep as the articulation point has the trailer following a wider radius.

Biggest difference is the blind spot. There is no blind spot backing a straight tuck but the the blind spot can be on either side when backing a trailer. A back up camera and possibly side camera are something to consider.

If you don't have a truck check the turning radius. There is a difference between a F350 and F450 (smaller) but I don't know about other makes.   

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If OP plans on a 30 ft 5er and a newer truck a 350 or simular CC  single wheel short bed would give him ample truck for the job. Short bed would also give more mobility in tight campgrounds. 

The worst that can happen is a large audience. And unless you have been a trucker all your life most all of us have been both the performer and audience at times.

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My most difficult backing is into the blind spot or backing with some obstruction that will be located in front me. I place my wife where I can see her either in the mirror or forward to monitor whether I may hit something or SOMEONE. I plan a path for the FW wheels to follow and watch the wheel. Yes it can take several tries unless angle back-in but wheels don't lie

Clay Truck and 40 foot FW equals 59 feet

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Practice with cones is a great idea.  Concerning pu/5th wheel.  When I first took mine out, I went to an empty parking lot and slowly turned sharper and sharper having my better half watch the truck rear window and camper corner.  Best to know just how sharp you can turn forward/backward if you don't want to replace a lot of windows.  Mines truck is a shortbed, older camper so not as much relief on the corners for sharp turning.  I use an Anderson Ultimate, some use slider hitches for short beds, either works.  I also picked up a set of walkie talkies and have my wife watching whilst I back but that can be fun in itself... LOL  Practice a couple times and it becomes second nature but like I tell people, just take your time, the spot will still be there if you back in a hurry, or take lots of time.  Enjoy!

 

Yea, blind spots, I go slow and keep a finger on the mirror adjustments.  If I'm not sure what's there, I stop until the mirror goes wide.  🙂 

Edited by NDBirdman

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8 hours ago, jjwicklund said:

If OP plans on a 30 ft 5er and a newer truck a 350 or simular CC  single wheel short bed would give him ample truck for the job. Short bed would also give more mobility in tight campgrounds. 

The worst that can happen is a large audience. And unless you have been a trucker all your life most all of us have been both the performer and audience at times.

As long as the audience just want to watch, then I am fine with that.  It is when they want to help that it gets to be a problem. 

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The OP asked about the difference between backing a MH and a Fifth wheel with a dually truck. I can tell you that a MH is easier to back in a tight space when on a narrow road than a 5th and Dually. The dually/5th is usually longer and requires more room to back into a spot since the truck has to have room to turn. With that said a 40 FT MH and a 30FT 5th wheel/dually combo is probably close to the same length so it may not be too much difference but I still think it will require more room.

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Thank you ALLOY for sharing your multi-vehicle experience. That helps.

 

Vette Racer, your comments are helpful in that it tracks my observations at campgrounds. thank you.

And to compound the issue the truck will be a long box Crew cab.

 

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After 5 years on the road I traded my 42 foot 5th wheel for a 42 foot motorhome. I find that backing the motorhome is much easier than the 5th wheel. 

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i might be s bit biased.

as i back up for a living.

yard hostler.

but it is easy. take your time and get out and look if not 100% positive. as you back up follow the trailers lead it will come to you. the shorter a trailer the faster it turns.

get lined up (stright, or 45degree.).

keep your eye on the drivers side.

passanger side just for reference. (and proof you are in the clear) when you see the trailer start to turn out. turn the top of your steering wheel that way and it will go where you want it to. it is a learned skill, but should not be hard to learn.  but then i have been pulling trailers for 30 years. so no problem for me.

 

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