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Traveled Lane Trailers Divider

Trailering 101

Traveled Lane Trailers Divider
Part III: A Word About Goosenecks

Disclaimer:  Please refer to the manuals of  tow vehicle, trailer and hitch for recommended operating procedures and limitations before use and/or purchase.

This is the third article in a series related to educating our readers on vehicles, hitches and trailer compatibility. Part I: What Can My Vehicle Tow? and Part II: And Now The Hitch. are still on line for your convenience.

This month we are going to cover goosenecks.  The first item of business is to clear up a common misconception that: A "fifth wheel" and a "gooseneck" are one in the same.  They are not.  Yes both types of trailer hook into the bed of the truck, but the actually connections are different. When asking about hitch installation using the incorrect terminology can present problems.
Gooseneck TrailerGooseneck PlateThe first picture to the left
shows a trailer attached to a
"Gooseneck hitch", the
second is a close up of the
hitch plate itself.  This plate
or something like it, is normally
visible on the top of the truck bed.  Underneath the bed are
supporting rails that are usually welded into place, and serve as
the actual support structure for the hitch assembly. For the most
part, there are two configurations for a gooseneck hitch, hide
away as shown above or one which remains upright at all times.  The hide away, which is becoming pretty much standard these days, when not in use folds down into the bed of the truck, once again making it useful for things like hay and plywood.  The other as indicated just stays upright in the middle of the bed at all times. (Note: the trailer at left is not totally connected, before moving a trailer make sure all safety equipment is connected per manufacturer's recommendations).
Fifth WheelNow for the fifth wheel.  This is a fifth wheel hitch. As you can
see there is no ball. We apologize for not being able to show you
the matching trailer end but basically as opposed to having a
couplerwhich accepts a ball hitch, the trailer has, for lack of a better
word, a disc on the end of the coupler which slides into the hitch
shown  at left.  Most horse trailers you will find come standard with
the "gooseneck hitch" as in the previous section.  However, most
trailer manufacturers will offer  a fifth wheel attachment or coupler as an option.  You may ask which is better, we can't answer that question. If you are going to haul a really big trailer you may wish to speak with your manufacturer and hitch installer to see if one coupler has benefits over the other. Like weight carrying capabilities etc...
2)  Hitch Installation.  We are not going to address this issue to much accept to say that most "gooseneck hitches" are installed anywhere from 2" to 6" in front of the back axle.  Installation directly on or behind the back axle is usually not recommended for handling and stability purposes. 
3)  Trailer Towing Height.  Just like bumper pulls goosenecks too have a recommended tow height.  Just like bumper pulls they should be riding level to just slightly nose high and never down.  Exaggerated attitudes in either direction can place more stress/weight than intended on the axles and cause driving instability. Unlike the bumper pull where the hitch was adjusted to accommodate height, in this case it is the neck of the trailer itself which is adjustable.  Most goosenecks are equipped with two vary large self taping bolts which when loosened allow the inner portion of the coupler to move allowing you to raise or lower the neck/trailer height. (more about this in item#6)
4) Vehicle Capabilities.  Make sure that if you have or intend to purchase a truck for use with a gooseneck that you check your trucks towing capacities.   Make sure that the GVW of the trailer you are towing falls within the capabilities of your truck and that there are no restrictions against hauling a gooseneck.
5) King Pin Load.  This refers to the amount of weight your truck can handle in its bed, or on the gooseneck hitch.  Different gooseneck trailers apply differing amounts or percentages of weight to this area.  Usually this amount is dictated, first of course by the size of trailer and intended load, but secondly by the placement of the axles on the trailer.  The farther back the heavier the load.   Some of the larger head-to-heads and living quarters can have as much as 20-35% of the load placed on the hitch, smaller trailers can be as little as 900-1000 lbs.  In any case, check with the trailer, truck, and hitch manufacturers/installers to make sure all components are compatible.
6)  Truck Bed Length & Height.  Both of these have become issues since 4WD shortbeds are so common place.  Lets tackle bed length first.  Most folks prefer a shorter bed especially when going to a super or crew cab truck due to length considerations.  That is okay except, if a gooseneck is in your future keep in mind you may be limiting your trailer selection.   The problem comes in the area of "turning".  For a typical full nosed gooseneck depending on the interior width the trailer may hit the back of the cab or only clear by inches.  Either case is not very comfortable. Just keep in mind that if you have a truck bed less than 8' you must shop wisely for a trailer. We strongly recommend "test driving or turning"   before you buy.  Also, where your hitch is installed may help to give you a little more maneuvering room, but again we do not recommend going on or behind the back axle.  Now with any gooseneck you can turn far enough to hit the cab but it would be nice to at least get close to 80-90 degrees before encountering problems.  One other note, there are some "fifth wheel" hitches which have releases on them so that you can move the trailer back from the cab when maneuvering in tight spots like gas stations.  Once you make the corner you lock it back into towing position.  This type of apparatus is used quite often with travel trailers.
Now for height.  Most manufacturers over the years have made adjustments to their trailers to accommodate the higher beds.  As we discussed trailer towing heights in #4, there is only so much you can do with the actual trailer neck/coupler to compensate for a high truck bed and still stay within the recommended towing height.  The changes that had to be made for the trailers were in the trailer bulkhead itself.  They had to make the height from the trailer floor to where the neck started taller.  In this way, they could clear the bed rails of the truck and still maintain a level towing height.  However, we do want to point on that in the '99 model years of some trucks the bed heights have increased again! In one case as many as 3" to 4". Usually this becomes an issue with the 4 wds.  We pointed this out because if you have a new 4WD and are considering an older trailer again shop wisely, not all trailers will be appropriate.  In fact it wouldn't hurt to check this out even if you are buying a new one.

Well that's it for this month.  We did not have time to do the electrical system justice so we will get to it next time.

Happy Trailering... See you Next Month. (Or whenever we feel like something needs to be said.)

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If you have any comments, suggestions or topics for a "Trailering 101" article we'd be happy to take them.  Trailering education is our goal.

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