How to Eliminate Fifth Wheel Chucking
12/2/2022 – Good Sam
It's typically a bad sign if you hear or feel movement behind you when towing a trailer. Bumps, grinds, and slams indicate a component might not be working as it should be, and you should investigate any movement. Such is the case with fifth wheel chucking: while not necessarily causing immediate damage, it can create an unpleasant ride for you and your passengers. And it can eventually harm your coach or tow vehicle due to unnecessary wear and tear.
As your truck pulls the considerable weight of a fifth wheel trailer, independent movement can transfer from the trailer to the truck—sometimes abruptly. This is commonly referred to as chucking. Fifth wheel chucking occurs quite often. Almost every owner or renter deals with it at some point, and you should know how to reduce or eliminate this from your rig.
What is Fifth Wheel Chucking?
When towing a long, heavy object like a fifth wheel behind your truck, expect some motion differential between the towed object and the truck. You will most notably notice the difference at the point of connection, or the hitch, where the king pin of the fifth wheel places significant weight just ahead of your rear axle in the bed of your truck.
Chucking can be caused by several factors, including a shift in velocity between the truck or the trailer, potholes and road irregularities, and improper hitching. Starting, stopping, and rough terrain can also cause fore and aft movement. While chucking sometimes occurs with travel trailers, it’s predominantly a fifth wheel problem due to weight.
So, if you already feel chucking in your rig, it’s not the end of the world. Long-term, it can eventually wear on your parts and hitch depending on the severity. But it’s nothing you can’t pragmatically address before it becomes a real issue and requires repair.
Tools and Tips to Reduce Fifth Wheel Chucking
Hitch Jaw to King Pin Connection
Chucking can occur more severely when hitch components don’t fit together correctly. You might experience some additional play when the hitch jaw doesn’t fit the king pin adequately. So your first task is to determine if the fit matches. Many affordable hitches are available that will safely connect, but these lower-end options won’t provide 360-degree contact and allow the king pin to move. Your hitch should have a tight fit with the king pin.
Note: issues like hitch connection should be included in any additional coverage you purchase beyond the initial warranty.
Pin Box Cushioning
The pin box connects the fifth wheel to the truck, and in some cases, this is a direct, metal-on-metal connection. With an uncushioned pin box, you will feel every bit of movement between the trailer and your truck. But many pin box options include a cushioning air bag that inflates and deflates at the owner’s preference. Rubber dampening can also reduce chucking, and there are multiple hitches that come with this. Bottom line, a good amount of healthy padding will reduce, if not eliminate, the harsh chucking from occurring.
Many owners will experiment with variables related to their truck to fifth wheel connection until they find the correct equation between cushioning, weight, hitch placement, and rake systems.
For example, some owners will adjust the hitch to place the trailer weight further ahead of the rear axle, effectively changing the weight distribution. They believe this reduces the chucking that occurs. Others will adjust their brake controller to make the trailer brake more aggressively to prevent the king pin from pushing forward and causing chucking.
Can Chucking Cause Long-Term Damage?
While chucking can make for an extremely uncomfortable ride, there aren’t many correlations between chucking and long-term damage to your hitch, truck, or trailer. However, owners have noted that extreme chucking can shift furniture inside of the trailer. But eliminating or reducing chucking is primarily a comfort issue. To ease any worry you might have, be sure to inspect all components related to your hitch and look for any signs of wear and tear that may be associated with chucking.
It all comes down to towing awareness. When pulling something of this weight and bulk, make sure any noises or sounds are attributed to a component you trust and have inspected to ensure it’s functioning correctly. Inspect, reinspect, and invest in the proper coverage.
The Good Sam Extended Service Plan protects you from the cost of significant repairs caused by breakdown to integral components like your hitch and towing setup. While it’s your responsibility to have towing awareness, it’s helpful to have a blanket of protection from the issues you don’t detect.