Fifth wheel slider hitches are an elegant engineering solution to a towing issue that many people are faced with when setting up their rig. Most fixed position fifth wheel hitches on the market are not compatible with short-bed trucks. So if your truck bed is less than eight feet long you will probably have a problem.
There is a very sound reason for this. It all boils down to weight distribution, and making sure that your trailer is attached to your truck at the point where it is structurally strongest. For safety reasons, your hitch needs to be located directly over your rear axle.
When it comes to shorter trucks, this means that the trailer should be much closer to the cab than on trucks with more space in the rear. If you were to just attach a stationary hitch close to your cab, you would quickly run into problems.
The corners of your trailer are likely to make contact with your truck cab during sharp turns, which can cause significant damage to both your truck and trailer, and can endanger your safety on the road.
RV trailer manufacturers have tried to mitigate this problem by introducing rounded front caps. However, they inevitably result in a much smaller turning radius, and you don’t want that.
The best solution, then, can be found by installing a hitch that is specially designed for short bed trucks: the fifth wheel slider hitch.
As the name suggests, this type of hitch slides backwards on your truck bed to accommodate sharp turns. When you want to perform a turn, the entire hitch temporarily slides towards the back of your pickup truck to make room for the trailer to rotate.
These sliding hitches let you turn up to 90 degrees. It returns to its original position once you have finished maneuvering. Depending on how advanced the model is, this sliding motion is performed either manually or automatically.
|Ranking||Hitch||Type||Max Load Weight||Tongue Weight||Review||Price|
|#1||PulRite Enterprises 2900 Superglide 18K for Std Base Rail||Automatic||18,000lbs||2000lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#2||Demco 8550022 Fifth Wheel Hitch||Automatic||18,000lbs||4500 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#3||B+W RVK 3670 Companion Slider Ram OEM with Puck System||Manual||20,000lbs||5000lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
Finding a Fifth Wheel Slider Hitch That Works for You
If you have no previous experience with sliding fifth wheel hitches, you might be taken aback by the sheer number of different models on the market. Ultimately, there is no one best product, just one that will work best for you and fit your towing needs and expectations.
Prices can vary a lot too, so an important factor in your decision is how much you are willing to spend. Because of this, we have included a variety of models on our list that represent most of the price variations.
There are a lot of things to consider before making your final decision. While one hitch can work great with one particular truck, it might be found lacking when attached to another.
To avoid any potential buyers’ remorse, you need to ask yourself the following key questions that will significantly influence your final choice.
- Will you be performing tight turns regularly?
- How often will you need to remove your hitch?
- How big is your truck bed?
- What type of fifth wheel slider hitch do you need?
- How much weight will you be towing?
- How powerful is your truck?
- Can sliding hitches pull as much as stationary ones?
- How do I calculate cab clearance?
Will you be performing tight turns regularly?
This is the very first question you should ask yourself when choosing a between a stationary and sliding hitch. Sliding hitches are not all that necessary unless you need to turn at really sharp angles often. If you use your rig on the open road, the sliding option might not be that important.
On the other hand, if you will perform a lot of complex maneuvers, a sliding hitch will prove to be a lifesaver. RV parks and campgrounds are a perfect example of a slide intensive environment. The 3 point turns and complex maneuvers required to get your rig in and out of tight spots will be a whole lot easier with a sliding hitch.
How often will you need to remove your hitch?
Fifth wheel hitches can take up a lot of valuable truck bed space, so you will need to think about how often you will need to remove it from your vehicle. If you plan to keep your RV attached to your truck, this will not be a concern, and you do not have to worry about how easy the hitch is to take on and off.
Weight is one of the most important characteristics that influence mobility, and hitch designs can range from lightweight ones that can be carried by one person to extremely heavy models that require several people to take on and off.
Another consideration that you should factor into your decision is what additional equipment you have to remove and install your hitch. If you have some kind of hoist in your garage, for example, the maximum weight of your potential hitch can be larger.
Finally, you need to objectively consider your fitness levels and how willing you are to put some elbow grease into the process of mounting and un-mounting. If you are not that strong or willing to get physical, a lightweight model is the way to go.
How big is your truck bed?
As mentioned in the intro, fifth wheel slider hatches are specially designed for short bed trucks. The main question is how short your truck bed is, and whether a specific hitch model will be compatible or not.
Sliding hitches move on special rails, and the length of these rails will determine if you can use it on your truck. For the most part, manufacturers will provide the rail lengths as well as recommended truck bed compatibility. If you are not sure whether your truck can accommodate a specific model, it is always a good idea to ask the manufacturer.
What type of fifth wheel slider hitch do you need?
The two main types of slider are manual and automatic; the former requires you to get out of your truck and manually slide the hitch back, while the latter does this automatically. Manual models are significantly cheaper than their automatic counterparts, and there are a more models to choose from.
For a higher price tag, you can opt for an automatic model that will not require you to pull over and exit your vehicle when you want to slide your hitch back. Apart from the higher price, an additional downside of automatic models is that they require more maintenance. We will delve deeper into the pros and cons of each later on in the guide.
How much weight will you be towing?
The maximum towing capacity of your hitch dictates how much weight you can safely tow. This number is always displayed prominently on the product specifications, and you should choose one that is greater than the weight of your fully loaded RV.
A sliding fifth wheel hitch is a large piece of equipment, and can be quite costly, so it makes sense to think ahead when making your purchase. If you plan to purchase a heavier trailer down the line, for example, it might be a good idea to go for a model that has a higher towing weight than you currently need.
How powerful is your truck?
Trailers weigh thousands of pounds, so hauling them puts a lot of strain on your engine and vehicle in general. Pulling more weight than it is designed for can be catastrophic for your truck, so knowing your vehicles towing capacity is a must.
This number is determined by the manufacturer and is influenced by quite a lot of factors. Among them are the rear axle load, the tire capacity, engine horsepower and torque, and many more. Make sure you do not go over your vehicle’s towing capacity
Can sliding hitches pull as much as stationary ones?
Sliding hitches, on average, are rated for 20,000 lbs. pulling weight. This number is standard for hitches in general, so just because a hitch has a slider does not mean in has poorer performance than a stationary hitch.
Where stationary hitches have an advantage over sliding ones is in pulling extremely heavy, oversized loads. If you need to pull more than 20,000 lbs., a sliding hitch might not be the right choice.
How do I calculate cab clearance?
The distance between the cab of your truck and your trailer is a key metric when looking for a sliding hitch and can differ depending on truck and hitch model. There is a simple formula for calculating this clearance, so you can be confident performing 90-degree turns without worrying about damage.
The first step is to measure the distance from the fifth wheel hitch jaw to the truck cab. When you have this number, add it to the length of travel of your hitch model. This number is specific to each hitch model and is clearly stated in the product specifications.
Four inches of clearance is the minimum distance needed for safely executing a 90-degree turn. Once you have this number, subtract from it the width of your trailer divided by two. To recap, the formula you need is:
Clearance = (A+B) – C
A = Distance from fifth-wheel hitch jaw to your truck cab
B = Length of Travel of your sliding hitch
C = Width of trailer divided by 2
Selection Criteria: How We Ranked the Best Fifth Wheel Slider Hitches
Fifth wheel slider hitches are quite a bit more complex than stationary hitches. There are more variables to consider, as the hitch is designed to move backwards and forwards.
Every product on our list has specific characteristics that can give you valuable information at a glance. The criteria we used to differentiate between different models are: type, travel, product dimensions, maximum load weight and maximum tongue weight.
The two main types of slinging fifth wheel hitches are automatic and manual. The latter requires you to physically get out of your truck and pull a lever to disengage your hitch from the slider rails.
You then need to drive your truck slowly forward in order for the RV to move towards the back of your truck bed. While some models automatically lock into place once fully extended, others do not.
Automatic fifth wheel slider hitches, on the other hand, do not require any action on your part. Once you turn your truck more than 10 degrees, the rotation of the hitch head automatically slides the hitch towards the back of your truck bed.
The travel of your sliding hitch is what sets them apart from regular or gooseneck hitches. This is the maximum distance your hitch can travel along its rails in the back of your pickup. The amount of travel is an important statistic to have when calculating whether your RV will have the clearance you need when executing a 90 degree turn. This number usually ranges from 10-12 inches.
The size of a sliding hitch can be either a deal breaker or a selling point, depending on a variety of factors. When you know how much space a sliding hitch will take up in your truck bed, you can get an idea of weather of not it is a good fit for your needs.
The product dimensions can also be of importance when it comes to garage storage. It is always good to know how much space you will need to store your slider hitch when you need to remove it from your truck.
Maximum Load Weight
This is another self-explanatory but crucial statistic. It represents the maximum amount of weight you can safely tow. If your trailer weighs more than the maximum load weight of the hitch, you will need to go for a more heavy duty model.
Maximum Tongue Weight
While the load weight measures how much weight the hitch can handle horizontally, the tongue weight measures vertical weight capacity. In other words, this is the maximum amount of downward weight your hitch can take from the tongue of the trailer. As a rule of thumb, this number should not be more than 10% of your tow vehicle’s gross combination weight rating.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do I maintain my fifth wheel slider hitch?
Your hitch is an extremely important part of your setup, as it is the main contact point between your vehicle and your trailer. Hitch failures can have extremely dangerous consequences, so it is vital that you are vigilant in servicing and maintaining your hitch.
Vigilance is key here, and you should do a visual inspection of your gear before every trip. Thoroughly inspect your hitch regularly for signs of wear and damage. If you suspect anything is not in order, be sure to contact the manufacturer or certified mechanic.
Hitches experience huge amounts of stress during daily use, and improper installation can cause malfunctions. If your hitch is off center, for example, the weight distribution will be off and can cause wear on your equipment. Correct installation is an important prerequisite for long and malfunction-free hitch life.
Reading and understanding the user manual will help you understand how to best care for your product. Friction is the enemy of sliding hitches, so most models will require intermittent greasing to make sure everything runs smoothly. The two main areas to focus on are the claws that grip your trailer’s king pin and the rails that the hitch slides on.
Cleanliness is particularly important when maintaining your hitch, and regular thorough cleaning will prolong the life of the product. If there is dirt, grime and dust in your truck bed, it can act like sandpaper when your hitch moves or is under stress. Hitches require no special cleaning, wash it as you would any other part of your vehicle.
How do I install my fifth wheel slider hitch?
The hitch is an integral part of your rig, and it literally has a lot riding on it. Even the best, most well engineered and solidly built hitch will not perform well if it is incorrectly installed.
Most hitches require some basic tools for installation, but some might also require drilling and modifications to your truck bed. As these models can be quite heavy, it is always useful to have some helping hands during installation.
In general, models come with detailed instructions, but the ease of installation will depend heavily on your previous tooling experience and expertise with power tools. The internet is also a valuable resource, and there are a bunch of great tutorial videos on YouTube if you get stuck.
It is best to err on the side of caution when it comes to hitch installation. If you are not completely confident in your tools or skills, it might be best to leave it to the professionals and consult a mechanic.
Research & Reviews
Here’s a list of our top 3 picks, along with some info on each product’s type, weight, special features and what the experts have to say.
- Type: Automatic
- Max load weight: 18,000 lbs.
- Travel: 14”
- Product weight: 183 lbs.
The High Points:
Fully automatic. Fits industry standard base rails. Relatively lightweight and compact.
The Low Points:
Can be prone to corrosion.
The number one spot on our list goes to the PullRite Enterprises 2900 Superglide 18K. As the product name implies, this hitch can tow up to 18,000 lbs. PullRite also produces 20K and 14K hitches, for those customers who want to haul some serious weight.
The PullRite Enterprise hits the sweet spot when it comes to value for money, and is also more compact and lighter than the competition without sacrificing performance. It can fit any standard rails, which also gives it a competitive advantage.
This sliding hitch is extremely versatile and offers several mounting options. Its gear driven latch minimizes bumps and provides a smooth ride.
Maintenance is simple and requires less work than most other slider hitch models. The only manufacturer recommendation is to lubricate your glide rails with WB-40.
What reviewers say?
Short-box truck owners love this hitch, because it can work on trucks as short as five feet. The unit does take up a significant portion of the truck bed, but it is relatively compact compared to other models.
A downside of this model is a lack of security features, with several users commenting that there is no way to lock the unit to the truck.
Features & Considerations
The head of this model has very little give, so the trickiest part about connecting your RV to the hitch is getting them lined up correctly. If you are not lined up perfectly, the trailer king pin will not clip in. With some practice, this should become second nature.
Our #2 Pick: Demco Autoslide 8550022 Fifth Wheel Hitch
- Type: Automatic
- Max load weight: 18,000 lbs.
- Travel: 14”
- Product weight: 285 lbs.
The High Points:
Fully automatic. High tongue weight. Well-built and durable. Low profile design.
The Low Points:
Heavy and bulky. Requires a lot of maintenance. Not for shorter trucks.
The Demco 8550022 Fifth Wheel Hitch is extremely heavy-duty, and quite heavy. It is an automatic sliding hitch that utilizes rack and pinion gear technology to slide your hitch back when making a sharp turn.
An integrated locking system in the head eliminates the need for additional locking wedges on the pin box by locking it in place on the hitch head. The whole head pivots and slides when needed. This automatic movement is initiated by any turn that is sharper than 10 to 15 degrees.
The head of the Demco Autoslide is fully removable, which can free up trunk space, or make removal easier. The head is designed to work with standard trailer pin boxes ranging from 12 to 14 inches.
It is a double pivoting head with both front to back and side to side movement, providing a smooth ride. It comes preinstalled from the factory, and has three height adjustment options.
This model really shines when towing top heavy loads that put a lot of weight over your truck bed. The maximum tongue weight of 4500 lbs. is significantly higher than the other models on our list.
What reviewers say?
Reviewers found no issues with build quality, durability or performance. The hitch is reportedly extremely well-built, and provides a smooth and stress-free towing experience. The slider works flawlessly and is quite responsive when cornering.
Assembly is relatively easy once you get the hitch onto your truck. Several reviewers pointed out that you will definitely need some help when mounting and removing the hitch, as it is both large and heavy. A hoist of some sort definitely makes the whole installation process much easier.
Features & Considerations
At 60″ x 40″ x 20″, the Demco Autoslide is by far the bulkiest product on our list. The upside of this is that it is built like a tank, and can really take a beating. The downside is that the 285-lb. hitch is quite difficult to take off your truck when you need an empty truck bed.
This hitch comes highly recommended for users that do not intend to remove it from their trucks. However,, its larger size means that it is more convenient to access key maintenance areas.
The Demco Autoslide works best with truck beds that are at least six and a half feet long. People can use it on smaller trucks, but in those cases the possibility of executing a fully secure 90-degree turn is not guaranteed.
- Type: Manual
- Max load weight: 20,000 lbs.
- Travel: 12”
- Product weight: 305 lbs.
High tongue weight and towing capacity. Extremely easy to install
No automatic mechanism. Quite pricey. Only compatible with GM pucks.
At number three on our list is the Curt Manufacturing 16521 A16 5th Wheel Hitch with Roller. This is the only manual model on our list, and has a fully articulated head with 360-degree claws that grab the entire circumference of your king pin, providing great stability and minimizing wear and tear.
You operate the slider via no-nonsense easy to use lever. It is easy to access even when you are outside your truck. Once you release the handle, you drive forward and the hitch slides and locks automatically into place. In effect, this means that you will have to exit your truck once before performing a sharp turn and once after you straighten your rig out.
This product is quite expensive for a manual sliding hitch. What you do get for your money is extremely simple four bolt installation and high quality materials and parts. The entire unit has a grey powder coat finish which makes it both aesthetically pleasing and resistant to weathering.
What reviewers say?
Reviewers appreciated that the model comes fully assembled and squared up. There were no grievances when it came to installation. Setup is straightforward, and just consists of removing four pucks, lining up the holes and bolting down.
This model received high marks when it comes to latching and releasing on uneven ground. The cam action latching handle allows for a lot of tilting and does not require your rig to be perfectly level in order to work.
Features & Considerations
The main downside of this model is that it is only compatible with GM pucks. Another limitation is that it utilizes an under-bed mounting system called the BW Turnoverball. This is sold separately, but provides quick installation and a fully empty truck bed when you remove the hatch.
This model is great for users who do not need to maneuver often, and who will not benefit greatly from an automatic model. On the other hand, if you need to perform tight turns often, getting out of your truck can be an inconvenience, especially in bad weather.