Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Gooseneck and Fifth Wheel

Hitch installations often come in handy when there is a need to tow another vehicle or a large RV trailer. Hitches can do wonders when they are attached to the chassis of your vehicle. Most of us do not mind hitching our trailers to the backs of our tow vehicles. If the ball fits the trailer, you’re just good to go. But having the right hitch is just as important as having the right tow vehicle because one mistake could mean the loss of your beloved ski boat or just anything you want to be hitched. And you’d be surprised to know that there are an overwhelming variety of hitches and towing hardware available out there. Not all vehicles are created equal, so you need to carefully choose your hitch based on the towing capacity of your tow vehicle and the RV trailer. Two of the most popular and widely used hitches are gooseneck and fifth wheel hitches.

What is Gooseneck Hitch?

A gooseneck hitch is a ball mounted hitch that is anchored into the bed of a pickup truck. It connects to a gooseneck trailer using a hitch ball and puts all the weight right on the axle. It comes up and turns and goes right into the bed of the truck like a gooseneck, hence the name. So, the trailer sits on the ball which leaves the bed pretty much completely unobstructed. Since the weight of the tongue is over the rear axles of the truck, it provides greater stability while potentially minimizing the amount of sway. This also means more weight can be added and the turning radius of the truck is amazing. But it takes some getting used to especially when you’re hitching a longer trailer. Gooseneck hitches are mostly used to tow horse trailers, livestock trailers, and for hauling of flatbeds.

What is Fifth Wheel Hitch?

The fifth wheel hitch is a truck bed hitch that comes under the Class IV category of hitches which are designed for heavy towing duties with a gross trailer weights in between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds. Fifth wheel hitches use a similar hitch setup used on tractor-trailer rigs. It is a U-shaped hitch coupling that fits into the bed of a pickup truck. It consists of a 50.8 or 88.9 mm downward-facing pin called a king pin and a pivoting plate which rests on the hitch plate. The hitch carries the tongue weight directly over the rear axle of the tow vehicle making the trailer easy to maneuver. Unlike a gooseneck hitch, this one does not have a ball mount; it has a hitch that goes into the middle of the bed of the tow vehicle right over the rear axle. Fifth wheels are mainly reserved for heavy towing applications.

Difference between Gooseneck and Fifth Wheel

Hitch Assembly

 – A gooseneck hitch is a ball mounted hitch that is anchored into the bed of a pickup truck. It is called a gooseneck hitch because of its shape; it comes up and turns and goes right into the bed of the truck like the neck of a goose. A fifth wheel hitch, unlike a gooseneck hitch, does not have a ball mount; instead, it uses a wheel-shaped plate to accomplish the connection. Fifth wheel has a hitch that goes right into the middle of the bed of the tow vehicle over the rear axle.

Coupling Mechanism

 – While both the gooseneck and fifth wheel hitches connect to the bed of a pickup truck, the coupling mechanism is very different in both the setups. A gooseneck hitch has a long, vertical coupler that couples with a hitch ball which is pivotally connected to the housing assembly, with the ball protruding from the bed of the truck. They have attachments on both the sides of the coupler plate and safety chains and breakaway cable that activates the breakaway system if the trailer gets unhooked.

A fifth wheel hitch, on the other hand, uses a U-shaped hitch coupling called the fifth wheel that fits into the bed of a pickup truck and then connects to a 50.8 or 88.9 mm downward-facing pin called a king pin which connects the pickup truck to the trailer. The hitch carries the tongue weight directly over the rear axle of the tow vehicle making the trailer easy to maneuver. 

Maneuverability

 – Because the weight of the tongue is over the rear axles of the truck, a gooseneck hitch provides greater stability while potentially minimizing the amount of sway. This also means more weight can be added and the turning radius of the truck is amazing. With increased maneuverability, you are able to make tighter turns with ease and greater stability. Fifth wheel hitches, on the other hand, offer a smoother ride to keep the road shocks as minimal as possible. They are also easy to maneuver, providing a quieter and more stable towing experience. They also have a greater towing capacity.

Gooseneck vs. Fifth Wheel Hitch: Comparison Chart

Summary of Gooseneck vs. Fifth Wheel Hitch

While both the gooseneck and fifth wheel hitches physically anchored into the bed of a pickup truck and they both have permanent structures and they sit over the main axle of the truck, they do have their fair share of pros and cons. For starters, gooseneck hitches are great for maneuverability and the turning radius is amazing, providing greater stability while potentially minimizing the amount of sway. Fifth wheels, on the other hand, provide a quieter and more stable towing experience while minimizing road shock as much as possible. So, fifth wheels are exactly what the name says, for hauling fifth wheel trailers and they are really good at it. So, which one’s better – it depends on a lot of factors such as carrying weight, stability, maneuverability,  coupling mechanism, and so on.

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    References :


    [0]McDonald, Peggy. Rv Living In The 21st Century: The Essential Reference Guide For All Rvers. Indiana, United States: AuthorHouse, 2004. Print

    [1]Storgaard, Morten. “Fifth Wheel or Gooseneck? 6 Important Facts to Consider.” Go Downsize, GoDownsize.com, https://www.godownsize.com/fifth-wheel-cost/. Accessed 9 Feb. 2021

    [2]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fifth_wheel_001.JPG

    [3]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/5033/5863197459_fdaca593c3.jpg

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