In the words of the immortal Ian Malcolm, of Jurassic Park fame, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Now obviously, using a bumper hitch doesn’t make you a scientist, however, the quote is an apt description for doing things that are probably not in our best interests.
The truth is, you can certainly pull a fifth-wheel RV with a bumper hitch, regardless of whether or not it’s the safe thing to do. The reality is, in 95% of all cases, you shouldn’t pull a fifth-wheel that’s attached to a bumper hitch.
Fifth-wheel trailers, and especially campers, are far heavier than your traditional, bumper hitch campers, and trailers. So the issue will boil down to the towing capacity of your vehicle and the overall weight of the trailer.
Towing capacity and trailer weight
The fifth wheel to bumper pull adapter should be the second thing in your playbook. You can’t just hitch a fifth wheel to a bumper just the way it is. Like oil and water, the two simply don’t mix.
The first thing you should consider is the GVWR of the trailer, the tow weight rating of your hitch, and the towing capacity of your vehicle. One of the highest rating towing capacities belongs to the Dodge Ram 1500 at 12,750lbs maximum, so we will go with that vehicle as we lay out our methodology and examples.
The GEN-Y GH-624 Receiver is one of the higher-rated hitches you can get, with a tongue weight of 3,000lbs and a towing capacity of 21,000lbs. The tongue weight is key as it should be between 10% and 15% of the total weight of your haul.
With a tongue weight of 3,000lbs, you would only hit your limit at 30,000lbs to 45,000lbs. With the above-mentioned ball hitch, that far exceeds the overall ball hitch’s towing capability of 21,000lbs, so no complaints there.
So we have all three factors in play:
- Dodge Ram 1500 – Maximum towing capacity of 12,750lbs
- GEN-Y GH-624 Receiver Tongue Weight – 3,000lbs (30,000lbs to 45,000lbs capacity)
- GEN-Y GH-624 Receiver Towing Capacity – 21,000lbs
With all three factors, you can see which one is the weakest link, and it’s not even close. The Dodge Ram itself is the one chain in the link that has to have the capability of towing a fifth-wheel trailer.
Now, we can look at weight categories in terms of fifth-wheel trailers and what this Dodge Ram can safely pull.
- Lightweight Fifth-Wheel Trailers: 2,400lbs to 9,600lbs
- Mid-Weight Fifth-Wheel Trailers: 10,000lbs to 14,000lbs
- Large-Class Fifth-Wheel Trailers: 14,000lbs to 25,000lbs
- Toy Hauler Fifth-Wheel Trailers: 10,500lbs to 16,500lbs
From all four of these categories, only ¼ of the fifth-wheel trailers out there would be suitable for the Dodge Ram 1500 to pull using a bumper hitch. Why not the 10,000lbs Toy and Mid-Weights? Well, it’s conceivable but the fact is, these are empty weights, meaning that absolutely nothing else is coming along for the ride.
Nothing in the bed of the Ram, nothing extra inside the trailers. If you find a trailer that is 10,000lbs, you can probably get away with it. Odds are, you’re not going to load it up with over a ton and a half of additional weight.
As far as the Toy Haulers are concerned, however, they’re designed to haul your toys, and will probably shoot up past the weight limitations on our Dodge Ram 1500 example.
The truth is, the kind of trucks that you want that are capable of handling fifth-wheel trailers of any variety, are going to be above and beyond what you’ll get with the Dodge Ram 1500.
How do bumper and fifth-wheel hitches function?
If you want to use an adapter to link a fifth-wheel trailer to a bumper hitch, then it’s important to understand how these two, drastically different hitch systems work.
A fifth-wheel hitch works with a large, horseshoe-shaped receiver that sits in the bed of the truck. The fifth-wheel male end that extends from the trailer slides down and into the hitch with a kingpin. The kingpin is essentially a cylindrical, steel rod that slides into the receiver and locks into place.
The cylindrical rod of the kingpin allows rotational movement so that you can turn left and right. The biggest advantage of a fifth-wheel setup is an extraordinary increase in control since the weight of the haul and the pivot point sits directly above the rear axle of the vehicle.
The drawback is that it can be a pain to make sharp turns and, for the most part, sharp turns are out of the question unless you want part of your camper to sit inside your rear cab, potentially on your passenger’s laps.
The ball hitch is the most predominant and standard tow package that you will find on most trucks and SUVs. It simply consists of the ball (receiver) on the center of the bumper. The trailer links to the ball with a spherical cavity that slides down over it, like a hood, before it is locked into place.
You suffer a loss of stability, especially when towing much heavier equipment, however, you have a lot more leeway when it comes to sharp turns.
Bumper hitch adapter for a fifth-wheel trailer
If you’re determined and you have a truck that can handle the lightweight fifth-wheel trailers out there, then you need to get a bumper pull adapter. These aren’t widely available, which is another reason you don’t see “fifth-wheel trailer to bumper hitch” conversions very often.
The safest and simplest way to convert your fifth-wheel trailer to something that can be hauled with a bumper hitch is an Automated Safety Hitch System.
This system essentially adds a third axle to your vehicle, extends out from your bumper hitch, and rides directly underneath the fight-wheel, with the kingpin sliding down and locking into the Automated Safety Hitch System.
Also, with this system, the tongue weight is removed from the equation almost entirely, as this new, automated system takes over, bearing the brunt of the weight and massive inertia that some of these fifth-wheel trailers can throw around.
This is the quintessential fifth-wheel-to-bumper pull adapter on the market. While pouring through website after website, you will find that the traditional idea of a modified arm that extends from the kingpin down to the ball hitch is either non-existent in modern terms or advertised on websites that are almost a decade old.
There are several things that the Automated Safety Hitch System offers that no homemade project can do. It’s also nice to know that the Automated Safety Hitch System is perfectly legal, whereas some of the homemade, extensively welded options exist within a grey haze of legality.
- It becomes an extension of your vehicle
- Shortens the length of the trailer
- It’s an additional axle
- Its the equivalent of a 6,300lb tongue weight, with even heavier options
It’s an extension of your vehicle because it connects to your truck’s electrical system and the wheels are turned automatically as the Automated Safety Hitch detects your turn and computes the rate at which it must turn as well.
It shortens the length of the trailer because the trailer has to pull up and over the Automated Safety Hitch System (ASHS), with the kingpin dropping directly down and into the ASHS. The system itself automatically pulls the trailer to the outer edge of your turns.
As aforementioned, you’re basically adding a third axle to your vehicle, and it’s an axle that is burdened with the vast majority of the weight of the fifth wheel, rather than that weight sitting on your rear axle, as it would in a traditional fifth-wheel hitch set up.
As such, the lightest version is the equivalent of a ball hitch that has a tongue weight of 6,300lbs. Two other variations increase that equivalency to 8,000lbs and 9,000lbs of “pin” weight.
At the lowest version (6,300lbs), this “third axle” can handle 30,000lbs of gross weight. This seriously ups your towing capability, however, if you are in a truck, like our original example, the Dodge Ram 1500, your tow weight is still 12,750lbs.
What this means, in the end, is although the ASHS system is a modern wonder of engineering, you still need a bigger and badder truck if you want to haul a fifth-wheel that is mid-level and up. This is mostly because of what the engine can handle, rather than the manufacturing prowess of the towing mechanisms in the rear.
All things considered
It’s important not to get preoccupied with whether or not you can do a thing before considering whether or not you should do a thing. There’s a reason that options on the ground are exceedingly scarce when it comes to fifth-wheel-to-bumper pull adapter conversions.
Since it is generally considered unsafe, with most ball hitch towing packages found on trucks that are not capable of towing immense weights, it is probably best to get a truck upgrade before trying to haul something far heavier than your motor can handle.