B&W Fifth Wheel Hitch Installation

One of the most important purchases and installations we have done so far, as part of our Full-Time Odyssey, was our B&W Fifth Wheel Hitch. Considering it would be pulling 15,000 to 16,000 pounds of fifth wheel trailer (our Excel Winslow 34IKE and contents) it was a critical component; no compromises here. I spent a considerable amount of time researching this purchase before settling on the B&W Tunrover Ball Gooseneck and Companion Hitch combination. These two items work in tandem, Tunover Ball Gooseneck bolted to the truck from underneath, Companion Fifth Wheel from above in the truck bed. With just the Turnover Ball Gooseneck installed the truck can pull a gooseneck trailer, and then with the Companion a fifth wheel trailer as well. So together they give us the ability to pull any trailer as long as it is within our weight limits (16, 900 pounds for our Ram 3500 configuration). Pulling a gooseneck trailer is not in our plans at this time, but you never know, if we need some extra cash I could haul something.

We ordered both the Turnover Ball Gooseneck and Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch from SDTrucksprings.com, they had the best price with free shipping. They also provided several videos on installing the two hitches, which were invaluable for us since we planned to do the installations ourselves (Turnover Ball Gooseneck and Companion video). I probably watched these two videos a dozen times, just ask Natasha, but I wanted to get the process in my head solidly before doing it. Of the two installations the Turnover Ball Gooseneck was by far the more difficult, mostly because it had to be done from under the truck bed and for me that meant on my back under the truck. Then too, several items were in the way and had to be dealt with: the spare tire and shield had to be removed, and the large tail pipe shoved aside for access to the bolt holes on the right side. Chrysler Ram made a neat change to their 3500 in 2013, integrating a place to bolt on a gooseneck hitch to the truck frame without the need to drill anything in the frame but two small hoes for the two tie-down hooks. However, we did need to drill a 3 1/2″ hole in the truck bed to get to the frame from above, a task not for the faint of heart when working on a nice new truck.

Drilled hole in the truck bed using a 3 1/2" hole saw. I used the plywood template kneeling on it as I drilled to make a clean cut.

Drilled hole in the truck bed using a 3 1/2″ hole saw. I used the plywood template, kneeling on it as I drilled to make a clean cut.

After drilling the 3 1/2″ hole, removing the spare tire, the spare tire shield and pushing the exhaust pipe away, it was time to hoist the Turnover Ball Gooseneck into place from below. To do this I needed help from above. I knew this and had been thinking about it for some time. B&W sells a tool but I was not going to buy it for one installation. Instead Natasha and I worked out a way; we dropped a tow strap, with a hook on the end, down through the hole in the bed and then hooked it to the hitch pin (from the Tunover Ball Gooseneck). Then we ran the other end of the tow strap around the railing of our side porch (which the truck had been backed under). So while I was under the truck positioning the Turnover Ball Gooseneck she was pulling it up from above with the tow strap looped over the railing (we wish we had taken a photo of our rigging). Natasha had her hands full from above while I was wrestling the hitch up and then over the axle, lining up the six holes for the bolts. Once I had a bolt on each side started it was smooth sailing until it was time to torque all six bolts to 100 pounds. With limited space it was rather difficult, especially on the right side where the exhaust pipe covered the bolts, I had to put a strap on the pipe, first cinching it one way and then the other to gain enough space to torque them.

B&W Turnover Ball Gooseneck hitch pieces.

B&W Turnover Ball Gooseneck hitch pieces.

Spare tire removed and its shield, arrow where Turnover Ball goes. Big exhaust pipe was a big pain to shove out of the way.

Spare tire removed and its shield, arrow where Turnover Ball goes. Big exhaust pipe was a big pain to shove out of the way, even after sliding it off its hanger.

Chrysler Ram did a nice job of incorporating a mounting area into the frame of the 3500.

Chrysler Ram did a nice job of incorporating a mounting area into the frame of the 3500.

B&W Turnover Ball Gooseneck installed.

B&W Turnover Ball Gooseneck installed.

From above, not much to see.

From above, not much to see.

Now came the B&W Companion Hitch. First I assembled the base in my basement workshop. There was not much to it, and the instructions were easy to follow.

Assembled B&W Companion base.

Assembled B&W Companion base.

The Coupler drops right on top of the base, secured with two hefty cutter pins. The whole thing is secured to the Gooseneck pin by one bolt, a little scary.

B&W021

B&W Companion base and coupler installed in bed.

Natasha and I are able to remove the hitch if necessary to make room for cargo; a two person job since the base weighs 130 pounds and the coupler 75. We have now towed our fifth wheel over a thousand miles and hitched and unhitched a dozen times, we can’t say enough about how easy this hitch combination works and how happy and secure we are with it.

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Jeff, RV Living

2 responses to “B&W Fifth Wheel Hitch Installation

  1. Interesting. I always wondered how these things were installed. And, I had no idea there was a removable “companion” hitch. Pretty slick.
    Nice “how to” write-up, Jeff.

  2. This post is full of great info, thanks. Our will help us in our next purchase. 😉

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