Saturday, 2 August 2014

American Caravan (travel trailer) or 5th wheel towing hitches

Last week we were asked to tow another American caravan (travel trailer). There are only two differences between a travel trailer and a 5th wheel.

The principal difference is the way they are towed. 5th wheel trailers use a king pin (or 5th wheel), similar to an articulated wagon attached to a hitch in the back of the truck. Travel trailers use a drawbar system, similar to the way we tow traditional caravans.

This gives the second difference, which allows travel trailers to have a flat, single level floor all the way through, whereas 5th wheels have steps up to the front part of the trailer.

The American drawbars use a much bigger towball and cannot be towed using a conventional UK / European tow bar. As they weigh in at up to 5 tonnes, even a normal towbar system can't be used as most are rated at less than half of this. The American trucks have what is known as a 'weight distributing' towbar, that does exactly that, distributing the drawbar weight through the chassis of the truck.

As for nose (or pin) weights, travel trailers load around 600kg onto the towbar and 5th wheels can be well over one tonne. In either case, specialised equipment is required.

As for towing, 5th wheels are much easier. The main reason for this, aside the stability advantages of a 5th wheel, is the sheer length of the combination. The caravan we towed the other day was 11m (35') long, add to this 1.5m (5')of drawbar and then 6.25m (20') of truck and the whole combination is 18.75m long (the maximum length allowed on European roads, and is longer than an articulated lorry (16.5m). being the same width as an artic, it is the largest combination legally allowed without special permits.

The same size 5th wheel trailer gives a much shorter combination, as a portion of the trailer is over the back of the truck reducing the overall length to around 15m, meaning you can effectively tow a much bigger 5th wheel (up to 16.5m) total length, which incidentally is the same size as an artic. These combinations can weigh up to 13 tonnes which makes them well and truly HGV Class one (C+E) territory.

The caravan we towed was that long, it was very difficult to get it round the turns on the campsite, something to bear in mind if you are considering buying one to tour with!

towing 5th wheel or drawbar combination
Towing 18.75m truck and trailer combination

No comments:

Post a Comment