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Should Shortbed Trucks Tow Fifth Wheels?

Updated on March 15, 2011

Major Manufacturer Says No!

I just finished previewing the Trailer Life towing guide for 2008 and it confirms something I have suspected for a long time. In the Chevy section, which also applies to GMC trucks, there are two disclaimer warnings that jump out at you concerning 1500 and 2500 series pickup trucks.

I will quote,"Manufacturer's note: Shortbed models are not designed or intended to tow fifth-wheel trailers."

That's a pretty strong stance that opens up a flood of questions like:

  • Does this apply to past model year shortbed trucks?
  • Does this apply to shortbed trucks made by Ford and Dodge and others?
  • How about the heavier duty trucks?
  • Don't they built slide mount hitchs just for shortbed trucks? If this is true,what's up with that!?
  • How about bumper towing with a shortbed or short wheelbase?

In any case I believe it is clear, towing a 5th wheel trailer with a shortbed truck is not a good idea. It never has been. Now it is official.

The other manufacturer's note limits the kingpin weight to 15-25 percent of trailer weight. This is a tried and true guideline but further defined this year by adding an actual weight limit to the warning. For 1500 series its 1,500 ponds and for 2500 series, 3000 pounds. The weight of travel trailers is also limited to 13,000 pounds with weight distribution for the 2500 series.

Yet another manufacturer's note defines shortbed as 69.3 inches, standard bed as 78.7 inches and longbed as 97.6 inches.

We move on to the Dodge section and find a lot of hemming and hawing, kinda sorta maybe language that throws the final determination of what your dodge can tow into the laps of their dealers with all the reliability that can go along with that. It is almost like Dodge doesn't want your towing business.

It is also here we learn their published kinda sorta numbers are based on a 150 driver only in the truck. This is something I first remember reading in a late 90's Ford specific towing guide that further limited fifth wheel towing to units that where only one third the height of the truck above the cab.

Does anyone remember Ford towing commercials on TV? If you do, or don't, next time you see one, note the height of the trailer being towed. Then notice the gross disregard of this standard you can see everyday on our highways. Then notice that even the tractor trailer rigs have wind diverters that control the wind turbulence above the cab.

Ford is the only American manufacturer who is geared up and aggressively after your towing business. They are one of the sponsors of the TL towing guide. When you get into the guide you will notice even Ford soft-pedals the shortbox towing issue by stating the hitch will fit provided it is specially designed for small box trucks then dumps the explanation onto the dealer/ manufacturer.

All in all this is a good guide to get a hold of and read to learn the fundamentals of RV towing. It is available along with towing guides back through 1999 at this Trailer Life web address:

http://www.trailerlife.com/output.cfm?id=42175

I have collected towing guides back through 1985 if you need information before 1999. Contact me at rvguru"at"gmail.com(replace"at" with @).

As with most things RV, when it comes to trailer towing, it's RV buyer beware! When it is time to get serious, get specific towing data from the truck dealer for what the truck can do and from the RV dealer for what the trailer requires. Remember to read the fine print and where ever possible, actually weigh the units to verify your finding. Remember most specs for both trucks and trailers are for base units and widgets whirygigs and toys add to weights quoted.

Please, in all cases tow safely and do not take chances. If you are close to the limits of things, upgrade! This is too important to monkey with and do not let predatory salesmen talk you into anything. Even if you want to believe it ( the my truck can tow anything bravado), and get emotionally involved, be well within specs, not on the edge. It's just too important not to do it safely!

Enjoy RVing! It is a great lifestyle.

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      gepeTooRs 18 months ago

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      Johnf19 3 years ago

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      Linda 3 years ago

      We bo ught a 2013 f150 truck and we were told it would tow a 5th wheel horse trailer. But it can't so we bought another truck. Now I have a truck that the dealership lied to us about. Shame on them!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Brian 5 years ago

      I think a lot of confusion is in defining just what is a short bed. To an old guy like me, my truck ('12 GMC 2500 HD Crewcab) is a "short bed", but in reality, I guess it's really now called a "standard bed". The bed is about 6'6", where what GM now calls a short bed is something like 5 feet, and ONLY found on a 1/2 ton truck. THere were no such things on older trucks - a shortbed was 6 - 6-1/2 foot bed, and a long bed was 8'. THere were no other options. I tow a 30 foot 5'er toyhauler, do not have a slider hitch or an extension on teh pinbox, and don't have any issues. No, it won't turn 90 degrees without hitting that cab, but in normal driving you NEVER even approach 90 degrees going around corners, and I never approach 90 degrees backing up, so it's not an issue. A bumper pull trailer will only turn, what, 60 degrees? That's never an issue, but when the talk turns to 5th wheels, all of a sudden it's a huge issue that you can't turn 90 degrees. Why? Why would you want to put that kind of strain on a truck and trailer anyway? Personally, I'd never tow a 5'er with a 1/2 ton anyway, but that's a personal opinion not backed by manufacturers ratings.

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      Lynn 5 years ago

      We have a 2000 Thor California fifth wheel and easily pull with our 2007 short bed F150. We purchased the truck new with the heavy tow package I do not understand why there is so much discussion?

    • profile image

      brian payne 5 years ago

      I don't remember seeing any warning in my 2001 owners manual about not using a short box to tow fithwheels. I do remember seeing the warning about using 4wd units to pull heavy loads. Own a 1979 K1500 427 CI and a 2001 GMC Sierra 2wd 4.8l.

    • profile image

      tim kelly 5 years ago

      this is coming from a manufactuer that has not ben abel to produce a door on any of it trucks worth pissing on since the 1950s. .... want to argue it? go get in any older chevy or g.m.c. i just drug a 35 foot 1977 holiday rambler acros the u.s. with a f250 no problems

    • profile image

      Jim LaFoe 6 years ago

      I have a 2003 ford f-150 6.5' bed and i have been towing a 26' fifth wheel since 2003,so please if you don't know,don't speak.yes you can haul with a 1/2 ton and yes you can tow with a short bed.

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      kyle 6 years ago

      can i tow a lite weight 5th wheel 7500 lbs with a single cab hemi trailer length 30 feet truck is short wheelbase.

    • rvguru profile image
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      rvguru 6 years ago

      There is a very interesting discussion going on over at the irv2 forums. It includes observations by full timers and folks who obviously subscribe to my credo of enjoy yourselves but always do the right thing the right way.

      Here is a link to the discussion.

      http://www.irv2.com/forums/f45/long-bed-vs-short-b...

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      Bob 6 years ago

      I have towed fifth wheel trailers for fifteen years. And i've never towed with anything other than a shortbox Chevy. For the last six years I have pulled a thirty-five foot Cambridge that weighs 16,900 lbs. dry. I am currently towing with a 2005 Silverado HD, Allison Transmission and Duramax diesel. I've never had a problem and have towed this trailer in all types of terrain. I've towed this unit over 20,000 miles. And by the way, I talked with the factory and never heard from them that it was unsafe or dangerous to tow with a shortbox. All I can state from personal experience is this vehicle tows this trailer exceptionally well and I never felt insecure or uneasy towing with this shortbox.

    • profile image

      chadrad 6 years ago

      what's the height between the side wall of the truck and the bottom of the fifth wheel overhang, how much clearance should you have?

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      kingdaddy 6 years ago

      I have never seen so much misinformation gathered together in one place! Too much to respond to, but to "jordan" (14 yr old boy)...you still have much to learn about towing! Damage can result if the trailer makes contact with the truck cab during an extreme turn approaching 90 degrees. Not very common anymore due to pin box design, contoured front caps on modern 5ers, and various types of slider hitches (or offset pivot such as 5th Airborne). Automatic sliders like my Superglide 16k don't take up ANY more time and energy than non sliders.

      In addition, my Dodge MegaCab diesel (6'4" bed) has a looong wheelbase and seriously heavy duty drivetrain and will quite nicely tow all but the largest 5ers. Limit is primarily payload due to the heavy truck weight. Look at ALL the various capacities and do your homework before buying truck or trailer. I agree, don't overload the truck, but the nonsense about not towing with a shortbed needs to be qualified quite a bit...

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      jordan 6 years ago

      hi i am a 14 year old boy. i think that short bed trucks are a bad idea when towing fifth wheels but yet you see more and more with them.having a short bed while towing can result in a lot of damage and you also have to take the time of using slider hitches. in my opinion short beds take up too much time and energy. my grandfather has a ford f350 with a 8 foot bed and a 27 foot fleetwood prowler. your best bet is to go with an 8 foot truck bed

    • profile image

      Jim 6 years ago

      This sounds like an ad for Ford !! I own a Ford but do not like fake articles written by employees, which is what this sounds like. There are published two ratings for all bed lengths for each manufacturer. You can find them on the Manufacturers' websites or at your dealer. I have been towing a 38 ft Montana fifth wheel with a Ford F-350 Short Bed for years and I am within recommended tow weight and hitch weight. I would only recommend a slider hitch for tight spots.

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      Doug 7 years ago

      Not sure who makes these reports out whether they have ever hauled a fifth wheel with a short box or not.I have hauled my 30ft fifth all over North America for the past 6 years and never had a problem .I drive a 2001 Dodge 2500 turbo Diesel short box standard hitch no sliding hitch and no problem . Don't know where anyone would have a problem unless there an idiot.

    • profile image

      rvguru 7 years ago

      Here is a link to the 2007 towing guide. You do not provide enough details to even venture a guess. Follow the guidelines and specs.

      http://www.trailerlife.com/output.cfm?id=42175

      I used to work at a dealership on the corner of two state roads. One road had a healthy slope leading to the intersection. I can't count the number of times a heavy fifth wheel literally pushed a over-matched pickup through a red light into the intersection. A real white knuckle adventure.

      There are too many macho attitudes towing overloaded rigs with marginal trucks. I hope y'all don't meet one who realizes their mistakes too late.

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      T/Fige 7 years ago

      I have 07/1500 vortex max.with a 6.0 and towing package supper gas millage,pulling a 25ft.prowler.would like to get into a lightweight 5th.wheel around 30 to 40ft.

      would this be a good idea with beefing up the back end with air bags or extra leafs.it has more than enough power and still getting 18 to 20 mph hauling till we hit the hills.is this a good move or not.

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      Viking 7 years ago

      Actually, nothing has changed in the area of towing dynamics in two years. But also, no one has stated that you cannot tow with a volkswagon if you want to. The article stated that GM preferred that fifth wheels not be towed with their short bed (69") trucks.

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      Towing Buddy 7 years ago

      I am towing a 5th wheel with a short-bed Ford (5'5" box) with an automatic sliding hitch (Pullrite 12K) and have never had a problem at all. This article is 2+ year old, a lot has changed since then. Time for an update doncha think?

    • profile image

      Vic 7 years ago

      What is the maximum height a bed can be for a Holiday Rambler 5th wheel?

    • profile image

      Gerry 7 years ago

      Louie: I gotta agree with you. I had a slider that everybody said I needed, and never used it. There's no magic here, nor any magic solutions. The answers come from the actual numbers. Measure your axle-cab clearance against your pin box extension and SEE what you'll get. Check the pin box drop against the hitch height and SEE your side rail clearance. Check the towing and bed capacities against your RV weight and SEE how safe you are. So many-many people either want answers without details, or give answers without knowing the details. Forget the legal disclaimers and go for the published specs and your measurements. The number's don't lie.

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      AFChappy 7 years ago

      Maybe we are confusing short bed and standard bed on the 2500 HD crew cab trucks. It seems that with only two beds to choose from for the 2500 HD is standard and long bed. Short bed is the 5' 6".

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      LTL Trucking 7 years ago

      Thanks for the towing guide link. The guide is very helpful.

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      Louie 7 years ago

      Old post, but I just saw it for the first time. The only thing I can add is this; my wife and I have been pulling 5th wheel campers for five years. The only tow vehicle I have ever owned is my 2003 Silverado 2500HD Duramax.

      In fact, we just returned from a 3,000 mile trip through the mountains of Pennsylvania, Virginia, W. Virginia, and North Carolina. We did not experience a single problem that we could attribute to the tow vehicle.

      Further, I have read post after post that short beds HAVE to utilize a sliding hitch. Don't have one, not going to get one. All of our trailers have been ordered with a pin box designed for short bed trucks. Two days ago I was backing up into a parking space that required more than a 90 degree turn; had several inches to spare between the front of the trailer and my cab.

      Maybe I've been exceptionally lucky, I don't know. My owners manual doesn't say a word about not pulling a 5th wheeler.

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      VACamper 7 years ago

      I understand completely, My point was this whole article seemed to be targeting all shortbed trucks (Which I own), I have a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 Shortbed CTD and would not have an issue with towing a fifth wheel. I agree that sliding hitches are needed for shortbed trucks but not sure I would tow a fiver with a less than standard shortbed. I ownder what the wheelbase on those GM/Chevy shortbeds are...

    • profile image

      BCDan 7 years ago

      VA get your point but with some investigation I have found that Glide Rite makes the same style hitch that I have and ones especially for the GM/Chevy boxes that are shorter than standard short beds.

    • profile image

      VACamper 7 years ago

      The whole point of the disclaimer is that the GM/Chevy shortbed is less than 6' long, The standard shortbed is 6'6". I looked in the towing guide and didn't see the disclaimer on the 2500 models.

      "Shortbed = 69.3 inches; Standard Bed = 78.7 inches; Longbed = 97.6 inches." Quoted from the 2008 Towing guide.

    • profile image

      BCDan 7 years ago

      Sorry meant to add right Hitch for 5th Wheel is made right here in Victoria, BC, Canada. Called the Hijacker, it slides with the load of the 5th on corners and also allows you to slide it back for backing up purposes so you don't hit your cab with the 5th. They have many retailers throughout Canada and the US and as far as I a concerned they make one of the best for hauling 5ths with a shortbed.

      By the way 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab is my two vehicle.

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      BCDan 7 years ago

      Save Your money on Air Bags just make sure you have good to new shocks and your springs are good to new. As far as towing with short boxes goes done it a lot over 15,000 kilometers in last 2 and a half years no problems with the right hitch you can do anything

    • rvguru profile image
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      rvguru 7 years ago

      The whole point of this hub is to tow at all times with safety in mind. If you have verified the proper weights,ratios and parameters and decided to go with a fifth wheel/truck combination, enjoy RVing, it's a great lifestyle. But my grandchildren are out there and if you relied on predatory dealer information [ I spent way too much time on a sales lot with guys who could care less about safety when a pay check was involved]or wonder if you will make it up the next hill,get your rig weighed the way you tow [including people and gear in the truck and trailer]and make sure you are within the GCWR [gross combined weight ratio] your truck manufacturer listed. The information is right there on the driver side door post or in the glove box. Any company that sells heavy stuff by weight like a gravel company or even a state truck stop with scales should be able to help. Also weigh the trailer side to side to make sure your weight is distributed evenly and one side is not overloaded. The reality of your situation might surprise you.

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      shortbedhauler 7 years ago

      I have a 2005 Dodge Power Wagon that I tow a 30' fifth wheel with. Yes the hitch has a slide and it get in places that long bed can't, but i do have scares on the truck where i got into an area and could not slide it back and had to just take it slowly

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      Gerry 7 years ago

      Nicely put. And nothing changed from when I checked this, 7 years ago, except more legal disclaimers. If you're within the pin and towing weight gross capacities, there's no good reason for not doing it. Towed for years with Tundra/03/ex-cab and a sliding hitch that I never had to use. Now moving to Sierra/07/crew/short-bed. While the bed is shorter, the longer cab gives you the same pivot from the front wheels for turning. I check turning radius, bed sidewall clearance and bed height. The last tells you the RV tilt; if backwards it will dive forward on heavy breaking and can cause problems. If all this satisfied, no reason not to tow. The remaining question: What do the insurance companies say about this? Haven't seen any answer there.

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      don giesecke 8 years ago

      i am preparing to purchase an 2009-10 F150 super crew 4x4 with both heavy tow and (if available) heavy duty payload packages. eng 5.4 L, tranny 6 speed, rear end 3.73. 6 1/2ft bed with a "pull rite super slider" hitch that gives the additional 14 to 22 3/4 inches of length.

      i am looking at fw's in the 26-<28 ft range, that are giving pin weights of 950-1050 and unload weights of 59-6800 or with 1500 lbs worth of stuff --8500.

      i plan on using air bags to help with additional pin wieght est total 1600-2000.

      heavy duty tow pkg gives a max of "11,200".

      the sales broucher gives a gcwr of 17,100; loaded trailer max 11,100

      the reason for all this is the 250 will not fit in my garage, and to get the same tow rating the 250 has to have a 4.10 rear end or a probable drop of 3 miles/gallon.

      what is your opinion of this plan?

      thanks

      don

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      David 8 years ago

      Pete => What year is the truck and what bed does it have? Did you look it up in the TRailerLife towing guide? Or did you consult your local Chevy truck dealer? These are where you will find your answers.

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      Pete Rodriguez 8 years ago

      I have a crew cab 2500 4wheel drive duramax.does that make a difference as far as towing a 5th wheel trailer

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      David 9 years ago

      When a major US truck manufacturer states, "Shortbed models are not designed or intended to tow fifth-wheel trailers." You better reevaluate what you have going or at least find out what the problems are. This is a major red flag for a large segment of the truck buying public.

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      mathar72 9 years ago

      why do you think there isn't enough bed length? The towing capacity for any truck has more to do with how and where the hitch is mounted rather than the bed length. I just finished a 3200+ mile trip a week ago, using my shortbed truck to tow a 28' fifth wheel trailer. The combined weight was 15,500 lbs with all of our gear and fuel. A long bed truck would give you a better turning radius because the pivot point is further forward but as long as the hitch is mounted and placed correctly, the towing ability should be the same.

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      hinken67 9 years ago

      no because there is not enough bed length.