How to Install a Fifth Wheel Hitch on Short Bed Truck

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Last Updated on May 18, 2022

Depending on whether it’s a short or long truck bed, the 5th wheel hitch installation can be slightly different. 

And if that’s something keeping you confused before actually trying it, you can use this guide on how to install a fifth wheel hitch on a short bed truck and clear your dilemma. As we are planning to discuss the entire process in depth today!

So How to Install a Fifth Wheel Hitch on Short Bed Truck?

Follow the steps given below to install a fifth wheel hitch on a short bed truck yourself.

Proper Position of Front Base Rail

The distance starting from the truck needs to be accurate. Ensure that and then position the base rail close to the truck cab. The space between is determined by the fact whether you are installing it for a short or long bed. 

You also want to make sure the specific measurements are provided inside the instruction manual of the hitch. The centering of the base rail kit right between wheel walls is very important as well.

Mark The Drilling Spots

You want to connect the plates of the fifth-wheel hitch and then mark the very central spot of the rear frame. This is the place that connects both sides’ rails. 

You can precisely indicate the drilling spot using a center punch. Create a pilot hole in the location once you are done.

Check The Pilot Hole Beneath the Bed

The pilot hole that you just made, where you need to position the under-bed bracket of the hitch properly. This is to determine the other drilling locations for all the bolt holes you’ll need. 

Make sure things are lining up properly. Get the base rail out for now and then drill the locations after you have a center point them. You want to drill downwards from the truck bed above.

Expanding the Bolt Holes Size to Bolt in the Under-bed Brackets & Rails

You want to enlarge the drill locations so that these are big enough for the rail bolts. Be gentle and take it slow.

Bonus Tips - To avoid any chance of rust here, you can use some touch-up paint for the edges of metal parts.

Next, you need to position the under-bed braces on either side of the truck bed. The fit needs to be from the wheel wall opening. The pack should come with nuts and bolts that you can use for connecting the bracket to the frame of the truck. Don’t forget to fasten the 2nd bracket on another side of the truck.

Next, you want to place the base rail in its actual position on truck beds. For the bottom bed rails situation in the truck, the pack should contain some spacers. 

You want to place it beneath the fifth wheel rails as well as between the rails of the truck bed. Maintaining metal-to-metal attachment consistently is important here.

Lock the rails in position by bolting them beneath the truck bed with the provided bolts and nuts.

At this point make sure:

  • Both top and bottom rails of the 5th wheel are in proper position over each other.
  • Each side rail is also connected through the frame base with provided screws tightly.

Get The Hitch Height

A proper height mounting of the hitch is important to accommodate the bed the right way. The difference between trailer and bed walls should not be less than 5.5”. 

To check this, you need to:

  • Get the trailer placed on flat ground.
  • Measure the distance between the underside of the kingpin plate and the floor.
  • Measure the distance between the truck’s open tailgate top and base.

Subtract the 2nd measurement from the 1st measurement and you should have the accurate height to work with.

Connecting the Legs of 5th Wheel

Once you are done getting the hitch height, determine the proper hole on the head of the hitch that suits the height. A vertical fit works best for most hitches. You should have the bolts provided in a pack with which you can attach the legs to the head.

Now, this is where things get interesting! For a short bed truck fifth wheel hitch installation, you need to use a 5th wheel slider hitch. You will need to disconcert the head plate and then turn the head upside down to connect the legs.

You need to locate the 2nd base rail spot after the installation of the fifth wheel hitch. Placing the legs you need help from a friend, as getting them since the base rail could be tricky to do alone. Make sure the rear rail is also placed in the right spot.

Drilling & Bolting Rear Base Rail

Before you mark the drill location, ensure the 2nd foundation rail is properly aligned with the truck bed and is centered properly.

Trace the location of drilling then. Quite similar to how you get the 1st rail installation done, take the rail out of the way and center punch for drilling the pilot holes for the 2nd rail too. 

Get the bolts and nuts secured under the truck bed. Don’t forget to torque them once the base rails are attached. You should find the values for torque inside the installation guide provided.

Restore Fifth Wheel Hitch Assembly to Its Location

We are almost done. At this point, you want to make sure the 5th wheel hitch is restored and properly tucked right between the base rails you just installed. 

All the components must be tight. And then check the pins as well as the pieces being at their right places. You can hook up the hitch to the vehicle next.

For installing a 5th wheel hitch on a short bed truck, it should not take more than 6 hours. Fairly, it should be done within 4 hours.

Wrapping Up

And just like that, now you know the entire process of how to install a fifth wheel hitch on a short bed truck. We tried to keep it simple and precise. Hopefully, you will face zero trouble getting the whole setup done. 

Good Luck & Hope to See You Next Time!

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About the Author: Brian Silvestro

Brian Silvestro is the founder and chief editor of OffroadersArena. He spends his free time tending to his BMW iX SUV and explaining its merits to anyone who'll listen.

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