5th Wheel RV Tips & Tricks

by Renee Winship


Recreational vehicles are large and present challenges not usually experienced by drivers of normal-sized vehicles. Simplifying certain tasks will make setting up and breaking down easier. A few precautions put into place before hitting the road will prevent wear and tear on the vehicle and its interior.


If the fifth wheel doesn't come with handrails at the interior staircase and the exit steps, add handgrips. This will make it safer and easier to load and unload necessary items.

Place rubber mats or paper towels between pots and pans --- especially coated surfaces --- to prevent scratching during travel.

Use the under-bed storage areas for large seasonal items like bulky bedding and beach supplies.

A container of disinfectant wipes and a box of disposable gloves will come in handy for quick cleaning.


Check the tire pressure and look for cracking on tire sides before each trip. It's recommended that you replace tires every seven years.

Use caution when entering parking lots and gas stations. Be sure you have room to get to and from the pump and to turn around if necessary when leaving. Keep in mind that the overhang of the fifth wheel will bottom out if the incline is too steep.

Setting Up

Always carry enough blocks to level your rig from side to side. When the unit is parked and the jacks are set, the unit will be more stable if you use a mechanical wedge between the tandem tires --- one side only --- to prevent sway when walking around inside.

When you prepare to pull the truck away from the trailer, use a string with a clip on it and measure the height from the ground to the hitch. Mark the length on the string with the clip so you can return the hitch to this height when getting ready to back the truck under to hitch back up. This way there is no guesswork about which height to use.

Take along a can of insecticide and spray around the tires, cables, and hoses to prevent bugs from accessing the trailer.

Place a spare clip on the antenna handle. When the antenna is raised up, place the clip on the slide-out switch. When you get ready to go, you'll remember that the antenna is still up. Attach the clip to the crank handle when antenna is down.

Clean the top of the slide-out prior to closing. This will prevent debris on the slide-out from getting pushed into the seals which will shorten their life and effectiveness.


Wheels and drums should be removed, and the bearings should be cleaned and re-greased each year. Check brake shoes, springs, etc., for wear.

In cold climates be sure to winterize your water system. Pump RV antifreeze through the system or use a compressor and air with a connection on the city water hose bib. Make sure the valves under the unit are fully open to drain low water. Flush the toilet and drain the shower hose and any outside shower connections. Put antifreeze down the drains to protect low spots in drain pipes, including the hand sinks.

Carry a basic tool box and repair assortment for emergencies. This kit will grow with experience but should include duct tape, fuses, square screwdriver (RV Mandate), screws, bulbs, etc. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and emergency road hazard markers as required. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors are a good idea, too.

When storing the unit, keep the tires away from moisture and cover them to protect them from sun.

About the Author

Renee Winship is a published author and has worked in the family restaurant and catering business and has also worked in a medical lab facility. She's an adoptive parent and has worked in daycare. Winship has written more than 200 articles for Suite 101 and other online publications. She attended Southwest Missouri State University in Missouri with a nursing major.