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Bed’s Too High

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July 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bed’s Too High
I drive a 2003 Chevrolet 2500 HD crew cab pickup with a short bed. My truck has a 6-inch suspension lift and 35-inch tires, so the bed sits just under 42 inches above the ground. I wanted to get a fifth-wheel trailer to pull behind my truck for my family. I went to an RV dealer, and they told me that my truck sets too high for a fifth-wheel trailer. They did not seem very knowledgeable, though, and they could not tell me how much I would have to lower my truck in order to be able to hook up to a fifth-wheel trailer.

What is the maximum bed height for the bottom of the pickup bed to be able to pull a fifth-wheel? Do you know if there might be any special adapters that would help to offset the difference? Do you know if certain trailer manufacturers make some trailers that are set up higher? I prefer to get one of the fifth-wheel trailers with a garage and ramp in the back section to store motorcycles and other things.

I have seen other trucks driving down the highway with fifth-wheel trailers that look like they set up just as high as my truck. The dealer did say that sometimes you can re-mount the trailer axles under the springs or something like that to give you some extra height, but they did not think it would be enough for my truck.
Rex Newman
Pleasanton, Texas

Bob: Rex, your truck is set up pretty high. We don’t see too many tow vehicles with lift kits and 35-inch tires, so I took some measurements on our 2006 Ford F-450 (two-wheel drive) with a custom bed that’s very similar in design to a stock bed. The bed in this truck sits 34 inches above the ground, and the distance to the top of the bed rails is 54 inches. In this configuration, the top of the bed rails is a few inches higher than a stock F-350.

The first time we towed a 35-foot fifth-wheel, the underside of the front section collided with the top of the bed rail when entering a service station and, of course, damaged the truck and the trailer. I predicted this was going to happen, but the driver didn’t believe me.

As you know, it’s difficult to repair the rails once they are crushed; most times you’re looking at replacing the entire bed. That will certainly hurt your pocketbook.

You’ll need at least 6 inches of clearance between the top of the bed rails and the underside of the fifth-wheel’s front section.

Based on your numbers, the top of the bed rails on your truck could be as tall at 62 inches. You can change the axles in the fifth-wheel so that they are mounted under the spring pack. That should give you 4 to 5 inches of additional clearance. Do the math: I don’t think you can get there.

Since most of the toy haulers out there are designed for off-road destinations, the manufacturers usually allow extra clearance to accommodate four-wheel-drive trucks. Check around before you buy. You might be able to custom-order a suspension that has additional clearance. Also, look for front sections that have less headroom. Many times, the bottom of the front section is higher off the ground when the headroom is limited.

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