RV Expert Center
Reese's 5th Wheel Hitch
3405 Videra Dr
Eugene, OR 97405
Text by Jeff Johnston
Fifth-wheel trailer fans enjoy a variety of options when it’s time to outfit a pickup with a hitch. A glance through the Camping World catalog reveals several alternatives, and the Reese Elite hitch series is one that’s worth a closer look for several reasons. Among other details, it’s the hitch that Ford chose to offer as a factory option on its Super Duty F-250, -350 and -450 pickups, and that’s no small accomplishment.
It’s a lengthy process of design, testing, and more testing that results in a product being endorsed as a factory option for any truck manufacturer. In Ford’s case, after the validation process is finished, part of the company’s good name and reputation are riding on how well the hitch performs and holds up in the real world. Ford used its own proprietary standards as well as those established by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and was involved with the design process from day one. Ford engineers worked with their Reese counterparts on material selection and component design to ensure the hitches would deliver to both companies’ demanding standards.
Ford also provided input on the hitches’ visual appearance. There’s little need for a fifth-wheel hitch to be a big, ugly mass of steel in the truck bed. From the contoured steel support base to the stamped-steel-plate head assembly the hitch looks good and is a visual complement to the truck cosmetics. Much of the hitch is powder-coated for extra-long-term durability under the worst man-made and natural environmental conditions so the hitch will continue looking good for years to come.
Mounting hardware is also available for many GM and Dodge trucks so non-Ford drivers can also use the Elite series. See the CW catalog for complete application information.
Beyond the Ford endorsement, many buyers are highly brand loyal, and the Reese name alone is enough to catch a persons’ eye. As a hitch manufacturer, Reese dates back to the earliest days of recreational vehicles and their part in leisure time activities, and the brand’s well-earned reputation for quality and durability places it right up there as a “no brainer” selection.
The Elite is available in two sizes, The Elite RE 25, rated at 25,000-pounds GVWR and 6,250-pound pin weight, and the Elite RE 18 rated at 18,000-pounds GVWR and 4,500-pounds of pin weight.
Both hitches use a forged single jaw design for durability and secure trailer pin coupling. The jaw is designed for increased contact area with the kingpin, which results in reduced wear and tear on both components, and a wide 9-inch-opening “funnel” makes for easier truck and trailer hitching alignment. A wiring harness that helps simplify the trailer wiring project is also included with each hitch.
The release handle is extended so it’s more convenient to reach from the side of the truck. It incorporates a hole for a lock when extra security is desired and you want to help ensure the trailer stays attached to the truck.
The RE 18 can be adjusted vertically from 14- to 18-inches above the truck bed, and the RE 25 has a range of 14- to 16-1/2-inches. In addition to the usual fore-and-aft head tilt feature, both hitch heads can pivot about 4-degrees side-to-side for truck-to-trailer flexibility on uneven ground.
An under-bed base rail is an integral part of the new Elite hitch system. The base rail mount fits between the truck frame rails and the bed so nothing is visible in the bed. A pair of mounting pins in the hitch fit through holes in the bed to engage the base rails. Twist the pins 1/4 turn to lock them in place, and a reverse 1/4-turn frees up the pins for hitch removal.
For those who also have a need to tow with a commercial/agricultural gooseneck-style hitch, there’s an optional base rail center section that mounts a removable hitch ball.
In both hitch examples, when the hitches are removed, the bed remains clear and bracket-free so there’s no hardware interference when using the truck for other types of cargo.
Towing a full-size fifth-wheel trailer with a shortbox truck is often a challenge due to reduced clearance between the trailer’s nose and truck cab. The Elite RE 18 can be ordered with a sliding base rail system (CW #30894) that enables the user to manually release a latching lever and slide the hitch back about 10 inches. This provides more cab-to-trailer clearance during a tight turn. After the turn, the hitch is slid back to its over-the-axle standard position. Combined with the recommended 13-inch-minimum extended trailer pin box, the slider increases the truck-to-trailer turn angle from 45 degrees to about 80 degrees.
Reese offers a seven year warranty on its Elite hitches. For more information about the Reese Elite fifth-wheel hitch lineup, visit your local Camping World store or log on to the website at www.campingworld.com