Toyota Tacoma: How to Hitch a Fifth Wheel

Attaching a fifth wheel is relatively easy. It requires first being aware of safety issues and then following a few simple steps. We'll walk you through the process in this how-to and provide some additional information about towing a fifth wheel.

By Richard Bowen - February 9, 2016

This article applies to the Toyota Tacoma (1996-2015).

Generally speaking, the size of the later generations of Tacoma trucks only allows them to tow small fifth wheels such as a Scamp. The first generation Tacomas, 1995 to 2004, were never available with a towing package. The second generation, 2005 to 2008, came equipped with a towing package on the V6 version only. Check the manual that came with your year of Tacoma or with your dealer about towing abilities and capacities. Be prepared to add additional devices, such as a brake control system and extended towing mirrors to your Tacoma if you tow a fifth wheel.

Toyota Tacoma How to Hitch Fifth Wheel

Material Needed

  • Wheel chocks

Unless you're an experienced veteran who has hitched many fifth wheels to trucks, installing a fifth wheel is a two-person job. One person maneuvers the truck and the other monitors the movements.

Step 1 – Lower the tailgate

The first thing you want to do is lower the tailgate on the Tacoma.

lowering tailgate
Figure 1. Lower the tailgate.

Step 2 – Close cargo door

Next, make sure the cargo door on the front of the trailer is closed.

closing cargo door
Figure 2. Close cargo door.


Never walk between the truck and the trailer while the truck's engine is running.

Step 3 – Chock trailer wheels

Chock the wheels on the fifth wheel to keep it from rolling forwards or backwards while you hitch the truck and fifth wheel together.

chocking trailer wheels
Figure 3. Securely chock the trailer wheels.

Step 4 – Align truck and trailer

Align the truck and trailer so you can make some approximate "eye ball" measurements. You will use these measurements so you can judge whether you have the clearance you need to place the hitch under the king pin.

aligning truck with fifth wheel
Figure 4. Back the truck up and align it with the fifth wheel.

Pro Tip

Raise the tailgate on the Tacoma if there is not enough room for it to be open after the king pin is clear. Determine if there is room for the tailgate to be open after the king pin is clear. Close the tailgate if there is not enough room.

Step 5 – Adjust trailer height

Use the landing gear to adjust the height of the fifth wheel, so the bottom plate of the pin box is 1/2 to 1 inch lower than the skid plate on the hitch.

  • landing gear to adjust the height of fifth wheel
    Figure 5. Use the landing gear to adjust the height of the fifth wheel.
  • fifth wheel needs to be 1/2 inch to 1 inch lower than hitch
    Figure 6. The fifth wheel needs to be 1/2 inch to 1 inch lower than the skid plate on the hitch.

Step 6 – Open the hitch

Make sure the hitch is in the "open jaw" position.

Figure 7. Open the hitch.

Step 7 – Hitch the fifth wheel to the Tacoma

Start the truck's engine and slowly move the truck towards the fifth wheel, easing the hitch under the king pin. You will feel a little resistance as the Tacoma mates with the fifth wheel. This is normal as the tilt plate is designed so it tilts when the king pin moves into place.

  • tilt plate tilted to right
    Figure 8. Tilt plate tilted to right.
  • tilt plate even after hitch has been made
    Figure 9. Tilt plate is even after hitch has been made.

The king pin will move into a funnel-like opening on the "saddle" where it will couple together. It's important to let the skid plate push the fifth wheel up a little as hitch slides under the king pin and guides the king pin into place.

Figure 10. King pin and hitch "receiver."

Pro Tip

It's best to come in a little lower as this step instructs you to do, rather than higher. Coming in higher can damage the king pin and/or jaws, or you can miss the connection altogether.

Step 8 – Close the hitch

Close the hitch to secure the fifth wheel to the truck.

Figure 11. Close the hitch.

Step 9 – Secure the connection

Padlock the safety latch and connect the break-away cable to a secure area on the Tacoma.

  • Figure 12. Secure the connector with a padlock.
  • Figure 13. Secure the break-away cable.

Step 10 – Make the electrical connection

Raise the tailgate, if you haven't already done so, and connect the electrical cable to the Tacoma's electrical system.

Figure 14. Make the electrical connection from the fifth wheel to the Tacoma.

Step 11 – Perform hitch-pull test

Test the fifth wheel connection to make sure the connection is secure and the brakes as well as electrical work. This test can prevent damage to the truck and fifth wheel:

  • With the landing gear still down and the wheels still chocked, start the truck engine with your foot on the brake.
  • Place the truck in gear.
  • Activate the fifth wheel's brakes manually.
  • Release the truck's brakes.
  • Gently press on the truck's accelerator, as if you were moving the truck a few inches.

The fifth wheel's brakes should hold the fifth wheel in place and the hitch should also hold. If the hitch separates, stop immediately and re-hitch.

Figure 15. Put the truck in gear with your foot on the brake, manually operate the fifth wheel brakes, release the truck brakes, and gently accelerate.

Step 12 – Final steps

After a successful hitch-pull test, raise the landing gear and remove the wheel chocks.

  • Figure 16. Raise the landing gear completely after the test.
  • Figure 17. And remove the wheel chocks.

To disconnect the fifth wheel, follow these instructions:

  • Un-chock the wheels.
  • Lower the landing gear just enough so you can move the fifth wheel off the hitch.
  • Disconnect the electrical line.
  • Disconnect the pull-out cable.
  • Unpin and open the safety latch.
  • Move the handle to the open position, disengaging the jaws.
  • Make sure tailgate is clear.
  • Drive the Tacoma slowly out from under the fifth wheel.

Featured Video: How to Properly Hook Up a Fifth Wheel

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