30K 5th wheel hitch inspection in winter

Fundamental Tips for 5th Wheel Hitch Maintenance and Winter Prep

With the winter season on the horizon, you’re most likely beginning to ponder on the heaps of snow, frigid temperatures, and endless cups of hot cocoa that are underway (with marshmallows and whipped cream if you’re fancy!) 

While cheerful holiday music may be at the front of your mind, one of the other things you should be thinking about is how to care for your 5th wheel hitch, during the winter and in general. As you travel many miles to explore your favorite vacation spots, dirt, grime, grease buildup, and even damage to your towing equipment could arise. 

While it is important to do a thorough check on your towing gear at any time of the year, the winter season brings snow, frost, and freezing temperatures that could be even more detrimental to your equipment, weakening your system and causing extra, costly damage that could be avoided with detailed examinations beforehand. 

Proper 5th wheel hitch maintenance is the key to ensuring that you’re able to freely travel without trouble or hassle during any season, but is especially critical in the winter where the cold temps can take a toll on your equipment. Let’s explore some of the steps you can take to keep your 5th wheel hitch well-maintained and operating at its best – before the winter and throughout the year in general. 

5th wheel truck hitch operation and inspection5th wheel truck hitch operation and inspection

3 Important Maintenance Steps for All 5th Wheel Hitches

1. Cleaning your 5th Wheel Hitch

First things first, before winter strikes and before getting started with the process of conducting basic maintenance on your 5th wheel hitch, you’ll want to be sure that it is nice and clean. 
As your hitch does its job pulling your travel trailer, there are great possibilities for dirt, debris and grease to build up over time, causing it to be messy and full of grime. Cleaning it after each use is highly recommended, but doing so before conducting a maintenance routine is great and just as important.  

Give your hitch a nice cleaning using a mild soap and warm water solution along with a soft bristle brush for tight spaces to remove the built-up grease and other dirt. You can also use a pressure washer, such as the Lippert Power Pro Max portable pressure washer, on a low power setting. 

After washing, use compressed air or a towel to dry it thoroughly. Fully drying it before winter is especially critical to prevent the moisture from being trapped and freezing within the unit. 

Cleaning your 5th wheel hitch in general is particularly important before winter as the combination of old grease and low temperatures can cause additional issues, resulting in parts that may not function properly. 

Additionally, if you plan on storing your hitch or leaving it outside and exposed to the harsh elements of the winter for a long period of time, you could also spray and coat it with a rust inhibitor (such as fogging oil) to keep it clean and protect it from rust.  

Another benefit of cleaning your 5th wheel hitch before winter is that when the springtime rolls around and you’re anxious to take your first road trip of the season, you won’t have to spend your precious leisure time thoroughly cleaning your hitch – you’ll be good to go! 

And, as another added bonus, giving your 5th wheel a nice cleaning significantly helps with the next two steps of basic upkeep. 

So, either way, giving your hitch a quick scrub-a-dub will have you thanking yourself later. 

2. Inspecting your 5th Wheel Hitch

Now that your 5th wheel hitch is cleaned up, the next thing you need to do is inspect it. 

Keeping your 5th wheel hitch in great shape consists of doing a proper, thorough inspection of your entire system, and cleaning it beforehand makes it easier to spot defects that could be hidden under built-up dirt and grease. 

The main things you should look for are noticeable damage to the hardware, evidence of significant wear and tear, loose or missing parts, and cracks in your components. 
Be sure to check parts and components carefully, especially in the areas where there are moving parts. 

Conducting an inspection before and after the winter is important so you can be immediately aware of any changes to your 5th wheel that may have happened as a result of the cold season. 

Operating 5th wheel hitch in truck bedOperating 5th wheel hitch in truck bed

Once winter has passed and you’re ready to get back on the road, be sure to do another thorough inspection of the same parts – even doing some testing of your parts to ensure they are not stiff or stuck from sitting idle through the frigid months. 

If you find any parts that need to be replaced, we have you covered with an extensive collection of 5th wheel accessories and replacement parts that keep you on the road, no matter which season it is. 

3. Lubricating your 5th Wheel Hitch

One last major step that is critical to the preservation and upkeep of your 5th wheel hitch is lubrication. Keeping your hitch lubricated is essential for smooth, quiet towing and efficient operation.

When lubricating your 5th wheel hitch, the main key is to ensure that rotating or metal-on-metal surfaces are lightly coated. 

To lubricate the hitch, you can use a grease gun and high-quality grease such as a high-pressure lithium-based grease, or a spray lubricant such as an aerosol-based graphite dry film. 

Many 5th wheel hitches are equipped with grease zerks (aka grease fittings) that provide lubrication to various areas of your hitch. Be sure to look for those throughout each part of the hitch so that grease can be distributed to all vital areas. 

Before attaching the grease gun and adding grease to the zerks, each zerk should be cleaned to receive the grease properly. 

The most common indicator for knowing when enough grease has been applied is when the old grease begins to seep out of the joint.  

Once the zerks have been lubricated, check the jaws and hitch plate and grease both of those areas adequately. 

5th wheel hitch lube plates are also a great option to keep things cleaner and not have to apply a large amount of grease to the 5th wheel coupling point. Lube plates eliminate the need for grease between the skid plate on top of the hitch and the 5th wheel trailer pin box. 

If you currently use a lube plate for your hitch, at this step you will want to examine the plate and determine if you need a replacement. It may be time for a replacement if the lube plate material is beginning to thin out or if you notice signs of cracks or breakage. 

Lube Plate on 5th Wheel Pin BoxLube Plate on 5th Wheel Pin Box

While there are many common types of grease that can be used to lubricate your hitch, you will want to check your manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific type of grease your 5th wheel hitch may require. 

You should also check your manufacturer’s recommendations for exact spots on your hitch that require grease along with frequency to determine where, how much and how often you should lubricate your hitch. 

CURT 5th Wheel Hitch Maintenance Checklist

For CURT 5th wheel hitches specifically, the following table contains some common 5th wheel hitch maintenance procedures and instructions you can follow to keep your hitch working at its best. 

Note: The information in the table is general. Refer to your specific hitch’s manual for information about your particular hitch. 

Inspecting 5th wheel hitch and pin box connectionInspecting 5th wheel hitch and pin box connection

Routine 5th Wheel Hitch Maintenance Tips for All Seasons

Winter and general travel can take a toll on your 5th wheel hitch. While pre-winter is great time to conduct a detailed maintenance procedure, you should also regularly examine your hitch to be sure you stay in the know about the condition of your components and hitch as a whole.  

Following the rules below can promote longevity and protect your investment in the long run. 

1. Clean and Dry Your 5th Wheel Hitch

Before storage, before performing routine maintenance, and after each use, thoroughly clean and dry your 5th wheel hitch, using a mild soap solution and a towel or compressed air. Remember to get all the nooks and crannies to avoid water build-up.

2. Inspect the Hitch for Damage

Check your 5th wheel for cracks, loose or missing parts, and signs of significant wear and tear. Replacement components should be purchased and installed as needed.

3. Check Hardware for Proper Torque

Use a torque wrench to ensure that all of the hardware on your 5th wheel hitch is properly tightened to the correct values. Consult your owner’s manual for torque specifications.

4. Apply Grease

Anywhere there is metal-on-metal contact, particularly at points that need to articulate while towing, apply a high-quality grease. 5th wheel hitches are designed to tow an exceptional amount of weight, and having a quality grease applied to all of the right spots promotes smooth operation and longevity.

5. Apply a Rust Inhibitor

To keep your 5th wheel hitch in good shape, periodically inspect it and apply a rust inhibitor as needed. Looks for scratches and scuff marks. This will keep your unit better protected against the elements and deter corrosion.