What Is A Gooseneck Tow Hitch?

A gooseneck tow hitch is a fairly complex towing setup that allows a flatbed truck to pull a gooseneck trailer. Gooseneck tow hitches and fifth-wheel tow setups are very similar in that both use specially designed trailers that place the link point at a central location along the frame of the truck.

It’s designed to pull major loads that would be difficult or unsafe to tow using regular receiver hitches or bumper towing systems, and it does this by attaching the gooseneck trailer such that the connection point is farther up the midpoint of the pickup truck.

With this arrangement, the load is distributed more centrally among the frame of the vehicle, with most of it near or directly over the rear wheel axle.

A gooseneck tow hitch is a specific arrangement that requires the correct type of trailer. It’s also a system that can only be used on flatbed trucks, personal pickups or similar vehicles, so it’s not something you can usually do with a motorhome or an RV.

It’s also a towing system that should only be installed on larger heavy-duty trucks, so if you have a light personal truck or a regular car, you need to consider other ways to tow a trailer.

Make no mistake about it – this is an advanced towing setup that’s more suitable for experienced drivers who are willing to put in the needed expense and effort of putting together a gooseneck tow hitch system. However, once you are able to set up a gooseneck tow setup, you are able to tow larger and heavier loads than what would be otherwise possible using regular bumper tow trailers.

The gooseneck tow hitch does require extensive modifications and a specialized trailer designed for gooseneck towing, but since a gooseneck trailer applies its weight on the flatbed truck near or right over the rear axle, you get more stability, maneuverability, and responsiveness while driving.

Advantage of a Gooseneck Tow Hitch

The main advantage of a gooseneck tow hitch is the way it enables your heavy-duty truck or pickup to pull major cargo. It’s definitely a system designed for serious towing, and it can let you pull loads that are significantly heavier and larger than your vehicle. With the right gooseneck tow hitch setup, you can haul earth moving equipment, large generators, horse trailers, or large boats – towing loads that are all but impossible to safely pull using bumper tow setups.

Like we’ve mentioned above, another big reason to go for a gooseneck tow hitch is the stability of the whole setup. Unlike bumper tow systems and similar setups where the tow bars extend from the rear of the towing vehicle’s frame, a gooseneck setup is anchored on a more central part of the truck.

The load is more evenly distributed as a result, and the whole setup is more stable in general. Gooseneck hitches also use a hitch ball that locks with the gooseneck trailer to secure the link, and the strength of this arrangement lets you safely pull heavy loads.

This stability lets you pull large loads with a gooseneck tow hitch, in some cases much larger than what you can manage with regular towing setups. To be more specific about it, gooseneck hitches are considered as Class V hitches, and towing setups that are in this class can handle serious loads.

In comparison, simple drawbar systems that you install using rear-mounted tow hooks are considered to be Class I and Class II hitches, and these are usually useful only to the extent of pulling the weight of the vehicle being towed, and not much beyond that.

Moving up from that, you get the larger pintle hitch and tow hook setups that can handle most loads up to 10,000 pounds or so, as you get into the Class III and Class IV setups. The larger Class IV setups will let you handle campers, boats, and compact trailers, as long as it’s somewhere under 5 tons.

For loads over that, you will need a more robust solution, and that’s where a gooseneck tow hitch comes in. Class V towing systems, which include gooseneck tow hitches and similar systems, will let you tow loads of up to around 15 tons, or 30,000 pounds – assuming, of course, that your truck and trailer can handle that much mass. 

Aside from the sheer towing capacity that a gooseneck hitch can give you, there’s also the way the trailer is linked to the truck itself. Since the link is somewhere near the middle of the truck’s frame, you also get a tighter turning radius compared to other towing systems.

Since the gooseneck link goes over the truck axle, the link turns as soon as the rear of the truck starts turning. This lets you cut around corners and do u-turns more easily compared to other towing systems that have the tow link trailing behind the vehicle. The gooseneck hitch setup is also a bit easier to park and reverse as a result, too.

Finally, since the gooseneck hitch adds the frame rails and the hitch ball in the middle of the truck, the setup does not add to the length of the vehicle at all when the trailer is removed. The gooseneck hitch is also small and easy to cover when not in use, as well.

Disadvantages of a Gooseneck Tow Hitch

Just like all towing systems, it’s important to consider the disadvantages that the gooseneck tow hitch has compared to other setups before you decide to invest in this trailer solution. First and foremost, you have to consider the cost of getting a suitable gooseneck trailer, since the hitch cannot be used with bumper pull trailers.

Gooseneck trailers are heavy-duty trailers designed to carry major loads, so the trailer themselves are built to be sturdy – and heavy. You may find that a gooseneck tow hitch is not as fuel efficient as other towing setups, and if you find that you are towing light to medium loads much more often than heavy ones, then you may consider using other towing systems to transport them.

There’s also the fact that you need to install a gooseneck hitch to your truck, and this step will usually involve quite a bit of modification to the vehicle. Gooseneck hitches are meant to carry serious loads, to the extent that some gooseneck trailers are large enough to be considered commercial. This means that the hitching hardware should be installed by a professional, for safety reasons.

Gooseneck trailers, while they are road legal for a lot of uses both recreational and commercial, do have their limitations. In many regions, you are not allowed to transport passengers in a gooseneck trailer – either you carry everyone traveling with you inside the truck, or you may opt for a fifth-wheel setup for your trailer so your passengers are allowed to ride in them.

Finally, there is also the issue of storage. Gooseneck trailers are usually larger than regular bumper pull trailers, and then there is the extra length of the gooseneck tow arm itself. You may need to have an extra-large parking space or garage to store a gooseneck trailer when it’s not in use.

What is a Gooseneck Hitch Used For?

A gooseneck hitch, as we mentioned, is used for towing heavy loads from a link that is mounted right into the bed of a pickup truck. They are used for towing gooseneck trailers, which have their links mounted directly over the back axle of your truck.

This arrangement lets gooseneck trailer manufacturers build larger trailers for heavier loads, or simply for more space. These gooseneck trailers are used for a variety of purposes – you can see some of them designed to transport heavy equipment or multiple vehicles. It’s common to see gooseneck flatbed trailers used to carry tractors, buses, rail vehicles, earth moving equipment, and large machinery.

They are also the trailer of choice for transporting several horses or sets of livestock at a time.  Since gooseneck trailers can be made to be much larger compared to regular bumper pull trailers, you may find that they are also used for a combination of uses. For example, you can find gooseneck trailers that combine transport for equipment and horses with living quarters. The larger gooseneck trailers also offer a wider choice of trailer formats for you. 

You can have fully enclosed trailers with side loading doors, or you can tow food concession trailers on the back of your heavy duty truck. Gooseneck trailers are also sturdy enough to function as bulk cargo transports, and you can see them used as small dump trailers for carrying gravel, coal, ore and building materials.

What Does a Gooseneck Hitch Look Like?

The gooseneck hitch itself in a gooseneck setup consists of a bracket that is secured to the bed of a pickup track such that the sides are securely bolted to the frame. At the middle of this bracket is a heavy duty ball, and this is the component that the gooseneck trailer coupler holds on to. 

A gooseneck hitch may be one of three different types. Above-bed gooseneck hitches are mounted on top of a pickup truck’s bed, and they are bolted on to the rails on the sides of the trailer bed. Just like fifth wheel hitches, the whole assembly can be easily removed if it’s not needed.

Under-bed gooseneck hitches, on the other hand, are installed on to the rails under the trailer bed to reinforce the gooseneck hitch ball and the bed surface from beneath. Fold-down gooseneck hitches are installed right into the trailer bed, and they let the owner fold down the hitch ball into a built-in pocket to get it out of the way when the hitch is not in use.

The gooseneck hitch balls themselves may be made of a variety of materials and finishes. Stainless steel is a common option, and you can also get them with zinc, nickel, or chrome finish.

What Size Ball is a Gooseneck Hitch?

Gooseneck hitch balls are designed specifically for gooseneck towing, so you need to make sure that you’re are getting a hitch ball designed for your gooseneck hitch. Gooseneck hitch balls are 2-5/16 inch in diameter, and they are available with shank diameters between 1 and 1-1/4 inches. Most gooseneck hitch balls are rated for load capacities between around 6,000 to 40,000 balls.

You can get hitch balls made of stainless steel, regular steel or forged steel. Stainless steel hitch balls give you good corrosion resistance, and the same goes for balls treated with zinc or nickel coating.

What Is the Difference Between a Fifth Wheel and Gooseneck Hitch?

The difference between a fifth-wheel hitch and gooseneck hitch, at first glance, is the shape of the hitch adapters on the hitch bracket. While a gooseneck hitch uses a hitch ball to connect with the trailer coupler, a fifth wheel hitch utilizes a king pin funnel plate to connect with the king pin of a fifth-wheel trailer.

While a gooseneck hitch latches right on to the hitch ball, the fifth wheel hitch is more like a horseshoe-shaped vise that you secure around the connecting link of the trailer.

The shape and design of their attachment systems contribute to the other differences between fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitch setups. In general, gooseneck hitches have a larger carrying capacity compared to an equivalent fifth wheel system – you can tow heavier loads or larger trailers with a gooseneck hitch compared to a fifth-wheel setup.

Fifth wheel hitch trailers also tend to cost more compared to a comparable gooseneck hitch. On the other hand, many regions only allow drivers to transport passengers in fifth-wheel trailers, so if hauling passengers in a trailer is important to you, you may consider getting a fifth wheel hitch system instead.

With under-bed and fold-down gooseneck hitches, the owner can fold down or remove the hitch ball when it’s not in use. If you have a fifth-wheel hitch or an above-bed gooseneck setup, on the other hand, you do have the option of taking the additional hardware off of your truck yourself if you don’t need it.

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