The B&W Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch uses the new and very clever puck hitch mounting system that can be ordered with Ram and Ford trucks in their fifth wheel and gooseneck towing prep packages. This truck option has five “pucks” installed in the bed of the truck: four in the corners to mount a fifth wheel hitch and one in the center for a gooseneck.
The new style fifth wheel hitches that are designed for these puck systems stand on four legs that each have a quarter turn locking mechanism at the foot to secure them into the four pucks in the bed of the truck. This allows the hitch to be installed or removed from the bed of the truck easily. When the hitch is removed, the truck bed floor is totally flat and free of obstacles, because there are no hitch rails to get in the way. Ford, GM and Ram have different puck layouts in the beds of their trucks.
When we were going through the process of buying a new Ram 3500 dually truck, we knew we wanted the best of breed fifth wheel hitch that incorporated this new design for our full-time RV lifestyle. After a factory tour of the B&W Trailer Hitches plant in Humboldt, Kansas, we were sold. You can navigate this page using the following links.:
- Background Info about B&W Trailer Hitches
- Assembling the B&W Companion OEM Fifth Wheel Hitch
- Installing the Hitch in the Truck Bed
B&W Trailer Hitches
B&W hitches have long had a stellar reputation in the RV industry, and when our 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer was getting a slew of big repairs done at the NuWa factory service center in Chanute, Kansas, (thank goodness for our RV warranty), we discovered B&W Trailer Hitches was just a ways down the road. So we took a factory tour of the plant.
What struck us more than anything is that B&W Trailer Hitches is a company that cares. They not only turn out a superior product, but they take take care of their employees.
When the RV manufacturing industry went into a steep nose dive in the years following the financial debacle of 2008, many of the employees that had worked at NuWa industries building fifth wheel trailers eventually found employment over at B&W Trailer Hitches as NuWa’s need for workers shrank. And when B&W didn’t have enough work for everyone to do, the company paid their employees to do city maintenance work in their hometown of Humboldt, Kansas.
How cool is that. And how RARE is that?!
We got a taste of just how deeply these community values run when we saw the Biblesta celebration and parade during our visit to Humboldt, Kansas. In an age of political correctness when many people are afraid to express their beliefs publicly, this is a town that has been openly celebrating Christianity in an annual festival for the past 52 years. All the churches in the area — as well as B&W Hitches — have a float in this extraordinary parade. Read our blog post about it here: America’s Heartland – Is It In Humboldt Kansas?
Founded in 1987 by Joe Walker and Roger Baker as B&W Custom Truck Beds, the company long ago became B&W Trailer Hitches. They still build custom truck beds, but the company has grown and now manufactures many other products.
In 1991, B&W invented the clever turnover ball for gooseneck hitches, and that put them in the forefront of the towing industry. For trucks that have a gooseneck socket in the bed of the truck, the turnover ball gets inserted this socket and a fifth wheel hitch can be installed that latches onto the ball and also onto rails that are installed under the bed of the truck. When the fifth wheel hitch is removed, the turnover ball can be turned over to make the bed of the truck completely flat since the rails for the hitch are under the bed.
This makes the entire bed of the truck available for hauling when the fifth wheel hitch isn’t installed, and it also allows the truck to be set up for either gooseneck or fifth wheel towing really easily. This is handy out in ranch country where one truck might tow a variety of trailers, and also be used to haul big loads.
The new puck style hitch mount offered by the truck manufacturers is a similar concept. Rather than just one connection point between the 5th wheel hitch and the truck bed in the center, there are four points of contact in the four corners. The four puck system also allows for an even heavier duty weight rating on the biggest fifth wheel hitches, so larger fifth wheel trailers can be towed.
B&W Trailer Hitches is into quality, and one of the things that sets their hitches apart is that they are made from American steel. Since we have dealt with axle and leaf spring problems on our trailer several times over the last year, we have come to realize just what a huge difference there is between Chinese made steel and American steel. When it comes to something that puts your life on the line because it is carrying heavy loads, American made steel is the only way to go.
Another hallmark of quality in B&W hitches is that the nuts holding the hitch base to the truck are castle nuts. This means you can lock them with a sheer pin so they don’t back out.
Also, just about everything at B&W Trailer Hitches is done in-house. That way, they can retool the assembly line easily, as needed, for instance, if they improve the design or the puck layout is changed by the truck manufacturers.
Lots of metal shavings are generated in the production of hitches on the B&W assembly lines. We were impressed that B&W recycles all the metal shavings at Missouri Metals. Very green!
B&W Companion Fifth Wheel Assembly and Installation
We chose the 25,000 lb. B&W Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch. This is way overkill for our 14,100 lb. trailer, but our goal in our whole truck-and-hitch upgrade was to be able to tow our fifth wheel effortlessly. It also gives us options down the road in case a day comes when we want to replace our trailer with something bigger or beefier.
The whole installation of the B&W Companion OEM 5th wheel hitch could easily be done right in the bed of the truck, but we we got the hitch before we got our truck! So, we did it in two stages. First we assembled the hitch in a friend’s garage. This took 40 minutes. Then, once we got our new truck, we installed the hitch in the bed of the truck. This second stage took 20 minutes because we needed to fine tune the mating of the four pucks and the four legs. In the future, lifting the hitch in and out of the truck bed will take just a few minutes.
So, it’s about a one hour DIY job to install a B&W Companion 5th wheel hitch right out of the box. That’s a huge improvement over paying the fifth wheel dealership to do a two hour installation like we did when we installed our first fifth wheel hitch in our first truck!
These are the tools for the project:
- 3/4″ socket
- 9/16″ socket or 9/16″ wrench
- 15/16″ socket or 15/16″ wrench
- 7/32″ allen wrench
- Needle-nose pliers
- Small hammer
- CRC Lithium Grease – or similar
- Lucas Oil X-tra Heavy Duty Grease – or similar
- CRC Silicone Spray – optional
Our B&W Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch was shipped to our friend’s house by UPS. It came in two boxes.
There is a base and a head (or coupler) and assorted parts. We laid them all out to get a look at them.
There is a one page installation instruction sheet that comes with the kit (also available online here). There’s also a sticker on the hitch base with instructions for mounting the hitch’s two parts into the truck bed.
The first step is to install the big triangular pivot arms that support the hitch coupler (the top part of the hitch). The orientation of these triangular pieces depends on the placement of the hitch over the axles, which varies by truck model. In the case of the Ram 3500 dually long bed, they are oriented so the shallower slope goes towards the cab of the truck.
The hitch has a big orange sticker on the side that faces the cab, so the shallow slope of the pivot arms faces that sticker.
There are four pairs of lock washer and bolts, two for each pivot arm. There are five possible holes, so you can set the height of the pivot arm higher or lower, which will change the gap spacing between the overhang of the fifth wheel trailer and the sides of the truck bed. We chose the middle setting for starters.
The bolts and lock washers screw into the threaded block an the back side of the pivot arms.
The next step is to install the wire torsion spring on the flange on the driver’s side pivot arm that is closest to the truck cab.
The mounting clip (below the spring in the photo above) is attached to the spring. Then the spring is installed so there is 1/2″ of clearance between the top of the spring and the bottom of the rubber bumper on the pivot arm. A few taps with a small hammer secured the clip onto the flange.
Now the pivot arms are fully installed on the hitch base.
The next step was to put the hitch head — the coupler — onto the hitch base and install its handle and three safety pins.
We lubricated the rubber bumpers on the tops of the pivot arms with CRC Lithium Grease.
Then, holding the coupler by the two saddle handles on either side, Mark placed the coupler onto the hitch base. When you set the coupler down on the base, press down on the handles to secure it.
The coupler rests on the hitch base. Saddle locking pins under the two saddle handles prevent it from lifting up. A “hairpin” holds the saddle locking pin in place.
Next, the coupler cam handle gets installed onto the coupler.
The handle is secured to the coupler with two button head cap screws (tightened with a 7/32″ allen wrench), and it is held closed (or open) with the coupler’s cam handle safety pin.
Then lube the inside of the hitch jaws with Lucas Oil X-tra Heavy Duty Grease or a similar automotive chassis grease.
Nice work, guys. 40 minutes by the clock! (I’m glad I was just the camera woman!)
Installing the B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch in the Truck Bed
As mentioned above, all of these assembly and installation steps could have been done in the truck bed, but we did not have our truck yet, and we were excited to get started and work on the hitch in the meantime.
The gooseneck / fifth wheel hitch tow prep package puck system in our Ram 3500 dually truck was ready for the hitch installation.
Mark and his buddy lifted the hitch base into the truck bed. Back in our article about our truck, a reader noted that he hoists his fifth wheel hitch in and out of his truck bed using a hydraulic lift table. If you are going to be moving the fifth wheel hitch in and out of your truck bed a lot, and you have the garage space, and you don’t have a strong, strapping friend at your beck and call to help you, this seems like a super idea.
The 25,000 lb. B&W Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch has the following weights:
- Hitch base – 131 lbs.
- Coupler – 75 lbs.
Each foot of the base required a little adjustment to fit properly into the truck’s pucks. This was done by loosening and tightening the cap screws on the pilot assemblies on each foot.
Then the tension in the latch handle was set by adjusting the height of the castle nut. We used needle nose pliers to remove the cotter pin and then reinstall it and bend the end once the castle nut height adjustment was set.
It took a little pushing and shoving to get everything in place, but these are one-time adjustments. The latch handles could now be opened and closed easily.
The B&W Companion hitch base was now installed in the bed of the truck.
Next, the hitch head (the “coupler”) was set on the hitch base. The two saddle handles were pushed down and the saddle lock pin was put in place.
Ta da!! The B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch is installed in the truck and ready for use.
Great job, guys. Thanks!!
Prior to hitching the truck to the trailer the first time, we cleaned the hitch plate on the trailer and lubed both that and the coupler plate on the B&W hitch with CRC silicone spray.
We ended up adjusting the pivot arms down one notch, and that seems right for our particular truck and trailer.
After ten thousand miles of towing with the B&E Companion OEM hitch, we are happy to report that we have been very happy with this hitch. In early 2017 we heard of a case where this hitch performed extraordinarily well in a fifth wheel rollover accident. You can read about it here:
Where can you get a B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch? At these links:
- B&W Companion OEM Hitch for Ford and “Slider” version for short bed Fords
- B&W Companion OEM Hitch for Ram and “Slider” version for short bed Rams
- B&W Companion OEM Hitch for GM
- B&W Companion Hitch (on rails, no truck bed pucks required) and “Slider” version for short bed trucks
The following info is FYI for those whose truck does not have a Puck System in the bed.
The Gooseneck Turnover Ball hitch is one option which allows you to have a totally flat truck bed when the hitch is removed. The other option is to go with the traditional rail mounted Patriot fifth wheel hitch.
B&W Gooseneck Turnover Ball Hitches:
Unlike the Puck System hitches, the Gooseneck Turnover Ball hitches require installing the Gooseneck Turnover Ball in the bed of the truck with rails mounted underneath. So, each truck bed in each model year has a different kit. The B&W Companion Hitch that mounts onto the Gooseneck Turnover Ball in the bed of the truck comes in two flavors: long bed and short bed (slider hitch).
Gooseneck Turnover Ball Companion Hitches (these are the “couplers” or actual hitches):
- B&W Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch for Gooseneck Turnover Ball (long bed trucks)
- B&W Companion Slider Fifth Wheel Hitch for Gooseneck Turnover Ball (short bed trucks)
Gooseneck Turnover Ball Mounting Kits (the under-bed rail system and gooseneck turnover ball itself):
- B&W Gooseneck Turnover Ball Mounting kit 2003-2013 Dodge
- B&W Gooseneck Turnover Ball Mounting kit 2001-2007 Chevy
- B&W Gooseneck Turnover Ball Mounting kit 2011-2015 Chevy
- B&W Gooseneck Turnover Ball Mountain Kit 2007-2015 Chevy Short Bed Only
- B&W Gooseneck Turnover Ball Mounting kit 2011 Ford
- Don’t see your truck? Check here.
B&W Traditional Rail Mounted Patriot Hitches:
- B&W Patriot Rail Mounted Fifth Wheel Hitches (various weight ratings)
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More info about the B&W Companion Hitches and our truck and trailer:
- B&W Fifth Wheel Hitches – The full line-up of fifth wheel hitches from B&W.
- Official Specs for Our Hitch – The B&W Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch for Ram trucks.
- Where to buy a B&W Companion OEM Fifth Wheel Hitch for Dodge Ram trucks – Great price!
- Installation Instructions for the B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch
- Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Truck – Best RV Fifth Wheel Towing – Why we bought the truck we did.
- Alice Cooper Sells Us a Truck – Who we bought the truck from (LOL)
- How to Put DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in a Truck and Which Brand is Cheapest?
- 2007 NuWa Hitchhiker 34.5 RLTG Fifth Wheel Trailer – The trailer our truck tows and that we live in full-time
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