Reese Goose Box – How to Hitch and Unhitch (20K Gen 3)

Before our summer RV travels this year, we decided to upgrade our fifth wheel trailer’s hitch to a Reese Goose Box (20K Gen 3 model).

This hitch is essentially a replacement for the original kingpin that came with the trailer. The Reese Goose Box hitches to a gooseneck ball in the truck bed, eliminating the need for a fifth wheel hitch all together!

We paired the Reese Goose Box with a B&W gooseneck ball that is designed for the Dodge Ram OEM puck system (we have a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 long bed dually truck).

After towing our 15,000 lb. Genesis Supreme toy hauler for 1,100 miles to 12 different campsites, our overall impression of this hitch is…

We absolutely love it!

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box (20K Gen 3)

The Reese Goose Box has been a game changer for us.
AND…with a few tips given below…it’s as easy to hitch and unhitch as a conventional fifth wheel hitch!

For over two months now, we’ve towed our trailer every few days on all kinds of roads, including interstates, back country roads, around tight winding switchbacks and on very lumpy, bumpy, potholed dirt roads on our way to remote boondocking locations. We’ve also climbed up and over several towering Colorado mountain passes, including Monarch Pass, Hoosier Pass and Slumgullion Pass (twice!), each of which is more than 11,300’ in elevation.

The Reese Goose Box has performed flawlessly everywhere. The ride is much smoother than any fifth wheel hitch we’ve ever used, and it’s easy to hitch and unhitch.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch - How to hitch and unhitch

The Reese Goose Box replaced the original kingpin that came with our trailer.

We installed Reese Goose Box on our trailer ourselves, just the two of us. It was intimidating but it wasn’t difficult, despite the heavy weight of the original king pin and the even heavier weight of the Reese Goose Box. (There’s a trick to it!)

However, before we describe that process and present our step-by-step installation method (in a future post), we wanted to explain why the Reese Goose Box is so unique and also show you how to hitch and unhitch a trailer so you can see exactly how it works.

How to Hitch and Unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch

The 20K Reese Goose Box is rated to tow up to 20,000 lbs.

Here are some shortcuts for this article:

 

WHY A REESE GOOSE BOX?

We’ve been towing fifth wheel trailers around for 15 years now, and we’ve used a variety of fifth wheel hitches made by Pullrite, B&W and Demco.

While each one was a fine hitch with certain great advantages, the drawback with any fifth wheel hitch is that when you aren’t towing a trailer, the bed of the truck is occupied by a large and heavy fifth wheel hitch.

It is awkward to remove the hitch, even a lighter weight one (as we discovered with our Demco hitch), and it’s all too easy to avoid this chore and simply leave the hitch in the truck bed indefinitely. Unfortunately, with the hitch in there, you lose the use of the truck bed except for hauling smaller items that fit around the hitch!

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 - how to hitch and unhitch

With the Reese Goose Box there is no need to have a fifth wheel hitch in the bed of the truck.

When we were full-time RVers, we didn’t need the truck bed except for carrying whatever we used in that lifestyle: spare water jugs, patio mat and chairs, portable generator, bbq, etc.

However, now that we RV seasonally, we wanted to have the full use of our truck bed during the off-season when we’re at home. It’s no fun hauling plants, soil, mulch and lumber in the trunk of a passenger car or trying to fit those things around a fifth wheel hitch.

How to Hitch and Unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3

The “business side” of the Reese Goose Box is the driver’s side with the locking lever and air bag status window clearly visible (more on those important items below!).

By using a gooseneck style hitch instead of a fifth wheel hitch, all you need in the truck bed is a gooseneck ball and gooseneck receiver. The gooseneck receiver can be a factory installed OEM puck system or can be an after-market installation. What an easy way to free up the truck bed!

For this reason, some people switch out their fifth wheel kingpin for a gooseneck hitch. However, that puts a lot of strain on the fifth wheel trailer frame (fifth wheels are a lot taller than horse trailers…), and fifth wheel manufacturers advise against it.

Unlike a gooseneck hitch which has a long vertical lever arm that creates strain on the frame as it sways back and forth, the profile of the Reese Goose Box is angled and shaped like an ordinary fifth wheel kingpin. That reduces the strain on the frame significantly.

We were surprised to learn that the Reese Goose Box is the only gooseneck style hitch that Lippert Components Inc. has approved for use with their fifth wheel frames. I spoke to a Lippert sales rep to verify this, and he stated that, unlike other gooseneck style hitches, the use of a Reese Goose Box does not void the warranty on a Lippert fifth wheel frame. Like most fifth wheel trailers, our Genesis Supreme 28CRT toy hauler is built on a Lippert frame.

Obviously, many things can ultimately contribute to the failure of a fifth wheel frame, so I have no idea how that would play out in the event of the frame developing a crack. But it’s an impressive endorsement.

In our research, we came across some comments on the internet asserting that of course Lippert Components endorses the Reese Goose Box because they own Reese Products! However I looked into it, and that’s not true. Reese’s parent company, Horizon Global, was purchased by First Brands in early 2023, and neither Horizon Global nor First Brands is related to Lippert Components.

We have the 3rd generation of the Reese Goose Box that is rated to tow a 20,000 lb. Trailer. The Gen 3 version of the Goose Box was released in the Fall of 2022.

Reese Goosebox
Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 hitch as seen from behind the truck

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We decided to pair it with the B&W gooseneck ball designed for the Ram truck OEM puck system on our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 long bed dually. This gooseneck ball is a very nifty piece of gear with a huge handle. You can easily latch the gooseneck ball into the gooseneck receiver in the truck bed and also pull it back out using that handle rather than grabbing the ball itself with your hands.

B&W Gooseneck Ball and Safety Chain Kit

The B&W Gooseneck Ball and Safety Chain Kit fits in a cool suitcase.
The actual chains themselves are sold separately.

That may seem unimportant until you’ve actually lubed up the gooseneck ball and used it a few times! It’s much nicer to use a big handle to pull the gooseneck ball out of the truck bed rather than grab the greasy ball itself! We would have used this gooseneck ball with our Demco 21k Recon fifth wheel hitch, but the handle got in the way of the hitch.

B&W Gooseneck Ball for Ram Trucks

The B&W OEM gooseneck ball kit also comes with two safety chain anchors that get inserted into the OEM puck system on a pickup. These are used to secure the safety chains (which are not part of the kit — we got the safety chains separately here).

Reese Goosebox Safety Chains

 

HOW TO HITCH UP A TRAILER USING A REESE GOOSE BOX

REESE GOOSE BOX vs. FIFTH WHEEL HITCHING PROCEDURES

Hitching up a trailer using a fifth wheel hitch involves backing the truck (and its fifth wheel hitch) into the trailer’s king pin. It is a horizontal movement of the truck, and the connection locks in place once the truck has backed the hitch into the kingpin.

Hitching up a trailer using the Reese Goose Box involves lowering the trailer’s kingpin (the Goose Box) onto a gooseneck ball in the bed of the truck. It is a vertical movement of the trailer’s kingpin that is controled by the trailer’s landing jack leveling system. The connection locks in place once the Reese Goose Box is completely lowered onto the ball.

So, the hitching technique is quite different for each type of hitch.

ALIGNMENT: LEFT to RIGHT (DRIVER’S SIDE/PASSENGER’S SIDE)

With a fifth wheel hitch, we always found we had some room for error in aligning everything from right to left (driver’s side / passenger’s side) due to the shape of the fifth wheel hitch jaws.

If we backed the truck up so the fifth wheel hitch was slightly misaligned with the kingpin, the jaws of the hitch would catch the kingpin anyway and still make the connection and lock the two together.

However, with the Reese Goose Box, if the truck is slightly off, the kingpin will lower down and hit the top of the gooseneck ball and stop right there rather than slipping over the gooseneck ball as it is lowered into the locked position.

Where we could always “eyeball” the left/right alignment when backing up the truck with a fifth wheel hitch, we now use a small telescoping magnetic pole with a bright yellow ball on top to get a perfect alignment between the Reese Goose Box and the gooseneck ball.

Amazingly, that little pole makes this process a cinch!

I place the magnetic pole directly in front of the gooseneck ball and then Mark uses the pole to align the truck and Reese Goose Box side to side as he backs up.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box with a magnetic telescoping alignment pole

Put the magnetic telescoping pole directly in front of the gooseneck ball

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch - How to hitch and unhitch

This simple little device makes it possible to be precise when backing up the truck.

We have the two Ram OEM backup cameras in the truck, but Mark finds them inadequate for this job and he prefers to use the magnetic telescoping pole with the ball on top.

He then backs up the truck until the kingpin hits the magnetic telescoping pole and tilts it forward.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box Gen 3

The magnetic pole helps the driver align the gooseneck ball and the Reese Goose Box left to right.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box Gen 3 Hitch

When the magnetic pole tips forward, Mark stops the truck for a moment so we can adjust the alignment from front to back by an inch or two.

Magnetic Trailer Hitch Alignment Kit

ALIGNMENT: FRONT to BACK

The Reese Goose Box has to be aligned accurately from front to back as well as left to right. For this, Mark relies on me peering into the bed of the truck and guiding him verbally until the alignment is correct. For folks who hitch up solo, you’ll probably have to get in and out of the driver’s seat a few times to get the truck positioned correctly. If you have some tips and tricks for solo drivers, let us know in the comments!

At 5’4” I am just tall enough to see into the bed of our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually if I stand on my tiptoes.

When we were researching the Reese Goose Box, we saw reports that it is hard to hitch up. After learning how to do it ourselves, we suspect that those comment might have come from people who were either trying to eyeball the left/right alignment or were hitching up solo and struggling with the front to back alignment.

If you have a driver and a spotter, it’s a piece of cake.

LOWERING & LOCKING THE REESE GOOSE BOX – TRUCK IN NEUTRAL

Once the truck is positioned correctly, I use the landing jack leveling buttons to lower the Reese Goose Box onto the gooseneck ball. We’ve found it helps to put the truck in neutral at this point. That way, if the positioning isn’t 100%, the truck can shift a little bit as the Goose Box is lowered.

Our truck has an auto leveling option, so as soon as the truck senses the weight of the trailer in the truck bed, it inflates its airbags and raises the truck bed up. This effectively pushes the gooseneck ball up into the Reese Goose Box. At that point I generally don’t need to lower the trailer much further to complete the connection.

Just like a fifth wheel hitch, the Reese Goose Box automatically locks its connection to the gooseneck ball.

It’s easy to know when the Goose Box/gooseneck ball connection has locked. First, as the Goose Box slides over the gooseneck ball, the locking lever on the driver’s side of the Reese Goose Box moves slowly from the Locked position (green label) to the Unlocked Position (red label). Then, once it has locked in place, it snaps back to the Locked position (green label).

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box Gen 3 and locking the gooseball

Before the Reese Goose Box slides over the gooseneck ball, the locking lever (blue arrow) is in the Locked position (green label)

The Reese Goose Box Gen 3 hitch unlocks autoamtically

As the Reese Goose Box slides down onto the gooseneck ball, the locking lever (blue arrow) slowly moves into the Unlocked position (red label)

The Reese Goose Box locks onto the gooseneck ball automatically

As soon as the Reese Goose Box locks onto the gooseneck ball, the locking lever (blue arrow) snaps back into the Locked position (green label)

At this point I can finish raising the landing jacks up all the way into their fully raised position for towing.

SAFETY CHAINS and POWER CORD

The final steps to hitch up with the Reese Goose Box are to latch the two safety chains to the B&W safety chain anchors in the truck bed and plug in the power cord.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch safety chains

Next step is to connect the safety chains to the B&W safety chain anchors in the truck bed.

Connecting the safety chains to the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch

Connecting the safety chains.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch: connecting the power cord

Last of all, connect the power cord.

Like all kingpins, the Reese Goose Box has a trailer breakaway cable that engages the trailer’s brakes if the trailer accidentally disconnects from the truck. With our fifth wheel hitches, we always looped this cable around the hitch handle. With the Reese Goose Box, we loop it through the hook on one of the safety chains.

Reese Goose Box Gen 3 hitched up with safety chains attached

Ready to tow.
Note that the trailer breakaway cable is connected to the safety chain hook on the left side.

The trailer breakaway cable is shorter than the safety chains. So, if the trailer were to become detached from the truck, the breakaway cable would snap and engage the trailer brakes before the safety chains were fully extended. At that point, the drag of the trailer brakes would keep the safety chains taut, and the driver would slow the truck and trailer to a stop.

 

AIR BAGS

The Reese Goose Box is equipped with internal air bags that use the same technology as the Trail Air fifth wheel hitches. They are inflated using the Schrader valve on the top of the Goose Box. We used a pancake air compressor to inflate them.

That pancake compressor is too big to bring with with us in our RV travels, so we bought a Ryobi cordless power inflator to use on the road if needed.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room in the Goose Box’s Schrader valve compartment to attach the cordless power inflator’s locking valve to it. So, we purchased a 135 degree valve extender to use with it. Luckily, we haven’t needed to use that setup at all yet.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 has the air bag inflator on the top of the kingpin

The Gen 3 Reese Goose Box has the Schrader valve for inflating the air bags on top in the center. Previous generation Reese Goose Boxes had this valve on the underside and it was hard to reach.

Ryobi Portabe compressor 135 Degree Valve Extension

The Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 has a gauge on the driver’s side that allows you to see the level of inflation of the air bags. This is another new feature with the Gen 3 that wasn’t on the previous generation Reese Goose Boxes.

When the air bags have no air in them, the viewing window is a black circle. Once they begin to fill with air, a silver bar appears in the top left part of the window.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch inspection window shows the air bags are not inflated

The air bag inflation window lets you see the status of the air bags. Here the bags are barely inflated.

As the air bags become more and more inflated, this bar moves lower and lower in the window.

When the air bags are inflated to the ideal amount (somewhere between 40 and 50 lbs. of pressure), the bar crosses the middle of the window at a slight angle.

Reese Goose Box 20k Gen 3 Hitch inspection window shows the airbags are properly inflated

As the air bags inflate, the silver bar moves down from the top.
When the bar is in the middle, as it is here, the air bags are properly inflated.

We have not had to change the inflation of the air bags at all in the two months we’ve been traveling with our trailer, despite being in altitudes ranging from 3,000’ to over 11,000’ and being in temperatures ranging from 30 degrees to 95 degrees.

 

HOW TO UNHITCH A TRAILER WITH A REESE GOOSE BOX

UNHITCHING CAN BE DONE SOLO (WITH AN EASY-TO-MAKE MODIFICATION!)

Unhitching a trailer with a Reese Goose Box is as easy as pulling on a cord and extending the landing jack legs! I love it because one person can easily do it solo.

Unhitching with a Reese Goose Box (as opposed to a fifth wheel) is particularly handy in situations where you won’t be driving the truck by itself but still want to raise the nose of the trailer to make it level.

For instance, when you stop for a quickie overnight in a rest area on unlevel ground, you might want to level the trailer from front to back by raising up the front end.

All you need to do is raise the trailer off the gooseneck ball to the point where the trailer is level from front to back and leave it there. When you are ready to continue driving, simply lower the trailer back down onto the gooseneck ball and away you go!

With a traditional fifth wheel hitch, the truck and trailer must be completely unhitched, i.e., the truck must be driven out from the hitch in order to level the trailer from front to back.

All this is truly awesome, but we did have to make one minor modification to the Reese Goose Box to make it possible to unhitch so easily, as explained below.

 

RELEASING the GOOSENECK BALL EASILY — With a SIMPLE MODIFICATION!

The Reese Goose Box is locked onto the gooseneck ball by a lever, as shown in the three hitching up photos above. While hitching up, the lever moves from the Locked position to the Unlocked position and back to the Locked position automatically as the socket on the Reese Goose Box slides onto the gooseneck ball.

For unhitching, however, this lever must be held open in the Unlocked position to allow the Reese Goose Box to slide up off the gooseneck ball. You do that manually by pulling back on a long cable that connects to the locking lever.

The cable rests on a hook on the side of the Reese Goose Box. It has a nub on it that can be secured in front of the hook, forcing the lock to remain open while you extend the landing jack legs.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box lock release handle

The hitch locking mechanism is automatic when hitching up. When unhitching, a long cable (above the arrows) must be pulled back to unlock the hitch and allow the Reese Goose Box to rise off the gooseneck ball. The white arrow shows the nub that can be secured in front of the hook (blue arrow) to keep the Goose Box unlocked.

We’ve found it very difficult to reach the cable’s handle from the back of the truck when the truck’s tailgate is open.

Ironically, the truck’s tailgate is always open at this stage of the unhitching process because you are disconnecting the safety chains and power cord. Also, you can’t drive the truck out with the tailgate closed.

When we did successfully maneuver ourselves to reach the handle, we found it extremely difficult to pull the cable back far enough to place the nub in front of the hook!

I’m sure Reese will address this issue since it has been raised by many people. However, in the interim, we found a super easy solution.

We tied a strong cord onto the latch cable’s handle and then used a short dowel to create a mini handle at the other end of the cord.

Reese Goose Box Gen 3 lock release handle modification

We tied a strong cord onto the handle of the hitch latching cable. Again, the white arrow is the nub that can be secured in front of the hook (blue arrow) to force the lock to stay open, but we found it tricky to do.

Reese Goose Box lock release handle modification

We made a handle at the other end of the cord with a short dowel.

Now, all we have to do to get the Reese Goose Box off the gooseneck ball is to pull this cord to open the lock and extend the trailer’s landing jacks. Then the Goose Box rises off the gooseneck ball very easily.

Reese Goose Box lock release handle modification

One person can simultaneously pull the hitch lock open and extend the trailer’s landing jacks!

The beauty is that one person can do this job alone by holding the Goose Box’s locking cord in their left hand and pressing the trailer’s landing jack control buttons with their right hand.

Once the Reese Goose Box is clear of the gooseneck ball, the Goose Box’s locking cord can be released and the truck can be driven out from under the trailer and parked elsewhere.

To tidy things up, just snap the safety chains onto the back of the Reese Goose Box and stow the power cord inside. Be careful, though, because there’s 12 volts coming from the trailer batteries on one of the pins.

How to hitch and unhitch a Reese Goose Box 20K Gen 3

There are two holes in the back of the Reese Goose Box to hold the hooks for the safety chains.

How to hitch and unhitch the Reese Goose Box 20K Gen 3

Chains and power cord are out of the way.

 

TOWING WITH THE REESE GOOSE BOX

As I mentioned, we have used the Reese Goose Box to tow our 15,000 lb. trailer all over Arizona and Colorado for two months on all kinds of crazy roads. Not only has the towing been smooth but we’ve been super happy with how easy it is to hitch and unhitch.

The airbags inside the Reese Goose Box make the ride super smooth. There is no chucking and no bouncing, and best of all, no noise! The trailer kind of floats along behind us.

We’ve taken some very sharp turns and haven’t had a problem with the Reese Goose Box touching the bed rails of the truck, and we’ve gone over some serious bumps and sharp inclines and declines and haven’t had the overhang of the fifth wheel come too close to the top of the bed rails either.

We are delighted with the Reese Goose Box and the B&W gooseneck ball. Best of all, when we get home in the Fall, we’ll be able to haul anything we want in the truck bed. All we’ll have to do is remove the B&W gooseneck ball, clean it up and put it away in its little suitcase. Then the whole bed of the truck will be available to use!

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8 thoughts on “Reese Goose Box – How to Hitch and Unhitch (20K Gen 3)

  1. Super neat Guys! You are always exploring new possibilities to make your RV life a little bit easier.
    We’ve owned almost every RV style built from TT (3), Class A (2), pop ups and Truck campers (current). A Fiver and Van Camper are all that’s left.
    Congratulations on your upgrade.
    Dave

    • Thanks, Dave! Gosh, you’ve had a chance to sample all kinds of RVs — isn’t it great?! This latest upgrade of our is very cool. It would have been awesome to have had it on our Hitchhiker all those years. We’ve owned almost everything too except for a tear drop and motorhome. Lately we’ve been envisioning a 4Runner and a tent for some back country desert adventures, lol. Who knows if that will happen, but it sure is a great life!

  2. This is the first time I have seen this and really like the idea of having my truck bed available all the time when not towing. My only concern would be if I needed somebody else to tow my 5th wheel, say if I broke down or whatever. Who would be able to come help if you have what appears to be a very unique setup?
    Thanks, love the technical info that you have provided over the years, Clark

    • I wondered that exact same thing when we had our truck breakdown in Buena Vista CO this summer. But then Mark pointed out that anyone with a gooseneck ball could tow it. That’s the beauty of the system. Any towing company would have a gooseneck ball towing arrangement available on their truck because they have to tow broken down horse trailers too and all horse trailers use gooseneck balls…

  3. Wondering if you have a long bed or 6’4″ bed (hard to tell from the pictures)?
    I’m going to switch to the Goosebox. I have a 6’4″ bed and trying to determine if I go with an offset ball will I have any issues with the Goosebox hitting the tailgate or side rails? I’m also thinking of adding a roll up tonneau with rails that mount to the inside of the bed.

    • Mitch, we have a 2016 long bed dually Ram. I am not sure if you might hit the tailgate or side rails in a tight turn, and it sounds like the tonneau cover might make the space even smaller. I’d suggest that you call Reese Products directly and speak with a salesperson about the Reese Goose Box and short bed trucks. The phone number listed on their website is: 800-632-3290. Good luck, and please don’t hesitate to comment here again with whatever you learn from them to help future readers! Thank you for checking out our blog.

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