Why Is It Called A 5Th Wheel?

These days, the term fifth wheel often refers to an extra vehicle tagalong, like a trailer. But what you might not know is that the phrase started life as a piece of nautical equipment called a fifth wheel.

And it just may surprise you to learn what this tool was used for. So if you’ve ever wondered why it’s called a fifth wheel, then you don’t want to miss this article. Keep reading to find out the answer and more!

What is a 5th Wheel?

A 5th wheel is an extra trailer hitch that is usually located directly above the rear axle of a pickup truck or other large vehicle.

It is used to tow a trailer or additional vehicle, hence the name ‘5th wheel’ as it resembles having a fifth wheel added to the vehicle. This additional trailer hitch allows for more stability and better weight distribution when towing larger objects such as RV trailers, car-haulers, boat trailers, etc.

History of the 5th Wheel

The use of 5th wheel hitches dates back to the late 1800s when farmers and ranchers used them to attach a wagon or plow to their horse-drawn wagon during hay-day activities.

This particular hitch arrangement was chosen due to its added stability and flexibility when maneuvering around hills or uneven terrain, making it easier to turn. Over time, the 5th wheel has evolved and is now used on larger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs.

Why is it Called a 5th Wheel?

The 5th wheel derived its name from the fifth wheel housing on the wagon which was the main source of the hitch. The fifth wheel was the center of the wagon and was the only wheel that could pivot and turn the wagon, making it a vital component of maneuvering the wagon.

Just like its namesake, the 5th wheel hitch allows for additional stability, weight distribution and flexibility when towing objects larger than a traditional, single axle trailer hitch.


The 5th wheel has been around for generations, being an ingenious way to get a larger load from point A to point B. Although the original use was for horse-drawn carriages, the modern 5th wheel goes above and beyond, allowing for more stability and weight distribution when towing heavier objects such as boat trailers and RV trailers.

What started off as the fifth wheel in a wagon has become a common sight in the towing world. Citation URL:



https://www. firestonecompleteautocare. com/tireiq/fifth-wheel/

https://www. yourmechanic. com/article/what-is-a-fifth-wheel-by-valerie-johnston

Leave a Comment