How useful are king pin stabilizers?

How useful are king pin stabilizers?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

 

One fifth wheel owner we know refuses to set foot in her fiver unless the front end is “supported” with a king pin stabilizer. She knows it’s nuts, but she’s afraid the trailer will topple forward if she puts her weight up there without the support. Not everyone is quite so paranoid, but plenty of fifth wheel folks put a stabilizer under their king pin. Is it worth it?

The answer to that question is subjective: Some fiver owners wouldn’t do without, others simply scoff at them. Here are the facts and the fiction.

First, unless your DNA is related to Godzilla’s, there’s no way you’ll “tip over” a fifth wheel by crawling up above the king pin area. The laws of physics (and proper RV design) simply won’t allow it. So why a stabilizer? Most supporters point to less “rolling” motion when walking in the trailer. But keep in mind that motion in a parked trailer isn’t just affected by a king pin stabilizer.

When you pull into camp and set up any rig, its own running gear, including tires, springs and occasional shock absorbers, are still going to give some bounce. Unless you get the tires out of contact with the ground, the running gear will still “give,” regardless of the number of stabilizers and their location. Most who use a pin stabilizer report reduced “bounce” — never heard of one sitting still like a “sticks and bricks” home.

It comes down to how much bounce reduction is worth to you. King pin stabilizers have their drawbacks, among them:

Weight: To really get bounce reduction, stabilizers built of steel seem to work best. Users report lighter-weight aluminum stabilizers just aren’t as solid as steel.

Bulk: You have to store them when traveling. Mama isn’t going to put up with those big old clunkers in the fifth wheel — they’ll be in the back of your tow vehicle taking up space. And while most king pin stabilizers are like tripods, having three legs, many users report the “bipod” two-legged variety of stabilizer that takes less space is less supportive than its three-legged cousin.

Not useful everywhere: Parked in a site not close to level, you may find the stabilizers won’t work. If the ground under the front end of the fifth wheel slopes down, they may not reach the pin box. If the ground slopes the other way, the legs may be too long to work.

On the other hand, there is an unexpected benefit of a king pin stabilizer that many have commented on: They no longer bang their heads on the king pin. Of course, they may not be telling us about banging their shins on their stabilizer legs!

photo courtesy Camping World

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