Fifth wheels often don’t get the attention or care they deserve. That’s a serious oversight, as your fifth wheel is the sole component connecting your tractor to your trailer. If it isn’t connected correctly or fails under use, you’re putting more than your load at risk – you’re creating a real safety hazard for both you and other drivers.

At a minimum, the locking mechanism of your fifth wheel should be thoroughly examined every six months. However, most experts recommend a four-season approach to preventive maintenance (PM). That’s because each season puts its own weather-related stresses on your fifth wheel.

For example, grease that’s heavily applied in the summer can freeze in the winter, creating a mass of ice, grease and dirt that can prevent the lock from working properly. Salt, sand and other materials used on roads in the winter should be removed at the first sign of spring, before rust and corrosion damage the metal.

As a safety-minded driver, you’ll be glad to know that fifth wheel PM is fairly straightforward. Allow yourself about an hour to do the job right.

Use this four-point checklist for fifth-wheel cleaning and care:

  • Remove all the dirt, grease and debris from the fifth wheel and mounting bracket with a degreasing compound or steam cleaner.
  • Check for cracked, worn or damaged parts, and replace as needed.
  • Inspect the bracket liners, replacing any that are broken or worn to less than 0.125 inches at the top. Even if the liners look good, be sure to replace them every 300,000 miles for standard duty applications, and every 180,000 miles for moderate- to severe-duty usage.
  • Grease all fifth wheel-to-trailer contact surfaces using an even film of water-resistant lithium grease. Key spots to lube include the yoke tips, cam profile, yoke shaft, secondary lock, release handle, kingpin and jaws.

After the assembly is cleaned and re-lubed, it’s time to check and test your work.

Open and close the fifth wheel to make sure it operates smoothly. With a trailer attached, measure the fore / aft slack between the top plate and trailer. If it exceeds 0.5 inches, your truck will be placed out of service if stopped for inspection. And don’t forget to check the fasteners – if just one is found to be missing or non-operative during a roadside check, you’ll also be facing a truck-down situation.

The next time you plan to perform fifth wheel maintenance, stock up on all the chemicals and cleaning supplies you need first at your local Volvo Trucks dealership, including Volvo Multi-Purpose Degreaser and Volvo Fifth Wheel Grease and Slider Lube. You can also order everything you need for fifth wheel PM direct from the SELECT Part Store™. Order online, any time of day or night, and get quick delivery and special discounts on high-demand parts and supplies.