Those fifth-wheel tailgates are stupid. Why would I give up my workbench, seat, grilling spot, etc.?Me, before getting a fifth wheel tailgate
The RV world is filled with choices that have people (men of a certain age, mostly) gathered around a truck bed, campfire, or Facebook group and arguing over:
- Gas or diesel?
- What brand of TP?
- Keep the gray tank open or closed?
And then there’s the question of fifth wheel tailgates.
What’s a Fifth Wheel Tailgate?
Fifth wheel trailers are pulled by pickup trucks. The hitch is installed into the bed of the truck.
The hitch point is lower than the top edge of the bed, however, so in order to hitch the trailer to the truck you have to put the tailgate down, back the truck up to the hitch, then put the tailgate back up before driving off.
See any room for error there?
101 Ways to Kill a Tailgate
Forget to lower the tailgate and bam - you back into the hitch and dent the tailgate.
Forget to put the tailgate back up, turn a corner and bam - you take a gouge out of the front of your trailer and/or the corner of the tailgate.
If you forget to latch the hitch once connected you can drop the trailer which will also take out the tailgate.
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After we dropped the trailer I looked high and low for a replacement tailgate.
Mostly what I found in Texas was something already dented in the wrong color, requiring $200 - $300 in paint and bodywork to look decent. Add that to the purchase price and I was looking at $400 - $700.
Strictly speaking, I don’t need a tailgate. We rarely use our truck bed for anything besides the fifth wheel hitch.
Going gateless would improve rear visibility, be less hassle when hitching, and shed some weight off the rear of the truck.
But then again, there are times when we carry groceries, laundry, or bikes down in the bed. Not often, but just enough to still want a tailgate.
Caving a Second Time
So having already caved in our tailgate, I caved a second time and ordered a Stromberg Carlson VGM-99-100 100 Series Vented Tailgate off Amazon for roughly $175.
I chose it completely on price - just wanting to get a tailgate back in place as cheaply as possible.
Installing the Fifth Wheel Tailgate
Installation of the fifth wheel tailgate was very simple. All I had to do was:
- Install the latches (which catch on the posts from the original tailgate)
- Drop it onto the pivot points
- Latch it
The only extra thing I did was drill a hole in each end so I could retain use of the original cables that support the tailgate when it’s down.
Painting the Fifth Wheel Tailgate
I didn’t care for black paint on the new tailgate. I bought some color match paint and painted the tailgate 2002 Chevy Pewter so it would match the rest of the truck.
It took 3.5 cans and cost ~$30.
The paint isn’t awesome but it looks better than black.
What I Like About the Fifth Wheel Tailgate
I had made my mind up way before ever buying the fifth wheel tailgate that I would hate it.
I used the truck tailgate for grilling on, eating on, and sitting on. Mainly it was my rolling workbench. I can’t count how many projects have been laid out on it. Why would I give that up?
Well, I was wrong.
Turns out, I like the fifth wheel tailgate.
What I didn’t realize was that I could stand at the notch and work off the back of the truck without dropping the tailgate. Or for more involved projects I can just remove it.
The new tailgate also offers:
- Improved visibility - I can see much more behind me when backing up or using the rearview mirror
- Ease of hitching - no more putting the heavy tailgate up and down during the hitching process
- Ease of loading bikes - we just lift them over the tailgate before putting them in the roof rack
- A weight savings over the original tailgate
Some people find that the vented tailgate changes the air flow in the bed and prevents items laying in the bed from getting sucked out going down the road. Others report no change in this regard.
The only things we have laying in the truck bed going down the road are wood blocks for putting the trailer legs on and our heavy rubber doormat.
We once had some empty pop cans in a bag back there and ended up spraying those down a mile of highway so now try to keep the bed as empty as we can while towing.
For years people have suggested that using either a fifth wheel tailgate or lowering the original tailgate would improve gas mileage.
The Mythbusters TV show tested the theory and found it wasn’t true (whether their tests were actually scientific is another matter).
What I Don’t Like About the Fifth Wheel Tailgate
The new tailgate hasn’t been a total win.
- It’s rusting already from the welds
- The paint it came with had some chips and poor coverage
- The Duplicolor paint isn’t great - I’ve already scratched it
- The original tailgate had a sprayed in bedliner so I wasn’t as concerned about large items laying against it
All things considered, I wouldn’t buy a fifth wheel tailgate if I still had the original and it was in good shape. But if your’s gets stolen or damaged and you tow a fifth wheel RV fulltime I’d recommend a fifth wheel tailgate as a replacement.
Stock or Aftermarket?
What tailgate do you run - the original or a fifth wheel tailgate?