Tony Becker handled the installation on his Dodge Ram. The only specialized tool we used w
If you think you would enjoy all the towing benefits of a conventional fifth-wheel, but don't want to give up any truck bed space by permanently mounting it, then a B&W Turnover Ball and Companion fifth-wheel is the next best thing.
B&W Trailer Hitches developed its Companion fifth-wheel kit as an accessory to its Turnover Ball gooseneck hitch. Together, the B&W combo provides all the usefulness of a fifth-wheel and gooseneck setup, while giving you freedom to use the bed for cargo storage whenever you want.
Some permanently mounted fifth-wheels and goosenecks can offer great trailer-weight towing capability, but the reality is, most RV enthusiasts don't need it, and tow only lightweight trailers occasionally, then use the truck for other things the rest of the week. That's what makes this type of system so appealing to the average user. It's available when you need it, and can be hidden away when you don't.
What's more, both the B&W Companion and Turnover Ball hitch are bolt-on kits designed for the do-it-yourselfer.
Turnover Ball Hitch
The first thing on our agenda was to locate a shop in the area that specialized in aftermarket installations, not so much for its technical help, but for the tools. So we called on the Four X Doctor from Burbank, California. You won't, however, need the lift or a rollaway full of tools, because the installation can be handled with jackstands and a few wrenches. We just wanted to be prepared.
An '06 Dodge Ram was the test mule for this installation. The truck had a factory bedliner and a standard 8-foot bed. The B&W Turnover Ball kit works on the shortbed version too, but you have to check for adequate clearance between the front of your trailer and truck cab before you start the installation work.
The B&W Turnover Ball works like a typical gooseneck hitch, but as the name implies, it features a ball that can be turned upside down and stored out of sight when not in use. The design is innovative and convenient and gives you back the full bed without a ball protruding from the floor.
While the Turnover Ball kit is completely bolt-on, there were a few things we discovered during our install-the heavy centersection of the Turnover Ball hitch assembly could pose a problem for some people to bolt into place. B&W recommended lifting it up by a chain or rope through a 4-inch hole that had to be cut in the bed (see photos) centered over the rear axle. On the Dodge Ram installation, we also had to make a V-notch cut to clear the crossmember. This V-notch requirement only applied to certain makes and models of trucks.
We also discovered that you can cut through a regular bedliner for the ball insert, but it can be more difficult to locate the midpoint between the wheelwells by doing so. You also have to be sure that the liner doesn't move on you during this step.
Overall, the installation process of the Turnover Ball hardware was easy. For safety reasons, we checked underneath the truck to ensure there are no fuel, brake, or electrical lines in the way before any bolts were tightened. Its fit was flawless and we were honestly amazed by how quickly things came together, thanks to the manufacturer's prior R&D of the product.
The B&W Turnover Ball hitch is rated for 30,000 pounds (Gross Trailer Weight) with a tongue weight rating of 7,500 pounds. Because the B&W Turnover Ball is designed specifically for each make and model truck, all the parts should simply bolt on to existing mounting points from the factory.
Looking back, here's what we got: a hitch made in America that met all OEM (original equipment) requirements, a setup that offered seven towing accessories (kingpins, hi-rise balls, and so on) to accommodate all future needs, and most importantly, a gooseneck that converts from a hitch to a level bed in seconds!
The Turnover Ball gooseneck kit was a breeze to install. All the hardware fit flawlessly t
To test-fit the unit prior to installation, assemble the Turnover Ball on the tailgate fir
This is a close-up shot of the latch pin and how it connected to the ball.
You want your gooseneck riding directly over the rear axle. To do this, we needed to measu
Like we said, you can drill through an existing bedliner. You must be sure that the liner
Once the hole was cut, we test-fit the ball.
Here's the ball and safety chain.
We released and engaged the latch pin at the ball by a handle that extended from the drive
Once the B&W gooseneck was installed, we moved to the fifth-wheel Companion. It was shipped in two boxes: one for the base, and another with the coupler. The instructions were easy to understand and illustrated to ensure a trouble-free install.
The Companion's hardware included bolts, washers, nuts, pivot arms, a base, a saddle, and a coupler. The pivot arms were the first step in our assembly. There were nine different mounting positions for the pivot arms on the base plate. You had to decide which holes to use, and that depended on the clearance requirements for turning between the trailer and the back of the truck cab. It will take some getting used to, but it's all bolt-on so you are never locked into one position.
Once the pivot arms were mounted to the base, we secured the assembly to the post that was included in the kit. This post replaced the gooseneck ball. Next came the fifth-wheel saddle and coupler. Before the saddle was mounted to the completed base assembly, the arms' urethane bushings had to be lubricated with lithium grease. Then it was just a matter of adjusting and securing the unit with lock pins.
If you've used a fifth-wheel with a poorly fitted latching system and kingpin, then you know how uncomfortable towing can be when things don't work right. Probably the best thing (aside from being removable) about the Companion is the design of the latching system. B&W used 1- and 1/8-inch locking jaws machined from malleable cast iron. The jaws mate with the kingpin to ensure there's no chancy or violent starts and stops. These jaws operate with a cam so that they unlock effortlessly, even in a "bind" situation, according to B&W.
The fifth-wheel Companion is rated to tow up to 18,000 pounds (GTW), has a fully articulating head, features three vertical adjustments from 14.75 to 16.75 inches, and like the Turnover Ball, is made in the U.S.A.
It took less than 15 minutes to install, and it's worth noting that the Companion should never be installed on any system other than B&W. Not only will you void the warranty, but you also open yourself up to safety issues.
Here's an overview of the installation process of both units. To make things easier for you to visualize how the Turnover Ball comes together under your truck, we pre-assembled the gooseneck outside of the vehicle and test-fit the parts first.
B&W Trailer Hitches
Four X Doctor
Ready to be installed. Here's how the fifth-wheel Companion kit arrived.
The RV base with pivot arms will eventually mount over an RV post. U-bolts from the RV bas
The RV pivot arms feature nine different locations to increase or decrease the clearance f
The Companion hitch is used with the Turnover Ball system. Other uses will void the warran
The RV post had two holes for adjustments. We used the lower hole because we had a bedline
Tony seats and adjusts the completed Companion RV base to the post. The post is directly t
Once we placed the RV base over the post, we had to torque the U-bolts to 40 ft-lb.
We lubricated the urethane bushings of the pivot arms with high-grade lithium grease. Sinc
Next came the RV saddle/coupler.
Here's the finished project. We uninstalled the Companion by removing the saddle pins, gra
The RV base was removed by loosening four locknuts on the U-bolts. We pulled the latch-pin