Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Hitch Review: I love this hitch!

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Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection Installed

After 2 years of owning the Andersen hitch it’s time to write a review.  Would I buy it again? Is it easy to install? Does it work well? Get the answers.

Would I buy the Aluminum Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection again?

To get straight to the point, YES.  I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it again. 

Is this the right hitch for everyone?  No, but I believe it is the most innovative hitch out there and it’s backed by a great company.  Read on to see why love this hitch and why I say it might not be the best hitch for everyone.

Why did I choose the Andersen Ultimate hitch over another model?

When I made the step up from my hybrid travel trailer to a 5th wheel that meant I would also need to make a change from my trusty Equalizer Hitch to a 5th wheel hitch.

I needed a hitch that would be easy to install and remove

I am very much a weekend warrior, hence the name of the website.  I use my truck during the week for hauling everything from rock and lumber to my son’s ATV.  With that in mind, I wanted a hitch that would be relatively easy to install and remove from the bed of my truck.  I immediately threw out the option of an auto-sliding hitch because of the weight.  Even compared to a manual sliding hitch the Andersen hitch easily won the ease of installation and removal test.

I needed a hitch that would work with a standard/short (6-1/2’) bed truck

Since I already owned a Ram 3500 with a 6-1/2’ bed I needed a hitch that would still provide good maneuverability.  I have seen the horror stories and pictures of shattered rear windows from someone cutting it too sharp and crashing the front cap of their RV right into the back window of the truck.

I didn’t want that to happen to me. 

The thought of that happening had me leaning strongly toward a sliding hitch even though I knew it would be harder to get in and out of the truck.

Before deciding on the Andersen hitch, I read as many forum posts and watched as many YouTube videos as I could find related to the Hitch and short bed trucks.  I even called the factory to ask about the specific combination of truck and trailer I would be using.  In the end I decided that there was enough evidence to give the Andersen a try.

How Many Variations of the Andersen Hitch Are There?

After deciding on the Andersen hitch the next step was to pick a specific version.  When I bought my hitch Andersen was making 4 variations of the Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection. 

There are currently 3 options available.

  • Aluminum Gooseneck – This version is made from aluminum and attaches to a gooseneck ball in the bed of you truck.
  • Lowered Aluminum Gooseneck – This version is also made of aluminum and attaches to a gooseneck ball in the bed of your truck, but the ball height is 4” lower for use on flatbed trucks.
  • Steel Rail Mount – This version of the hitch is made of steel and attaches to industry standard Rails (ISR) mounted in the bed of your truck.

At the time I purchased my hitch a steel version of the gooseneck hitch was also available.

Which version did I choose?

I picked the gooseneck over the rail version for several reasons.  My truck is equipped with the factory prep package meaning that I could drop a gooseneck ball into the bed quickly and easily.  To use the rail version, I would have to purchase a rail adapter that connected into the factory prep pucks.  The rail adapter is heavier and more expensive than the gooseneck ball.  Finally, I believe the gooseneck version is more secure providing less room for movement between the hitch and the truck.

I had originally decided to purchase the steel gooseneck hitch (this model is no longer available).  It weighed much less than all the other hitches I had looked at and had a lower price than the aluminum version.  I waited until the last minute and placed an order for the hitch about 1 week before I was going to trade in my Shamrock Hybrid for a Cougar 5th wheel.

I had the Curt gooseneck ball and anchor kit for my Ram prep, but the day before I was going to make a 6-hour trip from Ohio to Kentucky to pickup the new camper the hitch still hadn’t arrived.

I checked the tracking number and found out that my new hitch was still 2 days away, something had happened in shipping that delayed the delivery.

Great Customer service from Andersen

So, I had 1 day to find a hitch, or I would have to delay my trip.  I called Andersen and was given the cell phone number of the sales rep for my area.  My call to him went to voicemail, but I received a call back within 1 hour.  He was able to give me the names of several dealers around me and on my way that should have the hitch in stock. 

I called the closest dealer and found out that they had 3 of the aluminum gooseneck version in stock.  By this time it was getting late.  I asked them to hold one for me.  I said I would be in early the next morning to pick it up.

Aluminum vs Steel

My original plan was to purchase the steel version because of the cost savings, but after handling both models I am glad I have the aluminum version.  I received the steel hitch about a week after picking up the aluminum version and shipped it back.

There is another argument that steel is stronger than aluminum.  Although that’s true in this situation it doesn’t matter.  Why?  Because the material was part of the design of the hitch so even if steel is stronger, the aluminum hitch is more than capable of handling the rated load.

Owning and using the Andersen Hitch

Now, let’s talk about using the hitch.  If you have been following along, you probably realized that I was going to be picking up the hitch on the way to pickup my new camper.  I was putting a lot of faith in the easy installation of this hitch.  Otherwise, I was going to be 6 hours from home with a new camper and no way to tow it.

So, I hooked up my equalizer hitch to my travel trailer and left to pickup the Andersen hitch then continue to get the new RV.  Based on what I knew of the installation process I packed up a socket set, a set of allen wrenches and an adjustable wrench.

My initial thoughts when receiving the hitch

When I arrived, the dealer had the hitch behind the counter with my name on it.  It comes packaged in 1 large cardboard box.  Someone from the parts department rolled the box out to my truck on a dolly and set it down.  The box is large, about 3’ x 3’ x 2’, but was surprisingly light when I picked it up. 

Now was the first test.  How easy was it going to be to install in the truck?

Installation of the Andersen 5th Wheel Connection

Installing the hitch in your truck

Before installing the hitch in your truck, you will need a gooseneck ball.  I purchased the Curt ball and anchor kit that is made for the ram factory prep package.  The ball installs in a few seconds by lifting a tab on the top then dropping it into the hole in the middle of the bed.

Curt gooseneck ball kit

Curt gooseneck ball kit

Curt gooseneck ball kit installed

Curt gooseneck ball kit installed

When you remove the hitch from the box for the first time the coupler that mounts to the king pin of your fifth wheel is zip tied to the frame of the hitch.  This was my biggest problem during the installation.  Since I was installing the hitch on the road, I hadn’t brought any snips to cut the tie.

Once the coupler was removed, the next step is to flip the ball over.  The ball is installed upside down to reduce the overall height for shipping.  This just requires removing the cotter pin and then the large pin that holds the ball in place.

The ball has 3 holes to choose from for adjusting the height.  I decided to set the ball in the highest position.  I wanted the most clearance between the camper and the truck.

After that you just have to secure the hitch to the gooseneck ball.  Read on for a more detailed description of the installation process.

The time from opening the box until I was ready to get back on the road was about 30 min (I can install the hitch much faster now).

Installing the Andersen ball coupler on your 5th wheel

After trading in my old camper, filling out all the paperwork and doing a walk-through of the new (to me) Cougar I was ready to install the coupler and try the hitch out on the 6-hour drive home.

The concept of how the coupler installs is simple. 

  • First, insert the king pin into the large hole.
  • Next, 2 long shoulder bolts lock the coupler to the king pin.
  • Finally, 4 set screws tighten everything down and lock it in place.

There are 2 options when installing the coupler.  It can be installed with the ball socket in front of the king pin, this is the standard position.  Or it can be rotated 180 degrees and be installed with the ball socket behind the king pin.  The second position moves the trailer about 8” closer to the truck compared to the standard position.

Because my Cougar wasn’t new, the king pin had a few knicks and some surface rust.  These imperfections stopped the coupler from sliding over the pin.  A quick cleanup with some sand paper and a couple taps with a mallet (both items were courtesy of the service department at the dealer) and the coupler was on.

Before installing the long bolts around the king pin the “Ball Funnel” is placed around the coupler and then the bolts are installed and tightened down.

I located the coupler with the ball socket in front of the king pin.  Again, I was trying to take the most conservative position since this would be the first time I towed with this hitch and camper.

Locating the remote latch cable

The remote latch cable is used to engage and disengage the coupler from the ball of the hitch.  The hitch comes with a mounting bracket and 2 self-tapping screws.  Andersen suggests mounting the bracket to the front of your 5th wheel using the 2 screws into the frame, or using magnets.  I had ordered 2 heavy duty magnets ahead of time and used them to locate the release handle near the back of the pin box.  I can reach the release when standing behind the truck, or from the side.

Andersen hitch remote latch cable mounted with magnets

Total installation time

If you are going to install the hitch at home and have all the tools needed, the job should only take about 30 – 40 minutes.

Hitch Adjustments

After the initial installation of you hitch you might find a few adjustments are necessary to get the setup just right.

As I mentioned above, when I first installed my hitch I set the ball to the highest position and installed the coupler with the ball socket to the front.  My thought was to get as much clearance as possible between the truck and the camper.

After that first trip with the Andersen hitch I made a few adjustments.

Height adjustment

There is a tradeoff to consider when setting the ball height.

  • High setting
    • Pro – most clearance between the bed and camper.
    • Con – Front high position of the RV creates worse ride and handling.
  • Low setting
    • Pro – More level ride height of RV with better suspension alignment and handling.
    • Con – Camper could hit bed rails when turning on uneven ground.

I ended up using the middle position.  My 5th wheel rides slightly nose high, but still has plenty of clearance.

FYI: If the side walls of your bed are very tall the lowest setting might not be an option for you.

Ball coupler orientation

This one only has 2 options.

  • Ball forward position
    • Pro – Creates the most clearance between back window of your truck and the front cap of the camper possibly allowing sharper turns.
    • Con – Places the back edge of the pin box closer to the bed rails when turning.
  • Ball rearward position
    • Pro – Adds clearance between bed rails and back of pin box
    • Con – Moves front cap closer to the back of the truck
Andersen coupler ball rearward position
Andersen coupler ball rearward position
Andersen coupler ball forward position
Andersen coupler ball forward position

On the trip home after picking up my 5th wheel I made sure not to make any very sharp turns because I didn’t know how much clearance I had.  Shortly after installing the hitch I made a trip to the parking lot of a boat launch to test the limits and determine if any changes were needed.

I learned that with the coupler installed in the ball forward position, if I made a sharp turn the back side of the pin box could hit the rails for my American Roll Cover tonneau cover.

After loosening the set screws and rotating the coupler to place the ball socket towards the rear of the camper.  I am still able to turn about 90 degrees.  Now the front cap sits a little closer to the camper, but I don’t run the risk of damaging the rails of my tonneau cover when turning.

Everyday Use: The Andersen Ultimate Connection vs Traditional 5th wheel Hitches

This is where I believe the Andersen hitch really stands out compared to the other options you have.  You can read over and over about the light weight of this hitch, but until you actually use it and carry it around, you don’t really understand how nice it is.

 

How long does it take to install or remove the hitch?

It takes about 15 minutes from the time I step out of my house until I am ready to hook up my camper. 

The 15 minutes includes:

  • Installing the gooseneck ball and chain anchors in the truck
  • Getting the hitch out of the camper
  • Installing the hitch in the truck
  • Backing up to the camper

Installing the gooseneck ball and chain anchors

I use the Curt gooseneck ball and anchor kit.  The kit comes in a molded plastic box that I store in the front compartment of my camper.  The kit installs in 3 steps and takes about 2 minutes.

  1. Remove the factory plastic covers from the puck locations (you will not use the 2 pucks closest to the cab of the truck)
  2. Install the ball. Lift the lever on the top, lower it into the puck and then lower the lever.
  3. Install the chain anchors. Drop the anchors in the pucks, rotate 90 degrees, then install the locking pin and cotter pin.

One problem I had with this setup was that the locking pins from the chain anchors hit the frame of the hitch.  I had to cut them down which makes it a little tougher to remove the pins.

Modified Chain Anchor Pin

Getting the hitch out of the camper

With most 5th wheel hitches this wouldn’t even be an option.  You would have to store the hitch in the garage or shed.  My RV has a bike door in the back, I set my hitch inside the door.  I can quickly get the hitch when I need it, and it is out of the way when I don’t.

Installing the hitch in the truck

After taking the hitch out of the camper I just carry it over to the truck and set it on the tailgate.  Then Climb up into the truck and secure the hitch.  This is another place where the light weight is a huge advantage.  I have friends who use tractors or chain hoists in their garage to get their 5th wheel hitch in and out of the truck. 

I can carry the Andersen hitch in 1 hand!

A torque wrench is the only tool needed to tighten the hitch down.  I bought an inexpensive one and a 15/16” socket that I keep with the hitch.  That way it is always there when I need it.  Since I only use this wrench for the hitch it is always set to 50 ft-lbs and ready to go.

Like most things with this hitch the installation process is simple and only takes a minute or two.

  1. Remove the cotter pin and ½” diameter pin at the base of the hitch.
  2. Set the hitch over the gooseneck ball and center it up.
  3. Reinstall the ½” pin and cotter pin.
  4. Tighten the bolt on the top of the hitch to 50 ft-lbs.
  5. Tighten the 2 locking screws on the back to 50 ft-lbs.

After connecting your camper to the hitch Andersen recommends loosening the locking screws and re-torqueing the main bolt and set screws in case things settle under the weight of the camper.  This only needs to be done 1 time.  If you do leave your hitch in the truck for several weeks or months, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to check it occasionally.

How to connect the Andersen hitch to your RV

The process of connecting your truck and the camper is more like connecting a gooseneck trailer than a 5th wheel.  The only difference is that the ball sits at the height of a 5th wheel hitch instead of down in the bed.

In the video below I install and remove the hitch from my truck as well as connect and disconnect the trailer.

With my setup I still cannot see the ball, so I need a spotter or I have to get out to check when I’m backing in.  I have tried setting a flag on the hitch, which does help, when it doesn’t fall off.  The best way to see what is going on would be to use a portable hitch camera, or have one of the factory cameras that are mounted in the center stop light.

Here is the Step by step process I use to connect:

  1. Open your tailgate! (You don’t want to forget this step)
  2. Lower your front landing gear until the coupler is a few inches higher than the ball of the hitch.
  3. Back in until the ball is under the socket in the coupler (if your RV is too high you need to be a little forward of the center of the coupler to account for the movement as it lowers).
  4. Retract the landing gear until the weight starts to shift to the truck.
  5. Slide the handle in on the remote latch cable and turn clockwise to lock in place.
  6. Fully retract you landing gear.

To unhook the camper from the truck simply reverse the process.  Just remember to do step 1 first in either case.

Bonus Tip:

This is for anyone with an auto level system.  There is a quick and easy way, with most systems, to get back in the right position when you are ready to leave camp.  My 5th wheel has the Lippert ground control system. 

If I follow these steps.

  • Raise the camper off the hitch
  • Move the truck
  • Press the auto level button.

When you are ready to hook back up just press and hold the left and right buttons at the same time.  This will retract the rear jacks and then raise the front of the camper to the same height it was at when you unhooked.  If you have a different brand system check your manual for how to activate this feature.

Remote latch cable assembly

This was one area I was concerned with when looking at the hitch.  I was worried that it would be difficult to push in and out, or that it would not stay locked in place.  All traditional 5th wheel hitches use a locking mechanism the prevents the hitch from releasing, but the Andersen does not have an additional latch or pin to secure it.

To engage the latch, you push the handle in and then turn it about ½ a turn clockwise to lock the latch in place.  I am happy to report that I have never had the latch loosen.  My longest trip was about 500 miles and the latch was just as tight when I got there as it was when I left.

The latch is also surprisingly easy to engage and disengage.  Even when the truck and camper are on uneven ground it doesn’t bind.

How does the Ball Funnel work?

The ball funnel has been redesigned since I bought my hitch.  Although it is made differently it still performs the same function.

The funnel guides the ball into the socket on the coupler if you aren’t perfectly aligned.  The manufacturer states that it will work up to 3” off center, but I don’t recommend it.

If you are off center by more than about 1” pull forward and try again.

What happens when you are too far off is the ball funnel will push the entire camper to get the ball aligned with the socket.  This doesn’t sound bad until you realize the weight of the camper is still being supported by the front landing gear.  When the funnel starts pushing the camper the landing gear will flex and skip across the ground.  I prefer not to put this extra stress on the landing gear.  I would rather take an extra minute or two to line up better.

Old Andersen Ball Funnel
Old Style Ball Funnel
New Andersen Ball Funnel
New Style Ball Funnel

Connecting when uneven or at an angle

One benefit I like about the Andersen hitch is that you can connect at almost any angle.  I have been in tight campsites with a tree directly across from where I was parked.  It was no problem to back in at an angle, then I could pull out heading down the road instead of at the tree.

Another nice feature is being able to connect and disconnect when the ground is uneven between the camper and truck.  Because of the ball design the hitch won’t bind like some 5th wheel hitches do.  You can just lift or lower the coupler on or off the ball in about any position.

The picture below shows my truck and camper just before disconnecting.  It is not a worst-case scenario, but you can see they are not level.  The hitch lifted off the ball easily without binding.

Andersen hitch and truck connected on uneven ground

Towing with the Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection

This is another place where I would give the advantage to the Andersen hitch.

What is the ride like?

Because the hitch itself is tightened down to the gooseneck ball and bed there is no movement or rattling between the hitch and truck.  Likewise, the Andersen ball is locked securely in the coupler.  What this means is that when you are driving down the road you don’t feel any “bucking or chucking” that is normally associated with 5th wheels.  You can get this level of precision in a high end traditional hitch, but they are usually 2-3 times the price and weight of the Andersen.

Can I make a 90 degree turn with a short bed truck and the Andersen hitch?

The answer is maybe.

I know that probably isn’t the answer you were looking for.  This was one of my biggest concerns when deciding what hitch to get.  I didn’t want to get in a situation where I was stuck and couldn’t get into a campsite or gas station because the turn was going to be too sharp. 

The answer to the question is really based on your combination of truck and camper.  You can see in this video that it is possible even with a 5-1/2 foot bed to make almost a 90 degree turn.

With my combination I can turn very close to 90 degrees.  Although it’s possible, I actually try to avoid very sharp turns because the twisting of the campers axles and wheels worries me long before I am close to having the camper hit the back of the truck.

Andersen hitch 90 degree short bed turn

Storing the hitch when not in use

You would be hard pressed to find another 5th wheel hitch that is as easy to store as the Andersen hitch.  I can carry the hitch with 1 hand through the door of my camper and set it on the floor to store it.  For me this is great for 2 reasons.  It stays clean being in the camper not on the garage floor.  I also like it because it is always easy to get to and ready to go.  Not shoved in some corner who knows what in the way.

storing the Andersen hitch in my camper

The technical stuff (features and specs)

If you are looking for the technical specs on the Andersen hitch here they are.  Keep in mind these are for the Aluminum Gooseneck version.  The specs vary slightly for other versions of the hitch.  I have included the offset between the gooseneck ball and the king pin, this can be useful for estimating the max angle you will be able to turn.

Hitch Specs

Max Trailer Weight

24,000 lbs

Max Tongue Weight

4,500 lbs

Height from bed to top of ball

16-3/4”,   17-7/8”,   19-1/8”

Distance from gooseneck ball to kingpin

9-3/8” behind gooseneck, 1-3/8” behind gooseneck

Weight (hitch only, not coupler)

35 lbs

Safety Chain Kit

The only real option for this hitch is the safety chain kit.  The kit includes 2 bolts with large rings to replace the king pin bolts.  It also includes 2 heavy duty chains with hooks to attach between the bolts and the chain anchors in your truck.  The kit can be added later by loosening the set screws on the coupler. Then, replace the king pin bolts one at a time.  Finally, tighten the set screws back down.

I spent some time debating the pros and cons of the chain kit and decided to install it.  I know that most 5th wheel hitches don’t have or need safety chains.  Although I could agree with most of the arguments for not using the safety chain kit, here is my reasoning on why I think you should use it too.

It can save you time and frustration!

You may be thinking how? Isn’t is adding an extra step every time I hookup my camper?  You are right it will add about 30 seconds to the process.  The reason I say it can save you time is I would rather spend 30 seconds to connect the safety chains and not have the possibility of spending minutes or hours explaining why you don’t need them to a highway patrol officer.  Even worse you RV could be impounded or you could be forced to un-hitch on the spot.

Because of the non-traditional configuration of this hitch there is a large and ongoing debate about the legal requirements for safety chains.  This debate gets more confusing if you are crossing state lines where the laws and interpretations may differ.  The chain kit is inexpensive, so I think it is worth the investment.

Things I don’t like or would change

There isn’t much I don’t like about this hitch.  The only real improvement I would like to see would be for Andersen to design a latching mechanism that doesn’t require a torque wrench.  I think some sort of lever that tightened the hitch to the ball and then pins in place would be great.  Although, any additional parts would add weight the hitch.

Who shouldn’t use the Andersen hitch?

There are a few cases where I would not recommend this hitch.

  • Full time RV’ers with a short bed truck. If you full time you probably never take your hitch out of the truck. In this case the light weight design gives you no advantage.  What would give you and advantage is an auto-sliding hitch like the SuperGlide.  The auto-slider would give you the most options when maneuvering in tight places with no need to adjust the hitch like a manual slider.
  • People towing with truck beds shorter than 6’.  Even though Andersen has shown that this hitch can be used with 5-1/2’ beds, your particular combination may limit you to much less than 90 degrees when turning.  In this case I would suggest using a traditional hitch like the Curt A16 and the Reese Sidewinder pinbox.  With the sidewinder the pivot point is shifted backward about 20” creating much more room between the trailer and truck when turning.  The down side of this combination is it will run you 3x the cost of the Andersen hitch.

Everything you need to install and use the Andersen Ultimate Hitch

Everything you need for the Andersen Ultimate hitch

Here is a list of all the items you need to install and use the Andersen hitch.  I keep a torque wrench and socket in my RV so that even if I am using my tools for another project I always have what I need to install or remove the hitch.  Also, since the hitch is so easy to install and remove you might want to take it out of the bed once you arrive at your destination.

If you found this review helpful, I would really appreciate it if you used the links below to purchase your new hitch and accessories from Amazon.  It won’t cost you any more money, but I receive a small commission that helps me to create more content like this.  Thanks in advance.

Items Needed (with factory prep package) 

For Installation only

Conclusion

I know this review may sound too good, but this really is a great hitch.  I paid full price for my hitch and I am not being compensated by Andersen for this review.  I just want to share my experience with this product to help you decide what will be best for your situation. 

If you have any questions or if you own this hitch and want to share your experience, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your next Weekend RV Adventure,

Jason

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