If you own or operate a heavy-duty trailer, knowing how to unhook a gooseneck trailer is an essential skill. Failure to master the process could lead to wasted time, exposing both the trailer and the tractor to potential damage and increasing the likelihood of an accident. Gooseneck lowboy trailers are also referred to as fifth wheel trailers since they rely on a wheel-shaped plate to establish a connection with the tractor.
A fifth wheel is a U-shaped component that makes hooking up a trailer to a tractor safe and easy. See how the fifth wheel passes under the trailer and then raises up to lock into place in this video of hooking up a flatbed trailer.
Gooseneck lowboy trailers could have a detachable or a fixed neck. Nevertheless, the general process of unhooking the trailer from a tractor remains largely the same. Unhooking a gooseneck trailer fifth wheel is an essential skill every Class 8 truck driver must have. Here are 11 steps to follow if you need to unhook a gooseneck trailer.
1. Inspect for Damage and Defects
Inspect the key components of both the tractor and trailer for damage and defects. Damage could increase the risk of an accident even if you follow the right procedures when unhooking.
Take an especially close look at the fifth wheel and ensure there are no cracks or bent parts. If you see anything that appears unusual or have any doubts about the integrity of the connection, it’s best to play it safe and contact a professional to do the repair. If you find your trailer is unsafe to operate and is in need of repairs, Hale Trailer offers lowboy trailers for rent and lowboy trailers for sale.
2. Identify a Safe, Level, and Stable Surface
This is perhaps the most important thing to do before you commence any unhooking activity. You should carry out the entire procedure on a safe and stable surface. A safe location is somewhere that’s a considerable distance from the flow of vehicular and human traffic.
The trailer shouldn’t be slanting downhill or uphill, nor should it lean left or right. An uneven or unstable surface is a recipe for disaster. You are working with heavy equipment, so if the trailer shifts or rolls because of an uneven surface, it could potentially cause tremendous damage to property and endanger lives.
Thawing ground, wet soil, and freshly disturbed grass are soft surfaces and therefore risky places to drop a gooseneck lowboy trailer even when it’s empty. On the other hand, parking lots, packed gravel driveways, paved grounds, and concrete surfaces are the ideal locations for unhooking a gooseneck trailer.
Make sure you are certain about the weight of the vehicle and the trailer so you can determine whether the ground is firm enough.
3. Drive and Park the Truck
Drive and park the truck at the location you’ve identified above and ensure the tractor and trailer are aligned in a straight line. Apply both the truck and trailer brakes and exit the truck.
Working on a level surface is essential. But because of the possible dangers if things go wrong, you have to take additional precautions. Among these precautions is chocking the wheels.
The action of unhooking the trailer could cause the vehicle to shift or roll. Check both the front and back of each tire. Ensure the chocks are well secured below the wheels.
4. Disconnect the Chains and Wires
There are wires, air connections, cables, and chains between the trailer and the tractor. The wires ensure the lights on the trailer can be turned on or off by the electrical and mechanical controls of the towing tractor. A breakaway cable alerts the driver in case the trailer detaches from the vehicle. The chains ensure the trailer remains connected to the tractor in the event that it becomes unhooked during transit.
5. Release the Coupler Lock
Unlock the fifth wheel coupler lock. Note the trailer suspension when air is exhausted from the supply line. This may cause the trailer to jerk backward or forward a little, thus jamming the fifth wheel. If this happens, you can reverse the tractor slightly to ease the tension.
Sometimes, simply releasing the tractor’s parking brakes will loosen the fifth wheel. If you do that, remember to apply the brakes again before you exit the vehicle. You could also prevent the fifth wheel from jamming by disconnecting the airlines only after releasing the wheel.
6. Disengage the Fifth Wheel
Enter the vehicle and drive forward slowly until you are just far enough to release the fifth wheel. Stop as soon as the lower coupler of the fifth wheel is completely out from below the trailer, but the tractor’s frame is still below the gooseneck lowboy trailer’s front.
Alternatively, for tractors with air suspension drop, drive forward just far enough to unlatch the coupler then stop. Operate the controls to drop the tractor’s air suspension. Keep an eye on the trailer through the rearview mirrors to confirm that it is stable throughout the process.
7. Check that the Trailer is Secure
Place the tractor’s transmission in neutral, apply the parking brake, and switch off the engine. Exit the vehicle and confirm that the trailer is secure and stable. If need be, place a few blocks just below the tongue of the gooseneck lowboy trailer just in case it gives way.
8. Clear the Trailer
Re-enter the tractor and drive forward slowly until the tractor is now completely clear of the trailer.
Gooseneck lowboy trailers are popular thanks to their proven ability to transport heavy cargo. The low bed means it’s easy to load and unload oversized cargo. It also ensures that in the event of an accident that causes the cargo to slip off the bed, the distance it drops is minimal, thereby reducing the damage from the impact. Gooseneck lowboy trailers can make tighter turns on the road than other commercial trailers. For transporting large cargo, this is a key advantage.
Although lowboy gooseneck trailers can handle huge loads, it’s always important that you check the owner’s manual to confirm the maximum load you can safely pull and carry. You have to make sure the tractor is up to the task as well. While the manufacturer of the trailer knows its capacity, always give yourself some headroom to cater for an accidental overload or an urgent need to pack in more cargo on short notice along the way.
Follow these tips for how to unhook a gooseneck trailer to ensure everything is done properly. Remember to keep an eye on critical components such as brake lines and fuel lines. If you ever have any doubts about your ability to safely unhook the gooseneck trailer, don’t hesitate to hire a professional from any of our trailer rental locations.
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