What Is A 5th Wheel Lube Plate? [Simple Answer]

The average 5th wheel truck camper weighs about 12,000 pounds. Towing that amount of weight causes immense friction between the hitch and the kingpin box, where your RV connects to your fifth wheel. Frequent sounds of scraping metal are a common occurrence for many motorists who do not have a lube plate. So, what exactly is a fifth wheel lube plate? And does your RV need one?

Quick Answer

A 5th wheel lube plate is a small piece of gear that is placed in the hitch mechanism to reduce friction between the hitch and the kingpin box. Lube plates are an alternative to lithium grease, eliminating the need to re-grease the hitch mechanism after each trip. A fifth-wheel lube plate creates a barrier between the bottom of the kingpin box and the area around the hitch.

Several types of lube plates exist, each with its own unique design to reduce friction. Fifth wheel lube plates:

  • Eliminate the need for lithium grease
  • Create a buffer between the hitch system and the pin box
  • Reduce friction in the hitch system
  • Reduces sounds of metallic scraping while driving a fifth wheel RV

Purchasing a fifth-wheel RV is a huge commitment. Lube plates ensure that your investments remain in good condition, with as little degradation as possible to its components.

What Is A 5th Wheel Lube Plate (And Do You Need One)?

Although lube plates aren’t required to tow an RV with a fifth wheel, many motorists find them easy to install and a better alternative to lithium grease.

Two Different Types Of 5th Wheel Lube Plates

Lube plates commonly come in two types: disk plates and custom plates. Disk plates are thin, flat circular disks while custom plates are uniquely designed in their own shape. The main three differences between these two lube plates are the ease of installation, the cost, and the durability of the lube plate. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between a disk plate and a custom plate:

Installation: Disk plates tend to be easier to install due to the simple act of fitting it snug on the kingpin box. Custom plates usually require you to drill holes and install nuts and bolts to secure the plate to the hitch.

Cost: Custom plates are generally more expensive than disk plates. This is due to the material they are made from and the thickness of the material. Disk plates cost around $10-$30 while custom plates cost anywhere from $75 to well over $400.

Durability: In general, custom plates are more durable than disk plates. There are no set life spans for fifth wheel lube plates, but plastic disks tend to be extremely thin and therefore do not last as long as thicker custom plates.

What Is A Lube Plate Used For?

If you intend to tow an RV with a fifth wheel, you’ll want to invest in a lube plate. They serve one purpose, but have many different benefits to an RV owner. The most basic function of a lube plate is to reduce friction between the hitch and the kingpin box. This is the area where you connect your RV to your fifth wheel. In addition to reducing friction, a lube plate is used for the following reasons:

  • Eliminates the need for lithium greasing between each trip
  • Reduces wear and tear on the hitch
  • Reduces wear and tear on the kingpin box
  • Reduces or eliminates the frequent sounds of metallic grinding between the hitch and kingpin box while driving
  • Can last up to several years, depending on how often and how far you drive your RV
  • Easy to install
  • Cost-effective

The ease of installation and cost-effectiveness of a fifth-wheel lube plate makes it an excellent alternative to greasing. Once the plate is installed, there’s no need to continually replace it after each trip. You simply install it, drive, and enjoy your trip. It’s always a good idea to periodically inspect the fifth wheel lube plate to ensure it does not need replaced or has not been compromised in some way due to bumpy or dusty roads.

Are There Alternatives to Using A Lube Plate?

Owning an RV with a fifth wheel is arguably less maintenance than if you owned a drivable motor home. However, there is still some maintenance that must be kept up with on a fifth wheel. The area where an RV is connected to the fifth wheel includes the hitch and the kingpin box. The kingpin box connects to the hitch and a locking assembly holds it in place. Since these are two metallic pieces coming together, it’s understandable that there needs to be some kind of lubrication between them. There are two choices for this: Lithium greasing and a lube plate.

Which one is better? Easier? Less expensive? Here are the main differences between greasing and a lube plate:

Lube Plate

  • Multiple-use
  • Easy to install
  • Protects the hitch
  • Reduces wear and tear
  • Easy to dispose of

Grease

  • Must be reapplied often
  • Can cover more area than a lube plate
  • Protects moving parts from wear and tear
  • Difficult to dispose of and messy
  • Attracts dirt

Using lithium grease will get the job done, and will reduce friction just like a lube plate. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. It is not uncommon to use a lube plate for the hitch and also grease for other moving parts to ensure a smooth connection with limited wear and tear.

Tips for Maintaining Your Hitch

Greasing the hitch mechanism or using a lube plate will reduce friction and general wear and tear to the connection point. However, there is still plenty that can be done to maintain your hitch and prevent future problems.

Inspect the hitch frequently: If using grease, this is an obvious step to maintaining the hitch. However, if using a lube plate, you may fall under a false sense of security with the maintenance of your hitch. It’s important to inspect your hitch for any signs of damage on a regular basis. This will prevent grinding and damage to the connection point.

Check the connection: When you have your RV hitched to your fifth wheel, make sure to check that the connection between the hitch and kingpin box is secure. This is an important step to prevent the kingpin box from slipping out of the hitch and possibly causing damage.

Inspect the cable: a breakaway cable is used to hold the RV and fifth wheel together in case the connection breaks apart while driving down the road. This can happen if the above-mentioned safety tip is ignored, and the kingpin box slips out of the hitch. Make sure the breakaway cable is not frayed or worn in any way before leaving for your trip.

Lubricate moving parts: Whether you use grease or a lube plate, keeping any moving parts lubricated will prevent wear and tear, and keep your hitch in excellent shape for years to come. As previously mentioned, the lube plate (or grease) prevents the hitch and kingpin box from rubbing against each other. Proper lubrication will keep your hitch maintained.

Just like changing your oil, or getting your tires replaced, maintaining your hitch will easily prevent future problems and headaches. Keeping a calendar or journal of hitch inspections and maintenance can help you stay on track for future maintenance.

Fifth wheel lube plates are a great way to reduce friction between your hitch and kingpin box. They are easy to install and cost-effective, and a cleaner alternative to using lithium grease.

Frequently Asked Questions About 5th Wheel Lube Plates

Whether you’re new to the RV world or a veteran RVer, you may have some questions about fifth-wheel lube plates. This is especially apparent if you are thinking of making the switch from greasing to using a lube plate.

How much does a lube plate cost? All four top best sellers on amazon sell for under $15. Two of which sell for under $10. Unless you get a custom lube plate, the cost is very reasonable. On average, you’ll spend about $15 on a disk plate, and anywhere from $50 to $500 on a custom plate. In this case, higher cost does not always mean a superior product. More expensive custom plates will most likely last longer and be more durable, but disk plates also offer durability, especially the graphite disks that are built to reduce as much friction as possible.

What is a lube plate made out of? If you’re environmentally conscious, or just curious, you may want to know what a lube plate is made out of, and how easy it is to dispose of. Fifth wheel lube plates are generally made of polyethylene. This is a very highly produced plastic across the globe. In terms of mechanics, it has low strength and hardness but is excellent at reducing friction and has a high impact strength. This makes it an exceptional material to reduce friction in your hitch mechanism. Some lube plates also state that they release graphite, which further reduces friction.

Which size lube plate do you need? The size of lube plate that you need will depend on the surface area of your hitch. In general, king pin box size is standardized and shouldn’t factor into the size you need. In most cases, if you have a 30,000 pound or smaller hitch, you can use a 10-inch diameter lube plate. If your hitch is rated higher than that, you will need a 12-inch lube plate. Ten- and twelve-inch plates are the two most common sizes for disk plates. Custom plates will often be specifically designed for certain model hitches, the most common being Reese or Lippert.

How long does a lube plate last? For 10 or 15 dollars, even if you had to replace it every year, lube plates seem to be a no brainer option for most fifth wheel owners. However, how long lube plates last doesn’t really have a specified answer. It’s like asking someone how long their shoes last. If they’re a marathon runner they may last three or four months. For the average person it could be years. This idea is similar to the lube plate. The more you use it, the more it wears down and the faster it needs replaced. If you use your RV often, you may have to replace it each season. If you use it rarely, it could last for years.

How do you install a 5th wheel lube plate? If using a disk plate, the installation is very simple. It’s a good idea to remove any grease that may still be on the pin box. After this, check out the lube plate and find out which side should be facing the kingpin box. It should say right on the disk plate. Next, slide the disk plate over the kingpin and up to the flat surface of the pin box. It should fit snugly and not easily move around. For custom plates, they will come with specific instructions. For example, U-shaped plates will be applied to the hitch as opposed to the pin box and usually require hardware to be installed.

Wrap Up

Fifth wheel lube plates are an excellent alternative to using grease. It’s cleaner, lasts longer, and is easy to install. Make sure to buy the correct size, based on the surface area of your hitch. Always perform preventative maintenance such as inspecting your hitch mechanism and breakaway cable before travelling. This will ensure a safe, hassle-free trip in your fifth wheel RV.

 

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