Home' Caravanning Australia : Summer 2012-2013 Contents 62 Caravanning Australia Summer 2012--2013
wheeler's interior, generally comprising the master bedroom.
Some of the more garish examples, especially those in
the United States, which are essentially a mid-sized house on
wheels, capitalise on this added living area and then some. A
Google Image search of these is an eye-opener.
One big component in the consideration of a fifth wheeler
is the fact that a specifically set-up tow vehicle is required;
expressly, a flatbed utility with a fifth-wheel turntable fixed to
its tray (these installations are generally carried out by the fifth-
wheeler manufacturer, often as part of a package deal). The
tow vehicle also has to a) have the required pulling power to
lug the fifth wheeler, b) have running gear resilient enough to
withstand the sheer weight of the fifth wheeler, and c) meet the
Australian on-road standards of a tow vehicle and its trailer. As
fifth wheelers vary greatly in size, there are calculations that go
into this. The first is gross combination mass (GCM), which all
vehicles have. This is the maximum total weight of the vehicle
and its load, plus the trailer and its load.
As an example, we'll imagine a vehicle with a GCM of 4500
kilograms, and a tare weight of 1750. Carrying two people
weighing 150 kilograms combined and luggage weighing 250
kilograms, the vehicle's laden mass is 2150 kilograms. This
means the trailer's laden weight can be a maximum of 2350
kilograms. Therefore, factoring in 250 kilograms of water and
luggage on-board, the fifth wheeler's maximum tare weight can
be 2100 kilograms.
You should also check that the tow vehicle's other weight
limitations aren't exceeded, such as towing capacity, gross
vehicle mass (includes the vehicle itself, plus its contents, and the
pin weight of the fifth wheeler that is resting on the tow vehicle
-- 'pin weight' is the vertical load imposed on the tow vehicle by
the fifth wheeler, generally 20 per cent of the fifth wheeler's total
weight), as well as gross axle weight rating (the amount of weight
that can be placed over the vehicle's axle).
The vehicle used to tow a fifth wheeler is therefore completely
dependent on the size of the fifth wheeler. Smaller units can be
towed by some Holden Rodeo and Mitsubishi Triton models, as
well as other such mid-sized utilities -- these are generally rated
in the 2500- to 3500-kilogram towing capacity range, and the
4800- to 6000-kilogram GCM range. Larger fifth wheelers tend
to use imported Ford F250s and Chevy Silverados, Ivecos, or
other larger workhorse-style utilities -- Ford F250s can tow 4500
kilograms with a GCM of over 9000. In cases of enormous fifth
wheelers, prime movers are generally used.
As fifth wheelers caught on in the United States before
they did in Australia, importing was the only way to obtain
them initially. This has created headaches for many buyers, as
Australian standards are more stringent than in the United States.
These problems are mainly related, but not exclusive, to electrical
systems and gas installation. In the United States, electrical
systems are permissible at lower voltage ratings than they are in
Australia, and will almost always be below the required minimum
to be operated legally in Australia.
This has proven to be an issue with Australians who have
imported American units and found that such non-compliance is
not only illegal, but also voids insurance. Registration authorities
are becoming aware of this and are increasingly inspecting units
resold in Australia.
While certainly not the cheapest option, fifth wheelers
are worth considering for those lucky enough to spend large
amounts of time on the road, due not only to the added
convenience and safety, but also the added security -- in order
to steal a fifth wheeler, a properly set-up tow vehicle would be
As interest has grown in Australia, so have the number
of local manufacturers, many allowing you to custom-design
to your own taste. Organisations such as the Fifth Wheelers
Network Inc. provide a hub for members and non-members alike
to source information from people in the know, and also to join a
growing community of fellow adventurers. ●
The finest Wireless Tyre Pressure
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PressureProTM provides peace of mind, protects
your vehicle, trailer, occupants & cargo.
From the comfort of your drivers seat you can monitor the
current tyre pressures of all your tyres (for all types of vehicles &
trailers) & get instant alerts when tyre pressures drop.
Why let a flat tyre ruin your trip, install a PressurePro Monitor for
your peace of mind, be alerted to dangerous low tyre pressure
situations before they become catastrophic & expensive.
PressurePro have monitors available for all vehicles & trailers &
with up to 64 wheels.
For sales please contact:
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Phone: 0403 391051
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