Disappointment: “We own a new kingpin!” has nothing to do with the mafia. At all.

When Tim said, “Honey, I’m gonna order a new kingpin,” my mind went to drug lords and crime bosses.

I should have known. He meant something RV-related. I swear sometimes it feels like that’s all we buy.

For those who are unfamiliar with fifth wheels, the pin box and kingpin assembly are located on the “nose” of the trailer. The pin then locks into a hitch located in the bed of the truck used for towing.

We’d been wanting to upgrade to a smoother ride for The Toad, and after the usual massive amount of online research, Tim ordered the Flex Air Pin Box Long Jaw by Lippert Components, model 328492. Its integrated shock absorber and air bag should give us a lot less shake, rattle and roll than we’re used to, in both trailer and truck.

It weighs 240 pounds, and arrived strapped to a pallet.
How’s that for excitement?

Unwrapped, all shiny and new and hella sexy

If you’re gonna give this a go: as with any upgrade that is expensive and/or heavy, you’ll want to consult with both the item’s and your RV’s manufacturer before ordering, and make triple sure of all measurements to avoid costly returns. As you can see from the photos above, we definitely didn’t want to risk the hassle of sending this sucker back.

After opening the box came the fun part: off with the old, on with the new. We knew we were going to need a few more sets of hands for that.

Luckily, when it comes to living around other RV’ers, help is there when you need it, and sometimes you don’t even have to ask. Just put up the hood of your car or truck, and within a minute or two, help will arrive. Might work even faster if you are actually leaning over the engine, looking a little perplexed. “Hey, man, what’s going on?” “Oh, you got a busted thingamajig? I’ve got a tool for that.” “Let me tell you about the time this happened to me…” and so on.

I call it the Batman Beacon of the RV Park. Just lift the hood, and you’ll bring all the heroes to the yard!

We were lucky to have park hosts Ed and George, and our neighbor, Dave, show up right on time to help us get the job done that morning. Or maybe they just caught a whiff of the second best way to bring the boys to the yard: set out food and drinks. In this case, it was fresh pumpkin muffins and piping hot coffee. Feed them, and they will come.

Muffins from scratch, and strong coffee for the win!

The process took about three hours spread out over the whole day (you know how it goes), but included only one trip to a hardware store. The new assembly didn’t come with bolts, and the ones from our old unit were too short, so off Tim went.

Another thing that didn’t come with the new pin box? Instructions! Be prepared to spend some time on the phone or online with Lippert if you decide to buy one of these.

Off with the old…

Can you believe I got 18 seconds of video of men working, and not one of them swore? Again with the disappointment!

Take I
Its top edge should not be up against the nose of the 5th wheel like that, so there was a Take II.

Much better.
After a couple of adjustments, we got it into the correct position. Note gap between top of pinbox and bottom of RV nose.

Backing the BFT up to the The Toad to make sure the kingpin is at the proper height to fit correctly into our hitch

Bingo! Kingpin in hitch.
That’s exactly how it should look.

Adjusting the air bag (it’s that black rubber part that looks like a tire) to the recommended 40psi

Tim ended up moving the RV without me for the kingpin’s maiden voyage, and he assured me that the ride was indeed smoother. But he also noticed after the first trip under real conditions, that the thing needs to be adjusted one bolt hole lower for a better fit with the truck hitch.

Looks like we’ll be making use of the Batman Beacon again!

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)