Fifth wheel RVs are designed to be towed by pickup trucks. Now that Jeep has gone all-in with their Gladiator model; many enthusiasts are probably wondering if they can use the off-road-ready Jeep with a cargo bed to tow their fifth wheel RV to a base camp for their adventures.
There are many factors to consider when evaluating a vehicle for fifth-wheel towing duties.
Can a Jeep Gladiator Tow a Fifth Wheel?
Can a Jeep Gladiator tow a fifth wheel? While the Gladiator has the torque to move a heavy load and the towing capacity to make towing a light fifth wheel possible, it probably isn’t a good idea to plan on any Jeep Gladiator as the primary power plant for moving your fifth wheel around. Even if you started with the beefiest stock package and upgraded it, you would still have a short bed.
It takes more than the power to get a fifth wheel rolling to make a vehicle a good candidate for regular towing duties. Fifth wheels can be up to 40-feet long, and they weigh between 7,000 and 12,000 lbs.
The towing capacity of a Jeep Gladiator is 7,650 for the 3.6L gas engine and even less for the new 3.0L turbo diesel. That means that even the lightest fifth wheel is at or near the max capacity for a Gladiator.
Reasons You Should Not Tow a Fifth Wheel with a Jeep Gladiator
If you’re a long-time member of the Jeep lover’s club, you probably know better than to tell a Jeep enthusiast that there is something that a Jeep can’t do.
We’re famous for our ingenuity and persistence; some might call it stubbornness when it comes to finding a way to make modifications that make our Jeeps capable of things that should be impossible.
When it comes to towing a fifth-wheel RV with your Jeep Gladiator, we’re not saying that it can’t be done. We’re just saying that it probably shouldn’t be done.
While it is true that you could probably find a way to make enough modifications to make your Gladiator right for the job, you should also consider what you’d be giving up in the process.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The Gladiator is designed to be a go-anywhere pickup—think long and hard about whether you want to make it a tow-anything pickup. After all, they make dually pickups every day.
We’ll look at four areas where the task of towing the lightest fifth wheel RV around is going to press against the upper levels of what a stock Jeep Gladiator is capable of.
In three of those areas, it would be totally possible to make upgrades that would increase the Gladiator’s abilities in that regard. But there are downsides to those upgrades that need to be considered. I
n the fourth area that we’ll look at, the Gladiator’s abilities to tow a fifth wheel are severely limited, and there is nothing that can be done.
As we already mentioned, the weight of a fifth wheel RV – even the lightest ones around – is beyond the comfortable limits of a Jeep Gladiator’s transmission.
They can definitely generate the torque to get one rolling, but when you think about towing that much weight up hills or going through long stretches of stop-and-go driving in traffic, the problems start to multiply.
It all comes down to the fact that Gladiators are designed to be exceptional at a certain number of important tasks. Towing huge and heavy loads isn’t one of those things.
You can try to force a square peg into a round hole, but doing so is going to burn your Gladiator up before its time. You can try to upgrade these features, but it would be a lot cheaper and easier to buy a vehicle designed for towing a fifth-wheel and save your Gladiator for other adventures.
The Jeep Gladiator has a high-performance suspension system that is designed to make it capable of heading off-road.
You obviously won’t be dragging your fifth wheel RV along with you on your off-road adventures, but you might be hoping to haul the fifth wheel to a spot where you can drop it before heading off into the backcountry.
It would be awesome if that was the way it could work. And, to be honest, if you were only planning on hauling the fifth wheel a short distance over moderate topography, you could probably make it work with the engine, transmission, and suspension.
Even the brakes could probably handle the over-exertion in small doses. But as we’ll see—some issues that can’t be resolved so easily.
Jeep put a lot of thought into the braking system in the Jeep Gladiator.
That’s because they knew that Jeep enthusiasts could be counted on to use up every single ounce of the available 7,650 towing capacity on the most robust package that they offer on the Gladiator.
The braking system is more than capable of slowing down the heaviest loads that the Gladiator can tow on any terrain.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many fifth-wheel RVs that don’t exceed the maximum towing capacity for the Gladiator.
That means that even the lightest ones would be a constant red-line for the engine and transmission when you’re looking at getting and keeping it moving. The other side of that coin is that you’d be red-lining the brakes every time you need to slow it down or stop it.
All of the systems that we’ve discussed so far are things that the typical Jeep Enthusiast looks at and says: “challenge accepted.”
One area where even the most skilled fabricator just can’t make the Gladiator more capable of towing a fifth-wheel is its bed length. A pickup truck with an 8-foot bed is ideal for towing a fifth-wheel RV.
Anything shorter than that will probably require a sliding hitch to prevent damage to the back of your cab.
The Jeep Gladiator has a 5-foot bed. That means that even if you went through all of the work that it would take to install a sliding fifth wheel package in the bed and upgrade the necessary systems to make them capable of doing the job, you would still probably find it impossible to perform necessary steering without running into problems.
Wrapping it All Up
As we said at the outset, we know better than to tell a Jeep owner that there is something that a Jeep cannot do. In our experience, that’s just an invitation to have them eventually prove you wrong.
But it is equally true that you can’t turn a Jeep into a dually without losing some of the things that make a Jeep a Jeep.
There is an awful lot about the Jeep Gladiator that Jeep enthusiasts can get excited about.
It really is a game-changer when you consider what it brings to the existing line of models that Jeep offers. It is ideal for doing Jeep things where and when you’ll want to have the additional payload that an open or covered bed provides.
There’s no vehicle out there that is perfect for every job that you might want a vehicle to do. A sports car is great for going fast and handling curves.
You can try to make a Dually handle switchbacks at 75-mph. At the end of the day, it’s probably better to accept that everything has limitations and use the right tool for the job.