California DMV 5th Wheel Trailer Regulations

California DMV 5th Wheel Trailer Regulations
Tow your fifth-wheel travel trailer to your favorite backwoods camp site, local or regional camp ground or national parks, where camping, fishing and hiking are available. Attach your fifth-wheel camper to a pickup using a special hitch in the truck bed and enjoy the comforts of home from this towable RV. Single and bi-level units are available and either is a fitting option for your next California camping destination--whether it's a weekend getaway, family vacation or seasonal excursion.

Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings and Licensing

California motorists driving a tow vehicle, such as a truck or a car with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 4,000 lbs. or more, can tow a fifth-wheel travel trailer not used for hire with a GVWR of less than 10,000 lbs. in the state of California with their standard Class C license. If you want to tow a fifth-wheel travel trailer with a GVWR of greater than 10,000, but less than 15,000 lbs., to a camp site or other destination, you can do so only if you add a fifth-wheel recreational endorsement to your license by passing the law (not driving) test for the noncommercial Class A license and for the Class C license (unless you qualified for the Class C license within the past 12 months), according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Individuals with a non-commercial Class A license can haul a fifth-wheel trailer weighing more than 15,000 lbs., if it is not used for hire.

According to the DMV no passenger vehicle, regardless of weight may tow more than one vehicle and no vehicle weighing less than 4,000 lbs. may tow any vehicle (including fifth-wheel trailers) that weigh 6,000 lbs., or more.

Braking System

The California Department of Motor Vehicles requires all fifth-wheel travel trailers with a GVWR of 1,500 pounds or greater to have brakes. The braking system in your tow vehicle must have a braking capacity that is rated for the total load of your fifth-wheel travel trailer. While most fifth-wheel travel trailers are remotely controlled from a tow vehicle using a brake controller, it is always best to test your fifth-wheel travel trailer's breaking capacity and level of stability before traveling across uneven terrain.

Before heading to your outdoor destination, check that the brake controller on your tow vehicle is synced with the brakes on your fifth-wheel travel trailer. When you press the brake inside your tow vehicle, your fifth-wheel trailer should slow to the same speed and come to a complete stop. If your fifth-wheel trailer does not stop, the vehicles are not synced and you must reconnect the brake controller per the manufacturer's instructions.

Weight Distribution

Visit a public scale to obtain the true weight of your vehicle. According to the California DMV, it is essential that you carefully weigh your fifth-wheel travel trailer to ensure the weight distribution is even. Pack camping, hiking and fishing equipment and large gear from front to rear as well as left to right. In California, a trailer vehicle's hitch weight must equal approximately 10 to 15 percent of a trailer's gross weight and be loaded in front of the front axle.

Article Written By Charlie Gaston

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

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