Perhaps we should begin by explaining why you'd want a gooseneck hitch in the first place, instead of the more common fifth-wheel or receiver hitches. While fifth-wheels are perfectly fine for pulling a trailer on flat surfaces, and "bumper pull" is quite acceptable with smaller, lighter trailers, a gooseneck hitch combines the best features of those two.
A gooseneck hitch puts the trailer's tongue weight where it belongs: in the bed. Far more
Just like a fifth-wheel, it puts the load a bit ahead of the rear axle, thereby distributing the tongue weight much better than a receiver hitch setup. And, unlike a fifth-wheel, a gooseneck allows articulation at the connection since it relies on a trailer ball, not a flat plate. There's a reason many fifth-wheels now feature side-to-side movement, too, rather than being able to move in only one plane. This makes perfect sense since, eventually, you'll have to leave the flat interstate, if for no other reason than to get fuel. Encounter a slanted surface such as a gas station entrance and something has to give. That something might as well be engineered into the hitch instead of tweaking the pickup and/or trailer. We actually were very close to stuck once when, with the trailer at 90 degrees on uneven ground, the trailer (via the fifth-wheel, which doesn't pivot in that plane) lifted the "inside" of the truck enough that the tires on that side had no traction. Maybe this wouldn't have been an issue with a pickup, but the stouter tractor trailer we were driving didn't flex all that much (or enough, depending on how you look at it).
Also, unlike a fifth-wheel, a gooseneck hitch such as the B&W Turnover Ball shown here ($449) leaves the bed every bit as useful as before installing the hitch, since nothing sticks up from the bed floor when the ball is not in use and inverted. And even if you already have a fifth-wheel trailer, this hitch may still be for you, at least if you also have a flatbed. B&W's Companion hitch is a fifth-wheel that drops into the same mount as does the regular trailer ball. Like the ball, it's there when you need it, gone when you don't.
If you want a gooseneck hitch, there's no reason you couldn't install it yourself. With the possible exception of a torque wrench, which could be rented or borrowed, you most likely have the basic tools needed. Plan on using the better part of a day if doing it alone, then enjoy the benefits for a long time. There's not much to go wrong, and the Turnover Ball setup has a limited lifetime warranty.
1. After a recent, lengthy towing excursion with lots of weight in the bed, and a bumper pull trailer adding tongue weight at the very rear of the Ram, we decided to stop such risky nonsense and install a good gooseneck hitch, in this case, a B&W 900R center section and 1310 mounting kit, which fits most 2003-2012 (Dodge) Ram pickups. So how heavy was the load that led to this gooseneck instal-lation? No idea, but after adjusting the 2500's headlights down 5 inches (at 20 feet!), they were correct again.
2. Finding the centerline of the bed is easy enough, but do triple-check that the lengthwise measurement is according to instructions before making the required 4-inch-diameter hole. There is some leeway--some. While a hole saw, as pictured, is the quickest way to create a round hole, tin snips, or even a drill and file, can also be used.
3. Instructions call for cutting the flange under the bed a little in order to create room to slide in the mount's crossmembers. Loosening the bolts holding the bed and lifting the right side about 2 inches instead seems smarter, and won't promote rust. You can see the rear cross member (V-shaped) to the left, and the rectangular front one by the piece of plywood used to hold the bed up. In the center, hanging from a red strap, is the center section. Neither would be visible with the fender liner still in place, and its temporary removal is a necessity not mentioned in the instructions.
4. Also not mentioned is that getting the center section in place is a relative breeze if the spare tire and its heat shield are removed. Using a 2x4 across the bed sides as support, then a ratchet strap for lifting (through the 4-inch hole), we managed to get the center section in position, alone and with relative ease, by first resting it on the differential housing and exhaust.
5. It's a lot easier to initially stick screwdrivers, drifts, or center punches through the mounting holes rather than trying to start the bolts at this stage. It's particularly so with the ones going into the front crossmember, as cross threading a bolt there can ruin not just the threads, but your entire afternoon.
6. Getting the left U-bolt for the left side plate in position can be a bit tricky. There's no need to remove any clips as the instructions suggest, but a brake line must be slightly bent to clear the U-bolt. (It goes just in front of the cluster of hoses and pipe shown at the bottom of the previous photo.) Note the paper-clip-like bracket used to position the parking brake cable, which is now fastened to the side plate instead of the frame, and sits a bit lower than stock.
7. With all fasteners in place, the bed's bolts retightened, and the center section perfectly aligned with the hole in the bed, it's time to torque all the fasteners per instructions and in the correct order. Some are a bit hard to get to with a torque wrench, so comfort yourself with the thought that you're actually doing the job right.
8. Using the holes in the center section as a guide, drill out the four holes for the safety chain U-bolts. We started from below, then used a Uni-Bit from above to get the holes as perfect as possible. A round file would also work, of course.
9. After installing the safety chain U-bolts and the latch handle (which allows lifting the trailer ball out--to the left in the photo, by the spring), it should look like this under the bed.
10. In an ideal world, all the above would be done before having a spray-on bed liner applied. That way, the bare metal where holes were cut can be painted with a rust preventative without having to worry about how it looks, since it'd all be covered later.
11. To the right is the standard ball for the 30,000-pound-rated setup, and in the hitch is B&W's 4-inch extender. It effectively moves the trailer four inches rearward, which can help with certain trailers and short beds. Using that accessory, or the Companion fifth-wheel, wouldn't be possible without B&W's patented square shank. Another benefit is that since the trailer ball can't move in the mount, all movement will be between the ball and coupler, like it should be.