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Ask Dave: Should a hitch ball be greased or not?

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. Today he discusses hitch balls.

Hitch balls

Dear Dave,
I’m replacing my 2” ball and ball arm for my 5-year-old 3500-pound camper. I would like to know your opinion of the question “to grease or not to grease” a hitch ball. I started out greasing the ball and got it on myself half the time. After a year or so I stopped greasing it. It’s not really too badly scarred, but it keeps coming loose so I’m purchasing one that is welded to the arm. —Douglas

Dear Douglas,
This is one of those questions I call the “Dunk Tank” topic. That’s when I share my experience and opinion and then place myself up on the Dunk Tank to let comments hurl at the target!

Here is my opinion and experience. I have never lubricated the hitch ball and I ran a company that had three trucks towing 10K trailers that put 125,000 miles on each year or more for the past ten years. Yes, we did have some rusting on the hitch balls but it did not affect the connection or disconnection of the trailer or the towing.

Trailer coupling mechanism needs attention

What we did find is the trailer coupling mechanism needs to be inspected and lubricated periodically. This includes the top lever that brings the U-shaped connecter to the bottom of the ball hitch and the hinge at the U-shaped lateral piece. Again, in my opinion and experience, the ball typically does not get stuck or lodged to the trailer rounded hitch portion, rather the underlying connection piece.

However, an FAQ from etrailer.com states that it is a good idea to grease the ball hitch to prevent rust and make it easier to disconnect. They also sell the recommended grease.

My recommendation is to lubricate any moving parts of your hitch assembly with a quality lithium spray product. But, more importantly, make sure the components are connected properly and you have determined the weights on the hitch, the GVWR, and GAWR.

The hitch ball keeps coming loose

Which brings me to a question on your statement: “It’s not really too badly scarred but it keeps coming loose so I’m purchasing one that is welded to the arm.”

Typically the ball with threads goes through the hole in the receiver hitch and is secured with a lock washer and nut. If this is installed properly and tightened or “torqued”  properly, it should not come loose. My trailers have more than 125,000 miles per year and drive on rough construction sites and have never had a loose connection. However, since you are using a 2” ball, it might be a mismatch of the receiver hitch to the hitch classification. Here is a picture of different drop down receiver hitches.

It might not be easy to see, but there are different hole sizes for the various weight ratings. The heavier the towing classification, the larger hitch ball requirement and also the heavier or larger shaft with threads. It’s possible your slide-in hitch receiver is rated for a heavier towing capacity and your 2” ball has a smaller shaft/thread and is not the proper match. The shaft/thread should slide into the hole in the receiver hitch with very little movement or “slop”.

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Craig Magera
1 month ago

Just use a little bit of silicone caliper grease. You’ll never have a problem.

Mervyn Carr
1 month ago

A little trick I remember from my childhood days is to cut a hole in a tennis ball and slip that over the hitch when not in use. Gease the hitch as much as you want and no mess on clothes (or shins)

George Paniagua
1 month ago

Maintenance less expensive than repair (proper lube is good). To the subject of loose components, a stripe of paint along the receiver and ball nut will tell you, at a glance, if the nut is starting to back off. This works well on other components such as lug nuts, shackle hardware etc. If you want to be really trick, you can use thick paint and look for the crack in the paint.

Thomas D
1 month ago

Grease makes things move easier.
Remove the shin buster( I know it’s heavy) OR
put a plastic bag on the ball or an appropriate sized soup can and little bungee cord. No grease on clothes.

Rick Myers
1 month ago

For about 15 years I have been using “Slip Plate” (a dry film graphite lubricant that dries like paint) on the hitch ball and connector for my trailer with the 2″ ball. I also use it on all moving components of my “Pull Rite” sliding 5th wheel hitch. Have not had any issue with any of the hitch components and the best thing is NO MESS ! I spray it on about every 6 months.

Crowman
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Myers

Me too. If you go to a farm supply store or a John Deere tractor dealership they have a graphite spray they use on machinery that’s in a dusty environment like disks. Spray it on moving parts and you get the lube you want without wearing the grease every time you touch it.

Eddie
1 month ago

Lets put this in perspective. Take a fifth wheel hitch on a big truck and never grease the hitch. Soon it will get rusty and when you hook up and go down the road it will dramatically effect your steering. Grease the plate, steering improves. The hitch ball is just a smaller version so I say, grease the ball. When unhitched, walk around it, not over it and you won’t get greasy.

Tom
1 month ago

I found having the ball lubricant in place made hitching a little easier. If hitching solo, close to on center with the ball going into the hitch is much easier with the lubricant, it seems to slide into position. Granted, lubricant can be messy.

Bob P
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

I used to go through the back up and get out to look how close I am, now with a truck that has the back up camera it’s easy to get within a 1/2” of dead center and drop the coupler right on the ball. I never thought about back up cameras much until this one for lining up the ball/hitch, one of the good things the government has done.