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Around the Campfire: To grease or not to grease a trailer’s hitch ball?

To grease or not to grease a trailer’s hitch ball? That was the question around the campfire a few nights ago. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about greasing the trailer’s hitch ball and were eager to share in the discussion.

A “newbie’s” question

Conner, a “newbie,” is confused. The issue? Do you grease the trailer hitch ball on a travel trailer or not? The dealership told Conner that grease wasn’t necessary. Conner’s dad disagreed. “If you plan to keep your hitch from rusting, you better be sure to grease it.” What to do? Two conflicting directives offer opposing advice. Conner didn’t know what to think.

No grease necessary

A long-time RVer chimed in first: “I have driven an RV for 40 years and never put a spot of grease on any hitch ball. Never had a problem either.”

“Same goes for me,” Mitch added. “Most of the time you’re driving straight, pulling the trailer. There’s just no need to grease it up.”

The moms around the campfire really liked the idea of not greasing the hitch ball, as well. They told horror stories about kids and dogs who accidentally rub against the greased ball. “It makes a terrible mess, both outside and inside the RV.” Yikes!

“Doesn’t the grease just attract dirt and grime?” wondered another no-grease proponent. “I think that might just make matters worse.”

Other campers suggested that a stainless-steel hitch ball would not require grease because it will not rust.

Some RVers mentioned that when not in use they covered the hitch ball with a tennis ball to keep out moisture. Other folks remove the entire hitch and store it in a dry place when not traveling in their RV. Eliminating exposure to direct moisture (rain) and humidity seemed to help reduce rust or corrosion. All without grease!

Yes, grease the hitch ball

It didn’t take long for differing viewpoints to confuse Connor, our “newbie,” even more. “If you want your hitch ball to last, you’ve got to protect it. Grease does that best,” a mechanic at the campfire offered.

Here are additional opinions folks gave for keeping the hitch ball greased:

  • It prevents rust and corrosion, which can eventually degrade the hitch ball.
  • Grease prevents heat buildup on the ball.
  • Applying grease will keep the hitch ball from squeaking when turning the RV.
  • A greased hitch ball will last longer than one that is not greased.
  • Even stainless steel is prone to galling when there is friction under high pressure from a heavy load (like towing an RV). Grease can help reduce galling.

What’s the answer?

I’m not sure Connor found a definitive answer to his query: “Should I grease my trailer hitch ball?” But an alternative was proposed: wax paper. RVers towing lightweight trailers said they folded up a square of waxed paper to make four layers. They placed the waxed paper over the ball then hitched up as usual. This greaseless alternative is said to last two days or so before you’ll need to replace the waxed paper. Hmm. That certainly doesn’t cost much. And it’s much less messy, too. But does it really work? If you’ve tried it, let us know in the comments.

Folks around the campfire wondered why manufacturers do not recommend greasing the hitch ball. Is it because grease really isn’t necessary? Or is it because manufacturers want the ungreased hitches to wear out sooner so that they can sell more hitches? Good questions!



Greasing procedure

  • Inspect. Check for rust, corrosion, or any deformities in the hitch ball. If you have damage you should replace the hitch ball.
  • Clean. Make sure the hitch ball is free of dirt, grease, and/or rust. (If there is only a small amount of rust you may be able to remove it with sandpaper.)
  • Apply. Be sure to liberally apply the lubricant to all sides of the hitch ball. You may want to use a glove for easier cleanup. (This is the lubricant RVtravel.com recommends.)
  • Protect. It’s best to cover the hitch ball when not in use. This will keep out any dust and debris. A cover, like a plastic bag, will also protect kids and animals from getting any lubricant on themselves.
  • Check often. Every time you hook or unhook your trailer up, check your hitch.

What do you think? Do you grease your trailer’s hitch ball? Tell us in the comments below.

 Another look at this subject 

Alternartives to hitch ball grease

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A new hitch ball is often bright, shiny and chromed. But many RVers have been much dismayed, on lifting the hitch coupler off the new ball after the first use, that the chrome is scratched and scarred. What happened? Metal-to-metal contact can scrape off that shiny chrome and things are never the same. So what to do?

RELATED

##RVT1059

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Zeke Mcfartly
10 days ago

I use an old sock, cut short to protect the ball. Keeps the ball lubricated, without making a mess.

Bryan
10 days ago

I have pulled horse, boat and cargo trailers. I tow a travel trailer, now. I grease the hitch coupler. It helps to keep the lock mechanism from getting stiff and to lock it down on the ball. I have never greased a hitch ball. BTW, have you ever rented a U-Haul trailer. No one has ever greased the hitch ball on my truck. Or recommended to do it!

Bob Walter
11 days ago

Grease protects the coupler – the most expensive part. The ball us super strong and wears very little.

Gene Cheatham
1 month ago

Seems to me to be a no brainer. From an engineering perspective if greasing load bearing metal surfaces wasn’t necessary there’s a bunch of points on your car or truck that would not have lubricant – believe me they would not if it weren’t needed as it would save $ in material and time. I use the proper ball/pin grease to handle the pressures exerted on the parts.

Steve
1 month ago

I like to lubricate my tow ball lightly with grease or petrolleum jelly as you would with any moving metal parts. Whether you say there a lot of straight pulling on the ball or not you still have constant up and down movement.. I also rotate the tow ball from time to time to eleviate spot ware and inspect for any cracking. Wipe tow ball regulary and apply fresh grease because grease attracts dust which will act as a grinding paste

Mark
1 month ago

First stainless steel rusts not as fast as regular steel but it will rust a little not a lot of grease

David Merritt
1 month ago

Always grease your ball it will last alot longer otherwise friction will wear out the ball and socket.

David
1 month ago

Make sure you still have lights after greasing your ball. Many trailers run the ground for the lights through the hitch-ball contact. In fact, in some cases the lights do not work until a new ball is a bit scratched up.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  David

What rock are you living under? The last time I saw a trailer being grounded through the hitch was around 1965. What do you think the white wire on a trailer wiring plug is for?

Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

What rock you living under my car trailer grounds thru the ball the dealer says. My lights come on bright after I’m moving

Zeke Mcfartly
10 days ago
Reply to  David

Seriously, brother? That might be a little old school

Ray
1 month ago

I would say it depends on the hitch. Personally, I use the Andersen WDH. It specifically states in the owners manual use no grease on the ball. There’s a good reason for it. The ball is a tapered pin inserted in a collar lined with a friction material. More tongue weight the more sway control. Any grease gets in that it would be like putting grease on your vehicle brakes.

Danny King
1 month ago

Metal to metal requires lubrication for longevity. You put oil in your crankcase right? You can always clean the hitch ball off when not in use if you don’t like the mess. I always do and apply fresh grease each time. If your ground is through the hitch then you need to run a separate ground to your tow vehicle.

eric
1 month ago

With a 10,000 Lb. trailer using an equalizing hitch, the pressure on the ball is very high. No lube of some sort is going to cause galling very quickly. That trailer weight requires a 2-5/16 ball. I’ve seen smaller hitch balls which have the top half made out of Delrin, a self-lubricating hard plastic. If someone made those in 2-5/16″, I’d definitely try one.

D. Smith
1 month ago

I grease the hitch ball, the ends of the torsion bars where they go up into the hitch and the ball on each end of the sway bar.

Jo Pa
1 month ago

Metal to metal…Grease it!

steve durham
1 month ago

Any grease is better than no grease.
Same with motor oil

Any oil better than none!

Ron
1 month ago

Yes definitely with dry lube.

Carl S.
1 month ago

Grease if you want to, but it’s unnecessary. I’ve never greased a ball or coupler and I’ve never had any problems. Same as my father.

James
1 month ago

Oh yeah grease, cause you’re going to have it for a very long time. NOT.

Terry
1 month ago

Saw a fifth wheel 40′ trailer blocking an intersection in Quartzsite last year because he used one of those rings to lubricate. Don’t lube your hitch ball and coupler and pay the piper when it fails. And a boat and trailer do not normally weigh as much as a travel trailer.

Tony from TN
10 days ago
Reply to  Terry

We’ve used the same plastic spacer on the hitch of our 5er for over 7 years and more than 21,000 miles. It’s still in great shape and the hitch still has the paint on the top of the plate so obviously the disc has reduced the friction to a minimum.

Randy
1 month ago

No absolutely not. It is totally unnecessary. When I was young I thought that I should grease the ball hitch. So I did. After hooking up to my horse trailer I noticed the lights didn’t work. Come to find out….the lights grounded through the trailer hitch. If you consider how “Thick ” a ball hitch is, you will come to realize that it will outlast you. Don’t worry about greasing it!

David_A_J
1 month ago
Reply to  Randy

Hey, Randy, I am puzzled by your grounding comment. Wouldn’t the chains from your trailer to your trailer hitch also ground the trailer?

Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Randy

Your trailer lights should have a ground wire connected to your tow vehicle and trailer and connected through the trailer plug. Never trust a hitch to ball connection, poor grounds cause many problems. The fact that you lost your ground after greasing the ball tells me that the thin film of grease is doing what it’s supposed to.

Manimal
1 month ago

To grease or not to grease that is the question.

I say the answer is simple. Just look at a Tractor Trailer’s 5th wheel. that thing is greased too heck and back.

Randy
1 month ago
Reply to  Manimal

Yes, you grease fifth wheel plates but not ball hitches.

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