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Should you grease up the hitch ball?

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 should you grease up the hitch ball to preserve the shiny chrome?

Is scraped-up chrome the only issue here?

photo: emerson12 on flickr.com

One RVer who for years declined to grease his hitch ball found — much to his chagrin and his finances — that the ungreased condition lead to such wearing of the trailer coupler that it had to be replaced. Not only was the coupler expensive, but he had to hire the work out to a welder — a considerable amount of cash out the window. He now describes himself as a “greaser,” to prevent such issues in the future.

On the other hand, you’ll find some RVers who disdain greasing hitch balls because, they contend, the grease attracts dirt and the dirt acts as a sort of sandpaper, chewing away at the hitch ball and the coupler.

What’s to be done?

“Definitely grease,” says a technical representative from PullRite Systems, a hitch manufacturer. In the company mind, a lubricated ball will allow for easier twisting and turning, and will discourage corrosion and damage.

Ah, but what about “grease attracts dirt”? True enough, but there are a couple of schools of thought on this. One says to simply grease your hitch ball, use it, then just prior to the next use, wipe it off with a rag and give it a new coat of grease. In the process the dirt is (hopefully) wiped away.

In this same vein, many RVers recommend not only putting a cover over the top of the hitch ball when not in use — thus keeping the dirt away — but also preventing a mess when someone brushes up against the ball. These same proponents also recommend covering the trailer coupler with a plastic bag when unhitched, keeping the dirt at bay. If you choose to grease the hitch ball, here is some highly rated lubricant on Amazon.

Is there an alternative to greasing the hitch ball?

The alternative to “grease attracts dirt” is to lubricate the ball with a dry graphite lubricant which, in itself, doesn’t attract dirt. A small tube of graphite powder such as “Tube-O-Lube” stores easily and can be coated onto the hitch ball quickly before use. You’ll probably have to clean any existing grease out of the coupler before you begin using graphite, or else you’ll have a mess of graphite and old grease on your shiny new hitch ball.

photo: emerson12 on flickr.com

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Dave J
10 months ago

To preclude stumbling over them I generally paint mine a bright white color. This also helps when hooking up at night as it shows up much better in the back up camera display.

Douglas Powell
10 months ago

The article focuses on the ball and socket connection – tongue trailer connection but does not address the torsion bar.  SAME Thing going on there. I pull a 5th wheel currently but when I had pulll trailers I lubed the ball and cleaned the socket and put a tennis ball on to protect the ball from destroying others cloathing (generally I removed the ball assembly from the receiver so I would not be the {bleeped} that destroyed peoples shins while they walked around my truck!! Anyway my torsion bars woud squeek terribly untill I had the ephiphany to clean and lube them as well. “A little Dab will do ya!” Stoped the squeaking and the wear instantly.

tim palmer
10 months ago

I have been towing my cargo and car hauler trailers for 20 years and no real sign of wear. I think a lot has to do with how much actual weight you have on the ball.
If you had 1500 lbs on the ball that would probably cause more of a wear issue than another trailer that maybe only had half that weight on the ball.

Michael
10 months ago

Funny how a trailer hitch and a prosthetic hip look a lot alike!!

It seems that everyone is focused on the ball and not the trailer. What are your thoughts about inserting a plastic insert (called a liner) into the trailer part of the hitch so it will move freely?
Check out the link below for an idea on what I am talking about.

Innovations in Total Hip Replacement — Mr Evert Smith MBBCh, BSc, FRCS — Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon in Bristol and London, UK (google.com)

Dennis
10 months ago

I have actually witnessed a dry ball and coupler gall together enough to loosen the ball.
I have a picture of a destroyed ball that should be used for this article that really shows what can happen without lubrication.

joe
10 months ago

I always put a film of grease on the ball before using, and once unhooked I put the rubber glove I use to unhook all attachment over it when done. use the glove to keep clean hands and able to use as a ball cover. Win Win.

Michael Roach
10 months ago

I use an Andersen weight distribution hitch for my TT and they specifically state not to use any type of grease on the hitch ball as that will inhibit the anti-sway properties of this hitch. I’m very happy with this set up.

Gary Vines
10 months ago
Reply to  Michael Roach

Ditto, so all situations are not the same.

Myron
10 months ago
Reply to  Gary Vines

Same here. Read Anderson’s own instructions and explanation. Greasing will significantly degrade its anti-sway performance; their explanation makes it obvious.

Myron
10 months ago
Reply to  Gary Vines

Same here. Andersen specifically states to not use any type of grease or other lubricant with their spring based hitch and weight distribution system. Doing so will significantly degrade its anti-sway performance and their videos make the reason clear. Have been using an Andersen WDS for 4 years; a great improvement over previous bar type system.

Rick
10 months ago

I have been using a graphite lubricant called Slip Plate for about 13 years on both my 5th wheel hitch components and the hitch ball and trailer hitch socket on pull behind trailers. It coats like paint and each application increases the thickness, I reapply when I start to see bare spots. It has worked very well for me and no greasy mess. I usually buy the spray can product from Napa Auto Parts but it is available from Pull Rite Hitches and Amazon as well.

daryl bortel
10 months ago

To cover the ball when not in use and keep the grease off of clothes etc, I took a small water bottle, cut in down , took a tennis ball and cut it to pop over the ball and put the water bottle section over the tennis ball. I also painted the water bottle section bright orange after hitting my knees on it. I worked for years. After removing it from the hitch ball, I simply put it over the ball on the hitch lock to store it.

terry rule
10 months ago
Reply to  daryl bortel

i use an old sock to prevent getting grease on clothing

Pete Karczmarczyk
10 months ago

I use waxed paper folded into fourths, and I’ve had no trouble doing that.

AJ
2 years ago

Question on this: I used a spray on graphite that stated it was specifically for hitches. The graphite was worn off the ball within a trip or a couple. Is that a sign that something is wrong w my setup, or it is customary to reapply often?

Ran
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ

Reapply often.

Bob P
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ

Graphite is not a once in a lifetime cure all, any time surfaces rub together any lubricant will wear off and need to be replaced. Lubricant is the sacrificial lamb, but it is much cheaper than replacing the surfaces it protects.