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Alternatives 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.

Is scraped-up chrome the only issue here? 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.

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. If you prefer something that will stick around a little longer, try something like Blaster Graphite Dry Lube, also sold on Amazon. It’s a spray with an ingredient that makes the graphite cling to the sprayed surfaces more readily than just loose graphite powder.

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.

One other note: Some pundits in the recreational boating field will warn you to NOT use graphite lube on a BOAT trailer hitch ball. They say (correctly) that it’s an electrical conductor, and could set up real electrolysis problems. We dunno – we just RV people! 

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Travelingjw
11 days ago

Simple solution. I grease the ball and then wipe it off everytime I unhitch. No big deal. Paper towels and garbage bag in the storage area. Less than 10 seconds.

crowman
1 year ago

John Deere tractor makes a graphite spray for farm implements used in dusty environments that I’ve used for 20 years that working as good as grease without the mess. It’s at their dealerships store which are all over and I’m sure you can find it online. As far as being an electrical conductor on a boat trailer here’s a little info, 90 percent of boat trailer lights are grounded through the ball so the graphite is a plus.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  crowman

What’s the white wire on a 4 pin trailer wiring harness? The ground wire!

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

Just before I retired from trucking, I filled a Tupperware container with “fifth-wheel grease” and use that on our hitch – all the time. I apply it with a cheapo Costco rubber glove, then throw it away. It doesn’t take much. No mess. When we’re unhooked I place a more expensive Harbor Freight black glove over the hitch and wrap a Velcro strip around the bottom to keep dust and dirt out. Seems to work fine. That glove is reusable.

I still have to try to remember not to walk into the hitch . . .

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

At 79 that’s the hard part! Lol

Keira B
3 years ago

There are a number of other lubricants out there that do not collect dirt. Go to any mountain bike shop and ask what they use to lube chains, like White Lightning or Finish Line. Or go to home depot and get some Dry Lube, or WD-40 Bike lube at WalMart, or 3 in 1 Dry Lube, or one of the Teflon Dry Lubes like the one made by Dupont.
Graphite is for light duty applications like locks, and is quite messy. Trailer hitch balls are not a light duty application.
I have only been using the dry lubes for about 15 years, but so far they keep the ball pretty smooth, and they don’t get a bunch of dirt in there grinding away at your chrome ball.
If you are going to clean your hitch after using regular grease, you need to clean the ball, which is pretty easy. But then you need to clean the cup that the ball fits into on the trailer end of the hitch. Not so easy! Getting all the old dirty grease out of the hitch is a b**ch.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Keira B

WD40 is oil based and will collect dirt.

Paul
3 years ago

My father in law who was a mechanic always used Vaseline instead of anything else to grease the ball of his camper. It may not last as long as regular grease, but it is water soluble. So if you happen to get any on your pant leg or any other clothing it will wash out.

TerryT
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul

I use Vaseline, also, but it not water soluble.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  TerryT

You’re right if you read the label it is petroleum based.

Vanessa Simmons
3 years ago

Who cares if the hitch ball is shiny?? Such a strange concern.

Bob p
1 month ago

I have a stainless steel hitch ball that’s covered with nasty grease that I simply use a sandwich bag, not the zip lock kind, over the ball. It is form fitting, keeps the dirt out, and when I’m ready to tow it pulls off without a mess leaving a film of grease still on the ball usually I refresh the grease coating about every third time I use it. But no one is speaking of the coupler, how to protect the trailer coupler which has grease up inside it that collects wind blown dust. I use a simple clean rag wrapped around it and held in place by the little bungee cords that a about 6-7 inches long with hooks on each end. I’ve never owned a travel trailer 40 years so I can’t speak to the longevity of my way of doing it, but I have been doing this for over 40 years. Lol

Don
3 years ago

That looks interesting!

Frank Dajnowicz
3 years ago
Reply to  Don

I have used the same ball since 2013.

Carson Axtell
3 years ago

I like it! Thanks for the heads-up. Definitely worth a look…

Wolfe
3 years ago

Im a strong proponent of a tight hitch ball cover. Ball stays greased and 90% dirtless, and no mess on my shins from walk-bys.

Additionally I put a new blob in the top of the cover before replacement. Each time I re-cover, any dirt is incrementally carried out with old grease, and wiped away when much collects.

Zil
3 years ago

And a metal to metal hitch is not a electrical connection?

Wolfe
3 years ago
Reply to  Zil

I believe the theory is dissimilar metals with an acid between them. When voltage is applied, some metal can be transferred by electrolysis. That theory said, I don’t think it’s a significant issue overall. Sand in your grease is a much bigger “threat”…

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