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!