Why Should You Grease A Trailer Ball?
When you buy a trailer ball from the store, it has never been used before, so it is shiny and new and looks great riding on the back of your truck’s bumper. However, as it is exposed to the elements over time, an ungreased trailer ball can begin to rust and deteriorate. If you have ever seen a rusted ball on the back of your buddy’s pickup, you know how important it is to add a touch of grease every now and then.
Grease Inhibits Rust
An application of new grease can act as a barrier between the trailer ball and the elements. The lubricant acts to repel dirt and grime, causing rust buildup. It extends the life of the ball by preventing the corrosive elements of the environment from attacking and deteriorating the metal.
Grease Makes Coupling and Uncoupling Easier
The movement of towing creates friction between the trailer coupler and the ball. The heat of the coupling tends to fuse the two metals together, making it harder to break the connection when it comes time to disconnect the trailer. Adding grease can be a heat reducer..
Grease Helps Keep the Noise Down
A rusty trailer hitch ball will start to squeak or make noises when the coupler shifts. While a squeak every now and then is normal, it can be annoying if it happens every time you go over the slightest bump in the road. Greasing your trailer hitch ball and trailer coupler will keep this effect to a minimum.
Grease Helps With Towing
When you are towing, friction and heat occur from the stress forces involved. RV owners will have less problems when the hitch ball rotates more freely. When there is a layer of lubrication between the ball and the coupler, both the trailer and the ball mounts can do the job they are intended to do.
What Kind Of Lubricant Is Best?
A dry graphite lubricant is best to use on hitch balls. One of the disadvantages of slapping “wet” grease to a trailer ball is that the lubricant attracts dirt and debris, which you do not want on a new trailer hitch ball. To avoid this, most trailer outlets will recommend a lithium grease spray like WD-40. This action is an effective deterrent, is easy to keep off of your hands, and will make coating the entire surface much more manageable.
How Often Should I Grease the Trailer Ball?
A general rule of thumb is to grease your hitch two to three times a year. Most RV owners/operators reapply dry lubricants every spring and fall or before a long towing trip. (You don’t have to grease hitch balls every time you tow). If you apply grease, ensure that you wipe the hitch ball clean before applying the new coating.
Should I Apply Rust If My Trailer Ball is Already Rusted?
Rust is an indication that deterioration is occurring. While this doesn’t mean that the trailer ball isn’t functional, it can be a sign that you shouldn’t tow with it. Under the circumstances, you might just want to purchase a new hitch ball and use it. Adding a layer of lubricant on top of a layer of rust doesn’t prevent rust, it just traps it onto the hitch ball. .
Are There Other Alternatives To Grease?
There are alternative options, but they are not as effective as dry lubricant. Some owners have had luck with motor oil, or using the wax of a solid candle. (It makes a mess, but it works if you are in a pinch). Whatever kind of alternative lubricant you use, be sure that it is non-toxic and safe for metal contact.
How To Grease A Hitch Ball
There are a couple of steps that you want to do if you decide to grease your hitch ball.
Wipe off Any Residue Grease or Debris
If there is a little bit of old grease or dirt, remove it to expose the metal of the ball. A small amount of surface rust is acceptable, but if the whole ball is rusted, it is best to replace it.
Apply Grease Liberally
Spray the dry lubricant or rub the grease all over the hitch ball. Some grease comes in a container and solid form, so don’t be afraid to get your fingers in it. Just wipe your hands and wash them after applying the new layer.
Store Grease in a Safe Place
You can store the can or container lubricant in a safe location. Most grease is made of chemicals that are flammable, so keep it stored in a dry spot away from heat sources.
Should I Keep My Trailer Ball Covered?
Keeping a trailer ball covered is not a substitute for not applying grease, even though there is an ongoing debate about it. However, a cover like a cut tennis ball is a good idea in between tows to protect the hitch ball from corrosion. (I have a buddy who uses a plastic bag with a rubber band).
Covers will extend the lifespan of trailer hitch balls. Your local trailer store will sell you a trailer ball hitch cover, or you can order online to make a statement every time you drive down the road. You can always remove the ball mount from the tow vehicle in between tows should you wish to do so.