Trailer hitch balls can be greased. Many trailer owners are unsure of what maintenance needs to be done on the trailer hitch ball if any at all. But since it is in direct contact with metal, it can benefit from greasing.
The trailer hitch ball is impacted by erosion and reduced tolerances due to metal to metal contact. It is why grease can be one of the most efficient measures taken to maintain the trailer ball or coupler in good condition for longer.
Is There a Problem with Greasing a Hitch Ball?
The ongoing debate on greasing a hitch ball seems to be gaining popularity. Many RV owners are simply unsure on the path to take. Some people use grease while others don’t. But it is crucial to understand why you might use grease yourself.
When you first use the ball, it is shiny and possibly chromed. In time, you will see surface-level and deep scratches on the ball. Due to direct metal-to-metal contact, the trailer hitch ball and coupler can see these type of scratches.
One of the main arguments of those who do not use grease comes with dirt attraction. Since regular grease can attract dirt, you might be tempted to stay away from it. However, I would recommend using a dry graphite lubricant. This solution has worked great when it comes to keeping dirt away.
A good tip when applying this type of grease is to simply ensure you properly wipe out the old grease first. Since you might have even used regular grease from around the house, this step is crucial.
Another practical tip is to simply put a cover on top of the hitch ball when not in use. Instead of leaving it open to the elements, you are protecting the grease from all types of impurities which can cause metal damage in time.
Another issue which seems to benefit the durability of the hitch ball comes with moisture. During a few rainy months of the year, moisture can corrode the hitch ball metal. Grease can be one of the solutions for this purpose.
However, immediate benefits are seen with noise. Since I had to deal with quite a lot of noise from the metal to metal contact, grease proved to be a simple and affordable solution to considerably diminish this noise while traveling.
Will Rust on Trailer Ball Affect Its Performance?
If you are wondering about rust and its influence on performance, you probably already have some degree of rust on your trailer hitch ball. But the lifetime of the hitch ball is where you will find the right answer. If it has developed rust only for a few months, you may still be able to use it.
However, if the trailer hitch ball has been rusted for years, it may actually be unsafe to use. It is why I would not count on such a hitch ball with considerable rust damage over time.
If you are at the stage where rust damage has been considerable over long periods of time, it is safer to look for a new trailer hitch ball. If you’ve just purchased a new hitch ball, it is best to use some type of grease to keep rust away. Especially important if you live in areas with high humidity, this solution is actually applicable for most RV owners. The grease immediately reduces friction, which can be one of the root causes of rust.
Quality grease will not break down. It will stay on the hitch ball for longer and it will protect the metal surface from rust. Made with paraffin and other non-toxic ingredients, grease can help you delay break down which is typical over time.
How to Grease a trailer Hitch Ball?
You can grease the trailer hitch ball on your own. I’ve used the Reese Towpower 58117 lube which has proven efficient. But there are a few tips to consider if you want to get the job done properly.
For example, if you are switching from one grease product to another, you need to wipe the hitch ball clean before applying the new grease.
If your hitch ball has signs of rust, you can try removing it with sandpaper if it is not chrome. But if you are a regular RV fan purchasing your first trailer hitch ball, you can apply grease immediately as a best practice measure. At this point, you can leave the hitch ball in its position, cover it or even remove it and place it indoors to protect it from moisture.
One of the simplest methods I’ve used to protect the new hitch ball was simply placing a plastic bag over it. Keeping rain and dust away is easy. So how much grease should you use? This would depend on the type of grease you plan to use. At the same time, it would also involve placing enough grease to cover the entire surface of the hitch ball. Since grease is non-toxic, you can apply it directly with your fingers for an even coverage.
Another important characteristic to consider comes with water-resistant grease. In this case, people are tempted to simply leave the hitch ball open to the elements, but covering it while not in use may still be a good idea.
How Often Should I Grease My Hitch Ball?
As a general recommendation, greasing the hitch ball can be useful whenever its even distribution has been disrupted. In other words, when there is diminishing or no grease left on the hitch ball, you can wipe it clean and reapply grease liberally.
Another good time to apply grease is before leaving on a holiday. Since you are more likely to make all RV checks at this stage, it is also recommended to apply some grease before driving away. This will protect the hitch ball when needed the most.
Hitch Ball Grease Alternatives
Grease alternatives were on my mind when I got it on my clothes. It seemed that whenever I wanted to simply handle the hitch ball I would get grease on my clothes and removing it completely afterward proved impossible. So I managed to test a few alternatives
The Tennis Ball Method
Cutting an X into an old tennis ball, I placed the greased inside. I then put the ball over the hitch ball, twisting for an even coating. This simple method required no direct contact with grease. If you have pets or children, keeping the tennis ball away from their reach is recommended. If you want to store it in a safe place, you can simply place the greasy tennis ball in a zipper bag and into storage.
The Paintbrush Method
Using an old paint brush, you can apply the grease evenly without it having to touch your hands. Make sure you keep the brush in a container to avoid creating a mess.
If for some reason these methods do not work for you, there are a few alternatives which can be less messy. For example, using a solid candle you can try to coat the hitch ball. This will create some mess but it will be easier to deal with when compared to grease. A mix of soap and water can also be used with the same purpose.
Other alternatives might even include using motor oil. But for the best results, especially when it comes to durable grease, you can use the Reese Towpower 58117 for a more even coating. If you find that you want to protect your pants from the grease when being around the hitch ball, you can simply keep it covered with a plastic bag.
But regardless of the type of grease, oil or used application method, you can always work with a dry paper towel nearby. Protective gloves can also be recommended if you want to avoid contact completely. A few RV owners use lithium grease. It comes in tubes, squeezing tubes or in sprays and it represents a more convenient method of greasing the hitch ball. If you decide to try the spray version yourself, you should also ensure you fully read its instructions and keep the grease away from heat sources for safety reasons.
Greasing your trailer hitch ball may still be something many RV owners are not willing to do. It is not recommended by all hitch ball manufacturers but it can be one of the most cost-effective methods to keep the hitch ball in good working condition with no rust in time.
Modern grease products are made with non-toxic ingredients and they can be applied at home. With a low price and easy application, it represents a simple solution to avoid minor or major scratches or to keep rust away. But for the best results, it is recommended to start applying it straight away, from the moment you purchase your trailer hitch ball. Applying grease on rusted hitch balls will have limited or no benefits at all, especially if rust has been present for a few years.