Planning to tug your boat or trailer for an upcoming vacation? Before you get behind the wheels, however, make sure that your vehicle's towing accessories are in good shape. A component you shouldn't forget to give some TLC during a routine maintenance before the trip is the hitch ball. After all, this part is what connects your hitch and the trailer. Made from high-grade steel, this ball provides a secure trailing mount while allowing enough movement for a smoother towing experience. To make sure the ball won't suddenly break down while on the road, here are some maintenance tips:
1. Lube the ball.
Whether the ball is made of stainless steel, aluminum, or is powder coated or zinc plated, it will eventually wear out after years of use. This is why it's important to grease the ball whenever you're about to use the tow. Just before a trip, apply a generous amount on the ball. A good dose of grease will result in a smoother pivot as the ball rotates within the coupler and can protect the ball from rust. Regularly applying lubrication will also ensure a longer-lasting ball even if this part isn't in use.
2. Fix rusty patches ASAP.
Whenever you see small patches of corrosion on the ball, fix them as soon as possible to prevent corrosion from getting worse. To get rid of corrosion, apply some lubricant or penetrating oil to loosen the rust. Then grab a wire brush and scrub the ball until all traces of rust are removed.
3. Keep it covered.
Investing in a hitch ball cover is also a good idea because this accessory is designed to protect the ball from damaging elements while in storage. It also effectively prevents the grease from rubbing off whenever the ball is not in use.
4. Use the right size of hitch ball.
If you're planning to replace a severely worn out ball, make sure you get the right size. Using a ball with the wrong diameter can lead in the separation of the ball and coupler or ball malfunction. This is dangerous especially if you're on the road.
5. Never exceed your towing accessories' capacity.
To keep not just the ball but all the towing accessories in top shape, never go beyond your towing assembly's load limits. Doing so will lead premature wear and tear.
6. Replace worn out couplers, hitches, and ball mounts.
Because the hitch ball won't function without the right coupler, hitch, and ball mount, you need to replace these components once they show signs of wear and tear. Keep in mind that a rusty, dented, and misaligned mount, hitch, or coupler will prevent the ball from securely connecting the hitch to the trailer even if the ball is brand new.
7. Don't over-tighten the ball shank's nut.
When tightening the nut that threads through the ball shank, make sure you follow the manufacturer's torque specifications. An overly or poorly tightened nut will put too much or too little pressure on the ball and other supporting components, leading to premature damage.
8. Attach only the appropriate accessories on the hitch ball.
Whatever type of towing vehicle you use, the only parts that should be attached to the ball is the ball mount and the receiver hitch. Never directly attach other components such as a rope or safety chain onto the ball because the ball isn't designed to handle pressure and force from these parts.