Once camping season hits, your trailer hitch will be in full use. However, a bit of tender loving care is needed if you want your hitch to deliver the same super performance you loved when you first used it.
Maintenance is one of the most critical aspects of owning a trailer hitch, and it’s not just to ensure you get value for your money but also for your safety.
In this guide, we will work you through some of the most effective trailer hitch maintenance tips and rust prevention.
Trailer Hitch Maintenance Tips
Keeping your hitch in the best condition would help ensure safer towing and longevity. Here are some maintenance tips that should boost the performance and extend the life of your hitch.
Greasing the Hitch Ball
Greasing the hitch with a compatible lubricant will reduce wear and tear on the hitch with every use.
With less debris and rust to worry about, you won’t have to be concerned about a squeaky connection whenever you use the tow hitch.
Take your time to add a thin layer of good quality grease on the hitch ball’s sphere which would allow the mating coupler to spin easily and reduce water on the ball. This does improve the hitch performance overall.
Ensure Proper Height Alignment Before Towing
When you first connect the trailer to the hitch or whenever you’re about to tow, it is important to ensure that the trailer is being towed in a level position.
If anything otherwise happens, it will place stress on the hitch ball which would accelerate wear and tear. This would also hinder your ability to maintain control of the trailer during heavy braking conditions.
Ensure Proper Alignment While Towing
When towing your trailer, it is important that it is aligned so it can be towed straight. The axle of your trailer should be aligned parallel to your vehicle axle while driving.
if this doesn’t happen the trailer will be pulling and dragging toward one side. This places more pressure on the tires and could lead to excessive tire wear.
This will also put more stress on the hitch ball and make it wear out faster.
Avoid Exceeding the Limits of The Towing system
Overloading the towing system is very dangerous and can lead to the disconnection of the trailer from the vehicle.
If this is done consistently, it can lead to early wearing out of the ball. Avoid towing heavy loads regularly and if you have to tow something close to the capacity of the hitch, it is better to upgrade to a higher-capacity hitch.
Hitch Rust Maintenance and Prevention
Hitch rust is a common occurrence when your hitch is exposed to oxygen and moisture.
Corrosion is most likely to occur when you go camping or do other outdoor activities that leave the hitch exposed to the elements and could make them rust with time.
Hitch rust prevention and maintenance could help your hitch last a lot longer and maintain the same first-time-use performance.
All hitches come powder coated to protect them from the elements but you still need to work to ensure they’re actually free of rust.
Receiver Hitch Rust Prevention
To prevent rust in the receiver hitch, follow the tips below
- Use a non-solvent-based product to add an extra layer of protection to the receiver hitch and receiver opening from rust-causing agents like debris and moisture.
- Get a hitch cover to prevent water and dirt from entering the receiver.
While the powder or zinc coat on the hitch will provide long-term protection, it will eventually wear off with continuous use.
This is most common in areas like the hitch pin holes which see frequent use and friction. This causes the coat to wear quickly, exposing the steel.
If water gets in contact with these areas and is allowed to sit, it will corrode the metal and cause rust.
Ball Mount Rust Prevention
To prevent rust from the ball mount, you should always remove the ball mount when not in use and store indoors away from corrosive weather.
The ball mount is designed to connect the trailer ball to the receiver hitch. If it is not removed, the ball mount vibration could erode the protective coating and cause rust to form inside the receiver tube.
Hitch Ball Rust Prevention
For preventing rust in the hitch ball, follow the steps below
- Use ball grease on the hitch ball to protect it from the elements and wear during use
- Use a ball cover to protect the hitch ball when not in use
The hitch ball is the most exposed part of the hitch and would take on the brute of friction-related use and the harsh elements of the weather.
Applying ball grease reduces wear and tear while removing the ball does prevent any effects due to harsh weather conditions.
You can also choose to leave the ball in the mount but be sure to apply ball grease when it’s not in use.
Trailer Hitch Rust Maintenance
If your trailer hitch is already showing signs of rust, there are several ways to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the hitch. You could also control the rust to still maintain the same super performance of the hitch.
Receiver Hitch Rust Maintenance
To prevent your receive hitch from being completely taken over by rust, follow the tips below.
- Check for corrosion or wear around the hitch pin hold and receiver opening.
- If you find any exposed metal, cover it with a rust-stopping paint
- Always use a hitch cover to prevent dirt and water from getting inside the hitch.
You should always check for spots that have won on the powder coating of the hitch. If you find any, cover them immediately with rust-stopping paint.
If you already find rust, you need to use a rust remover to get rid of the rust before applying the paint. Do not paint over rust as this will not stop the corrosion.
Ball Mount Rust Maintenance
A rusted ball mount could be problematic and make it tougher to use the hitch with time.
If it rust continues, the hitch could get stuck and would have to be replaced. To prevent ball mount rust from progressing, follow the steps below
- Clear out existing rust using a rust remover
- With the rust out, you need to apply rust-resistant paint to the newly exposed metal
- When not in use, you should take the ball amount from the trailer system and store it indoors.
You should always inspect the ball mount for dents and spots which indicate that the ball mount has started to show signs of wear and tear, causing the metal underneath to be exposed.
Then you can apply the rust-resistant paint to prevent the rust from spreading.
Guide to Remove Rusted or Stuck Trailer Hitch
If you notice that your trailer hitch is completely rusted and stuck or the ball mount is rusted beyond repair, you will have to remove them from the trailer hitch.
This can be a tedious task but with a few tools, you can get it done in a matter of minutes.
You will need a can of WD-40 or some rust-protectant lube and a rubber hammer.
Your attention should be focused on the ball mount and the hitch receiver which is the most likely cause of the stuck trailer hitch.
What you need to do is apply a dose of WD-40 to the affected area. Using the small straw, you should be able to apply the liquid properly, even in those hard-to-reach areas.
Once applied, you need to wait for a minute or two before using the rubber hammer to knock it loose.
When doing so, you need to strike all the sides of the ball amount at several angles to get it to lose.
Once it’s free, you only need to pull it out or gently tap it out using the hammer. You should avoid hitting the ball directly with the hammer to prevent damage to the ball.
You need to focus on the ball mount rather than the ball itself.
Following the general trailer hitch maintenance guide, you shouldn’t have any problems with your hitch for years to come.
Rust remains the biggest problem to worry about. By starting rust prevention early enough you won’t have to worry about rust maintenance for a while.
When that time comes, you can use the tips above to stop the spread and keep the trailer hitch system rust-free.