Anyone with a travel trailer has been accosted by the dreaded hitch ball squeak. That high-pitched grinding and squealing is enough to send any trailer owner racing to the back of their tow vehicle to check that the world is not coming to an end.
Hitch ball squeaks happen when the thin metal on the ball on the tow vehicle’s hitch wears away. This is due to the regular motion and turning of the trailer coupler (the part that goes over the ball) over the hitch ball. Over time and without lubrication, the ball will wear out as will the ball socket on the trailer coupler.
Much of the time, the squeak happens when traveling over unlevel ground, over speed bumps, and over dusty and rocky roads. Keeping the ball regularly lubricated is the best way to keep both the coupler and the ball from early retirement and the dreaded squeak.
Manufacturers and trailer experts agree that most greases will work, but high friction greases work the best. By the way, if you use weight distribution bars, make sure the squeak is not coming from them. They may need to be adjusted or tightened.
1. Reese Hitch Ball Lube
One of the best products to use for hitch balls is a product made just for them. Reese Hitch Ball Lube comes in both a tub and a small tube. The lube is made of petroleum, so breakdown of the product is reduced. The lube is non-toxic and reduces friction between the ball and the coupler.
2. Valvoline General Purpose Grease
If you want a product that pulls double or triple duty, pick up a container of Valvoline General Purpose Grease. It is made for chassis and wheel-bearing lubrication, but can also be used for hitch balls. It is water-resistant and lubricates at temperatures ranging from -10F to 400F.
3. Permatex White Lithium Grease
One of the issues with bearing or hitch grease is that it can be really messy. They can also leave black marks on your hands and clothing. White Lithium Grease by Permatex is an off-white creamy grease that works on any metal-to-metal connection. It stands up to heat and moisture and protects against rust. The grease can also be used on squeaky doors, cabinet hinges, and sticky latches.
4. Soap and wax
If you don’t like the idea of using petroleum products or grease on your hitch ball (and your hands), there are some good old household products that you can use. Some trailer owners use dish soap (applied regularly), wax from old candles, or pieces of inexpensive wax paper. Sandwich a piece of wax paper between the ball and the coupler and replace it after every trip.
5. Ball covers
A preventive way to protect your hitch ball from corrosion and the elements is to cover it when it is not being used to tow a trailer. Hitch ball covers come in a variety of shapes and materials, primarily rubber.
Some are in the shapes of animals or hobbies so they can also be a fun way to decorate your trailer. To keep it cheap and easy, take an old tennis ball, cut a slit in it and place it over your hitch ball.