Hitch Maintenance to do Every Spring
Get Your Hitch Ready for the Season
It’s nearly camping season again! That means it’s almost time to start preparing your rig for a summer full of adventures. As domestic RVing and camping increases in popularity, more and more folks need to learn the appropriate hitch maintenance to do every spring.
This maintenance is so important to your safety if you tow a travel trailer or fifth wheel behind a truck. It’s also critical for any RV owners that tow a smaller vehicle or hitch-mounted rack or carrier behind their rig.
In this guide, we’re going to provide some brief and straightforward steps for spring trailer hitch maintenance. Add these items to your annual checklist when it’s time to prepare your camper for another season of travel.
A Thorough Visual Inspection
The perfect place to start is with a general visual inspection of your trailer hitch. Some things to look for include rust, missing components, exposed metal, and cracks. Note anything that you find, as it will guide the appropriate maintenance steps you’ll take.
Please note your visual inspection should include your hitch ball, hitch receiver, hitch pin, locking pin, ball mount, and the tongue of your trailer itself. It’s also a good idea to peek underneath your towing vehicle to make sure the towing package that’s welded onto your vehicle hasn’t become compromised in any way since you last inspected it.
In the automotive industry, ‘R&R’ stands for remove and replace. It’s a common term used by mechanics when they identify a part on your car (or, in this case, your trailer) that is no longer operating as it should.
When it comes to trailer hitch maintenance, removing and replacing your hitch is recommended every spring. This is especially important if you left your hitch attached to your towing vehicle all winter long.
This step will help you check that your hitch isn’t corroded into your hitch receiver. Naturally, your trailer hitch should have a minimal amount of play even when it’s secured into your hitch receiver. A lack of play can be too much stress on both the hitch and hitch receiver when you’re towing your rig.
If you notice excessive rust or corrosion on your hitch when you perform your visual inspection, you can clean it up pretty easily. One of our favorite methods is to use a store-bought rust remover in combination with medium-grit sandpaper. You can also use an electric-powered sander if you choose, but be careful not to remove the paint from the ball mount or hitch receiver.
While removing rust, you might as well address all of the components of your trailer hitch. This will ensure a proper fit between your ball mount and hitch receiver, as well as your hitch ball and the tongue of your trailer or weight distribution hitch.
Addressing Exposed Metal
If you find any exposed metal on the outside of your ball mount or hitch receiver, it’s a good idea to add a layer of powder-coated paint to cover it. Most of the best trailer hitches come with an exterior powder coating because it minimizes the accrual of rust and corrosion over the life of the hitch.
When bare metal is exposed, rust and corrosion are much more likely to affect your trailer hitch. So make sure to paint over any exposed metal with rust-resistant paint if you want to keep your hitch free from rust moving forward.
How To Remove a Rusted or Stuck Trailer Hitch
If you go to inspect your hitch this spring and you find that you can’t remove it, then you’ll need to find a can of WD-40 or some Boeshield T-9 Rust Protectant & Lube and a rubber hammer. The most likely cause for a stuck trailer hitch is rust between the ball mount and the hitch receiver.
Rust tends to accumulate faster in coastal areas with a large body of saltwater nearby. But it also builds up if you live in a wintery region where they apply salt to the roads throughout the winter to melt ice and provide a safer driving experience.
Regardless of where you live, you should be able to remove a rusted hitch by first applying a healthy dose of WD-40 to the affected area. This is why those cans come with a small straw that allows you to apply the liquid to otherwise hard-to-reach locations.
Allow that WD-40 to loosen the rust’s grip on your hitch for a minute or two before using the hammer to knock it loose. You may need to strike the sides of the ball mount from several angles to jar it loose, but once you do so, you should be able to slide or gently tap the ball until you can remove it completely.
Keep in mind that you should avoid hitting the hitch ball directly with your hammer. Even though you’re using a rubber hammer, hitting the ball mount instead of the ball itself will prevent damage to the ball and will also be more effective at loosening the entire component.
Proactive Hitch Maintenance
If you want to make your spring hitch maintenance much easier, there are a few things you can do when you put your RV, travel trailer, or fifth-wheel trailer in storage for the winter. The simplest way is to remove your hitch ball and store it in a dry, protected location while you’re not using it.
But, of course, your hitch receiver is welded to your towing vehicle, which makes removing it impossible. You can, however, secure a hitch cover to the outside of your receiver to minimize the amount of water, dirt, and debris that gets inside the receiver during the winter months.
Additionally, if you have a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you should consider covering the tongue of your trailer during the winter. This will prevent moisture and debris from impacting the part of your trailer that you’ll connect to your hitch when it’s time for your next adventure.
The importance of these hitch maintenance steps can’t be overstated. Failing to check (and double-check) the integrity and operation of your trailer hitch can result in disastrous consequences. So let’s all avoid thinking about what could go wrong and, instead, let’s get proactive with checking off these hitch maintenance tasks to do every spring!