Check Your Hitch Ball ! - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-08-2007, 10:14 PM   #1
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Just returned from a great 7662 km trip to Fairbanks. When getting close to Dawson City and going over some frost heaves heard a clunk in the back. Lots of stuff in the back of the truck so didn't think too much about it. Little further down the road it became a Clunk Clunk which got my full attention. Found the ball had come loose, the lock washer was doing nothing and the nut was now "finger tight loose". It all happened quickly.

A reputable shop had put the ball on and I had greased the ball but I obviously had the clamp too tight. Was a bit of a shock as I've spent most of my life with wrenches in my hand. Temporary repairs were made and now carry a good sized pipe wrench.
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Old 09-08-2007, 10:27 PM   #2
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My very first ball had a cotter pin in the threads, run right through the center, below the nut.

I have not been able to find one since.

Next best thing.. a nylock nut, but I can barely get a #10 on a bolt.. I can just image what one the size of the ball bolts would take to get on!

My small one for my sway bar has a nylock, but Mr. Macho welder instaled it.
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Old 09-08-2007, 11:10 PM   #3
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My very first ball had a cotter pin in the threads, run right through the center, below the nut.

I have not been able to find one since.

U-Haul carries them

Ted
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Old 09-09-2007, 07:48 AM   #4
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I had the nut on the coupler ball come loose the last trip out. Noticed it when I unhitched at the campsite. Obviously, I didn't get it tight enough! My second mistake was I didn't remove the sway control before backing in, and in this case I had a lot of difficulty getting the trailer backed in due to a narrow opening with trees and rocks. The nut on the coupler ball needs to be tightened to at least 200 ft-pounds, something that can't be done with a crescent wrench (maybe a 400# gorilla could). It's also recommended that there are 3-4 threads showing when the nut is tightened, something I don't have. So now I'm looking for a longer ball shank and a better wrench! I also need to have the plate for the sway control welded to the ball mount.
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Old 09-09-2007, 09:26 AM   #5
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I always drill a hole through the nut and bolt and insert a pin.
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Old 09-09-2007, 07:57 PM   #6
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I just bought a Reese $10 wrench at Wal-Mart to get my new 2" ball attached to my new 50# WDH. I can't imagine the ball coming loose after tightening with this 16" long wrench. If I had another 1" nut I would double up.

PS - Five days to Casita time.
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Old 09-10-2007, 03:34 AM   #7
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I also can not believe that the ball could come loose!
I had to change the ball from my 1 7/8 to a 2 inch to haul a buddies trailer and upon takeing the ball off I had to use a 16 inch wrench with the both arms pushing against it.
The lock washer left a 1/16 inch grove, in the step down, where it was doing it's job locking the nut.
I would think if my trailer had enough pull to loosen that it would probably shear off any cotter pin and as far as the nylon lock nut forget it.
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Old 09-10-2007, 05:49 AM   #8
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Same thing happened to me last trip out. The nut was loose and the ball was quite floppy. I hand tightened it as much as I could and stopped at a WallyWorld to get a hitch wrench to finish the job.

I'm very fond of the nylock nuts too! I use them whenever possible on every trailer I've had. Ultimately, what I like about them is that even if they start to loosen - once loose, they'd just sit there. With normal nuts (even with lock washers), once they are loose - they just freewheel and vibrate further down.

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Old 09-10-2007, 06:11 AM   #9
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I replaced the 1-7/8" ball for my Scamp last year. Went to U-Haul and purchased a 5,000# ball. A nice fella mounted it on the stinger for me, he used a torgue wrench. I didn't see how many foot/pounds it was set for, but it was considerable. Also used a nylon washer. He did tell me if I ever took the ball off to be sure to replace (not reuse) the nylon washer. The total cost was less than $10.
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Old 09-10-2007, 12:00 PM   #10
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The major mistake many make is the reuse of the lock washers. They R met to be tightened only once and never to be un-tightened and/or reused.

I use the lock washer and I still drill a hole through the nut and bolt and insert a pin that can not b removed because I have had nuts loosen in the past.

It is not susposta happen however it just does. Go figure.
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Old 09-10-2007, 06:30 PM   #11
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Those lock washers may look like they're working, but I agree with Mike - self-locking nuts (such as Nylock) are much more effective. I think if you look at the critical fasteners on a car, or an aircraft, you'll find various locking methods, and none of them will be split lock washers. I've got a split lock washer on the ball used to tow my Boler, but I certainly don't think it's the best locking device; I would have much more confidence in a drilled or castellated nut and cotter pin.

I assume that the nylon washer used on Donna's setup is the crush washer sold by U-Haul: when sufficient clamping force it reached (because enough tightening torque has been applied), parts of the washer visibly split and burst outwards. It then just acts as a slightly soft washer, and you need a new one next time to watch for the splitting as an indication that the nut is sufficiently tight.
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Old 09-11-2007, 07:35 PM   #12
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Brian, you're right! The washer isn't really a washer but a torque indicator (by crush as you described, kinda like PlastiGage) and UHaul provides two of them with a new ball, as well as the cotter pin for the hole. I was surprised at how much torque it required with a pipe wrench and a pipe over the handle to get the proper crush!
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Old 09-12-2007, 04:29 AM   #13
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Lets look what caused the problem in the first place....
The hitch on the camper was too tight and it acted like a clamp, loosening the ball instead of being able to swivel around.
I realize the latch needs to be tight but there are scare stories out there the other way too about the latch being too loose and comeing off so there in lies the problem...to fnd the proper tightness of the hitch so it will not bounce off yet not be so tight as to clamp the ball and unscrew it from the nut...
That is it the nut is not turning off but it is the ball is turning off the nut.
I can lift the rear end of my Blazer with the tounge jack but the thing swivels fine while moveing...I do not use grease as this collects dust which in my opinion can ruin the inside of the hitch .
I made sure the inside of the hitch was free of burs nicks and catches on the latching system as not to be able to catch the ball in any way and I have had a new shinney ball put on and after a 100 mile journey saw not even a scratch on the ball anywere.
So in conclusion do not tighten it so tight your clamping the ball.
These are my thoughts on the issue.
Wonder what others think?
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:05 AM   #14
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I do not use grease as this collects dust which in my opinion can ruin the inside of the hitch .
New tip I've heard is to use a sheet of the dry "Swiffer" sheet on the ball. I haven't tried this, but it makes sense.
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:27 AM   #15
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Blue Loc Tite. Stud grade
A little blue Loc Tite and the proper torque and the nut will nuut come off.
To make sure you alwat could take a center punch and dimple the threads where they meet the nut, But doing this will make it permanate.
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:42 AM   #16
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My 2" ball came loose twice in the past year...I took it to a rental store in SE Portland and they used a torch welder on it. It'll never come loose again, cost was $10.00.

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Old 09-12-2007, 10:57 AM   #17
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My 2" ball came loose twice in the past year...I took it to a rental store in SE Portland and they used a torch welder on it. It'll never come loose again, cost was $10.00.

Paul
I'd be afraid to do that. Parts are engineered to break under certain stresses, just as they are engineered not to break. Would it be better for your hitch ball to be torn loose, or the your hitch reciever mount fastened to your frame?
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Old 09-12-2007, 11:21 AM   #18
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I'd be afraid to do that. Parts are engineered to break under certain stresses, just as they are engineered not to break. Would it be better for your hitch ball to be torn loose, or the your hitch reciever mount fastened to your frame?
I think you bring up a good point Laura.Maybe we have someone in the membership which could enlighten us with hard facts.
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Old 09-12-2007, 12:31 PM   #19
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The weak-link point is interesting, but in this case I really doubt it is going to be the ball. Balls are routinely rated far beyond the receiver rating; for example, a typical 2" ball has a 5000 lb rating, but my hitch and van are only rated for 3500 lb.

Ball mounts with welded-on balls are routinely available, usually as units which have two or three balls on them: you rotate the mount to put the desired ball up, and insert it that way. The balls are welded because their studs would collide with each other otherwise. I have no use for such a device, but it does illustrate that balls can be welded to the mount.

In my reading of both VESA V-5 and SAE J684, I saw no reference to a desired specific weak point. Of course, Laura has a valid point and I would rather replace a failed ball than have my van's hitch mount areas ripped out, but I suspect that any event which involves sufficient force to do either will be a major collision which destroys van and trailer, anyway.
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Old 09-12-2007, 02:04 PM   #20
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In a straight fore-and-aft crash, I would expect the ball mount pin to fail first, although the coupler mechanism also looks rather delicate compared to a ball shank... Anyone recall the photo of the truck and boat trailer hanging over a cliff?
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