Hitch Rust Maintenance and Prevention

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Rust is the chemical reaction that occurs when iron, steel or other alloys are exposed to oxygen and air moisture and become corroded. Using your hitch for camping, mountain biking, towing or other outdoor activities puts your hitch at risk to corrode and rust over time which can cause trailering complications and safety concerns. 

Trailer Hitch Rust Prevention

The hitch above is a brand-new receiver hitch and ball mount that you would get installed at your local U-Haul hitch store. All our hitches are powder coated and our ball mounts are either powder coated or zinc finished (galvanized) to protect them from the elements and prevent rust.

Receiver Hitch Rust Prevention

  • Use a non-solvent based product like Fluid Film to add additional protection to the receiver hitch and receiver opening from rust causing agents like moisture and debris

  • Use a  hitch cover to prevent water and dirt from getting into the receiver opening

A powder or zinc coat will protect hitch components for a long time. However, after repeated use and exposure, areas like the inside of the receiver and the hitch pin holes see frequent use and friction which can cause the coat to wear away, exposing the steel to the elements. If water gets into those exposed areas and is allowed to sit, it will corrode the metal and cause rust. To prevent moisture and debris from getting into the receiver opening,use a product like Fluid Film to coat the interior of the receiver and then use a hitch cover when you’re not using the hitch.

Ball Mount Rust Prevention

  • Remove the ball mount when not in use

  • Store ball mount indoors and away from corrosive weather

A ball mount connects the trailer ball to the receiver hitch. If left inside the receiver, ball mount vibration can begin to erode the protective coating and allow for rust inside the receiver tube. Preventing this type of rust is as simple as removing the ball mount when it is not being used and storing it inside your home or vehicle. If you are storing it in your vehicle, we suggest using an accessory bag to protect the vehicle and the ball mount.

Hitch Ball Rust Prevention

  • Use ball grease to protect and assist the hitch ball during use

  • Use a ball mount bag or ball cover to protect the hitch ball when not in use

The hitch ball sits in the ball mount and will see the harshest effects of any weather or friction-related use. To protect the hitch ball while in use we recommend applying ball grease to make sure it pivots smoothly while inside the coupler. Removing the ball mount and storing it inside a bag when it is not in use is the most recommended method for preventing rust to both the ball mount and hitch ball. If you’re going to leave the mount attached to your hitch, be sure to continually reapply ball grease and use a ball cover to protect it when not in use.

Trailer Hitch Maintenance

Despite your best efforts to prevent rust, it may still find its way onto your hitch. All is not lost however, and with these tips you can fight the rust and prevent it from happening again in the near future.

Receiver Hitch Rust Maintenance

  • Look for corrosion or wear around the hitch pin hole and receiver opening

  • Cover exposed metal with a rust stopping paint

  • Use a hitch cover to prevent dirt and water from getting inside your hitch

While all U-Haul hitches come with a protective coating, it can still be worn away over time with heavy usage, improper care and overexposure to the elements. Look for corrosion around the hitch pin holes and the interior of the receiver opening. If you notice spots that have worn out the powdered coating, you will want to touch those up with a rust stopping paint to reseal the metal underneath. If it has started to rust already you want to remove that rust with a homemade or store-bought rust remover and then apply the paint over it. Do not paint over rust as the corrosion will continue underneath.

Ball Mount Rust Maintenance

  • Clean out existing rust using a homemade or store-bought rust remover

  • Apply rust-resistant paint to the newly exposed metal

  • Use an accessory bag to store your ball mount in when not in use

Similar to the receiver, the ball mount will be powder coated as well to prevent rust. After a while it may begin to show signs of wear and tear, causing the metal underneath the paint to become exposed to dirt and water which will cause rust. If you find dents or spots that are starting to rust, clean them thoroughly with a homemade or store bought rust remover and then apply rust-resistant paint to the area. Do not paint over rust as that will not prevent the corrosion from continuing underneath.

Hitch Ball Rust Maintenance

  • Remove the rust with homemade or store-bought cleaners

  • Apply grease to the hitch ball

  • Keep the ball covered when not in use

The hitch ball is the portion of the hitch system that is most likely to see a lot of wear and tear from the elements and general use. If using ball grease and a ball cover has failed to protect the ball and you find rust has taken hold of it, you can attempt to clean it using a homemade solution of distilled vinegar or store-bought products. Once the rust has been removed, continue to liberally re-apply ball grease during use and use a ball cover or hitch bag to protect it when it’s not being used.

Removing a Rusty, Stuck Ball Mount & Hitch Ball

If your ball mount or hitch ball are rusted beyond repair, you will need to remove them from the trailer hitch to be able to replace it under the $5 lifetime warranty through U-Haul. A rusty ball mount can get stuck in the receiver opening and be hard to remove. Try spraying the areas around the receiver opening with WD-40 and then use a rubber hammer to help knock the ball mount loose. Once it’s free you can either pull it out or gently tap it out with the hammer.

If just the hitch ball needs replacing but it’s stuck inside the ball mount then you’ll want to follow a similar strategy to the ball mount. Spray a good amount of WD-40 or similar lubricant around the ball nut and thread areas. Attempt to dislodge the nut using a wrench. If it’s still stuck then you can try using another round of WD-40 and even a pipe on the end of the wrench to give yourself more leverage.

Don’t worry, if a ball mount is rusted in your hitch and you can’t remove it, U-Haul will still replace your receiver hitch under the $5 warranty.The best form of maintenance is prevention. By purchasing your hitch, ball mount and hitch ball through U-Haul ensures that you will be protecting your investment and continuing your towing adventures.