Check Your Balls! And Your Hitch! On Your Truck and Trailer…

It’s summer time, if you live above the Mason Dixon Line, you are headed out to horse shows and traveling to lovely locations, that are green, and beautiful.  If you live below the Mason Dixon Line, you are either headed for locations north of the Mason Dixon Line or just plain inside for some Air Conditioning.  We have already covered the difference between metal types for trailer construction, read more about that here, but what about your existing trailer?  We all know the old, check the floor, check the air in the tires, inspect the walls for rust and corrosion, but before you head out for your fun filled equine destinations this year, check your receiver and ball on your truck before you hook it to the trailer.

“I have pulled with this set up for years, its fine.”  When was the last time you greased your ball?  “Grease?  What do you mean grease?  Like feed it a greasy cheeseburger or that musical with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John?”  Did you know that you are supposed to grease your trailer ball, driving with it dry is bad for your hitch and ball.  Protip: put the grease on the inside of the trailer hitch, it eliminates a lot of grease on your pants when you walk past the ball and grease your pants for the 1000th time.  You can use automotive grease, the kind you use for bearings with a grease gun and all.  If you are less automotively inclined here are a few options that you can use:

WD40 has a spray on version.

You can buy a tub like this and use some rubber gloves to apply by hand or even better just flip the tub over and put it on top of the ball like a reverse dunk.

Or in a squeeze tube like this.

Also, do you know how heavy your trailer is?  How about when it’s fully loaded with horses, tack, hay, feed, etc.?  My aluminum 2 horse with tack room weighs 3200lbs empty, then lets add Emma and Lily, they are 1000lbs each, so now we are at 5200lbs, then lets add 2 bales of hay, and 2 bags, of feed, that’s another 220lbs, plus about 200lbs in tack, tack trunks, and stuff, we are now at 5620lbs.  Oh and that 25 gallon water tank, the water alone weighs 200lbs, so now we are up to about 6000lbs and if my girls were really big, it could be closer to 7000lbs.  Is your tow hitch rated for that?  How about your ball?  So my truck has a class V (5) receiver on it, my old truck had a class III(3), what’s the difference?  Well class 3 is only rated to 5000 lbs., where class 5 is rated to 16,000lbs.  Also, my trailer hitch says to use a ball rated to 12,500lbs so there isn’t much point in using a 5,000lbs receiver when your ball needs to be rated to 12,500lbs.  Thus, if your truck has a class 5 hitch receiver, don’t cram a converter in it and put the class 3 stuff on, odds are you probably need the class 5.

Another question to ask yourself, ‘Is your trailer level?’  When you hook up your horse trailer, it should be level, the back end shouldn’t be lower than the hitch nor the hitch closer to the ground than the back end.  “What does it matter if one end is lower or higher than the other?”  Well you know how when you get your horse collected and on his hind end how easy it is for them to turn and pivot?  Same with an unbalanced trailer, and if you aren’t careful, it can move your truck in a case where the trailer drives the truck, especially if your trailer weighs more than your truck.  I have felt this before with an overloaded trailer in my old half ton truck, I could feel the trailer push the truck around a bit.  If you are not careful, it becomes very easy to jackknife, similar to 18-wheelers, not a situation you want to put yourself or your horses in.  If you aren’t sure if you are level or not, go buy a level and put it in your trailer.

If you have a bumper pull, make sure you have the right amount of drop or rise on your ball mount.  “The right amount of what?  Drop, rise, what is this push up camp?”  No, the drop on your ball mount is made to help level your trailer, if you have a lift kit on your truck then you will need a bigger drop.  Maybe you drive a low rider truck, and your trailer is doing a nose dive, you can actually flip your receiver the other direction and “raise” the ball, this requires you to unscrew your ball and put it on “upside down”, my suggestion is 2 very large crescent wrenches.  Not sure what amount of drop (or rise) you need, position your truck like you are going to hook up, put the level on the trailer, you can even put it on the tongue (the “V” shaped part where your hitch is) and watch it as you lower/raise the trailer until it becomes level, then measure from the middle of your receiver (the square hole where you put your ball mount in).  Your vehicle will drop an inch or 2 when you add weight so subtract (add if your receiver is lower than your trailer hitch) 1-2 inches and find the nearest ball mount.  Don’t rip the tags off, go home and try it first, you can lower the trailer onto the receiver without the ball for a test, since the ball will add some height, if it’s a bit low, in the hitch end, add a ball and you are ready to haul!  If it’s not right, take it back and get the next size.  Or purchase an adjustable one and adjust it for a level fit.

“Well that’s nice and all but I have a gooseneck so I don’t care about ball mounts.”  Well, is your gooseneck coupler adjusted properly for a level ride?  “I don’t know, I picked it up from the dude down the road for a great price, it worked on his truck so it will work on mine.”  You might want to put a level on that, most gooseneck hitches can be height adjusted and most trailer shops and dealers can help you adjust it, or get a large can of WD-40 and DIY.

On a final note, you know how you have chains on your trailer, there are a lot of theories about them, I always cross mine because I have seen how this works in controlling a loose load swinging from a crane, thus it will work similarly in controlling your trailer should it break loose from the ball.  I have had this happen before, it will scare the crap out of you.  I was lucky that it was at low speeds each time.  Also, if you are like me and your chain hooks don’t fit over the loops on your hitch, you may be tempted to use these quick links, however they are rated to 5000lbs each, so doing math 5000lbs. x 2(for 2 links) = 10,000lbs.  I need a 12,500lbs ball, thus 10,000lbs isn’t going to cut it.  I of course went industrial grade and bought 2 shackles off Amazon similar to what I use offshore that are rated to 3.25tons each, so 3.25ton x 2 = 6.5 tons = 13,000lbs.

Have a safe summer and

*As always, if you purchase something off one of the Amazon links, I get a small cut to help maintain the page.