Instructions on Releasing a Trailer Hitch Ball

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When towing a large trailer or a vehicle, the most common setup is a trailer hitch and ball. The ball is mounted on the rear of the towing vehicle, and the hitch is attached to the vehicle being towed. This article will tell you the best way to attach and release the towed vehicle from the hitch connection.

Proper installation and removal of the ball.

  • Select the proper size ball for your tow hitch. The most common sizes are 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches, in 1/4-inch increments. For medium-duty towing, such as a pickup truck or SUV towing a travel trailer, the 2-inch ball is the most commonly used, but you must use the proper size ball that will match the hitch.

    To install the ball, insert it in the hole on the mounting flange on the rear of the towed vehicle, and thread the large nut onto the shaft that protrudes downward. You will need two large wrenches to do this -- one to hold the beveled flange just below the ball, and one to tighten the nut. Removal also requires two large wrenches. When removing the ball, be particularly careful not to let the wrench holding the flange slip, as injury, or damage to the hitch assembly, could result.

Attaching the trailer hitch

  • The trailer hitch will have a locking lever on its upper surface. Release this lever, and place the hitch over the ball. Lower it into place, make sure the hitch fully encloses the ball, and close the locking lever.

    Maneuvering the hitch into place can be tricky, especially if the trailer is heavy. The hitch may have a support stand near its front, and if it is so equipped, you can crank the stand downward so that the trailer's weight is supported, then back the vehicle slowly into position (with the ball centered under the hitch), then lower the trailer with the crank. This will be necessary if the trailer is large or heavy, and is best done with a helper to guide you as you position the towing vehicle.

Detaching the trailer hitch

  • When you detach the trailer, the towing vehicle and the trailer must be on a level surface, as well as level with each other. If you don't do this, the hitch will bind on the ball, and it may be difficult or impossible to disengage the hitch.

    If the trailer is equipped with a crank stand, removal is accomplished by lowering the stand far enough that the trailer's weight is supported (but not so far that the trailer is raised relative to the tow vehicle), then releasing the locking lever, raising the trailer further so that the hitch is clear of the ball, then driving the tow vehicle a few feet forward.

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