DIY Guide: How to Remove a Rusted Hitch Ball?

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Surprisingly, most of the hitches I have seen to date have got some rust on them. The reason is quite obvious that owners don’t pay attention due to a lack of knowledge. Once the rust grows to a dangerous level, the owners start taking it seriously. 

I know that hitches are not cheap, and they require a serious amount of money. So, I have decided to give you a step-by-step guide to remove the rust on the hitch ball and make it usable for an extended duration. Before we go into details, here is a brief answer.

To remove a rusted hitch ball, use penetrating oil, an adjustable wrench, and a wire brush. Apply the penetrating oil to the rusted area, and use the adjustable wrench to loosen the hitch ball. If it is still stuck, use the wire brush to remove the remaining rust. 

This was just a brief answer for those who are in a hurry. However, I don’t recommend you to leave just by reading the brief answer as the step-by-step guide that is coming is more beneficial and helps you get rid of rust easily. 

Related Article: How to Set up a Weight Distribution Hitch?

Tools Needed to Remove the Rust

Before getting started, it’s essential to get the necessary tools that will make your life easier.. Below is the list of items that you must have in your hands while removing the rust;

  • Penetrating oil or Spray – It will help to loosen any rust that has formed on the hitch ball.
  • Adjustable wrench – It will be used to loosen and remove the hitch ball.
  • Wire brush – It will help in removing the remaining rust from the hitch ball
  • Safety goggles – They will protect your eyes from any debris or rust that may fly off during the removal process
  • Safety Gloves – They will help you keep the dust and debris away from your hands

Step-by-Step Process to Remove the Rusted Hitch Ball

Removing a rusted hitch ball can be a bit tricky if you do it without having the proper knowledge and right tools. But don’t worry as I’ve got your back. Below are the steps you should follow for removing the rusted hitch ball.

Step 1: Analyze the Rust of Hitch Ball

The first step is to analyze the extent of the rust. If the rust is not very strong then you can remove it with the help of a wire brush and remove the hitch ball. But if the rust is very strong, then it won’t be removed by the wire brush and you’ll have to go through the process which I am going to give you in the section below.

Step 2: Apply Penetrating Oil

If the rust is very strong and cannot be removed with the wire brush then you will have to remove the rusted ball by applying penetrating oil to the rusted area. This oil or spray will help to loosen any rust that has formed on the hitch ball and make it easier to remove. 

Apply the oil or spray in a way that no part of the hitch or the ball should remain dry. The oil should be present in enough amounts so that it decently lubricates the rust. You will have to put oil to hitch the receiver’s hole and make sure that the fluidity remains there for a few minutes.

Note: The penetrating spray or oil is an effective way that will help you to remove the rusted hitch ball. Put a generous amount of oil so that the whole hitch ball and surrounding area remain lubricated.

Step 3: Allow the Oil to Sit

After applying the penetrating oil, it’s essential to allow it to sit for a period of time. This will give the oil enough time to penetrate the rust and loosen it up. A good rule of thumb is to allow the oil to sit for 30 minutes to an hour. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can give it 15 minutes.

Step 4: Gently Hammer the Hitch

The penetrating spray will loosen up the rust which is present on the hitch. Now, it is time to use a hammer and strike in on the hitch to loosen the rust further so that you can easily remove the rust. One thing which you should keep in mind is that hammer striking should be done gently and don’t go with a harsh approach.  Gently hammering will help you loosen and remove the rust.

Step 5: Use an Adjustable Wrench to Loosen the Hitch Ball

The penetrating spray and usage of the hammer will loosen up the rust. Once the oil has had a chance to work its magic, it’s time to use an adjustable wrench to loosen the hitch ball. 

Place the wrench on the hitch ball and turn it counterclockwise. I recommend that you do it gently to avoid breakage. If the hitch ball is stuck, try using a little more force, but be careful not to damage the hitch ball as the rust might have weakened it.

Note: If the wrench fails to remove the hitch ball, then apply some more oil on the nuts to remove their rust.

Step 6: Use a Wire Brush to Remove the Remaining Rust

If the hitch ball is still stuck, it may be necessary to use a wire brush to remove any remaining rust. Gently brush the rust away, so that the hitch ball can be removed. Keep it mind that you’ll have to remove all the rust first to get the hitch ball removed.

Step 7: Use the Adjustable Wrench to Remove the Hitch Ball

I’m pretty much sure that the penetrating spray and the wire brush will remove all the rust.  Once all the rust is removed, use the adjustable wrench to remove the hitch ball. Turn the wrench gently to remove the hitch ball from the hitch.

Things to Remember while Removing Rusted Hitch Ball

There are a few things that you should keep in mind to avoid complications. I’ve organized those points and mentioned them in bullet point form for you so that you don’t feel it is complex to understand.

  • Take the appropriate safety precautions when working on towing equipment.
  • If the hitch ball is still stuck, it may be best to take it to a professional mechanic.
  • Proper maintenance and replacement of hitch balls as needed is crucial for safe towing.
  • If the hitch ball is in very bad condition and the rust is severe, then I suggest you not to use it in the future.

How to Prevent Rust on the Hitch Ball?

In the previous guide on whether you should use grease or not, I mentioned that applying grease to the hitch ball keeps it lubricated and secure from dust and rust. However, below are some other tips that will help you in preventing rust.

  • To prevent rust from forming on the hitch ball in the first place, it’s essential to keep it clean and dry. 
  • You should also apply a rust inhibitor to prevent rust from forming and destroying your hitch.
  • Another way to prevent rust on the hitch ball is by keeping the towing equipment well-maintained. Keep checking and inspecting and If you find any issue, then it should be addressed immediately to prevent further damage.

When Should You Call the Mechanics to Remove Rusted Hitch Ball?

In this guide, I’ve given you complete step-by-step information, and rest assured that by following this guide you will be able to remove the rusted hitch ball. But in case you’re unable to remove the rusted hitch ball after following the steps, make up your mind that your hitch ball cannot be removed.

However, after failing, you should call a professional mechanic to get some assistance. But according to my personal experience, if the above process is not going to remove the rusted hitch ball, then chances are high that professionals will also fail. If the professional mechanic goes with a harsh approach then your hitch ball will break instead of getting removed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use penetrating oil on a stainless steel hitch ball?

Yes, penetrating oil can be used on a stainless steel hitch ball if it has become rusted or stuck. Keep in mind that stainless steel is more resistant to rust and corrosion than other types of metal, so the chances of a stainless steel hitch ball becoming rusted are less.

Is it safe to use a rusted hitch ball?

No, it is not safe to use a rusted hitch ball. Rust can weaken the metal and compromise the strength of the hitch ball, which can lead to accidents and damage to the towing equipment. I suggest you remove the rusted hitch ball ASAP.

Can I remove a rusted hitch ball with just a hammer and chisel?

It is not recommended to remove a rusted hitch ball with just a hammer and chisel. These tools can damage the hitch ball and the surrounding area, and do not effectively remove the rust. Instead use penetrating spray, wrench, and wire brush to remove the rusted hitch ball.

Can rust be removed from a hitch ball and reused?

Rust can be removed from a hitch ball, but it may not be safe to reuse it. The rust weakens the hitch ball and if you reuse it then you’re putting yourself at risk.


You can easily remove the rusted hitch ball without the assistance of any professional mechanic. Make sure to follow the step-by-step process and you’ll be happy at the end. I hope that this guide will help you in making your job easier.

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