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Old 09-28-2017, 12:54 PM   #1
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Hitch Ball Retaining Nut Backing off During Trip

Recently while on a trip at approximately 1800 miles since we took delivery of our 2017 International Serenity 28' RB, the 2 13/16" Hitch Ball Retaining Nut backed off, when I discovered it was way loose there was only 2 treads holding it on, Talk about a Scare! It appeared to be good and tight at the dealership when I took delivery of our Airstream. I had this same issue with my 2007 Dutchman Denali 27' RV when it was new as well. The way I stopped the Hitch Ball Retaining Nut from backing off was to get it welded on once it was tightened real good. Has anyone else had this problem? I was wondering if just the torsion of the load on the hitch assy. while towing could cause this to happen?
Thanks
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Old 09-28-2017, 01:03 PM   #2
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Simple solution is loctite and also make sure the lock washer is between the nut and hitch and not on top.

It’s hard to get the nuts as tight as they are supposed to be?
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Old 09-28-2017, 01:16 PM   #3
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If it's an 1 1/4" ball shank you need 450 ft pounds of torque. It probably was not tighten properly. You can use a thread locker compound use only a mild or medium compound not a permanent compound . You can go extreme and drill through threads and install a cotter pin to stop nut from backing off.
I would replace ball (cheap Ins) and make sure it is fully tighten to specs. A truck service center would have a large torque wrench for the task or Google how to torque to 450 ft/lbs with standard torque wrench.
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Old 09-28-2017, 01:32 PM   #4
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Are you greasing the hitch ball or putting wax paper on it? If it's dry then when you make turns that could be rotating it.

Make sure there is a lock washer under the bolt and that everything is torqued to specification.

I've not had the AS ball come loose on me but I've had the one for my boat trailer come loose. Anytime I unhitch I check to see if either of them are loose. I carry a large socket and long breaker bar to tighten things up until I can get to a repair shop. I also grease the ball or use wax paper on it as a lubricant.
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Old 09-28-2017, 01:48 PM   #5
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How you ever found 2 dealerships that did not tighten the nut is a good question.

I can understand the nut coming loose if not originally tightened but I can see why the nut would continue to unthread itself to the point of almost dropping off.

First thing is find someone with equipment to tighten things as there were intended and keep an eye on it for a while. Any truck garage should have such equipment.
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Old 09-28-2017, 04:03 PM   #6
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X3 on Loctite thread locker.

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Old 09-28-2017, 04:41 PM   #7
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For many years we have tightened our hitch balls and then drilled them and put a cotter pin through the nut/shank.
It is the safest way to do it.
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Old 09-29-2017, 09:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csondt View Post
Recently while on a trip at approximately 1800 miles since we took delivery of our 2017 International Serenity 28' RB, the 2 13/16" Hitch Ball Retaining Nut backed off, when I discovered it was way loose there was only 2 treads holding it on, Talk about a Scare! It appeared to be good and tight at the dealership when I took delivery of our Airstream. I had this same issue with my 2007 Dutchman Denali 27' RV when it was new as well. The way I stopped the Hitch Ball Retaining Nut from backing off was to get it welded on once it was tightened real good. Has anyone else had this problem? I was wondering if just the torsion of the load on the hitch assy. while towing could cause this to happen?
Thanks
I doubt that the nut was ever tight. It is fine thread and it is supposed to be torqued to 450 ft lbs. That size of nut tightened would never work itself lose. The mechanic must have gotten distracted.
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Old 09-29-2017, 09:59 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by lynnsr View Post
For many years we have tightened our hitch balls and then drilled them and put a cotter pin through the nut/shank.
It is the safest way to do it.
LynnSr
^^What he said -

FWIW - I use a "3 way" hitch ball - it has 3 balls - 2 5/16", 2" and 1 7/8" all welded to it to tow mine.
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Old 09-29-2017, 10:46 AM   #10
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A nylock nut might be a neater solution....
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Old 09-29-2017, 01:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csondt View Post
Recently while on a trip at approximately 1800 miles since we took delivery of our 2017 International Serenity 28' RB, the 2 13/16" Hitch Ball Retaining Nut backed off, when I discovered it was way loose there was only 2 treads holding it on, Talk about a Scare! It appeared to be good and tight at the dealership when I took delivery of our Airstream. I had this same issue with my 2007 Dutchman Denali 27' RV when it was new as well. The way I stopped the Hitch Ball Retaining Nut from backing off was to get it welded on once it was tightened real good. Has anyone else had this problem? I was wondering if just the torsion of the load on the hitch assy. while towing could cause this to happen?
Thanks
Glad to hear you caught this in time. Though it appears Airstream may have changed the specs, I am puzzled by your statement about your "2 13/16 hitch ball". My manual for all 2015 Airstream models specifies all Airstreams that year are "2 5/16" hitch balls. If your hitch ball is 1/2 in. larger and thus very tight in the coupler) maybe no amount of grease would prevent turning the ball?

I suspect I am missing something here, but thought I'd raise the question.
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Old 09-29-2017, 01:31 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by WestieHouse View Post
Glad to hear you caught this in time. Though it appears Airstream may have changed the specs, I am puzzled by your statement about your "2 13/16 hitch ball". My manual for all 2015 Airstream models specifies all Airstreams that year are "2 5/16" hitch balls. If your hitch ball is 1/2 in. larger and thus very tight in the coupler) maybe no amount of grease would prevent turning the ball?

I suspect I am missing something here, but thought I'd raise the question.


The ball is 2 5/16” The retaining nut on the bottom side/lower side is 2 13/16 inch. I did grease it real good every time I pull my airstream.
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Old 09-29-2017, 01:36 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by csondt View Post
The ball is 2 5/16” The retaining nut on the bottom side/lower side is 2 13/16 inch. I did grease it real good every time I pull my airstream.


I had it welded on the top side to receiver, on the lower side at washer to receiver, washer to nut and nut to ball shank
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Old 09-29-2017, 02:47 PM   #14
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"If the Tension on the Fastener is greater than the Working Load, the Fastener will Never Fail.". (Premier Fastener Corp. handbook.)

The nut backed off, probably because it wasn't properly tight. After all............
450 ft. lb. is a lot of grunt; but that's what the ball spec calls for, for a 1-1/4" shank.

So, do you go to a Truck Service Dept; and 'bum' their torque wrench? Or do it yourself.
IF you have a torque wrench capable of 250 ft. lb. you can do it yourself, using this knowledge, and method.

'Some' mechanics know that only 10% of the torque is used to tighten the fastener.
The rest, (50% for the threads, 40% for the nut face), is used to overcome friction.
So knowing that, use the following method to achieve a tight ball. (doesn't THAT sound nice?)

Grease generously, the threads and nut face with an 'extreme pressure' lubricate such as C-5, Colloidal Copper, (450 K.S.I. bearing strength), 'Never Seize' or similar.
Set your torque wrench at Max.250 ft. lbs.
Using the grease; you need to Reduce the given dry torque by about 40%.
So: 450 ft. lb. reduced by 40% =270 ft. lbs. Not Shabby.

With the shank and the ball, mounted in the receiver, put a large sheet of cardboard on the ground to sit on. Put your foot on the bumper, (So you don't slide under the car.)
Pull your torque wrench slowly up to max. 250.
This will give you a fastener tension that's as close as "Damn is to swearing" to the spec.
If you REALLY NEED that extra 20 ft. lb, then use a 'Johnson Bar' and tighten a further 1/4 flat of the nut.
But really? Don't bother. You're good as is.

Another thing to watch for:
That 'Lock Washer' that goes between the nut and the hitch; check it's cross section.
If it's a flat piece of steel, throw it out.
You want a lock with the cross section that is trapezoidal in shape, with the wide part in the I.D. THIS is to prevent the washer from splitting apart under load.
A flat cross section will do that. (Cheeep Chinese crap)
If you cannot find one, use a Grade 8 Flat washer. It's good.
If you have a used ball nut hanging around, put it on over the new nut, and snug it to lock the assy.
If you do use a 'lock-nut', remember to add the rotating torque of the lock, to your main figure.

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Old 09-29-2017, 03:01 PM   #15
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Mel... has a lot of good info.... as 450 ft lbs of torque is not going to let anything loosen it up... but putting other things on it ... like kotter pins.. or locktite... is adding a belt to suspenders to keep your pants up...

What we found is that some of the knock off 2-5/16 balls ARE NOT RATED RIGHT... some only have a 6500 lb rating... but to check... it by law should be stamped on the top... as to what weight it can pull... rule of thumb is to have at least 25% overload safety factor... so if you pull a 10,000 lb trailer you want something over 12,500 rating...

We use the reese 16,000 lb ball...

Now being in engineering.. we have a testing lab associated with our group... sooooo... I grab'ed a couple of balls... from the parts store.. and took them over to see what they were made like... what a shock... a lot of the chineese ones... didn't stand up... some stretched in the thread area... with only about 1/2 their rated load... this could be why it loosened up... but one other thing we found was that the treaded area... did not go as high as the reese one did... (this also applied to the bushing inside the mount...was thicker than the mounts distance.. and also could space it away.. leaving it loose while you go to torque spec.... thus you can tighten it up to torque...and it still would be loose... what they seem to do to take care of that is to use a thicker lock washer... (not good)

So check yours and its rating... and consider getting one that is proper and rated correctly... and of course keep it greased on the top and bottom to keep the trailer torq from loosn' it up too...

We also found that truck stops have the ability to get to the 450 ft lbs torque.. and for a couple of bux.. they are more than happy to hit it with the wrench...

By the way.. welding it to the base... IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO... it will introduce stress and hydro'n embrittlement... so while welding it might work.. it is the reason why they use a nut on the bottom...so as not to stress the casting its mounted in... of course balls wear out... too.. and now that you welded it... in place... you get to get a whole new reci'vr...

G.M> AI&P
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Old 09-29-2017, 06:55 PM   #16
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I have an old EZ lift hitch and have worn out a ball or two but I've never had one come loose. Here's how to tighten it.

My hitch makes it impossible to get large wrench on the nut. I jam a screwdriver between the nut and the spring bar tubes on the hitch to keep the nut from turning and tighten the ball itself. You might be able to grab the nut with a visegrip plier and let the jaws jam between the nut against the hitch housing. (The visegrip cannot hold the nut by it's grip. It is only used to jam the jaw against the mount.)

The lock nut is important as noted in previous posts. I would not grease the shank. It should be clean and dry like lug nuts.

450 Ft-Lbs is a lot of torque. To be able to pull hard enough, put the hitch in the receiver on the TV but turned 90 degrees to the right -- the hitch pin is not necessary. The ball will be facing to the curbside. I grab the ball AT THE BASE, not the ball itself, with a 36" pipe wrench and pull up with all my might to tighten. Using my thighs, I can lift 150 lbs easily pulling UP. On the end of a 36" wrench is about 450 ft-Lbs.

Another tip; Take a toothpick or q-tip and paint a white line on the nut around the hitch plate and onto the base of the ball. If you ever hook up and that line is not still continuous, the ball is starting to loosen.
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Old 09-29-2017, 06:57 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by gm airstream View Post
mel... Has a lot of good info.... As 450 ft lbs of torque is not going to let anything loosen it up... But putting other things on it ... Like kotter pins.. Or locktite... Is adding a belt to suspenders to keep your pants up...

What we found is that some of the knock off 2-5/16 balls are not rated right... Some only have a 6500 lb rating... But to check... It by law should be stamped on the top... As to what weight it can pull... Rule of thumb is to have at least 25% overload safety factor... So if you pull a 10,000 lb trailer you want something over 12,500 rating...

We use the reese 16,000 lb ball...

Now being in engineering.. We have a testing lab associated with our group... Sooooo... I grab'ed a couple of balls... From the parts store.. And took them over to see what they were made like... What a shock... A lot of the chineese ones... Didn't stand up... Some stretched in the thread area... With only about 1/2 their rated load... This could be why it loosened up... But one other thing we found was that the treaded area... Did not go as high as the reese one did... (this also applied to the bushing inside the mount...was thicker than the mounts distance.. And also could space it away.. Leaving it loose while you go to torque spec.... Thus you can tighten it up to torque...and it still would be loose... What they seem to do to take care of that is to use a thicker lock washer... (not good)

so check yours and its rating... And consider getting one that is proper and rated correctly... And of course keep it greased on the top and bottom to keep the trailer torq from loosn' it up too...

We also found that truck stops have the ability to get to the 450 ft lbs torque.. And for a couple of bux.. They are more than happy to hit it with the wrench...

By the way.. Welding it to the base... Is not what you want to do... It will introduce stress and hydro'n embrittlement... So while welding it might work.. It is the reason why they use a nut on the bottom...so as not to stress the casting its mounted in... Of course balls wear out... Too.. And now that you welded it... In place... You get to get a whole new reci'vr...

G.m> ai&p
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Old 09-29-2017, 07:09 PM   #18
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Drop a line of paint from the base of the ball to the top of the hitch surface in a location where you can see it every time you hitch. If the ball rotates the paint on the ball will no longer be aligned with the paint on the hitch.

Something like this.
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Old 09-29-2017, 07:12 PM   #19
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I agree the ball and shank should not be welded on. If they got it very hot during welding it can change the properties of the metal and cause it to become brittle as GM Airstream pointed out. Proper method and proper parts is the proper course of action.
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Old 09-29-2017, 11:14 PM   #20
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For 47 years I have been tightening hitch ball shank nuts with a 1/2 inch brake over and a 4' cheater pipe. I have never have had a nut loosen up nor a broken shank. Back the ball up with a large pipe wrench on the ball flange.
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