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Author Topic:   1-7/8-inch vs. 2-inch Trailer Hitch Ball
Arch Autenreith posted 11-01-2003 01:46 PM ET (US)   Profile for Arch Autenreith   Send Email to Arch Autenreith  
I have towed many, many times using a 1-7/8 on a 2-inch receiver. I have looked at the connection carefully numerous times and often wondered why in the heck there is a choice? I mean there's only an 1/8 inch difference and there's no way it can possibly come off.

My question is why is there a difference? And only 1/8" at that!! It can't be because of any substantial safety margin I wouldn't think.

DaveS posted 11-01-2003 02:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for DaveS  Send Email to DaveS     

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but would it have anything to do with max capacities on the hitch itself? A while ago when I was looking for a 1-7/8-inch ball I went to walmart and saw the 2-inch ones were rated for 5000#

Just a thought.

Dr T posted 11-01-2003 03:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
Interesting question and I decided to look it up. It appears that 1-7/8-inch balls are rated for Class 1 only (2000 lbs. or less).

I came across this tidbit in this excellent article on the proper use of safety chains while towing. The article itself is worth reviewing for its own sake.

Safety Chain Article


Jarhead posted 11-02-2003 08:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jarhead  Send Email to Jarhead     
I guess it's true: "You learn something everyday."

Thanks for my lesson for today guys. ;)

jimh posted 11-02-2003 09:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The small difference in size may just be intended to make it easier to differentiate the two different grades of hitch balls. The lower rated CLASS-I ball is smaller in diameter than the higher rated CLASS-II ball. If they were the same size it might be more difficult to distinguish them.

If you wanted to make the system more foolproof, the ball with the lower rating ought to be larger. That would prevent you from using a hitch ball with an improper rating on a heavy trailer.

The way it works now, as Arch mentioned, you can couple a 2-inch receiver to the 1-7/8-inch ball. This means you could be trying to connect a 5,000-pound trailer to a hitch that is only rated at 2,000-pounds.

Tom W Clark posted 11-02-2003 11:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
I have always been annoyed at the availability of both the 1-7/8" and 2" ball and couplers. My own theory of how this came to be is different than Jim's.

I believe the 1-7/8" size was the original size for ball hitches back when even the biggest car trailer was not that big in comparison to what we see now. At some point the 2" was introduced with a greater capacity.

The annoying part is that both sizes are still sold. There is no reason to have these two sizes apart from supporting old hardware that's already out there. All balls and couplers should simply be 2" at this point in time. Look at a 1-7/8" coupler and a 2" coupler side by side. There is no difference in the cost of manufacturing a basic 2" coupler and a 1-7/8" coupler. And of course there would be absolutely no disadvantage to having a 2" coupler on even the smallest trailer.

This difference has frustrated me numerous times over the years. It usually occurs when a boat is sold and the buyer shows up with the wrong size hitch. I have seen this time and time again.

This reminds me of a scene I witnessed on board a Washington State ferry making the Bainbridge Island to Seattle run one Sunday night just last month. On board was a 1986 Outrage 18 being towed by a Ford pickup truck. As it happened, I fell in directly behind this rig as we disembarked onto Alaskan Way on the Seattle waterfront.

I noticed that it was being towed very slowly and haltingly. We made it only one block on Alaskan way before the rig stopped entirely because the trailer had come off the hitch. It was now blocking 50 percent of the cars trying to get off the ferry. I jumped out and ran forward to help them get it hitched beck up and noticed that their tongue jack was lowered.

Apparently the owners were a father and son team and they told me the ball on their hitch was 1-7/8 but the trailer had a 2 coupler. They were towing the trailer with the tongue jack down because they knew it was going to keep hopping off the ball! I assume they had a very tender drive home.

DO NOT tow a trailer with a 2 coupler if you only have a 1-7/8 ball on your hitch! All of this trouble would be eliminated if all small couplers were simply 2. Drives me nuts.

ryanwhaler posted 11-02-2003 02:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for ryanwhaler  Send Email to ryanwhaler     
Thanks for starting this thread, I'm learning from it.

We currently have three trailers. A small boat trailer a landscaping trailer and a homemade trailer made out of the truck bed. Both my boat trailer and our landscaping trailer use a 2-inch ball. But the truck bed trailer used s 1-7/8 inch.

The landscaping trailer has been towed by a 1-7/8 inch ball a few times. I think the reason I was not a big problem was because the tong is very heavy, and I don't think it could come off, it most likely won't be pulled with that ball again anyway.

But, now I'm worried about my boat trailer. When my dad pulls it behind his Dodge 2500 pickup he use's a 1-7/8-inch ball. The truck is fairly high and the trailer it tilted up being the hitch is so high, so its not leave like it should be. Should we be worried about the trailer coming off the ball?

dfmcintyre posted 11-03-2003 06:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Ryan -

If I were you, I'd suggest to your dad that he look for a 2" ball and an height adjustable hitch to go into the trucks receiver. Due to the size and weight of your boat and trailer, having it level is not as important as with a larger rig. I've found with a large rig, having it level makes it easier to handle in an emergency braking situation.

Best - Don

Knot at Work posted 11-03-2003 07:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
Interesting that you talk about showing up to get your boat with a 1 7/8 ball...

I drove my 1500 Silverado, dragging a double axel U-haul from Virginia, I had no issues with that heavy load and got it safe and sound to Florida.

Fast Forward 7 months I am on my way in to take delivery of my gorgeous Whaler, when they stop me as I am backing up and say "uh-oh" do you have another ball?

Now I dont know much about Trailer Balls or Norman Pins, but I thought for sure I would be good to go... NOPE

SO Killinger's best Salesman, Chuck Garrison, took his off his own truck and gave it me. Yep Gave it to me.

That was awesome and I of course got my Boat home.

Last comment... 1 7/8 ball versus 2 inch Balls, Probably same reason there are 10 Hotdogs and only 8 buns...

hooter posted 11-03-2003 08:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for hooter    
Two things that have always bounced around in the back o' whatever truck Ah's drivin': off-sized trailer ball with spare nut and washer (the "on-sized" ball bein' screwed into the hitch receiver already); and a 4-way, X-shaped lug wrench. 'Cause you never KNOW what you might need out there.
Arch Autenreith posted 11-03-2003 09:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     
Thanks for the replies, all. Esp. Dr T for the link to the article.

After reading your replies an articles I'm just as confused as before. Now I think about what size chain I should have. Before I just made sure it wasn't worn through after the hook inadvertantly jumped off and dragged on the road for 300 miles.

DaveS. Do all trailering balls have the rating somehow marked on them? I'll have to go look once again at a few.

kingfish posted 11-03-2003 09:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
I think Knot at Work is on to something re: 10 hotdogs and 8 buns/ 1-7/8" and 2" trailer balls: the consumer winds up buying more than he or she needed or wanted of SOMETHING, and the vendor and his stock holders are happy...

Anyway Arch, now that we've got you really confused, I know that at least in the larger diameter trailer balls (2-1/4", 2-3/8" etc.), the SHAFT diameter within the same ball diameter also affects the towing capacity. I guess I'm not sure whether there are different shaft diameters available within the 1-7/8" or 2" diameter balls or not though...

Tom2697 posted 11-03-2003 10:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom2697  Send Email to Tom2697     
Yup! There are different shaft diameters for the different sized balls. Also, there are some 2" balls that are rated for only 2000lbs. I can't tell you why these are different sizes but I can tell you that having 1/8" of slop in a connection is enough to have a catastophic failure of the hitch connection. Most people don't tow heavy enough or long enough to worry about it. But, at 8 bucks for a properly sized ball, why risk it?
Tom W Clark posted 11-03-2003 10:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

All balls (that I have ever seen) have their size and capacity stamped on the top of them.

There are two basic shaft sizes on the 1-7/8" and 2" balls, 3/4" and 1", with either size ball being available with either size shaft (or bolt, as some balls use a huge cap screw that screws into the ball in lieu of a nut.) Most receiver inserts have a 1" hole for the ball but most balls with 3/4" shafts come with a bushing that will allow it to be installed with the 1" hole.

I do know that the 1000 pound and 2000 pound hitches, as opposed to a receiver, have a 3/4" hole for the ball. The 3500 pound hitches may also.

A quick inventory of the trailer gear in my shop indicate I have two 2" balls with 1" shafts that are rated for 5000 pounds. I have a 1-7/8" ball with the 1" shaft that is rated for 5000 pounds as well. I then have a 1-7/8" ball with the 3/4" shaft that is rated for only 2000 pounds.

Bigshot posted 11-03-2003 11:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
A) trailer balls are like $7 so if someone gave you one after you bought their boat or you have to give someone buying your boat yours, aint no big thing.....$7.

B) You guys ever hear of a Versa-ball? One stick mounted to your hitch that accepts 3 different size balls, great item and only $29 with 1 7/8 & 2" balls or $39 if you add the 2 5/16.

hauptjm posted 11-03-2003 02:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
Bigshot - I've got one, love it and wouldn't buy any other kind!
HAPPYJIM posted 11-03-2003 02:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
I bought both balls and cut the threads off and welded them to one sleave.

All I have to do is flip it over for the other size.

I don't worry about the nut coming loose either.

HAPPYJIM posted 11-03-2003 03:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
They sell a triple hitch at most trailer parts stores that has all 3 sizes 1 7/8, 2" and 2 5/16 on one sleave....around $45
Arch Autenreith posted 11-03-2003 04:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     
Thanks, Tom.
Sounds like the 3/4 vs. 1" shaft is the deciding load factor.

I still like the hotdog vs. bun comparison: All things being equal it doesn't make a lot of sense.

And by the way I prefer the shaft w/nut versions over the bolt method on the balls. One of mine came loose but caught it before it came off. With the nut version you can immediately see if it's loose and in addition you can drill a hole for a cotter pin just in case.

simonmeridew posted 11-03-2003 07:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for simonmeridew  Send Email to simonmeridew     
The U-Haul commercial rental trailers that I have seen have an adjustable hitch mechanism so that they can be safely used on both 1 7/8" and 2" balls. Instead of the lever you flip down to engage the ball like most single size hitches, the U-Haul hitch has a large rotating handle; tighten it till you can't easily turn more, while rocking the trailer back and forth, and it has a little metal lever under the thing you turn to lock it where ever you stop.
It tightens further down on the smaller ball.
I don't think U-Haul would rent the trailers from a liability standpoint if this mechanism weren't safe.

The next size up ball, which is 2 5/16", uses a completely different type of hitch mechanism which will not even insecurely grasp a smaller ball, although some will try. If they do the first time any motion of the trailer which would cause the hitch to uplift on the ball will uncouple(actually just remove)the hitch as high tongue weight typically on large trailers causes erroneous confidence in the security of the hitch.

An interesting question: Does anyone grease the ball before hitching up? I've seen some recommendation to do this though never have done it; looks like a good way to get grease on your pant leg as you bump up against the ball.


triblet posted 11-03-2003 09:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
I thought "receiver" was the square hole in the back of the
truck that the draw bar goes into.

I grease my hitch ball. I didn't used to, but when I picked
up my whaler after some service, the shop guy just grabbed
a pot and greased it. Turns out that while there's lots of
ball to wear away, the coupler is sheet metal and will wear
through. I know enough to pull the draw bar out of the
receiver RIGHT after I unhitch the boat, but Adm. Linda
greased up her pants a couple of months ago by grabbing some
dive gear out the the back of the truck in the ten seconds
between when I unhitched the boat and when I got back to
pull the draw bar out.


Dr T posted 11-03-2003 11:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
I was catching up on this thread and was on Tom Clark's second response when my wife looked over my shoulder to see what I was reading. She started cracking up with laughter and I had a bit of trouble explaining that the thread was about towing boat trailers...I'm still not sure she believes me.


Knot at Work posted 11-04-2003 07:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
I prefer to keep my balls ungreased.

Tom2697 posted 11-04-2003 09:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom2697  Send Email to Tom2697     
For a quickie to or from the water, I don't worry about lubrication. If I plan on doing a marathon run, I make certain that I lube up before I start. Also, it is a good idea to carry an extra tube with you in case you need to overhaul your hub midway through.

If you are worried about making a mess of your pants, you can always slip on one of those rubbers things when you unhitch. I've also seen some people slip their balls into a tennis ball with a hole in it. They tell me that works just as well.

Bigshot posted 11-04-2003 11:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
I do not nor will not slab grease on my balls. I keep them clean and dry in trunks and the last thing I need is a mess on the carpet or my pants. It's bad enough when your ball whacks you in the leg, don't need to slop it up too. My balls are still shiny and although they might squeak in tight manuevers, they have not shown any wear over the years.
HAPPYJIM posted 11-04-2003 12:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
I always wondered what the purpose of the tennis ball cover-up was.

I prefer mine exposed even if submerged in salt or brackish water.

Sometimes a light rust will appear but soon wears off the next time I use it.

Performance never seems to suffer, although I do detect a slight squeaking noise which soon goes away as I pick up speed.

BillD posted 11-04-2003 03:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for BillD  Send Email to BillD     
I use white teflon grease periodically on the ball. It comes in a small screw type jar I leave in the truck with no mess. A little goes a long way, and i only need to reaply every few trips.
jimh posted 11-05-2003 08:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I think Chuck is correct: the term "receiver" applies to the draw bar pocket. Maybe the trailer hitch mechanism that drops onto the hitch ball is a "coupler."
Arch Autenreith posted 11-05-2003 09:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for Arch Autenreith  Send Email to Arch Autenreith     
Thanks for the clarification and I certainly agree. I meant to change from receiver to coupler just after my first post but forgot.
flawton posted 11-05-2003 10:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for flawton  Send Email to flawton     
Greasy balls, hahahahahahahahah
Sammy posted 11-07-2003 12:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for Sammy  Send Email to Sammy     
Chuck and jimh are correct - the receiver is the square hole on the hitch frame that 'receives' the 'insert'. The insert is the square tube with a flanged end that is drilled/bored to accept either a 3/4" or 1" threaded stud on the ball. The trailer's coupler fits over the ball.

Why 1 7/8" balls on 3/4" studs are available is a mystery to me, too, when the price difference between that and a 2" ball and 1" stud might be a buck. Go figure.

dfmcintyre had important advice in regard to keeping trailers as level as possible when towing - for all trailers and especially tandem axle trailers. Keeping a tandem axle level allows each of the tires/wheels/bearing sets to handle a relatively equal amount of the load (reducing excess wear and the chance of failure) and allows brakes on both axles to fully contribute when stopping. On any trailer it helps keep the load stable, reduces stress on the coupler/ball connection and improves tracking.

The inserts with three welded balls may work with some vehicle/trailer combinations and are useful in an emergency, but inserts are not a one-size-fits-all deal. That's why they're available with flanges that provide varying lengths of drop (or lift when the insert turned over). Get an insert that keeps the trailer level relative to the specific towing vehicle. I keep three different inserts in a tool box in the back of the Suburban with the three most common balls that are specifically set up for certain trailers. But it only takes a few minutes to switch inserts and balls to handle other situations as they come up.

I've gradually switched my 'inventory' of hitch balls from chrome plated steel to stainless steel. They never look ratty, they never wear out and given the value of what I'm towing the cost is insignificant. I should probably grease them, but I don't and regular inspection hasn't shown any wear problems on the ball or coupler.

John O posted 11-07-2003 01:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for John O    
Knot at work,

I was always afraid to ask the question.... 10 dogs, 8 buns.

I am so glad I have not been the only one.

Now I buy the dogs at the deli and get the 8 on 8.

Should I spell out hotdogs so that in the event that someone wants to do a search on hotdogs they can?

ok I have been over served

Kingsteven18 posted 11-07-2003 07:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for Kingsteven18  Send Email to Kingsteven18     
Another option is to change the hitch on the trailer, especially if it is old, beaten up, and rusty. Not too expensive or difficult and you can then make it match whatever you want. Just don't go downwards in rated capacity.
simonmeridew posted 11-08-2003 12:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for simonmeridew  Send Email to simonmeridew     
Two comments about greasing hitch ball
A greased part exposed to dust and dirt tends to attract and retain same, allowing it to become an abrasive paste and may actually accelerate wear.
In my pre whaler days my little aluminum boat trailer relied on the ball/hitch connection to ground the electricals. I always wondered if grease would be a sort of dialectric and prevent strong lights which were usually marginal at best.

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