How many times has the utility trailer been in the wrong place and I don’t want to take the truck out back? Maybe I want to haul a little something from one side of the yard to the other, but it is a bit much for my little dump trailer? I want to move the boat on flat ground maneuvering it sharper than the truck can turn. I’m getting tired of carrying the 100# or so tongue weight (not to mention I’m not getting any younger). How many scenarios are there where I need a trailer hitch ball on my lawn tractor to make life easier, but I don’t have one? All mine are 2 inch with ¾ inch bolt.
I have two old Cub Cadets which have plenty of power and will hold my weight plus a couple hundred pounds without a problem, but, they both have a 5/8 inch hole for a hitch. I called my local supply/hardware store and all their balls have at least a ¾ inch bolt. Looking online, I see Tractor Supply has SKU #18990199 which is a 1-7/8 inch ball with a 5/8 inch shaft for $9.99 and Lowes has a similar Item #: 80454 for $7.98. Since Lowes is 2 gallons of gas (round trip) farther than Tractor Supply, I head out for the $9.99 model.
Not that I lack the ability to properly plan, but, I think spontaneity is just more fun, don’t you? (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) Did I bother to call ahead to see if it was in stock? Of course not. Did I prepare to get this trailer interface device before I actually wanted to use it, so they could order one? Same answer. Now, here I stand in the middle of this magical store full of all kind of wonderful things, but not the one item I wanted. What happens? Rule number one kicks in: “never buy what I can build.” I start thinking I can cut the bolt off, drill and tap a 5/8 inch a hole??? Cut off the bolt and weld a 5/8 inch bolt on??? I could buy a ¾ inch drill (with a tapered shaft, which costs more than the ball and gas to Lowes), stress both me and my cordless in an effort to open the hole, which removes the hole’s flare, permanently weakening the hitch. I could machine the shaft small enough to fit the hole and re-thread the new shaft. Brain running out of control, stop, think. What I need to start, is a bolt that will fit the hole in the Cub, so I go to my favorite isle, bulk hardware.
If you look at your used trailer hitch ball, it is usually rusty except in a couple spots. I deduce that no matter how round the ball, it only contacts the hitch in a couple places, and that’s after miles and miles of hard use. I don’t need 2000 pounds of strength, just to maneuver a trailer a few feet, or to cross the yard a couple times, so maybe I can weld that good. (I’m not going to take this on the road, in traffic or even attach it to a vehicle, if you are, please stop reading, this is not safe enough to take off the grass, or driveway).
I need a 5/8 bolt and nut. Next I want a washer for the nut side. Lookie here. Lots of washers, and lots of sizes. There are 2-inch washers with a 1-inch hole and my trailers all have 2-inch hitches. If I put a couple of them in the middle, then a couple smaller ones . . . To get even smaller ones, I switch to a ½ inch bolt, then a couple smaller ones. I hand tighten a nut and even the big washers with the big hole don’t slide. I take off my glasses; it looks almost like a trailer hitch ball. Hey, this could work!
I take less than $2 in hardware home figuring I can always order a real ball online, or go to Lowes later if this doesn’t work. I slip this almost-a-ball into the trailer and to my amazement, it latches. It feels pretty good and the nut is only finger tight. Now, I’m getting excited, thinking this really could work! Are all trailers this rusty? Maybe a little PM is in order, but that will have to wait. I analyze where the hitch captures the washer-ball and determine I don’t think the hitch can get off then pseudo-ball accidentally. (at .3 MPH, I don’t expect much bouncing anyway)
Now for the tractor connection. Looks unusual, but once I put a wrench on the thing; I don’t think any washers should shift, at least not enough to matter, considering how it is gripped by the trailer.Now for the test. Hook up the utility trailer and finally get it as close to that tree as I want it. OUTSTANDING! Maneuverability behind such a short wheel-based tractor is amazing. Now I see how truckers turn and twist semi-trailers into those places some people couldn’t drive a car. Not that I’m that good, but I see a new level of maneuverability never realized backing up boats, campers, and utility trailers.
OK, it is time to spread some truth here; I parked and leveled the camper in a place which does not permit me to pull the boat out of the garage because the truck is too big. Remember that old “two objects in one space at one time” thing? It seems real enough at this point. The mother of this project (Necessity is the mother of invention) was to pull the boat out of the garage, missing the camper. The testing is over. The terrain is pretty flat. Here we go.
Hot dog, it fits. Good thing too, because I tried backing up just to see if I could, slightly up hill, and no dice. As expected a 2000 pound boat balanced on a tandem trailer may have proper tongue weight on the taller truck, but at this height, only about 100# of tongue weight didn’t afford me enough traction to go up hill in gravel. Luckily I had enough grip to tow and brake, but that is all I needed in the first place. If I couldn’t make the corner like this I would have and to park it, move the camper, and use the truck to get it out.
Since the commercial solution of driving to Lowes to get a real Garden Tractor Trailer Hitch ball is so reasonable, maybe this project is a little tongue in cheek, but it did uphold rule number one: never buy what I can build. However, I cannot over emphasize this solution should never be used where safety could be in question. I had assistants standing by with wheel chocks in case I got it started downhill and couldn’t stop it. My lawn tractors are of senior vintage which is important for a couple of reasons. They were built strong back then and, although I’d hate to lose one because I overstressed it, that would not be like losing my only, or more costly lawn mower (not to mention boat or camper). I would not haul anything which I could not lift the tongue. The 650-pound camper tongue weight will not be attempted on these little guys. As usual, understand your tools, machines, and their abilities. Always staying within their, and your, safe limitations.