PSA for those who may not know...Tow balls are NOT recovery points!

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Overland_Mike

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This is an interesting subject to me and I realize that each vehicle and tow is different.
On my F-350 I have a Class 5 hitch I believe and have been using the pin to hold my strap that is doubled over at the Loop so that it’s 2” wide and fits inside the receiver.
I just looked up the strength of a 5/8” pin and it is rated at 21,000 pounds. That’s more than twice what my truck loaded with the camper weighs so for me this is what I’ll continue to do....
The front of the truck has two tow loops that are bolted to the frame with several heavy duty bolts.
That’s static pull, pretty easy to exceed that dynamically. Just buy a 5/8 grade 8 bolt and you’ll be plenty safe.
 

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My Willys had no tow points originally so when I built bumpers for it I added them. My bumpers are 2X6 1/4" tubing, I slotted the tube where the D rings would be welded on and slid in a piece of 3/8"plate and welded it in the tube, my D rings are in line with the frame rails and welded.

Here's a shot of the front 2 D rings on the bumper (it's also an air tank) and the back bumper.
 

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MidOH

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Pintle ball hitches, where when the pintle is open it's a 2 5/16 ball, and when it's closed it's a pintle hitch, have way stronger balls with much bigger shafts on them. If you break one of those, then you just plain don't know recovery at all.

Any kind of shock load, or huge amounts of force is unacceptable for recovery. You don't see wreckers yanking, or stressing their equipment. If your 12,000# winch is straining, get the shovel out or something.

I have two recovery points on my front frame, and my hitch on the rear. I can chain to the gusset opening:



 
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bgenlvtex

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Although I have used a 2" ball as a recovery point using chain, I have also seen a 2 5/16" gooseneck ball sheared at the shank and sling shot through the back glass and out the front glass on a pickup with enough velocity that it just punched a clean hole through both pieces of glass using a 2" nylon "snatch strap".

Made a pretty impressive sound.

Trucks were coupled gooseneck ball to gooseneck ball, the stuck vehicles ball yielded.
 

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If you want to see some very interesting off-road recovery videos look up Matt’s Towing on YouTube.

It’s amazing what this guy does. After watching his videos I ended up buying one of the kinetic recovery straps he uses..

Here’s one example..

 
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If you are worried about a tow ball failing, you should also be worried about the receiver hitch failing. Both are rated at similar weight ratings (unless one or the other is under rated in your setup) and for similar loads.
My 3/4ton Dodges bumper pull hitch is only rated for 12K. If I had my 6Klbs Dodge really bogged down and needed to snatch recover it the forces needed to extract it would exceed 12K really quick. Basically hitches are designed and rated for constant pull, not shock loads. So technically your no better off using those hitch stingers than the trailer ball strength wise. That being said I have done both, tons of times. Like all things you just need to be realistic and know the limitations of your equipment. And if you are so bogged down that you will risk breaking your tow points, its time to get out the shovels, jacks and traction boards.
To add: One of the most important things to be sure of no matter your recovery point, make sure any attaching hardware is tight. Just to drive this point home, in a recent class I had to take for work, we talked about how 80% of equipment failures are initially caused by loose fasteners. This is for engines, transmissions, tracks, final drives, implements, everything. So before hooking up, give your bolts a wiggle.
 
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I was criticized for stating the reciever is not a good recovery point so I sent an email to Reese Hitch, multiple times asking if I could use a Reese Reciever as a recovery point. They have not answered. I'll take that as a NO, or definitely NOT a yes.
 

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I was criticized for stating the receiver is not a good recovery point so I sent an email to Reese Hitch, multiple times asking if I could use a Reese Receiver as a recovery point. They have not answered. I'll take that as a NO, or definitely NOT a yes.
For those of us that have GM pickups, circa 2001-2006.5 (classic), it became known that GM skimped on their OEM hitches. By that, I mean, for their 3/4 & 1 Ton trucks, they were supposed to be a class IV or V hitches. Where in fact they were marginal class III in design and build. There were multiple write ups in RV towing mags that had reports of hitch failure (bending/cracked welds), or complete sheer fails from heavy trailer tows. That was a scary revelation. I imagine the use of stabilizer bars/ sway bars, masked initial fatigue failures, while contributing to their ultimate breakage due to the torque being applied directly to the hitch.

So when you say a hitch could fail in a recovery, yeah, that is totally in the realm of possibility. The reason for crickets from REESE is due of course to liability. No way they want to touch that question/ aspect, as it relates to a situation outside what they design and produce as a product. As was stated above, pre- extraction prep is the key to a safer recovery before you ever attach a strap.

*****Finally, GM did fix their hitch design in later model years, and now uses a class V in their HD line, if not their 1500 series of trucks.*****
 
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I've watched that video and seen it pop up multiple times on various forums. All I gathered from it is that if you abuse your vehicles to the point of causing the frame and hitch damage equipment fails. Who would have thunk it.......
 

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I was criticized for stating the reciever is not a good recovery point so I sent an email to Reese Hitch, multiple times asking if I could use a Reese Reciever as a recovery point. They have not answered. I'll take that as a NO, or definitely NOT a yes.
I use both of my reese hitch mounts (front and back) for recovery and towing. The front gets used with the winch and rear used to haul trailers. They are rated to 10k that number is a safety margin and probably a legal thing, likely your reciever can take another 5k or more before even thinking about breaking. If you have to use a tow ball as a method to secure a strap for recovery flip the ball upside down if it breaks the ball will hit the ground instead of becoming a high flying projectile. I dont do kinetic pulls anymore unless its absolutely necessary its rough on your whole truck and can give you whiplash. If you must pull a strap and you only have a hitch reciever slip the strap in the hole and run the hitch pin through the eyelet on the strap.

I have done the strap method to pull a semi truck out of some mud when he didnt take a turn slow enough, again 10k reese hitch reciever with the strap in the hole pulled a 80,000lb semi rig no trailer without ripping off the rear or cracking or bending even and my truck itself is rated to tow only 7700lbs.
 
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64Trvlr

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If you are worried about a tow ball failing, you should also be worried about the receiver hitch failing. Both are rated at similar weight ratings (unless one or the other is under rated in your setup) and for similar loads.

Basically hitches are designed and rated for constant pull, not shock loads.

One of the most important things to be sure of no matter your recovery point, make sure any attaching hardware is tight.
I saw a broken tow ball yesterday when I was in town, the guy had a 2 5/16" ball break. When I looked at the top of the ball it was rated at 6000#, who the hell buys a 6000# 2 5/16" ball to pull a 30' trailer?

I converted all my trailers (4) over to 2 5/16" couplers. I have a solid shank receiver on my hitch with a 30,000# rated 1 1/4" shank ball. I've had comments over the years about that being "overkill" maybe so but the hitch/ball/coupler is the weak link between the tow vehicle and the trailer.

Moral of the story is use bigger, better quality components, in a year the extra $50-$100 won't make any difference and they will last long after you forget what they cost.

I'm sure somewhere in the last 50 or so years of off roading, pulling trailers and helping someone get unstuck I've looped a strap, line or chain over the ball but I can't remember when. I have welded "D" rings on both my crewcut and Willys to use as attachment points so there's no need to use the ball.

Dilldog, I agree with what you said about ratings, constant pull and keeping things tight so it doesn't, fall off or shear off.
 
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Billiebob

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For those of us that have GM pickups, circa 2001-2006.5 (classic), it became known that GM skimped on their OEM hitches. By that, I mean, for their 3/4 & 1 Ton trucks, they were supposed to be a class IV or V hitches. Where in fact they were marginal class III in design and build. There were multiple write ups in RV towing mags that had reports of hitch failure (bending/cracked welds), or complete sheer fails from heavy trailer tows. That was a scary revelation. I imagine the use of stabilizer bars/ sway bars, masked initial fatigue failures, while contributing to their ultimate breakage due to the torque being applied directly to the hitch.

So when you say a hitch could fail in a recovery, yeah, that is totally in the realm of possibility. The reason for crickets from REESE is due of course to liability. No way they want to touch that question/ aspect, as it relates to a situation outside what they design and produce as a product. As was stated above, pre- extraction prep is the key to a safer recovery before you ever attach a strap.

*****Finally, GM did fix their hitch design in later model years, and now uses a class V in their HD line, if not their 1500 series of trucks.*****
Given that there is recovery gear designed for recovery, why would you use something the manufacturer will not endorse. Although I do use the hitch to drag around logs, I would never hook it to an 8K pound winch. If the manufacturer shys from the liability so should we.
 

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But the type of steel used is relevant... Any ideas how DOT grades the types if steel used in the tow balls?

Chinese steel is definitely different than US or Japanese steel...

James
The steel used to create a product is selected solely to meet the structural or metallurgical specifications of that product. If both products meet the required DOT failure specs, they are likely made of similar steels. It would be naive to assume American engineers select higher--and more expensive--grades than necessary out of good ol 'Merican Pride. They have a bottom line like everyone else.

*edit*

The whole point here is tow balls are not safe for recoveries, regardless of which "made in" sticker came on it.
 
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bgenlvtex

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The steel used to create a product is selected solely to meet the structural or metallurgical specifications of that product. If both products meet the required DOT failure specs, they are likely made of similar steels. It would be naive to assume American engineers select higher--and more expensive--grades than necessary out of good ol 'Merican Pride. They have a bottom line like everyone else.

*edit*

The whole point here is tow balls are not safe for recoveries, regardless of which "made in" sticker came on it.
Don't be naive, the Chinaman will substitute any and every kind of garbage component during manufacture.

They are getting better, NDT analysis in knife blade steels however still return alloy assays that don't fit any particular known alloy. Blade steel will betray shit alloys pretty quickly. Hardness testing is sometimes what it is advertised and frequently lower than optimal for a specific alloy.

Yes, don't use a tow ball for recovery, and don't use the Chinamans tow ball for anything other than maybe a trot line weight.

ETA: self certification is a thing. There is not some massive product testing infrastructure within our Government where manufactures submit samples for testing(and if there was it would be corrupt) the Wang Dang Automotive Accessories Manufacturing group (located in a prison in China) certifies their own product to meet DOT requirements. Are they honest? Pffftttt, almost certainly.
 
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Lindenwood

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Don't be naive, the Chinaman will substitute any and every kind of garbage component during manufacture.

They are getting better, NDT analysis in knife blade steels however still return alloy assays that don't fit any particular known alloy. Blade steel will betray shit alloys pretty quickly. Hardness testing is sometimes what it is advertised and frequently lower than optimal for a specific alloy.

Yes, don't use a tow ball for recovery, and don't use the Chinamans tow ball for anything other than maybe a trot line weight.

ETA: self certification is a thing. There is not some massive product testing infrastructure within our Government where manufactures submit samples for testing(and if there was it would be corrupt) the Wang Dang Automotive Accessories Manufacturing group (located in a prison in China) certifies their own product to meet DOT requirements. Are they honest? Pffftttt, almost certainly.
"The Chinaman?" The factories in question are primarily employed by American companies who demand specifications at contractually-bid costs. Let's not blame the countryman for their charge. I've seen very high quality products coming out of China (both metalurgical and manufacturing quality), but it isn't their fault Western companies keep tasking them to make products at 1/5 their normal Western cost.

Again, you can create whatever imagined nationalist pride you want, but there is not a tow ball in any country that is safe for snatch recoveries.

To be clear, I am specifically telling you that if you attempt a snatch recovery even on an Americann-made tow ball, you are asking for 4lb of steel to somebody's face.
 

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China is capable of building products equal to made in the USA products, the reason they don't is because we, us North Americans, just care about price, not quality. We either set the spec or the price and the Asians meet that criteria.

Case in point when WalMart started to carry DeWalt Tools 20? years ago. They asked for a price on a container of tools. China said $48 each, WalMart said, we want a container for every store and we'll pay $42. So China substituted plastic for the metal arbour and the arbour broke if you dropped it. We do it to ourselves. We make it all about price, not quality and businesses like Harbour Fright become our favorite store.

But the issue here is, why use something for a purpose the manufacturer won't endorse?
 
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bgenlvtex

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"The Chinaman?" The factories in question are primarily employed by American companies who demand specifications at contractually-bid costs. Let's not blame the countryman for their charge. I've seen very high quality products coming out of China (both metalurgical and manufacturing quality), but it isn't their fault Western companies keep tasking them to make products at 1/5 their normal Western cost.

Again, you can create whatever imagined nationalist pride you want, but there is not a tow ball in any country that is safe for snatch recoveries.

To be clear, I am specifically telling you that if you attempt a snatch recovery even on an Americann-made tow ball, you are asking for 4lb of steel to somebody's face.
I agree with you entirely about using a ball for a kinetic recovery.

"The Chinaman" is a euphemism, for cheap mass produced (in China) garbage. It's a real thing. I retired from an industry that was flooded with reverse engineered garbage that met "USDOT" requirements, meaning the Chinese manufacturer certified those products themselves to meet the DOT requirements. Unilaterally they are/were profoundly unsafe , unreliable and poor quality products. China may be the emerging industrial super power that the globalists want it to be, but they still manufacture huge quantities on garbage.

American companies do in fact manufacture things in China, more frequently they contract manufacture in China. In some cases they have effective quality controls in place to mitigate material substitutions and manufacturing short cuts. In many more they do not. Third party material certification, third party quality testing are the exception not the rule.

For the sake of honesty and transparency, I DO buy some products manufactured in China, very few consumers who do not. But they are absolutely not my first stop.

Nationalist pride? You're damn right, I am proud of America, proud of Americas industrial might, and proud of Americans, and if you don't like that, well .....

China, and by proxy the Chinese are not in any way our friends or our allies, but I digress.

Don't use trailer balls as recovery points for kinetic recoveries, yes.
 
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Lindenwood

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I agree with you entirely about using a ball for a kinetic recovery.

"The Chinaman" is a euphemism, for cheap mass produced (in China) garbage. It's a real thing. I retired from an industry that was flooded with reverse engineered garbage that met "USDOT" requirements, meaning the Chinese manufacturer certified those products themselves to meet the DOT requirements. Unilaterally they are/were profoundly unsafe , unreliable and poor quality products. China may be the emerging industrial super power that the globalists want it to be, but they still manufacture huge quantities on garbage.

American companies do in fact manufacture things in China, more frequently they contract manufacture in China. In some cases they have effective quality controls in place to mitigate material substitutions and manufacturing short cuts. In many more they do not. Third party material certification, third party quality testing are the exception not the rule.

For the sake of honesty and transparency, I DO buy some products manufactured in China, very few consumers who do not. But they are absolutely not my first stop.

Nationalist pride? You're damn right, I am proud of America, proud of Americas industrial might, and proud of Americans, and if you don't like that, well .....

China, and by proxy the Chinese are not in any way our friends or our allies, but I digress.

Don't use trailer balls as recovery points for kinetic recoveries, yes.
Interesting info! You are probably right that stuff does slip through the cracks of what is implicitely certified vs actually certified. However, I have never been let down by imported gear that met stated criteria , whether imported custom auto parts, or motorcycle gear. I have also done a good bit of digging and never, for example, found even the cheapest Chinese shackles yielding before WLL. Walmart probably sells as many tow balls as any organization, almost all of which are made in China. I am certain they would not accept the liability of a tow ball that did not meet DoT specs.

As to my patriotism...

Lindenwood, , Capt, USAF Special Operations,
5 combat deployments and counting to all the best shitholes ;) .