Recently, as I have been driving around town, I have been noticing a trend. Many trucks (and larger SUVs) have their balls showing. Not the offensive, chrome plated kind swinging from the bumper, but the actual (chrome plated) kind still in the receiver, ready to tow a trailer. I have three good reasons you might want to take out your balls.
First, your shins will thank you. Many of us have walked around the back of the truck (usually with our arms full of something bulky) and stepped right into the ball protruding from the hitch. I usually follow that up with something that rhymes with hitch. To prevent injury to yourself, take out your balls!
Second, your neck might thank you. In the event of an accident, your vehicle (and the vehicle of the other driver) are designed with an amazing number of “automatic” safety features. Airbags, crumple zones and the rest are designed to work (in an ideal situation) with bumper on bumper contact. That’s why states have laws restricting bumper height. If your ball is still in the receiver, that is the part that will make first contact. It’s also the part directly connected to the frame (not a crumple zone). The result is a solid whack that (more likely than not) will result in a whiplash injury to yourself.
Finally (if you live in an area where rust plagues your vehicle), pulling out your balls prevents the dreaded “rusted in place” effect. Many years ago (when I was younger and less wise than I think I am today), I owned a truck that had the ball in place over the winter. When I needed to change balls (smaller boat trailer/smaller ball), I was unable to do so. I was unable to do so with a sledge hammer. I was unable to do so with a chain around a concrete post. I was actually unable to do so until I got an oxy-acetylene torch and heated that sucker up to cherry red (which took a while because of the thermal mass of a receiver hitch). Never again have I left a ball in place unless it was actually in use.
There are three good reasons to take out your balls…now one really good reason to put your balls away. In the event of a crash (and we’ve all seen the slow motion video of crash test dummies), anything loose in the vehicle becomes a missile flying around. A jacket laying in the back seat is unlikely to bust your skull, but a ball on a receiver insert laying in the cargo area of an SUV is a whole different story! Find a spot (under a seat, next to a spare tire, in a toolbox that’s strapped down securely) where that ball cannot do damage to anyone inside the vehicle. It takes a few minutes longer, but is remarkably smarter…and that’s the whole point. Doing smart things can be easy, it’s just recognizing them that is tougher!
Iron Range Offroad is Minnesota’s only offroad driving school. The classroom setting is the spectacular Iron Range OHV Park, 3 hours north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The classes are geared toward entry level Jeepers, stressing safety and environmental responsibility. Trail riding is broken up with class modules that cover trip preparation, vehicle maintenance and repair, driving skills for different terrain, extraction techniques, vehicle upgrades, and much more. Customers who register for classes also receive a copy of Jim Allen’s book, Four Wheeler’s Bible, Second Edition, an amazingly complete and detailed volume that incidentally features some fine photography of the Iron Range OHV Park and one of the offroad driving classes.
To sign up for a trip or request additional information, log onto: www.ironrangeoffroad.com.
Related – Getting In Touch With Your Senses
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