From boats to campers to snowmobile trailers, we all seem to have something to tow. Lots of vehicles around here are equipped with receiver hitches, where the hitch ball assembly — called the ball mount — can be removed from the receiver frame that is bolted to the vehicle.
But I see cars, trucks and vans all the time being driven with the ball mount in place. In fact, I used to leave the ball mount installed all the time on our family minivan. “Let them hit the hitch instead of the expensive bumper” I used to think.
Then some years ago my wife was rear-ended by a city bus during a snow storm. She stopped for a red light, but the bus driver could not, and the van took a pretty good wallop. As you can imagine, the bus hit the hitch. Our $300 bumper was OK, but the van sustained more than $2,000 worth of damage because the hitch transferred all the force of the collision into the unibody … the hitch prevented the energy-absorbing bumper from doing its job.
In fact, we even had to replace the entire trailer hitch assembly because the impact rammed the ball mount into the receiver so hard the two could no longer be separated.
These pictures show how the ball mount adds several inches to the back of any car or truck. So now I remove the ball mount when I am not towing.
The folks at Spare Bumper came by The Garage recently to show off their product, which may help in these rear-end collision scenarios. Their ball mount has rubber shock absorbers built in, and they say you CAN leave this device in at all times … and that it will protect the back bumper and the vehicle occupants.
When my wife got rear-ended by the city bus, she was sore for a few days. The folks at Spare Bumper also sent this 55-page report from Sweden saying that people in a vehicle that is rear-ended WHILE THE BALL MOUNT IS IN THE RECEIVER have a 22 percent greater chance of a whiplash injury.
So, save yourself and your vehicle, and get the hitch out if you are not using it.