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Trailer Talk
when to repack wheel bearings
 MrTruck, txdad, windy Last Activity 2014-10-31 10:37 PM
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headhunter

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Subject : when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 1:20 PM
Post #72536

I put about 5000 miles on my trailer this year I estimate it had about that many miles before I bought it last year, so it is a 3 year old trailer with 10,000 miles.   Is it time to repack the wheel bearings?  With this type of mileage should I get it done at the end of every season or can I go every other season?  Do RV places repack wheel bearings?  I just don't want to do it myself, and I think my trailer is too big for my local auto repair place to do it.
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PaulChristenson

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 2:24 PM
Post #72541 - In reply to #72536

Originally written by headhunter on 2007-12-06 1:20 PM

I put about 5000 miles on my trailer this year I estimate it had about that many miles before I bought it last year, so it is a 3 year old trailer with 10,000 miles.   Is it time to repack the wheel bearings?  With this type of mileage should I get it done at the end of every season or can I go every other season?  Do RV places repack wheel bearings?  I just don't want to do it myself, and I think my trailer is too big for my local auto repair place to do it.

Here is what the RVers are saying...

http://www.rverscorner.com/articles/bearings.html

Many trailer manufacturers recommend this maintenance every year if your trailer gets normal use, or at least every 20,000 miles. To do this job, you’ll need a jack, a pair of jack stands, a large screwdriver, a hammer and a needle-nose pliers, clean rags, a small pan, about a quart of kerosene and a spray can of brake cleaner.

First, loosen the lug nuts on one wheel and raise the side of the trailer with a jack. Support the trailer with jack stands and then spin the wheel and listen to the bearings. If the wheel spins freely and quietly, proceed with repacking the bearings. If you hear friction or a growling sound, you most likely have a bad bearing or spindle. If this is the case, take the trailer to a service center to get the bearings replaced.

http://www.rd.com/content/openContent.do?contentId=17452


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headhunter

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 2:30 PM
Post #72542 - In reply to #72541

I don't want to do it myself, I would really rather take it somewhere and pay to have it done.  But the first link shared above should be read by everyone as to why at least inspecting brakes and wheel bearings annually is a good idea.   

 

[Edited by headhunter on 2007-12-06 2:42 PM]

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flyinghfarm

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 2:39 PM
Post #72545 - In reply to #72536

I am lucky.  3 miles down the road is a large shop that primarily does fire truck service and repair.  they have a large bay and they do my trailer maintenance.  Check and see the RV places, and also truck stops, or see who does the maintenance on the local school buses. 
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gard

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 4:21 PM
Post #72549 - In reply to #72536

When we bought a new stock trailer, we used it for about a month going to local shows, putting a few hundred miles on it with no problems. On a hunch, I pulled the wheels and found that there was no grease installed on either of the bearing assemblies of both wheels on one side of the trailer. The spindles were burnt and discoloured, indicating a thermal failure was imminent. The other side of the trailer was fine. Apparently this was a Friday afternoon or Monday morning build and the guy on that side of the assembly line had had a bad day. Two spindles, four bearings and one wheel hub were replaced for a lack of lubrication. One long trip down the road could have broken the spindles and left the wheels or the trailer in a ditch.

All of my trailers bearings ( horses, utility and boats) are packed with synthetic grease and have bearing buddies installed. I only pull the wheels for brake inspections, and have never had a bearing problem with this combination. A semi-annual application of a couple pumps of grease is the only routine maintenance necessary.

BOL  Gard


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crowleysridgegirl

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 6:00 PM
Post #72559 - In reply to #72549

A friend of mine who buys and sells trailers regularly told me that he's seen new trailers without any grease in the wheel fittings all the time.That is one of the first things I have done when I get a different trailer.He also said: one wheel bearing burning out during a haul with horses will be enough to change anyone's mind about the importance of such.
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Cloud9

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 6:08 PM
Post #72561 - In reply to #72536

t's the most important part of my spring trailer cleanup before taking it out - get the wheels repacked and brakes checked. It's like the oil change on the truck. Time causes as much deterioration as mileage. I have the oil change at 3 month intervals or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. I don't always put 5,000 miles on it in 3 months.
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Kay

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 6:10 PM
Post #72562 - In reply to #72536

We advise packing wheels yearly for average personal use, or more often for commercial use or on-the-road-every-weekend use.  Bearings need to be visually inspected, which means cleaned first, then if OK repacked with new grease.  Seals should never be used again.  When the hub is pulled to access the bearings, the brake assemblies are then easily inspected without adding additional cost to the job.

We have had countless trailers pulled in here on three wheels, and when asked about the last time the bearings were packed, we get hilarious answers, all the way from "what bearings?" to "never, didn't know about it" to "my hubs are packed with synthetic grease which is permanent and lasts forever". 

Gard, as to the new axles without grease - this is why we pull the wheels on any new trailer that is sold and prepped.  We have found many without enough grease, but I don't think any without any grease at all.  We do lots of warranty work for one of the major axle manufacturers, and one day asked why they couldn't just put one more tablespoon of grease in each hub to avoid having too little.  They told us to multiply that tablespoon by several million hubs per year.  What a disappointing answer.

Bearing Buddys are great if they are used correctly.  Unfortunately many folks think that if one or two pumps of grease is good, then six or eight is even better.  We get these trailers in with the brake assemblies packed solid with grease (when the seal simply couldn't hold it any more), usually because they think the brakes aren't working.  It costs more in labor to clean those brake assemblies that it does to replace them, and the shoes tend to fall apart even after being thoroughly cleaned.   We sell Bearing Buddys, but always make a joke out of it, telling the customer that we love to sell them because they are job security for us.  The same problem with over-doing it with a grease gun applies to EZ Lube axles.  Even if you don't pack the brakes with grease, you blow the seal and bearing troubles follow.

Sorry, I get carried away.


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cotrailrider

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 6:21 PM
Post #72566 - In reply to #72536

I pack mine every spring or every 10.000 miles which ever comes first.  It is also a good opportunity to inspect the brakes and drums.
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gard

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-06 9:37 PM
Post #72582 - In reply to #72536

When you use a bearing buddy, you pump in just enough grease to slightly compress the spring. If you fill the reservoir, when the bearing gets up to a running temperature, the pressure will blow out the grease seal. Before the installation of a bearing buddy, all the bearings have to be removed, cleaned, and repacked.

Until using bearing buddies and synthetic grease, the whole boating industry suffered a high rate of failed trailer wheel bearings. The bearings are run at a high road temperature and then quickly quenched in cold water. A petroleum based grease and no reservoir will allow the bearings to wash and quickly burn them up. We had some customers who used to repack them after every launch/recovery cycle, now the wheels are only usually pulled for brake inspections. Most of the trailer axle hubs under 3000# are infrequently disassembled.

With a constantly pressurized, new synthetic grease source, there is no need to pull the trailer bearings other than to access the brakes or a blown seal caused by overfilling.

On a commercial aircraft, the airplane will sit on a hot ramp, heat soaking the entire landing gear. By the time it leaves the gate its weight has almost doubled with the fuel, baggage and passengers. The aircraft is then taxied to the end of the runway where it accelerates to about 130 mph. It then spends a significant amount of time in subfreezing temperatures. When it lands at about 140 mph, the wheel bearing grease is thick and cold. The tires that weigh almost three hundred pounds each, go from no rotation to several thousand rpm in seconds. The multiplate disc brakes haul the plane to a stop in about a half a mile, and turn red hot in the process. The wheel bearings are now frying in their grease that moments ago was as thick as peanut butter. This cycle is repeated many times each day.

Can you imagine the stress on these bearings? They are protected by synthetic grease and are only changed when a brake or tire needs replacing. It is not necessary to change or repack them in normal maintenance.

I wish the dealer from whom I bought my first new trailer, had been as conscientious as Kay and the other dealers, who check their equipment before making a delivery. Isn't it a sad affair when you spend good money, and a manufacturer can't afford a dime's worth of lubricant? When I buy a used piece of equipment, I automatically assume the worse and check everything before I use it. But with a new unit, this should not be necessary. What if this happened in the automotive or trucking industry?

Perhaps as consumers, we should be more proactive and loudly complain about products, manufacturers and services in which we are being short changed, ie; greaseless bearings. This is a safety issue, and if any harm resulted as a result of this negligence, someone could be accountable.

BOL  Gard



[Edited by gard on 2007-12-07 8:34 AM]

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Kay

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-07 11:32 AM
Post #72605 - In reply to #72536

I was really remiss when I failed to tell you that the paltry amount of grease in the new axles is NOT the fault of any trailer manufacturer.  The trailer manufacturer buys the axles with brakes and hubs complete and installs them on their product, never taking the hubs off or viewing the interior of the hub/brake assembly.  They trust, just as we do, that the axle manufacturer has done their job.

Someone will probably jump up now and demand that the trailer builders take the axles apart and inspect them before installing them on the trailer.  That could be done, of course, but are you as a consumer willing to pay the added expense of having to double check something that should be correct to begin with?


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gard

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-07 4:03 PM
Post #72612 - In reply to #72536

Kay

Most consumers don't have the knowledge, skills or tools to pull apart the wheel assemblies of their brand new trailers. Nor do they expect that this should be necessary on a brand new, expensive piece of equipment.

Marine dealers are finally revolting to the number of broken items, they find on pre-delivery inspections of new units from their manufacturers. Often they have to spend many non-reimbursed hours to correct uncompleted or broken items. Until the manufacturers were finally put on notice, this was a common problem.

How much labour does it cost you to tear each wheel off every trailer you sell? Why are you responsible for absorbing this cost and liability when the manufacturer doesn't inspect the products he purchases?

Perhaps trailer dealers should be more critical of the trailer manufacturers who do not inspect the products they buy and install. It's always the same excuse, "the  other guy will get it". In my case I almost got it and it could have been much worse. Why does a retailer have to pay for the sins of the manufacturers?

The auto makers buy bearings from a manufacturer. They lubricate  them and install them in the products they sell. How are they any different from a trailer manufacturer? What would happen if all Ford trucks were shipped with no lubrication in the rear axles? What would happen if all Chrysler products were shipped with no coolant in the radiators, or transmission fluid in the GM products? Why are trailer manufacturers held to a lesser standard?

When you check a trailer and find no grease and take care of it, you've saved someone a lot of grief. When you inspect a trailer and find that every one from that manufacturer is dry, it is up to you to complain or refuse deliveries untill the problem is corrected. If you let the situation continue, it becomes your responsibility. A talk with other fed up dealers of the same brand will give you some clout and there is strength in numbers.

Keep up the good work and fight for your rights

BOL  Gard



[Edited by gard on 2007-12-07 4:26 PM]

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Jbsny

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-07 5:37 PM
Post #72615 - In reply to #72536

what is worse, is when one has their bearings packed at two places near by, and then took it to a dealer (very honest) to have a ramp replaced and bearings packed there, and to find out that the trailer still had the original bearing grease and the two places charged me and didn't do the work!!!!

Jbsny


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gard

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-07 5:53 PM
Post #72617 - In reply to #72536

A letter from your trust worthy trailer dealership indicating what he discovered, should be hand delivered to the other service managers or the owners along with a  demand of reimbursement and apology.

I had a similar situation with some brake pads on a car.

 

BOL  Gard


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headhunter

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-07 5:59 PM
Post #72618 - In reply to #72617

It is never a bad idea to ask to have any parts replaced returned to you as well.  A bearing pack would mean only getting used seals, but at least the mechanic knows you are going to check. 
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Kay

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Subject : RE: when to repack wheel bearings
Posted : 2007-12-08 7:05 AM
Post #72638 - In reply to #72536

jbsny, I don't see how original grease can be differentiated from grease replacing the original unless it was known that the original grease had some identifying character.  If the grease was very dirty, full of grit, etc., then you could be assured that it wasn't recently replaced, but you sure can't tell otherwise.

Headhunter, you are right about asking for old parts.  We save all old parts for the customer's inspection.  Most customers don't even want to see them, but some do.  One of the purposes for packing wheels is to find and replace bearings and/or races that have chips, rough spots, look like they have been very hot, etc., so in some cases, the customer could get the old bearings and races back.  Our policy is "if in doubt, throw it out (replace it)", preferring to err on the side of caution.  Replacing bearings is sometimes just the technician's call and opinion, sometimes influenced by the condition of the grease (not much of it, or lots of grit and dirt) that might have affected the integrity of the bearings.


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