Another No Brainer Maintenance Item, Wheel Bearings!

I know, alot of you out there are saying "whatever" but, I get more stories from guys that have had this go wrong with their trailer and, its not only dangerous but totally preventable.  WHEEL BEARINGS!!!  If you are one of those that can afford to take your trailer in every year to get them inspected then bravo, 'cause that's the message here.  Every year, that's when they should be inspected. 

I don't care if you've got those Bearing Buddies that supposedly only need a squirt of grease every year and your good to go, your not.  I've had those kind of "things" on two of my boat trailers and neither were worth spit!  Sure, grease went in but, the moisture that was inside the hub was still in there and it still rotted the bearings out.  There is another type that has oil in the hub, same type that tractor trailer units are using.  I haven't used these types so can't give much of a professional opinion on them.  However, I don't see tractor trailers having their wheels immersed in water over and over again, you figure it out.  I went back to the old fashioned hub style, the one that just has a dust cap on it.  Every year I pop the cover off and have a peek inside to see what's going on and, if necessary, repack the grease or whatever else is required.  You normally should take the entire hub off if you are at all suspicious of some water activity going on inside the hub.

This season I did just such and inspection, and luckily I did!  I did a complete repack last year, put new wheel seals in and but yet the one side

Yukkkkkk!!

was totally destroyed!  I even silicone the dust cap, just for a little extra protection from water.  The word from the experts is that if you travel any distance before launching, that the hub will actually heat up a bit and when you submerse it in the cold water there is a "shrinkage" factor that can allow water to enter.  Whatever it is, I had more than shrinkage as even the bearing race's were damaged.  Probably the only thing that saved this hub from a total failure was the amount of grease used to pack the bearings, so it would have taken some time for it to implode.

If you are one of those that does your own bearings, it's pretty simple stuff, as long as you don't mind spending an hour on each side and cleaning it all up properly.  You don't always have to replace the bearing and race together and if not necessary, its simply a matter of cleaning the bearings and hub in a good solvent (ya, I still use gas!) , air drying them (don't spin them dry with a air compressor!) and then repack them.  There are bearing repackers you can buy for cheap but I still use the farmers method of putting some grease on the palm of my hand and then work the bearing around and pack the grease in, never had a bearing fail on me in my life.

I'll just attach a couple pics at the  bottom to show what the end result was of my project.  As far as where to buy the bearings/race, I used to get them at BC Bearing but they are no longer in Vernon so checked my local NAPA store and Terry told me this packaged set was the cheapest way to go.  As well, it has the quality bearings AND seals in it.  I bought cheaper seals ($4.00 as compared to $12.00) last year and that could very well be why I had the problems I did.  One recommendation with this package, don't use the grease that comes in the package but buy a good aftermarket brand.  I use the red tacky bearing grease in my stuff.  Although the bearings in the kit are pre-packed, do them with the good stuff.

Some guys are "afraid" of banging the races out of the hub, its no biggey.  Get a good drift pin or something similar and just work around the race from side to side.  I use a piece of axle stub for my drift pin, good and heavy and makes short work of the race.  For putting the race back in, same thing but I use the old race to start the new one.  Put the old race on top of the new one, put a flat bar on top and tap it in.  Just make sure you don't have the race in backwards!  One other thing is to make sure you clean up the spindle, that's the thing the hub sits on in case you didn't know.  Another cause of seals leaking is the wear that occurs where the rubber edge of the seal meets the spindle.  Hard to believe that rubber could wear out steel but it does.  There's not much you can do with it other than clean it up as good as possible and, when you put the seal in either don't put it in as far or leave it out a hair further.  What this does is position the rubber lip just a off of the wear spot.  I'm not saying it always works but I've done it on several trailers and had good success.  They used to sell "caps" that fit over these kinds of flanges so you have a fresh surface for the seal to sit on, I'm not sure if they still sell them or not.  Its that or replace the spindles.

 

I heard of two bad experiences that involved trailer bearings from guys on this site.  One where the axle actually broke off and the other where the crunching and nashing was heard when at the launch, they managed to limp the trailer home.  Obviously the worse case scenario is a failure when at speed, such as on the highway.  I don't think there's any of us that hasn't seen a trailer on the side of the road where its obvious they had a bearing failure.  Its easy maintenance and its worth the peace of mind when your on the road.  If you have any problems send me some mail!

Putting in new race, using old one to start it in.

Once the bearing is in place, load it up with more grease, and then put the wheel seal in.

After the spindle is cleaned up, give it a coating of grease as well.