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Old 03-30-2014, 10:44 AM   #1
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Wheel Bearing Maintenance

On our last trip to AZ recently I decided to have my bearings serviced. A local tire shop did the work and replaced the seals. Cost $128. Probably could have waited, but with one axle I didn't want a breakdown on the Interstate.

Later in a campground a seasoned RV'r mentioned "bearing buddies". They have a grease fitting so you can service the bearings with a grease gun, thus eliminating the need to repack. He also said the interval for repack is about 30,000 miles.

Anybody have any experience/opinion on this?
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Old 03-30-2014, 10:59 AM   #2
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Bearing Buddies were developed for boat trailers. They seal the bearings against water intrusion. What they don't do, is grease the rear seal. Folks that compare Bearing Buddies to the EZ-Lube axle by Dexter are badly misinformed!
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Old 03-30-2014, 11:32 AM   #3
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Approximately what Donna said (they provide pressure to hold water out, rather than improving sealing)... plus
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rossue View Post
They have a grease fitting so you can service the bearings with a grease gun, thus eliminating the need to repack
They only eliminate the need to repack due to contamination by water intrusion when you back your boat trailer down the launching ramp. They do not change any other need to inspect or repack the bearings. There is no "service" required which involves jamming more grease into a bearing without removing the old grease, and that's all pumping into a Bearing Buddy does.

The constant pressure on the grease can also push grease past the rear seal - on an Escape, that means into the brake drum to ruin the brake linings.
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Old 03-30-2014, 11:38 AM   #4
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I had them on my tent trailer.
Also had grease all over my tires and wheels from enthusiastic use of a grease pump.
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Old 03-30-2014, 12:18 PM   #5
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I had them on my boat trailer and used to repack the bearings annually and change the bearings and seals every two years. Boat trailers that go into salt water are a pain. I found I had to pay more attention if it had heavy use or it is was sitting around not being used. I also found paying extra for quality parts, e.g. bearings, seals and grease was worth the money.
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Old 03-30-2014, 01:16 PM   #6
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Good stuff. Am including following I found online as I still wasn't sure of the interval. Also, its one of those "out of sight, out of mind" things that can be easily overlooked.

FROM TOM MORR, TRAILER LIFE MAGAZINE quoting Mike Niedrich, an RV shop owner:

Never reuse cotter pins. One of the least-expensive parts of the system is probably the most important. Always replace seals.
Any high-temperature wheel bearing grease will work.
All grease isn’t always compatible among brands. Thoroughly clean all old grease from bearings, races and hub cavities using a solvent such as brake cleaner.
In general, trailer wheel bearings should be serviced annually or every 10,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Grease also breaks down on stored trailers, allowing corrosion to form.
Visually inspect the bearing and race surfaces. If nicks or discolorations are visible, replace all inner and outer bearings and races on both sides of the axle.
Spindle nut torquing: Once the hub, bearings and thrust washer are in place, snug up the castellated spindle nut while spinning the drum. This seats the bearing. Then back off the nut a turn, retighten it (to about 50 ft-lb if you have a torque wrench) while spinning the drum, then back the nut off 1/4 turn. Fine-tune the nut if necessary to align its closest recesses with the cotter pin hole, or lock the nut in position with the existing tanged washer or cage-style retainer.
Some shops squirt grease into the dust cap prior to reinstallation. Niedrich used to do this until he noticed that the grease remained in the cap until the next bearing service.
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Old 03-30-2014, 02:16 PM   #7
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IMHO the E-Z-lube Dexter axle option is worth the $50 upgrade cost. A couple of squirts every year and inspection every other year This is a lot better than bearing buddies but not as expensive as yearly replacement.. Replace when needed not yearly.
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Old 03-30-2014, 02:43 PM   #8
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I have the original bearings and races ( 2008 ). They have been inspected, cleaned, re-greased and re-installed approximately every two years.
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Old 03-30-2014, 04:23 PM   #9
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Maybe I'm a bit casual about it, but I went two years between repacking my bearings. I never did close to 10,000 miles a year, or I probably would have done it yearly.
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Old 03-30-2014, 04:42 PM   #10
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Maybe Mike's advice for yearly is to help pay for his new boat(-;

Seriously though, I like the Dexter option (like those Clevis hooks too, but can't find suitable size with spring loaded closer). Could feel comfortable with every-other year then and agree that proper lube should make bearings last a long time.
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Old 03-30-2014, 04:59 PM   #11
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we take ours out to the factory every two years and get the bearings re-done and brakes adjusted and a general check over---got new tires this fall as Reace could see separation between the treads--Previous owners did go all across Canada.
Easy for us and Doug sure doesn't want to have to learn how to do bearings--mind you we do live less than an hour from the factory (that way I can get new mods each time we are out there too!!) Cheaper than a new trailer
But reading this forum I always have new ideas...
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Old 03-30-2014, 05:14 PM   #12
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I think if I lived an hour from ETI they would have to hire me…….
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Old 03-30-2014, 10:40 PM   #13
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IMHO the E-Z-lube Dexter axle option is worth the $50 upgrade cost. A couple of squirts every year and inspection every other year This is a lot better than bearing buddies but not as expensive as yearly replacement.. Replace when needed not yearly.
You could also skip the EZ-Lube and the annual squirts, otherwise maintain as per this schedule, and have almost exactly the same effect. The squirts don't achieve anything, if your bearings are not leaking grease.

I don't think anyone has suggested replacing bearings yearly, and even yearly grease replacement is not necessary with other vehicles, so there's no reason to do with trailers.

I don't see any harm in the EZ-Lube system if properly used, and it's only $50 so why not, but I also see no benefit for travel trailers. EZ-Lube is certainly better than Bearing Buddies.
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Old 03-31-2014, 07:01 AM   #14
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Dexter's website says you still need to do "periodic" service, which I take it to mean you have to check the bearings yearly or every 10k as mentioned previously. What value "repacking" as mentioned in their video is between yearly servicing is anyone's guess.

I did mine per the video a couple years ago, and like Glenn also had grease ooze out and get on the tires and wheels up until I did a manual repacking a few months later.
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Old 03-31-2014, 08:55 AM   #15
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Why would trailer bearings need such frequent servicing as compared to other vehicles? I can see with boat trailers that have their axles immersed in water, that more frequent service would be necessary, but why on RV trailers? Are the bearing, races and seal inferior quality to what is used in automotive applications?

I had mine inspected and repacked by a local mechanic and asked him about the yearly requirement and he thought that it was unnecessary. I guess he had already made his boat payment for the month.

After posting the above I couldn't resist Googling and of course found lots of opinions on this question. The following opinion was posted by a retired automotive instructor:

Much truth has been stated concerning bearing packing. Our cars, trucks only needed repacking every 30-40K miles. So why do a TT every year? Boat trailers are immersed in water every summer so they should be inspected and repacked. My way of thinking is this. Yes TT's may be bearing a greater load than say a truck. The manufacturer should take this into consideration and put larger bearings on TT's that can carry more weight. If in fact they don't, packing them every year is not going to prevent an overloaded system from failing. If the grease lasted on our trucks for 35K miles then changing it yearly won't prevent bearing failure if it's overloaded. Here's what I do and I taught this for 35 years. Keep in mind that the bearing grease does not flow like oil. What is put on the bearing at the time of packing is what you get. Looking at grease that's not on the bearings tells you almost nothing unless it's overheated and running out. You have to inspect the grease to look for metal flakes which is a sign of metal fatigue and certain bearing failure. 1. Inspect the bearings and grease on the bearings, annually if you believe you need to. It won't hurt. When repacking use the best bearing grease you can get. I use Amzoil synthetic or Mobil 1. You can't get any better lube. Use the best seals you can get. Line the hub with a 1/4 inch layer of lube as a moisture barrier. Packing it full is not necessary since it will just stay there until you remove it the next time. Correctly pre-load and adjust your bearing clearance. Bearing side movement should be .001-.003. You should just feel the wheel move. Less than .001 may create to much heat and more than .003 may create to much side pressure and speed up the wear process. This is what I taught and did for 40 years and I have never had a bearing failure.
Just my 20 cents worth.
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Old 03-31-2014, 10:15 AM   #16
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Old 03-31-2014, 10:39 AM   #17
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I have mostly done short trips with the odd 2 week thrown in, and after 4 years repacked my bearings. All was fine.

I am in no way advocating that others do this. Each must do maintenance to their own comfort level.
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Old 03-31-2014, 10:52 AM   #18
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Exactly. And consider this; a little grease may also be good for the skin.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg bearings.jpg (75.9 KB, 73 views)
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:09 PM   #19
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I always figured it was a throwback to when trailers, pop-ups mostly, had those tiny little wheels, 12"?. Due to the small size they heated up much quicker and were more prone to going bad.

Of course I could be full of it too.
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:39 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thoer View Post
Why would trailer bearings need such frequent servicing as compared to other vehicles? I can see with boat trailers that have their axles immersed in water, that more frequent service would be necessary, but why on RV trailers?
I have posed the same question myself, and never received a convincing answer.

Quote:
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Are the bearing, races and seal inferior quality to what is used in automotive applications?
Yes, they probably are in many cases. Also, trailers tend to sit for a long time unused, and the theory often posted is that the top of the bearings will dry out, leading to corrosion. If that's all it is, jack up one side at a time and spin the wheel a couple times a year...
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