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trailer bearings,grease,tighten or replace--need help,please!

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by eernest4, Oct 31, 2007.

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  1. eernest4

    eernest4 New Member

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    Went for a load of wood today and my friend says that I have too much end play in the wheel bearings of my trailer & that this is an indication that the bearings are worn. He wants to replace them.
    Does any one have any knowledge of trailer wheel bearings; I don't have the first clue.
    He asked me how many times I had taken the wheeel bearings apart and greased them and I said never since i bought it. Then he tells me i am susposed to do that at least once a year and that i had better have new bearings before one ceases up on me . To my untrained eye,they both look ok, spin easy and dont get warm after towing.

    How do you disassemble, grease and reassemble trailer wheel bearings.
    How do you tighten wheel bearings.
    Is there susposed to be end play and if so how much is allowable or is it zero end play.

    any info at all, would be helpfull.

    The trailer is a light utility trailer, max load wieght 1000 lbs, trailer gross wieght empty 235 lbs
    bed 4 ft x 8 ft , single axil, tires are 12 inch outer diameter (at tread), not sure of proper size; would have 2 go look.

    Thank you in advance.

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  2. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    You can inspect bearings and races by looking for discoloration, scoring and pitting. If the surfaces display non of the aforementioned, clean them up and repack them. A new seal may be a good idea.

    Jack up one side of the trailer. Grab the wheel and shake it. If you have play, you may tighten the nut on the bearing until the play goes away. Then give the wheel a spin. If should spin freely with no noise. (Disk brake setups will not spin freely) If you hear grinding noises or feel a coarse feel when spinning the wheel then it time to remove and inspect the bearing. At the very least, repack them if they appear to be in good shape.

    If you do replace the bearings, crank down on the nut pretty hard to seat the race/bearing, loosen it up, then tighten up until the plays goes away. And when it comes to bearing assemblies, cleanliness is godliness. Sand will destroy bearings quickly.

    Everybody seems to have different methods of tightening bearings.

    Just because the wheel has some play does not mean the bearings are bad. Often, the assembly will develop play when it gets some time on it after assembled when new.
  3. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    And don't forget the golden rule. A tad loose is better than a tad tight. Loose won't hurt anything while tight will. Generally you tighten it with as I say, "your best linp wristed style" and give it a spin and watch for the first sign of it slowing, binding some. Then back it off to the next notch in the castle shaped lock nut so it lines up with the pin's hole in the axle. Spin it some more and watch for binding, there shouldn't be any. Don't be too quick to toss and replace bearings and seals unless you can see rust, shadows or scratches on the bearings or race. They can easily last 20 years if you keep them greased.
    A good investment is a set of BEARING BUDDIES which you can pump grease into. Last summer I saw them at NAPA of all places for 12 bucks which is a steal. Those will keep the hubs clean and full of grease which comes in handy if you aren't into the annual bearing inspection thing. The oem bearings on my boat trailer are going on 18 years old. I just pulled em a month or so ago and reinstalled everything with no new parts. I live 4 miles from the launch and use hell out of my trailer and boat and I don't subscribe to launching boats by keeping the wheels dry and using the engine to launch it onto the trailer. I dunk it in all the way and it sits in the water for at least a couple minutes both in and out. No problems and those old bearings are good as new. Once you get em checked out they shouldn't need any maintenance for at least a few years as long as you use it occasionally so the grease gets redistributed. Using it some is good for the tires and keeps them from cracking unless they are Chinese. Those crack and split anyways, avoid them if you can.

    Woops I forgot what you really wanted. Check out the tutorials on this site. They also sell discount trailer parts though bearings are usually way cheaper at Advance or Autozone.
    http://www.championtrailers.com/techsup.html
  4. Harley

    Harley Minister of Fire

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    All good advise... a little bit of play is normal, and with regular re-packing of the bearings (and a good cleaning and visual inspection of the bearings) you shouldn't have much of a problem.

    and not to pick on a particular product (sorry Driz) - but I'm not a big fan of the bearing buddies.... I don't think they do much more than to just hit the outer bearing with a little bit of grease. I think they sometimes give people a false sense of security - just a few pumps with the grease gun and all set for the season. Those caps really have no way of pushing the grease into the inner wheel bearing where it is really needed.

    If the bearing and hub setup on the trailer isn't set up with a grease fitting where the grease flows all the way through to the inner bearing - I think trhe only way to maintain them is to pull the hub and clean and re-pack the bearings.
  5. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

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    Depending on the load rating of your trailer and how many axles it has, sometimes it can be worthwhile just buying replacement hubs with come with new wheel studs, new bearings and new seals. I did a boat trailer a while ago and I think it was $50 for 2 hub kits. It can be a bit of a pain getting the races out of the hubs and everything is full of X year old crud....

    On the tightening the bearing thing: Most trailers and a lot of cars have taper roller bearings. This is in fact one of the primary reasons why they fail so frequently, because taper roller bearings are very finnicky on setup. To work properly, taper rollers need a preload (less than zero clearance) and they need shafts that are designed robust enough not to deflect a significant amount under load. Now if you look at the axle of your trailer under full load, it will typically be bent visually, without even measuring. No good for taper roller bearings, they just eat themselves up under such circumstances. Typically, you need to rotate the wheel / hub while tightening the big nut that holds the bearing in place. The taper rollers will actually move to their correct position while under load and while the wheel is rotated continuously in the same direction. Tighten a little, rotate a few turns. Tighten a little, rotate a few turns. Proper maintenance manuals will generally provide a procedure whereby a string is wrapped around the hub / brake drum and then a tension is applied with a scale (like a fish scale. One tightens the nut until a certain value of drag is reached. If the bearing is not tight enough, the danger is that the rollers can drag (not rotate). Just a little dragging will make a flat spot and then you're screwed. Put a load on that part of the bearing, and now you are trying to rotate parts that have flat spots on them... Not nice.

    The bottom line is that consumers don't expect their trailer bearings to last forever. If you buy a really good trailer, they may have done their homework on the axle better - maybe not. As long as they are relatively cheap to replace, thats fine for most people.
  6. struggle

    struggle Minister of Fire

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    OK here it goes. Just take them apart keeping the left wheel bearing with the left wheel and the right side with the right side. I is best to not mix the two set together.

    You will have to different size bearings on each side.

    When you take them apart you will need new seals (one for each side) and new cotter pins..do not reuse the old ones!

    Like everyone else said if the bearing surfaces are smootn and no pitting or scoring then repack them put a new seal on and adjust with wheel off the ground spinning the wheel as you snug the nut down and after all the play is removed then back off the nut to the next open position for the cooter pin to go through. Like was said in above post tighter is not better.

    If these bearing are on a non water submiresed trailer then just pack them and put the caps back on. If it is a boat trailer then buddy bearing covers are a must.

    I do not agree with packing the bearings every year on a trailer but will say they should be checked for play and if excessive then further inspection for bearing failure should be done.

    You can grease pack wheel bearings with a clean hand by putting a glob of grease in your palm and then dragging the edge of the bearing accross your palm working the grease into the bearing and it will eventually be forced out the top leading edges of the bearing cage. Then rotate the bearing and do it again intil you see that all of the bearing has grease coming out of the cage all the way around.

    Everything thing must be kept clean as in now dirt or grit allowed around the bearings when packing them and installing.

    Always double check that you cotter pin is installed before putting the cap back on.
  7. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    I used to pack em manually then got smarter older and tired of my hands getting nice and soft so they bust open like a grape. If you are going to do bearings go buy one of those little nylon disk packers at Autozone et al. Its so nice to just toss em in there spin it down and pump it till you see it oozing out of all the slots between the bearings. You don't waste or wear much grease, not that its expensive just gets all over everything all too fast. To learn to do bearings its probably a good idea to have someone show and help you the first time as its an aquired bit of learning. Get in the habit of feeling the hub every now and again when you are towing. Bearings give you lots of notice that they are going to crap out if you are just watching for it. They should never be too hot to touch at least in my experience.
    BTW help is on the way when it comes to dealing with taper bearings on your car. They are for the most part now made with complete hub kits so you can avoid pulling and setting those pesky 5 dollar bearings and change out a 75 dollar hub which lasts about the same life span. It only took me 5 hours a monster impact wrench and my cutting torch to pull the one on my daughters 03 cavalier. GM is even kind enough to not install the rear seal to keep the crud out. Had to drop the whole thing just to tap in a seal that should have been there in the first place. Progress, ya right
  8. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

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    Can't speak for the bearings in your daughters Cavalier, but I think the Cavalier is well made compared to the POS Cobalt that replaced it. Mine has given me nothing but trouble and I have less than 35k miles on the dial.

    BTW, the angular contact bearings are now almost exclusively used by all the Japanese and German car makers. 135k miles on my Audi without any problems. When it comes to trailer bearings, their lifespan is often measured in hours as opposed to 100k miles. There is something fundamentally wrong with that situation and it is simply bad design. The shafts almost without fail are too weak and made out of cheap crappy steel to save a buck. Its amazing when one considers the consequences of losing a wheel on the highway and I have seen many trailers with wheels missing in my lifetime... I guess the trailer companies must be too poor to attract lawsuits or else they would have got their act together a long time ago

  9. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    IMHO this depends a great deal on the type of "bearing buddy" - I have seen two different types, one is great, and the other is false confidence like you said.

    The bad type looks like a regular metal hubcap with a zerk fitting in it. I agree that your summary description fits those perfectly, they don't do much, if they do anything at all.

    The better type is a cylindrical tube style with a metal diaphram in it, and a spring that pressurizes it. There is a zerk in the middle of the diaphram, and you are supposed to pump grease into it until the diaphram pushes the spring out about 1/2 way. This puts the grease under light pressure, so that it slowly migrates through the outer bearing, then fills the void space between the two bearings, goes through the inner bearing and oozes out the seal. The extra grease does cause the wheels to run a few degrees warmer, and gives a little more drag, no idea how much but not a big deal. Worst part is that the constant slow grease leakage past the seals causes the inside of the fenders, the back of the tires, etc. to be a real mess, but it gives a really good slow motion "perpetual repack" of the bearings. I found that when you first put them on, you need to pump them up every couple hundred miles or once a week or so until the hubs are full, then give them one or two licks every few thousand miles, doesn't matter that much if they go flat for a bit since if the hub is full of grease, you can't get any water or other crap in them any way.

    I use them on my sidecar rigs when I can, and my father used to use them on his boat trailers - we never needed to repack a bearing, or had any signs of failure.

    Gooserider
  10. eernest4

    eernest4 New Member

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    First, I want to thank every body that contributed to this thread for such good & sound advise.

    After I started this thead, I went to ask.com & spent about 6 hours researching repacking wheel bearings, changing wheel bearings & maintaining trailer wheel bearings.

    Everything I learned on my info search is all here in this thread. Amazing Work!!!!!

    Even gooserider's comments about the two types of bearing buddies was right on the bullseye.

    I went to the bearingbuddy.com website & gooserider's post was, like word for word, off the factory web site, so if you buy a bearing buddy, make sure it has the spring diaphram because the grease does migrate to the back bearing and ooze out the rear seal, as advertised.

    I am getting a set of bearing buddy's for my trailer & I have not yet repacked or replaced the bearings, yet.

    But now, I have tons of diy how to advise to see me through to a sucessfull conclusion of
    the repair.
    I probably won't do it until spring now because I no longer have need of the trailer
    for the rest of the winter since a clean up company I found on craigslist.com dumped 360 pallets
    in my drive way for free.
    They were happy to get rid of the pallets, go figure.

    I was dancing a jig of joy. No more scrounging for wood to burn.!

    I been busting up pallets with a sledgehammer for 14 days straight & getting the wood inside
    before it get rained on.
    today it raining ,so i have first free time in 3 weeks.

    Again, thank you everyone, your replys were awesome.
    and try www.craigslist.com in your area for free firewood,pallets or old lumber.

    click on free stuff and read the adds to see what is being given away in your area.
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