There’s a lot to think about when it comes to maintaining your RV, motorhome, or trailer! Because your RV or trailer is both a vehicle and a home (however temporary), you need to keep up with both the living area – your bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, and other spots, and you need to keep up with vehicle maintenance as well.
This leads us to a perhaps overlooked task that is, nonetheless, very important to the operation of your trailer:
How Often Should You Grease Travel Trailer Wheel Bearings?
As part of maintaining your trailer, you’re going to need to keep your travel trailer wheel bearings in good shape, so regular greasing of the wheel bearings is important.
Why You Need To Grease Your Wheel Bearings
Your travel trailer wheel bearings support the weight of your trailer as you travel and ensure that the wheels of the trailer spin properly as it’s towed.
The bearings attract a lot of debris from the road, including dirt and dust, and can contaminate the bearings and if you don’t keep them clean and properly lubricated, they can leak and deteriorate.
When Should You Grease Your Bearings
With a larger travel trailer, you should grease your trailer wheel bearings every 10,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first.
If you have a smaller travel trailer, however, you’ll need to grease your wheel bearings every 2,000 miles. This is because the wheels are smaller and spin faster. The faster they spin, the more stress they cause the bearings and the more often they need to be checked.
What You Need To Repack Your Travel Trailer’s Wheel Bearing
You can have a mechanic grease the travel trailer wheel bearings every time you need it. However, they charge per axle, and depending on how often and how far you travel, it could be a lot cheaper to do the task at home. You’ll need a few tools for the job, but once you have purchased them, the cost each time you do the task is minimal. You’ll need:
- a trailer jack
- paper towels
- high-temperature wheel bearing grease
- new seals, if needed, and cotter pins for the wheels
- chisel and hammer
- the required torqueing amount for your trailer wheels. You should be able to find this in your service manual
- pictures of your disassembled wheel bearings to help you re-assemble them
- wheel bearing packer or a grease gun
How To Grease Trailer Wheel Bearings
Here’s how to pack trailer bearings:
1.) Read the manual
If you’ve never greased your travel trailer wheel bearings before, begin by reading the service manual. It will tell you lots of good information, but most importantly, it will tell you how tight the torque on the wheels should be when you re-assemble things. Not having the right torque can cause your wheels to overheat, leading to excessive wear and possibly even causing them to fall off.
2.) Lock the tires and jack your trailer
Use wheel chocks to lock the tires opposite where you’re working, and then safely place your trailer jack under your trailer and lift. Continue lifting until the wheel you want to work on is off the ground. Then, arrange all your necessary tools and cleaning materials near the wheel you’re working on so you have them close at hand.
3.) Remove the dust cap
With the hammer and chisel, remove the dust cap from the wheel hub. Pull the wheel hub so the castellated nut is exposed and remove the tab that holds the nut in place. Unscrew the nut.
As you work, it’s a good idea to take pictures so you can re-assemble everything in the opposite order.
4.) Remove the wheel
Spin the wheel gently to loosen the outer bearing. Then, remove the hub and wheel from the axle and lay on a paper towel with the inner sides downward. You can also check for wear and tear on your axle spindle and brakes.
5.) Remove everything else
Using your chisel and hammer, tap the inner bearing and remove the grease seal. Carefully take off the inner bearings, the washer, and the outer bearings. Make sure to line everything up on a paper towel nearby. Clean the bearing so trapped dirt and dust don’t damage it.
6.) Clean the parts
Wrap your bearings in a clean towel and wipe off any grease. It helps to roll each bearing while cleaning them, and at the same time check the surface for wear and tear. You can even inspect each one with a magnifying glass. If your bearings show sign of wear, you’ll need to replace them. A trailer supply shop should be able to help you out – bring your old bearing with you so you can show them what you need.
Finally, wipe the hub clean with paper towels as well.
You’ll want a pair of gloves at this point. Grab your grease gun and apply grease into the hub, especially concentrating on areas close to the rollers.
You can use a bearing packer at this point, to cut down on the mess. Also, as you work, make sure you don’t get grease on your brakes.
8.) Continue greasing and begin reassembling
Put the inner bearing you finished cleaning back on the hub after turning your wheel over. Making sure the rubber side is facing inward, put the new grease seal in the hub. Use a thin piece of wood to tap the seal and make sure it’s flat against the surface of the hub. Add more grease over the lip of the grease seal when it’s in the right spot.
9.) Continue reassembling
Put your hub back on the axle spindle, making sure you replace each part in the opposite order of how you removed them. This is when the pictures you took will come in handy!
Apply grease over the castellated nut and place it over its tab, tightening the tab by hand. Then click it into place, making sure not to over-tighten it. Tighten the nut and place the cap over the wheel hub.
10.) Adjust brakes
Behind your wheel hub is a rubber cover that exposes a notched starwheel when it’s removed. Using a flathead screwdriver, turn the wheel in the starwheel grooves until there’s complete resistance, then rotate the wheel backward one notch at a time until there is free movement.
Do this for each of your wheels on your trailer, and then you’re done!
How Much Grease To Put In A Trailer Wheel Bearing?
While it is possible to put too much grease in a trailer wheel bearing and over grease it, the bigger danger is putting too little. You’ll want to scoop grease by hand, instead of having it applied with a machine. This allows you to control the amount you need and to more easily apply it where you want it.
Scoop the grease in your hand and press it over the largest part of the bearing – the bear pack. You want plenty of grease inside the bear pack, so applying it by hand will be most effective. Rotate the wheel bearing a little to work the grease down in and to give you an idea how much more you might need. Continue applying grease and rotating the bearing until grease begins to ooze out of the different openings on the bearing and perhaps even covers the bearing.
At this point, you know you have enough grease on your bearings.
Grease for Travel Trailer Wheel Bearing Types
There are many options for grease for travel trailer wheel bearings. Whichever one you choose, you’ll want a high-temperature grease that can hold up to the road. Here are some good options:
This grease tops several lists and gets high marks for prolonging the shelf life of your wheel bearings. It’s a synthetic grease that remains stable under extreme pressure and high temperatures and it’s water and oxidation-resistant. It also has a non-corrosive additive. It does, however, only have a shelf life of a year, and the spray gun you need to apply it must be purchased separately.
Price: $16.58 for 14.5 oz
This grease is very affordable and is a high-performance grease, designed for high-speed bearings. It lasts four times longer than regular grease and is plastic-safe. However, it’s only moderately water-resistant and the packaging is somewhat flimsy.
Price: $45.59 for a pack of 10 14.5 oz cartridges
This is an aluminum-complex grease that resists water even in the most extreme conditions. It’s specially formulated for vehicles and marine equipment. However, it has a low temperature tolerance.
Price: $11.73 for 14 oz.
Greasing your travel trailer wheel bearings may not be your idea of a fun way to spend a weekend. However, the savings over having it done by a mechanic, and the fact that it will get easier each time you do it definitely make it a worthwhile task to try yourself!
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