Wheel bearing service

Submitted: Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 21:45
ThreadID: 131331 Views:4131 Replies:16 FollowUps:12
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How often do people wash, inspect and regrease the wheel bearings in their vans and campers?
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Reply By: baznpud (tassie) - Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 22:06

Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 22:06
We do our van once s year or about 20 thousand ks.
Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Reply By: Gronk - Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 22:26

Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 22:26
Every 2 or 3 years ! I keep an eye on them ( by feel ) nearly every time I take the van out.
AnswerID: 594753

Reply By: Member - Wildmax - Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 23:18

Monday, Jan 11, 2016 at 23:18
Annually at the major service, and on the road if we hear/see anything that might require attention, especially if doing a lot of off-road work......SWMBO has much better hearing than me, and detects a problem long before I do.
A bit of preventative maintenance can save a lot of grief if you're kilometres from anywhere, as I once found out to my cost !
AnswerID: 594755

Reply By: Malcom M - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 07:27

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 07:27
Every year. Maybe more depending on the trips done and number of water crossings involved.
Its such an easy thing to do. Think how it will go if you seize a bearing and rip off a wheel or tear out an axle.
Seen both of these outcomes and its not pretty.
AnswerID: 594758

Reply By: Member - Boobook - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 07:53

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 07:53
I used to have them done every 12 - 15 months. ..... Until I had a seizure and fire on the camper axle on the way home from Cape York. It burnt out the bearings and brake plate.The wonderful owner of Narrabri Brake and clutch was booked out, but told me that he would show me how to do it while parked on his property. He was great and checked on me every 10 mins or so, assisting with greasing and bearing removal.

After 2 hours I was back on the road. I asked him if this was common, he's on the Newel Hwy, and told me that he sees burned out bearings on trailers at least twice a week. He said to do 2 things.

Replace or check the bearings before every major trip, AND check the temperature of the bearings with my hand every time I stop while travelling.

I now do both and change the bearings myself. Easy after my hands on lesson.
AnswerID: 594759

Reply By: Frank P (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 07:54

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 07:54
On our off-road hybrid camper, every year or before a tough trip.

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Reply By: B1B2 - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 10:42

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 10:42
Try a bit of condition monitoring. Bearing condition depends on what kind of driving you are doing, dust, heat, sand & water crossings etc.
Buy an infrared temp gun for under $30, and check exact temps of bearings. Do your vehicle as well at the same time. I had 3 bearings on my tandem at 35° and one at 75°. Pull apart and check brake not grabbing and bearing condition. You will also notice the wheels on the sunny side of the trailer are a few degrees hotter.
By touch you can tell below 38° (cool) and 45° (feels warm) above 60° you can't hold a finger on it for more than a few seconds.
The gun is far better, I check mine after a highway run and pull into a layby.

Good luck,
AnswerID: 594771

Follow Up By: Member - bbuzz (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:15

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:15
Every 10k. I usually do enough dirt and rough roads in that 10k that it is necessary.
I have had one bearing failure and I hope to not have anymore. Cheap insurance.\

Also a check should be made regularly on the bearing bush in the eye of the spring (leaves). One guy pulled into the park last week with an eye broken. Took him an hour to travel 10 km with frequent stops to tie the axle back into place.

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Follow Up By: B1B2 - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:58

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:58
Bill B and Pedro,

Four bearing problems with fellow travellers, all had been overhauled within a month or so of travelling by reputable workshops
One van wheel was peeling the paint, the bearing was too tight. Loose is better. We backed it off and it saw the trip out.
Another tandem had to complete the trip on 3 wheels and wait for parts. These bearings were serviced by the builder.
One 4x4 front wheel CV cover fell off due to corrugations and exposed wheel bearings to sand. Toyota workshop.
Another van has the one wheel bearing destroyed, it fell apart and was blue. This was also serviced by the van builder.
The well known bathtub curve is alive and well. Failures are more likely at the beginning after overhaul, then hopefully a good service life to the end of service life and expect failures.
Keep a good check on temperatures, particularly after an overhaul


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Reply By: member - mazcan - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:39

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:39
Hi Peterdre
i have always removed and replaced bearings and seals every 20th km's doing this at home base is far better than having to do it on the side of the rd in dirt
i use a ht grease and bearing pressure greaser unit so that the new grease is forced right through the new bearing before installing it
the small cost of the bearings/seals is minor compared to the inconvience of a failure on rd and of course the condition and correct adjustment of the brakes as mentioned is also very important
none of above is rocket science as boo-book found
i have always made a habit of walking around my rig and placing both hands at the top of each each wheel and try to shake it back and fourth if you can feel any movement it's beware and attention is required particular if the hub is too hot to hold your hand on it
but remember if you just used your brakes to stop at a rd side bay there will be natural build up but the wheel with a problem will be alway be way hotter wait until you've boiled the kettle
if your going travelling it would be well worth the effort to learn about this easy preventative maintenance procedure
i highly recommend balancing the wheels on all caravans and trailers as an out of balance wheel can destroy the bearings through constant vibration you would be surprised how out of balance some wheels actually are
just about every time i go Bunbury - perth bunbury i see as least 2 towed items on the side of the rd with wheel bearing problems cheers
AnswerID: 594776

Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:53

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:53
another lesson in knowledge of bearing condition worth taking note of is
when you buy a new set of bearings put the cone into the cup and rotate it back and forth and take note how increditively smooth it is
then after you have removed the old set do likewise and you will very quickly acknowledge the difference of the worn surface how rough it feels and why there is so much heat build up when traveling at normal speeds equals frictions plus heat in comparison to the set of new smooth rolling surfaces
if there is any roughness at all discard the old and replace with new
i always prefer new rather than a washed bearings cheers
FollowupID: 863330

Reply By: swampy - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:57

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 11:57
Trailer bearings are typically only just enough in size to do the job ..typical single axle
Dual axles tend to wear out because of the strain placed by sliding during turns etc
Every 20,000km or
before and after major trip
regrease after being submerged for any length of time do Asap afterwards

Use either a Hightemp bearing grease clay based or a waterproof type alluminium based

AnswerID: 594778

Follow Up By: swampy - Thursday, Jan 14, 2016 at 08:38

Thursday, Jan 14, 2016 at 08:38
After looking for a waterproof grease for constantly wet machinery the greases I found are
Belray - in OZ there are different divisions industrial ,auto, motorcycles, Its easier to ring the usa for recommendation .They have a great selection
Royal Purple only do one
Industry grease /oil specialists very very expensive does as claimed works under water
The true waterproof greases are either alluminium based , ptfe based made by Dupont
Dupont is difficult to get in oz
I settled on a lithium /calcium combination grease part time submersion [limited for auto use ]

Clay and lithium complex are water resistant not waterproof

NB just because a grease maybe available does not mean its suitable for auto wheel bearings

Typically lithium and clay are water resistant not water proof . Both donot like submersion .
The best greases are harder to get and can be costly .

FollowupID: 863434

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 17:28

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 17:28
I went into all this in detail a few years ago...... reading grease spec sheets, grease application notes and advisories and having direct conversations with lubricant engineers on lube company help lines........ if you realy want to know ..... get one of these lube engineers talking and you will find out a great deal.
You can get all twisted out of shape but the fact remains that "blue Grease" or "Lithium complex" is now the bench mark water resistant grease. ..... it is now the one go to grease for most mere mortals.
Under the castrol brand, it is now sold as LMX or in small quantities " boating grease" ..... previoulsy marketed as APXT. ........ it is pretty much standard and all the major lubricant companies have a lithuim complex grease or a range of lithium complex greases, some fortified with teflon, molly or graphite.
PTFE ( teflon)has never been a base for grease ..... like Molly, graphite and other solft metals it is used to fortify greases .....and as a fortifier in greases it works very well ...... in the past and still current, very common in old style lithium grease.
Aluminium grease ..... is old technology .... I still have a tub of Belray from the 80's, a bloke I knew was a Belray dealer back then ..... in the 80's it was the $#!^ hot waterprrof grease and commonly used in the boating industry ...... mostly translucent green stuff ......its been replaced by lithium complex in most applications.
Lithium complex ( blue grease) will outperform old school lithium ( castrol LM) in every application ....... it will outperform bentonite or high temperature bearing grease ( castrol HTB)( one of the clay bases) in every respect, except, extreem high temperature performance. It has plenty of high temperature capacity for normal wheel bearings ..... unless you are in motorsport and you get your disks glowing bright red ...... blue grease has more than enough temperature capacity. ....... HTB does have extraordinary high temperature performance ... if your HTB grease failed you seals where probably burnt and the temper in ya berings will be suspect. ....... most mortals don't need that.
In wheel bearings, we need to have seals, caps and bearings in good condition, Blue grease is well capable of dealing with a little water contamination ......... if however you get your hubs full of water ....... you are in trouble anyway, ..... no grease no matter how good will continue to lubrcate a tapered roller bearing under load.
Lithium complex is very commonly available.
As I say Castrol sell it in small tubs labled "boating grease", it can be had at a good price at most diesel & earthmoving spares shops in the larger bucket. ... Boating grease will cost you about $15 in a retail store for 500 grams ....... LMX baught well will cost you about $35 for a 2.5Kg bucket.
All the major lubricant compaines have a lithium complex grease ...... it has become a commodity item and the only grease some workshops now need.
If you want Teflon fortified lithium complex Nulon sell it in the small tub at the usual auto discounters ..... it is coloured red ..... I use this in my ball joints, universals and tailshaft slip joints.
The other lubricant companies have various forms of fortified lithium complex ..... but it is not commonly stocked in retail stores
From my reseach and several years of experince with it .... I have every confidence in Blue Grease in wheel bearings that may be exposed to water.
Two points of caution ......
the blue colour stains ..... not so bad on skin but moderately hard to remove from clothes.
And left under pressure in a grease gun the oil comes out of it ..... so either take the tension off your plunger or empty you grease gun befor you put it away.
I have heard that some of the cheaper L complexes may split ..... so stick with the known brands.
FollowupID: 863673

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:26

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 18:26
Bantam, you seem to be on a roll here, so may I pick your brains a little? :-)
2 questions
1 I'm aware you shouldn't mix greases. But if the greases are the same base, is it safe? Specifically, Castrol LMX and the Nulon you mentioned - both lithium complex.
2 I have three applications:
a) hubs on an off-road hybrid camper. 3 ton bearings, but only a ton on each wheel. They go in water.
b) Suspension bushes on the camper. A nylon or similar insert is pressed into the swing arm (2 bushes each side). It moves about a stationary steel insert clamped between the mounts.
c) greasable shackles on the tug
Various service people have espoused the benefits of their favourite grease - be it a moly fortified, teflon fortified or plain blue LMX.
What do you think would be the one best grease for all three applications - if there is one?
Cheers and thanks for your help.

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FollowupID: 863679

Reply By: Member - peterdre - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 12:34

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 12:34
Thanks all for your comments....much appreciated
AnswerID: 594779

Reply By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 12:40

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 12:40
Pretty much every time a venture out on the highway, I see some poor forlorne trailer or van by the side of the road with an obvious bearing or tyre failure ...... this is a real matter for concern and one that should not be.

How often should I repack my bearings? ..... Everybody wants a simple answer to this and there isn't one.

Depending on what your trailer does, its need for bearing attention will vary.

My backyard box trailer has not had the bearings repacked in 30 years, but I would not let my boat trailer do more than 12 months without repacking.

The single most important thing is bearing inspection ..... it will avoid more problems with less effort and cost than aything else.

Simply jacking up the wheel and spinning it will reveal a bearing that is suspect ....... that is easy and quick ..... but it's catching things a bit late........ this test is so simple and easy you would not go without. ...... and several times in a long trip.

A noisy or gritty bearing will run quite some time before it fails ..... but its death warrant has been signed, if not replaced that bearing WILL FAIL. .... its just a matter of time.

Taking that inspection one step further, will reduce the risk of failure considerably.

If you take the bearing cap off and look at the bearing you will see if the there is adequate grease , it looks clean & fresh and there is no water or other contaminats ....... ya looking pretty safe.

If you take the inspection one step further and take the hub off the shaft, you will see clearly that the seals are good, there is not foreighn matter entering from the back and you can even get ya clean finger in there to feel the bearings and the races.

At this point if all is looking good n clean and once adjusted properly the bearing is running properly, you have removed around 99.99% of the chance of being stranded with a failed bearing.

If your trailer or van never goes off the black top, the bearings where packed properly and you do some level of the basic inspection above ...... you may safely go many years without repacking or replacing your bearings.

IF however you go off road, or especially if you do water crossings or it is a boat trailer you should be a whole heap more attentive to youir bearings.

#1 you should use a water resistant grease ..... these days that means "Lithium Complex Grease" (Blue Grease) (LMX or boating grease in Castrol) ...... this stuff in any reputable brand is way more water tolerant than the old Lithium ( LM in castrol) or Bentonite ( HTB in castrol) greases.
These days Blue Grease is the one stop grease and will outperform the older greases in allmost every application.

#2 you should at least inspect your bearings much more often, paying particylar attention to water contamination.

If you are on a big trip, you sould at least do a "Wheel off inspection" after you off road or water crossing activity and your long haul home.

3# I would also do a complete repack AFTER any trip involving water or off road work ...... rather than before the next ....... this way you avoid corrosion problems that may fester while the trailer of van is sitting around.

AnswerID: 594780

Follow Up By: Member - peterdre - Wednesday, Jan 13, 2016 at 09:01

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2016 at 09:01
Thanks for your good advice
FollowupID: 863362

Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 14:51

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 14:51
All good advice from Bantam.

I'll add one more thing, from my hard-earned experience over nearly 50 yrs of owning a lot of trailers and caravans.

The seal on the inside of the hub is the weakest part of the bearing protection.

Yes, the cap (or a missing cap - as I've seen, many a time!) can also be a problem area - but generally, a good fitting bearing hub cap seals better than any lip-type seal.

In general, the inner bearing fails more often than the outer bearing.
This goes against initial thoughts - as the bigger bearing is on the inside, and the smaller bearing on the outside - but the bigger bearing is carrying more weight, because of its central position relative to the wheel and tyre.

What happens (on gravel and dirt roads, with speed) is the inner, lip-type seal, cops a hammering from the vast amount of stones, dirt and dust thrown at it by your tow vehicle wheels.
Front wheel bearings on vehicles never get this treatment, so they give less trouble.

As a result of the hammering by stones, dirt and dust being thrown at the trailer/van inner hub seal, it fails fairly rapidly.
Once the lip-type seal starts to fail, it commences to allow dirt into the bearing.
The dirt dries out the grease, it turns the grease into a grinding paste, and the bearing fails fairly rapidly.

You can prolong inner hub seal life substantially, by making up a large diameter piece of thick, heavy felt (8mm thick is good, thicker doesn't hurt) that is at least the outer diameter of the lip-type seal - and with a hole in the centre of the felt that matches the axle diameter.

When you install (or re-install) the hub, you slide the felt onto the axle, and give it a good coating of grease on the side facing the seal.
You then install the hub, ensuring the heavy felt is up close and personal with the rear of the hub and seal faces.

This piece of heavy felt then acts in two ways;

1. It protects the lip-type seal from the impact of stones and dirt ... and
2. It acts as a labyrinth-type seal, in conjunction with the lip-type seal, to improve the overall sealing of the inner bearing ...

I have used this arrangement for many years, and have never had a problem with a failed inner bearing since I started using it.

The water/rust problem with bearings is created when you drive through deep water, and the water gets into the hub - and then when you leave the unit sitting for a couple of weeks or more, corrosion forms on the exposed bearing races or roller surfaces, and that's the start of bearing destruction.

You can assist here by ensuring your bearing caps do not have a hole in them - as many do - supposedly for pressure relief.
You don't need caps with holes in them - the pressure buildup in hubs is minimal, and any pressure build up is released through the lip-type seal on the inside of the hub, anyway.

It's far better to have a fully sealed hub, that resists the entry of water in flood conditions or water crossings, than to have one with a vent hole in the cap.

Finally - when I install hub caps, I clean the mating surfaces of the hub and cap lip - with a volatile solvent - and then smear some high temperature RTV such as Copper Maxx or Ultra Maxx on the mating surfaces and tap the cap on tightly.
The RTV ensures a full seal against the entry of any water between the cap and hub mating surfaces.

Cheers, Ron.
FollowupID: 863668

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 17:46

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 17:46
I check the bearings for play and smoothness before each trip by jacking up the wheel.
I repack every year.
I put new bearings in every few years.
Many repairers will put new bearings in every service. The reason is because they are cheap and the labour required to clean and repack is similar to the cost of new bearings.
But not all bearings are created equal. I only use brand name bearings such as Timken, NTN or Koyo. I steer clear of the Chinese bearings.
AnswerID: 594792

Follow Up By: Member - Odog - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 19:03

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 19:03
Long read down the thread, before this was mentioned... I NEVER use Chinese made bearings.. For the few extra bucks, always go with the main stream brands.. I know some local repairers only sell the Chinese ones.. Not for me!.. They are cheap for a reason.. Odog
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 22:43

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 22:43
Yep, I've serviced the bearings on many other trailers and seen a few Chinese bearings that have gone rough well before they should.
FollowupID: 863356

Reply By: Shaker - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 17:59

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 17:59
It would be interesting to also know how often people wash, inspect & regrease the wheel bearings in their vehicles!
There seems to be a paranoia surrounding trailer wheel bearings.

AnswerID: 594793

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 22:38

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 22:38
Trailer bearings are servicable and fail commonly
Vehicle bearings are mostly sealed, non-servicable and rarely fail!
Wouldn't be great if trailer bearings were sealed as well?

But vehicle bearings often have a driveshaft going through the middle so they are a lot bigger than would be required to carry the weight.
My Tvan axle is rated at 1600kg and has bearings that are less than half the size of my Landcruiser bearings that carry similar weight.
FollowupID: 863355

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Thursday, Jan 14, 2016 at 00:15

Thursday, Jan 14, 2016 at 00:15
The other thing is .... the hubs and bearings in trailers are usually run much closer to their engineering limits than they would be in any motor vehicle.

FollowupID: 863411

Reply By: wholehog - Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 23:26

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 at 23:26
Similar to the vein of the thread replies,
are they standard holden HT or falcon bearings, or the larger and even parallel bearings of a decent caravan.
stay away from Chinese bearings.
every 20-30km service depending on environmental exposure.
AnswerID: 594802

Reply By: Idler Chris - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 15:34

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 15:34
If you have TPMS where the transmitters are strapped internally to the rim they alert you to any temperature increase. A temperature increase can be caused not only by tyre problems, but also faulty bearings, binding brakes, left hand brake on etc. Would not travel without them.
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AnswerID: 595081

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 17:42

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 17:42
I did a work trip up the sunshine coast on friday ....... half way back ....... there he was ..... todays trailer failure .... a tandem box trailer by the side of the road with both passenger wheels and hubs off.

Seriuosly I cant remember thet last time I did a highway trip and did not see a wheel or bearing failure on a trailer....... just sitting by the side of the road.

We don't have to be paranoid about our trailer wheel bearings ...... we just need to give them a little attention.

A little attention and you reduce your risks of failure, a little more attention and the risks reduce even further ..... ya don't have to be repacking your bearings every 5 minutes to reduce your risks of failure to practically none.

AnswerID: 595086

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