When it comes to the maintenance of travel trailers, wheel bearings are often overlooked. Wheel bearings are an essential part of your trailer as they are responsible for supporting your trailer’s weight.
Whether you own a large hauler or a small utility trailer, you need to ensure that your wheels are working properly and are well-maintained. This allows them to rotate without any interference. By greasing the wheel bearings, you prevent dust, dirt, and other foreign objects from accumulating while keeping the wheels rolling smoothly.
This post will explain why it’s important to grease the wheel bearings and discuss some of the best grease you can use for your travel trailer. It will also show you how to grease the bearings efficiently.
This leads us to an essential question:
How Often Should You Grease Travel Trailer Wheel Bearings?
Usually, you’ll need to check the grease on your travel trailer’s wheel bearings annually, once every season, or after every 10,000-12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Why You Need to Grease Your Wheel Bearings
While traveling, the wheel bearings support the weight of your trailer. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to travel far. They also make sure that the wheels of your trailer spin properly when towed.
The bearings get exposed to a lot of debris like dirt and dust from the road. If not cleaned, greased, and lubricated regularly, they can become contaminated, cause leaks, and become damaged.
Make sure to use grease that is specifically manufactured for wheel bearings and refrain from using any other type.
When Exactly Should You Grease Wheel Bearings?
The frequency of greasing depends on the wheel size, trailer size, and weight load.
The best practice is to grease your wheel bearings a minimum of once per season. You need to check wheel bearings each year to ensure that they have the required amount of grease as they deplete with time.
A large hauler may need more frequent greasing than a small utility trailer. Likewise, boat trailers with small wheels will require more frequent greasing – maybe after every 2,000-mile distance. The reason is, small wheels experience more stress since they spin faster.
Also, if you have a large trailer and travel a lot or stay in extremely hot weather, the grease can get used up quickly. Hence consider greasing more frequently – at least every 10,000 miles.
Signs Your Bearings Need Greasing
Apart from greasing them every year, every season, or between 10,000 to 20,000 miles, your trailer can also give you signs that it’s time for greasing.
Upon noticing these signs, make sure to immediately inspect the wheel bearings.
If You Recently Carried a Heavy Load
If you’ve just used your trailer to haul a heavy load, you must check the wheel bearings as overloading or unbalanced loads add excess stress causing them to wear out much faster. This is because the grease depletes quickly with increased friction.
If You Towed It Through Water
If you’ve towed your travel trailer through water with the axles underwater, maintenance is essential. Even a top-quality seal can’t endure water, especially when it’s exposed to pressure. Also, since bearings are made of hardened steel, they can quickly rust if exposed to moisture.
You must repack your bearings after they’ve been exposed to a lot of water. Also, keep an eye out for premature failure if you use factory-installed bearings.
If You Recently Bought Your Trailer
Some manufacturers fail to grease the wheel bearings before delivering them to the dealer. Hence, before purchasing from a dealer make sure to inspect the bearings of the trailer for extreme friction. Check for excessive friction by touching the tires after driving some distance. Poorly lubricated tires will be very hot.
If You Hear a Strange Noise
Are you hearing strange sounds from the wheels of your travel trailer? You should inspect the bearings. The noise will sound like rumbling, growling, grinding, or squeaky sounds that emanate from your trailer wheels.
When you travel at high speeds, these noises become more audible. If you hear sounds coming from your bearings, immediately take the trailer to a professional instead of risking travel.
What Happens If You Don’t Grease Wheel Bearings?
If you don’t grease the wheel bearings, they can fail. The interiors of your bearing’s wheel hub get dry, hot, and metals get stuck to it. This can cause the parts to stick to the hub and spindle, and can eventually lead to the wheels falling off.
Ungreased wheel bearings will cause a chain effect of problems:
- If your travel trailer’s wheels haven’t moved for a long time, it can lead to condensation.
- Condensation can cause the bearing’s interior to rust.
- This rust will soon spread to the interiors.
- This leads to scratches that can cause severe friction and eventually lead to failure.
How to Grease Wheel Bearings?
Based on the frequency and distance of your travels, most mechanics charge per axle. However, you don’t need a mechanic to grease your wheel bearings. Doing it yourself means purchasing the tools you’ll need to do it, but it becomes cheaper in the long run.
Tools You Will Need:
- Paper towels
- Trailer jack
- Chisel and hammer.
- High-temperature wheel-bearing grease.
- If needed, new seals and cotter pins for the wheels.
- The necessary torquing amount for your trailer wheels. It’s generally mentioned in your trailer’s service manual.
- Photos of the disassembled wheel bearings so you can reassemble them with ease.
- A grease gun or wheel-bearing packer.
You can grease your wheel bearings from your garage with this step-by-step guide.
Step by Step Guide to Repacking Wheel Bearings
Step 1. Read the Manual
If you’re greasing your travel trailer’s wheel bearings for the first time, then you must start by studying your trailer’s manual. Make sure to contact your trailer manufacturer or look online if you don’t have a copy.
Referring to your manual is essential as it will have valuable information on the amount of torque you need for your wheels when reassembling. An incorrect torque setting can cause your wheels to overheat, put excessive stress on the axle, and lead to wheels potentially falling off.
Step 2. Jack Your trailer and Fasten the Tires
Lock the tires with your wheel chocks from the other side where you’ll be working. Get the trailer jack in place underneath your trailer and carefully lift the trailer.
As soon as the wheel you’ll be working on is above the ground, gather all your tools and cleaning supplies near it.
Step 3. Take the Dust Cap Away
Remove your wheel hub’s dust cap with a chisel and hammer. Yank the wheel hub so it comes off and exposes the castellated nut. You can then unscrew the nut by removing the tab that’s holding it. Some trailers have a recyclable lock washer or cage or a cotter pin.
Remember to keep track of every step by taking pictures at important stages to make refitting easy.
Step 4. Remove Wheel
Rotate the wheel gently until the external bearing gives you some slack. Remove the wheel and hub from the axle spindle and place them on a paper towel. Make sure the inner sides of both the hub and wheel point downward. Also, look for extreme wear and tear of your brakes and axle spindle.
Step 5. Remove Rest of the Parts
With the help of your hammer and chisel, remove the grease seal by tapping the interior bearing. Carefully remove the inner and outer bearings together with the washer. Keep all the parts neatly organized on a paper towel nearby. Thoroughly clean the bearings to keep dust from damaging them.
Step 6. Wipe the Parts Clean
Remove any excess grease and wrap your bearings in a fresh towel. While cleaning, examine the exterior of the bearings for any wear and tear as well as damage. Make sure to look at it carefully and closely. Use a magnifying glass if necessary. If you notice any signs of wear and tear, replace them as soon as possible.
Keep the original part as a reference for the supply shop you’ll be purchasing a replacement from. Finally, wipe off the grime and water using paper towels.
Step 7. Grease the Hub
While wearing gloves, get high-temperature grease into the hub with a grease gun. As you do this, pay special attention to the outer areas near the rollers.
At this point, you can use a bearing packer to minimize the mess. Keep the hub in a safe place before greasing the spindle. Make sure that you don’t get any grease on the brakes.
Step 8. Continue Greasing and Start Reassembling
Turn the wheel over and place the interior bearing back on the hub. Install the new grease seal into the hub while ensuring that the side of the rubber is turned inward. Carefully place the seal and secure it flatly against the surface of the hub. Apply more grease over the grease seal’s lip after it is firmly placed.
Step 9. Continue Reassembling
Ensure that each part is replaced in the opposite order that they were taken off. Return your hub to the axle spindle. Refer to the photos you took earlier to help you with reassembly.
Before placing the tab on the castellated nut, smear some grease over it and secure the tab by hand. Make sure that you don’t tighten it too much since over-tightening can lead to damage. Turn the castle nut until it tightens.
Follow the same steps to replace the drum but turn it in the direction opposite of the castellated nut. Replace the cap on the wheel hub.
Step 10. Adjust the Brakes
There’s a rubber cover at the rear of the wheel hub. Remove it to expose a jagged starwheel. Rotate the grooves on the starwheel with a flathead screwdriver until you encounter complete resistance.
Gradually spin the wheel backward one notch at a time until it moves freely. Repeat the steps for the rest of the wheels.
How Much Grease Do You Need?
If you’re greasing your wheel bearing for the first time, you must be wondering how much grease you’ll need. Though it’s not recommended to over-grease the wheel bearings of your travel trailer, applying too little can also be dangerous. The best method is to use your hands to scoop out the grease instead of using a machine to do it.
This lets you get the grease in the necessary areas while controlling the amount of grease you apply. Make sure to use high-temperature grease when you do this.
Press the scooped grease over and into your bear pack. This is the bearing’s largest part so make sure to apply sufficient grease inside it. To get an idea if you need to apply more grease, slightly rotate the wheel bearing. Continue turning the bearing and smear grease until it starts to ooze out of the many openings of your bearing and maybe even until it encompasses the bearing along with its races.
This is when you can stop greasing the wheel bearing of your trailer. Too little grease can wear out your bearings prematurely.
Can You Put Too Much Grease?
There’s a general perception that more is always better when it comes to greasing your wheel bearings, but it can be a costly mistake. You should instead check your lubrication based on the intervals mentioned earlier.
Over-greasing can cause the seals to collapse, increase the operating temperature beyond safe limits, and in the case of greased electric motors — result in failure and energy loss.
Heat along with oil bleed will gradually thicken the grease into a hard and crusty residue which impairs proper lubrication and prevents new grease from reaching the bearing core.
What Grease Should You Get?
A good lubricant helps improve the performance of your wheels while protecting the bearings from damage. It also shields the metal from water and heat and extends the life of the bearings.
Here’s a list of the three best wheel-bearing greases in the market today.
1. Timken Allstar ALL78241
Specially designed to lubricate wheel bearings, the Timken Allstar ALL78241 can be a great disc or drum grease for your travel trailer’s wheel bearings. This is one of the best wheel-bearing greases for high temperatures. This grease extends the life of your wheel bearings and offers a smooth ride. It also allows more heavy-duty use compared to other brands.
A premium, high-temperature, red grease, this product contains corrosion inhibitors along with anti-wear and water-resistant additives. It offers great protection even in challenging environments
- Contains water-resistant additives
- Has corrosion inhibitors
- Lasts long
- Comes with a 90-day limited factory warranty
- Not suitable for boat trailers
- Unsuitable for tapered roller bearings with the pre-installed inner race
- Package doesn’t specify a melting point or standards ratings
2. Royal Purple Multi-Purpose Synthetic Ultra Performance Grease
Royal Purple Multi-Purpose Synthetic Ultra Performance Grease contains a synthetic base and an aluminum thickener with unmatched anti-oxidation and anti-corrosion properties. These features help to increase your wheel bearing’s lifespan.
It also contains water-resistant features along with emulsion and washout resistance. When compared to most lithium-based grease, it is more stable since it can tolerate extremely high pressure and high-temperature conditions.
One of its shortcomings is that it has a shelf-life of one year only and you will need to shell out extra to buy a spray or suction gun.
- Can withstand high pressure and temperatures
- Contains water and oxidation-resistant properties
- Has non-corrosive additives
- Short shelf-life
- Spray gun needs to be purchased separately
- Color can run out of the application gun and stain the floor
3. Lucas Xtra Heavy-Duty Grease
This heavy-duty wheel-bearing grease is high-performing and also inexpensive. Since it contains a polyurea base, its shelf-life is nearly four times longer than regular grease and can be applied once a year.
Lucas Xtra Heavy-Duty Grease is formulated for high-speed use and is also plastic-safe. It comes packed in a user-friendly green grease gun cartridge. It can endure high pressures and temperatures of up to 560 degrees Fahrenheit.
The drawback is that the grease is only moderately water-resistant and comes in cheap packaging. Lithium-based greases are not compatible with their polyurea base.
- Long shelf-life
- Can withstand severe temperatures and pressure
- Only moderately water-resistant
- Does not mix with lithium-filled grease
- Cheap product packaging
We hope this article has answered your question: “How often should you grease travel trailer wheel bearings?” Whether you choose to grease the bearings yourself or hire a mechanic to do it for you, it’s best to proactively check your trailer’s wheel bearings to prevent unnecessary breakdown and damage.
Greasing your travel trailer’s wheel bearings may not be on your list of fun weekend chores, but it is an important task that keeps your trailer’s wheels turning smoothly and ensures you a safe ride. It may be tough to DIY it the first time, but as you become more familiar with the process, it gets steadily easier.