wheel bearings - why so "bad"?

Discussion in 'On The Road' started by fun4dad2, Sep 10, 2015.

  1. fun4dad2

    fun4dad2 New Member

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    First post, been a lurker here for a while, but the wife and I just put down a deposit on a used Coleman Niagara Elite. Seems to be in good shape (No cracks in the roof!) and we are pretty excited. But to my question:

    I keep seeing folks saying you have to repack the wheel bearings -- every season -- every 5000 miles --- some short interval. We don't do that with our cars. They last 100,000 miles or more before wheel bearings have to be repacked. Why do pups need such frequent maintenance on the bearings? What is different about them?

    Thanks!
    Fun4dad2 AKA Eric
     
  2. Raycfe

    Raycfe Waterford Ct.

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    With a N2U purchase, have the bearings inspected and repacked and the tires and brakes checked. Why so "bad"...... you car gets driven more and you can feel/hear a bearing going bad. The grease is not just sitting there. Newer vehicles have sealed bearing assemblies. Ali you have to do when they go bad is open your wallet and let the money fall out. Having a bad bearing you could lose a wheel and/or need an axle replacement.
     
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    When I got my first popup I asked that very same question. Every year? seriously!? Why are these things so suspect that they need to be inspected and repacked every year? I did them every 3 years, packed them well and used new seals. 15 years later the bearings were in beautiful shape. It's not that they go bad more frequently, it's that you won't know they're bad until you see smoke in your side view mirror.

    For a NTY pop up, above advice is solid. Know where you stand first. Even if you don't repack every year, at least get the axle up and spin the tires and listen/feel for smooth operation. Give them a wiggle and feel for any slop. Take it for a run up the highway for several miles then off an exit and feel each hub. It will be slightly warm but not hot. If they are hot (almost uncomfortable to hold on to), time to pull them apart and inspect/repack/replace.
     
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  4. BTB

    BTB New Member

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    Re: wheel bearings - why so "bad"?

    I second what JimmyM said.
     
  5. matwiyj

    matwiyj Active Member

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    Yep, agreed with jimmy, but wanted to add something. I feel the hubs every time I stop for gas and one time one hub was significantly hotter than the other. Hot enough that it was uncomfortable to hold on to. I was quite concerned about that at the time but the wheel seemed solid so drove slowly and checked often and it never got worse. Turns out, that side of the trailer had been in direct sunlight while the other side was shaded and that made the difference with my black hubs. Thousands of km later the hubs both run slightly, but equally warm.
     
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  6. HLFAHEMI

    HLFAHEMI New Member

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    Re: wheel bearings - why so "bad"?

    To answer your question as to what the difference is:
    Most vehicles have highly engineered bearing and hub assemblies. They are sealed units designed specifically to last for a minimum pre-determined amount of time. This type of engineering and construction is very expensive. This expense would drive up price. Granted there are still some vehicles out there where you have to inspect the wheel bearings when you inspect and or replace the brakes (my old dodge Dakota for example) but they are becoming less and less prevalent.
    Additionally, when you take a vehicle for a service at a properly trained mechanic, they do inspect your bearings and hub to some degree for play and looseness. It's part of periodic maintenance.

    Basically, it's good maintenance to inspect your bearings and repack them on your trailer at least annually. Wether it's a camper, garden trailer, or boat trailer. In my own case, it was during my spring hub maintenance that I discovered that the bearing seal on one axle had torn for whatever reason. This allowed grease to fling around inside the drum and pack the brakes full. Had I not done this service and discovered the problem before I left with my family on our trip through the Rockies I would not have known that the brakes on one side were compromised. Additionally, the heat generated by the brakes in the mountains combined with the flammable grease packed into the brakes may have resulted in a brake fire. In the mountains. With no cell service and my family. Food for thought.
     
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  7. mcbrew

    mcbrew Member

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    Re: wheel bearings - why so "bad"?

    For most pop up campers, annual repacking is overkill. Sort of like the 3,000 mile oil change. For peace of mind, you can certainly do it.

    Both of my trailers have EZ lube hubs, so I can easy squirt in fresh grease without taking things apart.

    Some people treat Bearing Buddies like an EZ lube system. Please know that Bearing Buddies are designed to keep water out of boat trailer and do NOT push new grease into the bearings.
     
  8. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    I repack my used trailers bearings once and put on Bearing Buddies and call it a day. I have a 1976 trailer I have had for 20+ years and had a 1974 I had for 8 years and recently sold. This practice worked well for them. I never had a bearing issue.
     
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  9. yetavon

    yetavon everything is better around a campfire.

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    1st off welcome from NC......
    I'll agree with the crowd on checking them frequently, I do a quick feel at about every stop, lift and spin check 1-2 times a year. DEFINATLY would pull and check them as a NTU rig.
    As far as why...is a couple things.
    With a smaller tire you have a major increase in the bearing speed, more heat and fast degrading of your lube quality.
    Smaller bearing size compared to your car, and depending on your size more weight on the bearing, again more heat and fast degrading.
    But mostly its due to bad publicity from boat trailers that are constantly dunked and never maintained....
     
  10. Jughed

    Jughed Member

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    Was just about to post the same.

    Cars have larger wheels, better balance in the tires, suspension, more robust/larger bearings and typically less weight per wheel.

    Boat trailers that cause the bad publicity are subject to salt water, and in some cases 2x the load of a car. My single axle boat trailer is right at 4k, 2k per 14" wheel, cars are about 1k per 17-19" wheel.

    My 2500 pickup is about 1.5k per wheel, has huge bearings and 8 lugs keeping things in place.
     
  11. sleach

    sleach A short run will get you within walking distance.

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    I'm with the check 'em every year camp, having seen the results of failure to maintain trailer bearings. Returning from a Wyoming antelope hunt, on I-25 we drew up behind a PUP. After a short while smoke began coming from the left side trailer wheel. In moments the wheel came off, the axle dug into the pavement, the trailer came uncoupled and flipped toward the opposing traffic lanes. Fortunately the median fencing caught the remains of the PUP. No one hurt, but a vacation and a nice PUP ruined beyond recovery. The driver admitted he had owned the PUP for several years, and had never serviced the bearings or adjusted the brakes.

    Servicing the bearings is not hard, most folks can do it themselves in an hour or so. Tools are simple: a jack, jack stand(s), big pliers, screwdriver, wheel lug wrench, a block of wood, hammer and brake adjusting tool. The jack and lug wrench you already have, right? A few supplies are needed: grease, solvent, paper towels and new cotter pins. Might need new grease seals, but with gentle handling we never have. If you don't have time or space to do the job, any mechanic can handle it.
     
  12. JT2

    JT2 Active Member

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    --Ah, the things the youngsters don't know. Back in the day, cars needed bearings on the non-driven wheels (usually the front) repacked frequently. It was easy enough to pull off the brake drums, then clean and repack the bearings. The bearings on the (rear) driven wheels were lubed by the axle oil.
    The advent of front wheel drive pushed the repacking chores to the rear wheels in the 70s and 80s and many of us remember doing it on all our cars. Later changes and improvements led to the use of sealed bearings at both ends. It's a great idea -- and a maintenance saver -- right up 'til you have to change one. Substantial disassembly may be required and quite often the use of a slide-hammer as well.
    Almost all small and mid-size trailers still use the open ball-and-race bearings, not the sealed ones. Being unsealed they admit dirt, water, etc and thus must be removed, cleaned and repacked periodically. In reality, it's not so much about replacing the grease as it is about removing the contamination which can act as an abrasive or allow rust to start

    Everybody has their own schedule, and you have to determine yours. I find every two years is fine for our PuP; it only goes about 1000mi in that time.

    I would add that some proportion of wheel and bearing failures attributed to poor lubrication are rather due to incorrect torque on the hub nut. Too tight and the bearing binds (heat builds up); too loose and the bearing/wheel wobbles while rolling. Neither results in a good outcome.

    /JT
     
  13. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    Whether he repacks often or not, a smart man carries a spare set of bearings.
     
  14. Hoosier Daddy

    Hoosier Daddy Active Member

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    The fact that most cars / trucks today have sealed bearings was my first thought as well. Back in the day we checked for play and rotational drag every oil change (3000 miles)
    Repacked every tire rotation (7500).
    But back then you got a real tune-up every 30,000 not a spark plug change at 100,000 today. [LOL]
     
  15. fun4dad2

    fun4dad2 New Member

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    Wow! Flipped pups, smoke in the rearview mirrors.... You guys are a fountain of fun!

    I knew this site would be "the BOMB" when I found it (Chill out, NSA - that is just an expression!)

    Thank you all so much for the info, insight, and advice. Sealed vs. open, and you don't feel it as you drive... No wonder they are not noticed by most until you find the fire trucks chasing you down the street. My pup will be NTM (new to Me, right?) so I do intend to have the bearings repacked... or will do it myself... not sure yet. But we are having the entire rig inspected by an independent - a dealer specifically - before we buy. Seller had no problem with that, which makes me and wife feel better. A couple hundred bucks up front to know what is broken and what is sound seems like good insurance.

    I really do appreciate the advice. I will be feeling my hubs at every stop! and will take an extra set of bearings along, along with the tool box.

    Safe travels, and may your sites be always level!
    Eric
     
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  16. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    Better than feeling hubs...Go to Harbor Freight and get a digital temp gauge for about 10 bucks. They are a valuable tool for checking hub and tire temps.
     
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  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Yeah. You'll get all the fire and brimstone stories here. "Repack twice a year or all your kids will die"! Keep in mind that all these worst case scenarios occur 0.00001% of the time. Maybe less.
     
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  18. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    I think that we all check and repack the bearings because it is about the only thing that you can do. Other than the lights the only road worthy checks are the bearings , tires and coupler.
     
  19. Halford

    Halford Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to Coleman family and Popupportal. I had the experience of tire almost coming off once time at Mt Chehea in AL. The grease was new but I did not make sure that the grease go INSIDE the bearings. Thus causing the bearings to go hot and fall apart. Now when you repack MAKE sure the grease go inside the bearings by putting a tab of grease on palm of your gloved hand, and press the bearings on the grease... the black or old grease will pop out on top... that means that the new grease is inside the bearings. There is a video somewhere here that would show us how to apply grease in bearings.

    [PU] [TV]
     
  20. Hoosier Daddy

    Hoosier Daddy Active Member

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    Hence the term "REPACK"!

    HA-ha-ha-hah.
    Gloves will get all greasy... use your palm like I have done for decades.
    Sorry Halford for picking nits... but the modern "mustn't-touch it" mentality floors me.

    [​IMG]

    Now think about this...
    IF you carry a spare set of bearings (inner) what about the cotter pins, seals that would be damaged, and the outer races.... let alone the new grease, dikes, hammer, brass drift, and channel locks to change it all on the road...

    Just call me "Pot Stirrer" [;)]
    C'mon People, it's a wheel bearing!
    In the spring clean and inspect / repack the bearings with fresh grease and replace the seals, You can then check / adjust the brake shoes, you are good for an entire season.
     

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