What's the deal with wheel bearings?

Discussion in 'On The Road' started by Andy G., Oct 20, 2018.

  1. Andy G.

    Andy G. New Member

    Sep 2, 2017
    I don't get it. I've driven cars well over 100,000 miles with very little wheel bearing maintenance, and no issues. I constantly am hearing people recommending that pup bearings need to have grease repacked quite often, and bearings need replacement often too. Are these pup bearings made out of cardboard? Why such a difference?
  2. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

    Sep 1, 2012
    Northwestern New Jersey
    Trailer wheel bearings are not sealed like an auto. They do require some maintenance. The internet wisdom repeats what is said over and over. The camper wheel bearings do not need all the attention that people attribute to them. Since they are not sealed, check them periodically. I check mine every other season and don't see any change.
  3. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    I am no mechanic and don't pretend to be one, but I have heard that there are several reasons. Vehicle bearings are better quality, better sealed and in most cases, have lower rotation speed (larger radius, lower rpm, less heat) than trailer bearings.

    I have owned several vehicles that I have had to get the wheel bearings replaced, but you are correct that it isn't nearly as often.
    Fred1diver likes this.
  4. joet

    joet Well-Known Member

    Mar 16, 2011
    Elkins WV area
    Trailer wheel bearings are sealed just like the older auto bearings. Nothing special. They don't need the attention that everyone thinks they do. I check mine every year, just jack the axle up and shake and spin the wheel. Just like an auto inspection. and its rare to see any change
    terry1419 and xxxapache like this.
  5. Byrd_Huntr

    Byrd_Huntr Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    I think some of this regurgitated 'Internet Wisdom' comes from the unique needs of boat trailers, especially those used in salt water. These trailer bearings spend some time submerged in water, and may take some of it in and degrade the bearing grease.
  6. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

    Sep 1, 2012
    Northwestern New Jersey
    Good point. You are probably correct.
  7. tenttrailer

    tenttrailer Art & Joyce - Columbus, O

    Jul 18, 2013
    Thornville, OH
    Yep older cars wheel bearing on the front hubs where the same type and in some cases used same bearings. If you read the owner manual of these cars. You were to repack like every 10k miles or once a year. But most people did not. They were repacked when the brakes were done which it seemed for me was every 20K miles. Out of 20 some years of driving car with front wheel bearing hubs like trailers. driving may of these car well over 100K. I only had one bearing that need replaced and that was my fault. I agree with you whats the deal

    There are some differences: Most trailers are much closer to the weight limit of the axles than cars were, which the bearing heat stresses the grease more. Trailer axle manufactures when they write the specs, don't know how the axle will be used. So one spec, fits all? Will it be on a boat trailer and submerged every time its used? Also, grease does not do well sitting around once its used. Many people only use the trailer once a year.

    I inspect my bearing when re-packing my wheels for the normal stuff, but also how the grease held up. We put about 10K miles a year. In my 25+ years of campers, I have never needed to replace a bearing and I repack once a year. At the time I repack the bearings and the amount of grease in the bearings all look well. I could have gone further, but I like to inspect the bakes at least once a year. So i would hate to be on the side of the road thinking I should have repacked the bearings when I had the drum off.

    I would error on the side of caution. There have many reports of people destroying bearings and being dead on the side of the road.
  8. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    I don't repack my Barrings as often as some, going at least a couple seasons between each. Then again I don't often go on super long trips or as often as some people I know. My camper has to be inspected once a year by state requirement and I haven't had any problems yet. With that said, when I do travel I check the heat on my wheel Barrings and inspect tires at every single stop. So if I do find a problem I can get it resolved before it becomes a serious problem. If I was to buy a used camper I would replace immediately as I just wouldn't know or trust how well the previous owner kept up on it. My parents honestly never repacked their Barrings at all for as old as their camper( 04) but they only go a few hundred miles a few times in a season. So I say it depends on the type of use the camper sees. My brother has to repack his utility trailer Barrings every season as it sees more dirt/dusty/muddy roads than it does highway so road grime is more likely a problem in his case.
  9. Sjm9911

    Sjm9911 Well-Known Member

    May 31, 2018
    Ill agree with the sitting around part. Grease does dry out, and when it does it gets hard. My pop up, had hard grease in the bearings, i couldent even squeeze new grease in it. It wasnt used in years.
  10. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

    I only even look at ours when we buy new tires every five years. Obviously, if you purchase a NTU camper, you want to check them since who knows what the history is. Since trailer tires have to be replaced every 5 years, need it or not, it make sense to check and grease the bearings at that time.
    xxxapache likes this.
  11. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

    May 23, 2018
    South Carolina
    I've seen neighbors and their friends back a boat trailer into the water, unload the boat, and take off for the day. The hubs stay under water for hours. These are the guys that need to check / replace the bearings yearly, but complain when the bearings destroy themselves.
  12. tenttrailer

    tenttrailer Art & Joyce - Columbus, O

    Jul 18, 2013
    Thornville, OH
    The biggest reason for the grease getting hard, is someone mixed greases. There can be a capability issue with greases where they get hard. It could have been just a little grease left in the hub when they re-packed the bearings. I always fully clean the hub and bearings the first time I re-pack bearings. Then I always used the same grease in the future.
    Orchid likes this.
  13. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2008
    I have a 1976 trailer that I packed the original bearings on in 1993. At that time, I put Bearing Buddys on. I give them a squirt of grease every now and them. Never a problem.....Yeah, I know somebody is gonna come along and say BBs are just for boat trailers, you still need to repack, and so on.
  14. Raycfe

    Raycfe Waterford Ct.

    Oct 3, 2007
    Waterford, Ct
    You usually can hear a wheel bearing going bad on a car because you are sitting in the car going down the road. The trailer bearings if they start to make noise you usually don't hear them until it is too late.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2018
    Sjm9911 and xxxapache like this.
  15. hometownhiker

    hometownhiker Active Member

    Oct 17, 2009
    Franklin, NC
    Yep, I never understood all the paranoia over wheel bearings that I've read, time and again, over the years on this sweet little site. I check mine at the start of the season, squeeze some grease through, and roll. I also check the hubs for excessive heat while traveling. After 10's of thousands of miles I'm still rolling with the same bearings.
    xxxapache likes this.
  16. Attom

    Attom New Member

    Oct 19, 2018
    Middle Tennessee
    I agree with everything that has been said, but have one more thought to add. My pup has 17" tires and my tow vehicle has 32". If I'm driving 60 mph my truck tire rotates at 2000 rpm and my trailer is spinning at 3700. That extra speed means extra heat. Plus bearings don't know how far you drive, just how many time they spin, and mine turn 1.85 times more than my truck. (This is one of the reasons I plan on going to full size tires on my camper).
  17. Andy G.

    Andy G. New Member

    Sep 2, 2017
    Thanks everyone. Your opinions reinforce what I was thinking. Only because I'm putting new tires & rims on in the spring, I'll take a peek at the bearings too. So far, they've been cool and quiet.
    xxxapache and Orchid like this.
  18. MileHigh

    MileHigh Member

    Jul 18, 2012
    I replace the seals and clean/repack the bearings every 3-4 years. It's cheap insurance and it's a lot more convenient to change them at home than on the road. I do check to make sure that the hubs aren't getting overly hot when driving...
  19. silvermickey2002

    silvermickey2002 Morris County, NJ

    Sep 11, 2008
    Morris County, NJ
    I pull the drums off every other year to do a full brake inspection. While I'm doing that I pull the bearing to clean them and inspect them and the racers. I clean the spindle off as well and check it out. I repack the bearings and install new grease seals. I reassemble everything and then adjust the brakes. While the wheel is still off the ground I spin the wheel and pump grease into the EZ-Lube zerk fitting until grease starts to come out of the outer bearing. I reinstall the dust cap and I'm good till next time.

    I had a 1964 Buick and it had front wheel bearings. Every Spring I pulled the drums and inspected the bearings. This was mainly due to the winter and salt on the roads.

    But I do agree with others that trailer bearing runner a little hotter than the car bearings.
  20. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

    May 23, 2018
    South Carolina
    Could be that the bearings are over greased. All that grease has no place to go and is churning in the hub. The heat generated is reducing your TV mileage.

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