It’s easy to forget that the trailer’s when bearings are there. You are not at fault. They are out of sight. But, as you know, they are critical to the safety of your trailer. Taking adequate precautions is very important. As out of sight as they may be, you must learn to be observant of them, from listening to sounds to checking for heat, etc.
If anything goes wrong with the bearings, it can cost you your safety. A loose, worn, or damaged wheel bearing is the most common cause of brake grabs. Hence, there is a need to conduct adequate checks regularly and make replacements when needed.
These metal balls held by a ring allow your wheel to spin with the least friction possible. But they, too, can break down when they don’t enjoy proper maintenance. For maintenance, you must first learn to identify when they are not in the best conditions. It’s pretty easy to get these checks done. But first, let’s take a look at why these checks are vital.
Each wheel of your trailer has its bearings. To continue at optimum condition, make sure they are frequently lubricated and repacked with new grease. When you don’t oil them, so many things can go wrong. You don’t want to have a faulty vehicle while in motion. Here are the things that can happen when the trailer wheel bearings are bad.
When the bearings aren’t in top condition, vibrations result in the steering wheels. Most times, this happens when you are in motion. Hence, it takes away the solace of comfortable driving. Vibration caused by the damage of the bearing shows up at low speed. But when it’s other parts of the wheel that are causing the vibration, you’ll most likely feel those at high speed. This is one of the ways to tell the difference.
When the wheel bearings are the problem, you begin to notice the vehicle wobbling front and backward. As you accelerate, the wobbling also increases. When you see this, it’s best to park the car.
When the wheel bearings are bad, the vehicle wobbles; in the process of wobbling, the tires move from side to side along their axis. This is not the typical movement pattern expected of the tire. Hence, the tread begins to wear out faster than it should. Tires are meant to wear, but the wobbling distorts the expected pattern. Thus, you may need to get new tires more quickly than you should.
Though, you should know that other issues can cause uneven wearing of a tire’s tread. Examples of these are; blown shocks and struts, incorrect inflation of the tire, and a damaged CV joint.
Wheels are meant to experience friction per time. As they continue their rolling movement over the road, they wear and tear. Also, when you step on your breaks, some degree of friction is experienced. This consequently also results in heat. Hence, when tires are even in perfect condition, the whole process still generates warmth.
Now, with a bad wheel bearing, it becomes worse. When the wheel bearings are worn out, they prevent it from turning freely. This then contributes additional heat to the wheels. Though, this excess won’t result in a fire of any kind. However, it can leave your vehicle’s wheel prone to problems in the long term. For instance, when you run into a puddle, a thermal shock may be generated suddenly, which then results in stress fracture across the alloy wheels of your vehicle. The brake disc can also damage in this case.
The axles are another part of the vehicle that experiences severe damage if you continue to ride on a damaged wheel bearing. Beyond this, the vehicle’s suspension and drivetrain systems experience stress. This takes the damage to a whole new level you may not be financially ready for.
When the wheel bearings are damaged, they can produce metal shavings. When these find their way into the wheel hub, they can end up being contaminated. This then causes more wear and tear. There is also the deterioration of the CV joint boots and other seals in the vehicle.
Other parts of the vehicle that can be damaged are the wear grooves in the axle shaft. This leads the wheel to severe damage. At the first sign of wear and tear, the vehicle’s wheels may suddenly seize upon motion if you don’t fix the wheel bearings. If this happens, you lose control of the trailer. Hence, as fast as you can, take the vehicle for repairs.
You may not be a professional mechanic, but you can certainly check to know if your trailer’s wheel bearings are bad. It’s not as difficult as you may presume. With wheel bearings, there are three significant checks you can conduct. First, check for the noise or checking to see if your drive is smooth. You can also check for the heat. If your checks raise suspicion of a problem with the wheel bearing, don’t hesitate to reach your mechanic.
Checking for the noise is the easiest way to know if the trailer’s wheel bearings are bad. Noise is common in vehicles, but there is a simple step to doing this right.
● Repeat this on the other side of the trailer. If the sounds persist, it’s most likely a problem with the wheel bearings.
This is the second way to check to know if the bearings are bad in your trailer.
● Place your vehicle on a floor jack, 2 inches above the ground. Make sure there are chocks to secure the vehicle in place.
● Place your hand on the wheel and spin it. Feel the resulting motion. If the motion is not smooth or noises are emanating, the wheel bearings are defective. The freedom with which the wheel spins is another point to consider.
● You should then try to rock the wheel back and forth. You should look out for some form of play. The play is always about 1/8inches or less. If there is none, the bearing will subsequently heat up. A quick fix can be that you add play by adjusting the retainer of the bearing.
Earlier, we have made a case for the generation of heat when the bearings are defective. You can make a quick check for this.
● Start by towing the trailer for about 10 miles.
● Park in a safe location
● Then place your hands on each of the wheel hubs of the trailer. If the hub is too hot for you to place your hand, it means the bearing generated excess heat. This can be sufficient reason to call the bearing in for a repair. Most times, though, it’s simply a case when there is a need for lubrication.
Other signs of bearing wear are when you find grease on the bottom of the boat hull situated around the trailer wheel or when the dust cover suddenly comes off.
● The very first step to this is to jack the trailer to a level that’s high enough for the wheel to spin. Then shake the tire vertically. Then horizontally. If you notice any movement, there is a high chance that bearings are not so good. Have the tire spun and try to listen to any emanating sound. Though, you should know that other things can cause the sound you hear.
● When you are done with this, removing the dust cover is next. You can do this with your screwdriver. If you notice that the grease feels milky, it means that water is inside the assembly. A different grease color implies the oil is new. Your aim at this stage is to use a rag to wipe the grease away.
● Next, have that cotter pin removed, axle nut, and spindle or axle washer. It will help if you keep these, as you need them later. When you have the tire shaken, remove that outer bearing from its position. Clean the grease on the bearing. Then, carry out a close inspection of the bearing. You are looking for any sign of wear, dent, pitting, or scoring. If you find any, replacing the bearing is the best option.
Alight the wheel from the spindle, then make sure its inner sidewall faces up for better inspection. Check out the axle spindle with the hand. You should get a smooth feel.
● After this, you should remove the grease seal. You should see then that inner bearing removed for closer inspection as done for the outer bearings. Make sure to replace that inner seal per time.
● Situated in the race is an inner bearing referred to as the bearing cup. After confirming a healthy condition for the bearing, clean the grease from the hub. This will allow you to inspect both races for scars, color change, and pitting. If things check out, you should repack and add fresh grease. You’ll also need to use a new seal and a cotter pin.
If there are, however, any symptoms of wear, make sure you replace them.
● Removing the races from the hub needs that you place a circular punch adjacent to the race’s edge. You do this by tapping it gently using a hammer. Make sure you have eye protection at this stage. On the hub, but the new race. Using a soft hammer to tap at the race to push it in. Make the edge flush against the hub. Make sure it gets to the right position.
● Apply some grease to that inner hub. Then add more grease to the inner bearings. You can also use the bearing packer. You should get this at any auto part shop for about $30. Alternatively, you can grease your palm. Then with your hand’s two fingers, go through the bearing’s larger side. Add grease to bearing rollers this way. Rotate it against your fingers to smear the surface with oil.
● The next thing to do is to install the grease seal you just got. Make sure it’s double-lipped. The double-lipped seal is better at preventing water from entering the assembly of bearings.
● When this is done, you should turn over the wheel to proceed with the outer race installation. Upon doing this, lift the wheel back to the spindle. Be careful. You don’t want to use the outer edge of the spindle to prod that grease seal. Apply more grease to the race, as well as the outer hearing.
● Follow this up by adding a spindle washer, then the axle nut, and tightening it until firm. Make sure the nut isn’t fastened too tight. If it is, it can lead to damage from heat. If it is also too loose, you’ll find the wheels wobbling. Fix castle nut in place.
● Then add the cotter pin to the assembly. Turn the ends in one direction. Make sure it locks in place.
● Finally, get the bearing dust cap added, then spin gently at the wheel. At this point, you should hear no sound.
The wheel bearings are an important part of the vehicle. It’s safe to say your safety behind the steering wheel partly depends on if these bearings are in top condition, as with other parts of the trailer. As stated earlier, you should be observant. When you notice anything strange, if you can’t do it yourself, call on a professional. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry.