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Old 05-06-2010, 11:58 AM   #1
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OK, this isn't ATV specific, but it does apply to the trailers that some of us use to haul them, so here goes. I'm picking up my uncle's boat tonight. Getting it ready for fishing opener for us. He didn't use it at all last year. He brings it in every year to get it serviced, and the bearings are always greased up. He's not sure how to check/make sure that the wheel bearings are still good on the trailer. they haven't had any issues to date, but we'd rather find out now vs. going 70mph on the freeway.

So, if I tow it 15 miles to my house, my first thought is that if the bearings are going bad, the hubs would be very hot. Or, I could also jack up a side of the axle one at a time and check for wheel wobble. Is that the way to go about checking these trailer bearings?

I'm new to the trailer game for the most part, so I figured I'd as my "go to" crew.
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Old 05-06-2010, 12:49 PM   #2
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cou can jack it up to see if they wobble also take the hub apart and look at the grease how much is there is it full of debris is there enough when in doubt repack
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Old 05-06-2010, 03:00 PM   #3
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simplest test I use is drive till you see smoke. :P

OR.....check your hubs for heat after about 2 miles. If they are luke warm to cold yer good to go. When you get home where you've got proper tools jack it up and check for any wobble and grease condition.
Boat trailers are the worst. Like slim198360 mentioned - when in doubt REPACK.
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Old 05-06-2010, 04:01 PM   #4
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We always carry a spare hub with bearings ready to go. But one time I did have a race freeze to the axle and used a Dremel to cut it off.
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Old 05-06-2010, 05:50 PM   #5
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Sanny, I have had boats for years and never fried a bearing......I think the key is I repack my bearings every fall after I'm done with the boat and I also have buddy bearings, those things that fit on the outside of the hub and you pump them up with grease and they keep grease pressure on the bears and keep the water out.

I 'd just jack the boat up, check for wobble(looseness) and spin the tire....usually you can hear a nasty bearing make some grinding noise.
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:03 PM   #6
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Solid! Thanks for all the help and advice!
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Old 05-07-2010, 01:24 PM   #7
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The chief cause of trailer bearing failure is a nut that's too tight. If you are really worried about whether or not you've got bearing issues, pull off each wheel and check the amount of grease AND the inner seal while you repack the bearings. The seal can be neglected and may need replacement. Some people replace them every time. It's not necessary. If the seal is leaking you'll notice after a extended tow. There may be grease leaking down on the inside of the tire.

Do not over pack the bearings with grease, a common mistake. Some will pack the void between the inner and outer bearings with grease. That grease only serves to hold heat, not lubricate. A good quality bearing grease in between and around the bearing rollers and cage is enough. Be liberal with grease, but not excessive. In this case too much grease is not a good thing.

During repacking check the bearing races for scaring. If it's there, replace the bearings. They are not expensive.

During reassembly, tighten the nut against the washer to squeeze the bearing against its race. Spin the wheel as you do this to further "seat" the bearing to where it is suppose to be. SNUG (not tight) the nut, then back off just enough to align the cotter key with the next slot in the nut. The wheel should not wiggle and the nut should ALMOST be loose enough to further loosen by hand. If you need to lean on a wrench to break the nut loose, it's too tight. You'll find a happy medium by tightening and loosening while spinning the wheel. Two things to remember...not too tight and no wobbling (top to bottom), but if you have to error because you can't get it right to your satisfaction error on the loose side. It won't be too loose if one slot in the nut is too tight and the next too loose and you use the looser of the two positions.

When towing feel the bearings at each gas stop. The hub should be cool to the touch. If it's hot, fix it right away...the nut is too tight. OR, if you've got trailer brakes they could be dragging imparting heat. You'll need to back off the adjuster a little.

For those of you reading this that have just bought a new trailer, pull off each wheel as soon as you can and check for the correct amount of grease and nut tightness. I've bought three new small trailers (one a tandem axle w/brakes) in the past 10 years and in EVERY case at least one bearing was almost dry with no grease to speak of. In one case none of the bearings had enough grease. Just something to consider.

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Old 05-07-2010, 01:58 PM   #8
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<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE </div>
 Quote:
The chief cause of trailer bearing failure is a nut that's too tight. If you are really worried about whether or not you've got bearing issues, pull off each wheel and check the amount of grease AND the inner seal while you repack the bearings. The seal can be neglected and may need replacement. Some people replace them every time. It's not necessary. If the seal is leaking you'll notice after a extended tow. There may be grease leaking down on the inside of the tire.

Do not over pack the bearings with grease, a common mistake. Some will pack the void between the inner and outer bearings with grease. That grease only serves to hold heat, not lubricate. A good quality bearing grease in between and around the bearing rollers and cage is enough. Be liberal with grease, but not excessive. In this case too much grease is not a good thing.

During repacking check the bearing races for scaring. If it's there, replace the bearings. They are not expensive.

During reassembly, tighten the nut against the washer to squeeze the bearing against its race. Spin the wheel as you do this to further "seat" the bearing to where it is suppose to be. SNUG (not tight) the nut, then back off just enough to align the cotter key with the next slot in the nut. The wheel should not wiggle and the nut should ALMOST be loose enough to further loosen by hand. If you need to lean on a wrench to break the nut loose, it's too tight. You'll find a happy medium by tightening and loosening while spinning the wheel. Two things to remember...not too tight and no wobbling (top to bottom), but if you have to error because you can't get it right to your satisfaction error on the loose side. It won't be too loose if one slot in the nut is too tight and the next too loose and you use the looser of the two positions.

When towing feel the bearings at each gas stop. The hub should be cool to the touch. If it's hot, fix it right away...the nut is too tight. OR, if you've got trailer brakes they could be dragging imparting heat. You'll need to back off the adjuster a little.

For those of you reading this that have just bought a new trailer, pull off each wheel as soon as you can and check for the correct amount of grease and nut tightness. I've bought three new small trailers (one a tandem axle w/brakes) in the past 10 years and in EVERY case at least one bearing was almost dry with no grease to speak of. In one case none of the bearings had enough grease. Just something to consider.[/b]
you definitely know trailer bearings, that for sure. Spot on accurate in my opinion
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Old 05-07-2010, 05:05 PM   #9
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I picked up the boat/trailer today. In speaking with my uncle, I found out that the bearings are the original bearings that came with the boat/trailer some 20 years ago. He gets it serviced every year and stores it in a garage year round, so it's not neglected in any way. We jacked up the back and and the left tire has a really small amount of play...like maybe 1/8" or so?? The other side has just enough where you can tell it's not perfectly tight, but that's it....less than the left side.

First question...is this acceptable or are the bearings bad...or does the nut just need to be tightened. Sounds like a stupid question, but I've never been inside one of these boat trailer bearings at all before, so you could tell me they are just made of lincoln logs and I wouldn't know the difference.

Second question, how do you remove the spring for the bearing buddy so as to gain access to the internals behind it? If the nut just needs snugging down, I'll need to access it (obviously).

The trailer has been reliable for him and they just took it to Canada a year or two ago without issue. This is just a preemptive measure to ensure all continues to go well. if they bearings are bad, I'd like to replace them for him.

Another thing (Murphy's Law) is that on the way home, the running lights stopped working. Blew a fuse as my cruise control doesn't work right now so I'm sure it's a blown fuse. I'll have to start looking over the wiring on the trailer and the bulbs. It's raining pretty well here in MN so maybe something was exposed and is shorting out.
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Old 05-07-2010, 05:10 PM   #10
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Believe it or not, I went 12 years before repacking my boat trailer bearings. I always felt them for heat (they will warm up a bit, but not hot to the touch) when on long hauls and spun the wheels to check for noise and they seemed fine. I also always made sure the bearing buddies were topped up with grease. I just took them apart last season for the first time in that period of time. They were ready for changing as I noticed the races and a couple of bearings had pitting. Not bad for that period of time, and I probably took my chances, but I atribute that to using bearing buddies.

I bought a trailer for my ATV last year (used) and even though the seller said the bearings had just been replaced, I wanted to check them myself, for peace of mind. Well they were pitted! Glad I checked, plus the trailer just had dust covers as opposed to bearing buddies. I installed new bearings/seals and new bearing buddies. I think I'll be good for a long time now.
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