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Repacking/Inspecting Trailer Wheel Bearings

It's recommended that the wheel bearings on a trailer be inspected and repacked annually.

For those with little mechanical ability, the procedure is really pretty simple if you follow the steps outlined in the linked FAQ articles and video.

Jack the trailer, and remove the wheel. Then, remove the grease cap. You should be able to remove the grease cap by gently prying with a screwdriver or a few raps with a rubber mallet. Then, remove the castle nut, which is typically held in place with a cotter pin or tang washer. Once the pin or washer is removed, you can back off the castle nut.

Gently remove the hub, you'll want to hold the washer and outer bearings in place so they don't get damaged. Pull the outer bearing and flip the hub over to remove the grease seal. A seal puller like # PTW1219 can be used, but many folks just use a screwdriver to pry the seal out. In any event, the seal is usually damaged during removal and would need to be replaced. Remove the inner bearing.

Use paper towels to remove the excess grease from the bearings, races and hub cavity. Then clean the bearings. If you don't have a parts washer handy, you can use an aerosol brake cleaner. Make sure you're in a well-ventilated area if you use the brake cleaner. Inspect the bearings and races for damage or overheating. Each roller in the bearing should be smooth with no pits or grooves. The races should be smooth, with no pits or nicks. If the bearings or races have a blue tint, it's an indication that they've been overheated at one point. If you see any indications of damage or wear, the bearings and races should be replaced. Bearings, races and grease seals are inexpensive, the damage caused when they fail is not.

The video and FAQ article linked run through the bearing packing procedure. You can pack the bearings by hand, or use a bearing packer like # L70025.

You'll also want to check the spindle surfaces where the bearings ride. Look for pitting, grooves or discoloration. You can then begin reassembling the hub. Put a good coat of grease on the inner race, and drop the inner bearing into place in the hub. Install the grease seal, making sure that the face of the seal is flush with the inner face of the hub bore then apply a coating of grease to the spindle.

Carefully slide the hub onto the spindle, once it bottoms out, rock the hub back and forth to ensure everything's seated properly. Then apply grease to the outer race and install the outer bearing. Next, install the spindle or tang washer and castle nut. Run the castle nut down by hand until it sops, then rock the hub back and forth, again to make sure everything's seated correctly. Tighten the nut until it becomes snug or stops, then back it off a bit until the next indent in the castle nut lines up with the washer tang or hole for the cotter pin. At this point, rock the hub back and forth again, there should be almost no play at all but if the nut is too tight the hub will overheat. The best practice is to tighten the nut until you can't feel any play, then back it off until you can feel a tiny bit. There's not a torque value to be concerned with here, it's just something that'll have to be done by feel.

Install the wheel, and try rocking the wheel side to side, if you get more than 1/4 inch of play, the castle nut wasn't tight enough. Once it's adjusted properly, bend the tang washer back into place or install the cotter pin. Reinstall the grease cap by centering it up and pushing it into place by hand, then place a scrap of lumber on it and drive it into place by hitting the lumber with a hammer.

These steps are explained further in the FAQ article and video that's linked.

expert information provided by: Michael L

Michael L

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