Lubing and Repacking - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-27-2006, 12:55 PM   #1
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I remember Pete Dumbleton saying that if your trailer has been sitting for at least a year it needs bearing repacking and lubing. Am I remembering that right? Seems that if you just did that and didn't move the trailer it wouldn't be necessary. How often should repacking and lubing be done?
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Old 06-27-2006, 01:47 PM   #2
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For campers, probably annually; that said... I do my Airstream every other season, but I have SIX sets of bearings and seals, and it seldom travels more than a couple of hundred miles a year, if that, and winters over in a barn. Boat trailers should be repacked more frequently as they are much more likely to have contaminated grease. Unfortunately, what you can't see is the inner seal where brake dust, road dust and moisture is most likely to enter. I repack my fiberglass RV bearings annually as it sees a lot more road time than the Airstream, and it sits out in the weather all year long.

In the old days, when steel wasn't as well refined as today and machining was less perfect, Timken-style bearings had the ability to go 'flat' on the surfaces where they sat immobile for a significant period of time. That caused all kinds of grief, and the best way to determine if a bearing or race had a flat spot was to repack the bearings. You seldom, if ever, hear of flat spots in roller bearings today. Grease contamination, rust, and loose bearings from wear are the biggest killers of modern roller bearings.

Most folks with campers will find that repacking annually is more than sufficient. The pain of repacking wheelbearings is soon forgotten when, after you fail to do it, you have a bearing weld itself to the axle spindle on the side of the road in 40* temps while it's raining cats and dogs.

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Old 06-27-2006, 05:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
I do my Airstream every other season, but I have SIX sets of bearings and seals, and it seldom travels more than a couple of hundred miles a year.

I repack my fiberglass RV bearings annually as it sees a lot more road time than the Airstream, and it sits out in the weather all year long.
Since I have FOUR sets, like Benita does, I thought that every other year would be a good schedule. The service guys at San Diego Trailer Supply also recommended once every 2 years. BUT, I have put a lot of miles on the Fiber Stream (and Odyssey) in the last year. I am meticulous about getting the Odyssey in for regular service. It is a $27K investment that I wish some longevity out of. I also wish longevity for the Fiber Stream. Hmmm.
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Old 06-27-2006, 07:38 PM   #4
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Since I have FOUR sets, like Benita does, I thought that every other year would be a good schedule. The service guys at San Diego Trailer Supply also recommended once every 2 years. BUT, I have put a lot of miles on the Fiber Stream (and Odyssey) in the last year. I am meticulous about getting the Odyssey in for regular service. It is a $27K investment that I wish some longevity out of. I also wish longevity for the Fiber Stream. Hmmm.
The Fiber Stream garnered zero miles last year and about 300 the year before. This is the year she gets to feel the road - I hope.
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Old 06-29-2006, 01:33 AM   #5
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I believe Dexter recommends annual bearing check and repack. Also, even if the wheels haven't been turned, if parked outside water may have intruded and ruined the grease (that's what happened to me; the subsequent destruction of the bearing ruined the spindle and necessitated replacement of the axle...).
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Old 06-29-2006, 09:07 AM   #6
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With a car, before a wheel bearing fails it usually gives a rumbling sound for quite a distance.

On a trailer the same thing happens, but you are not "in there" to hear it.

An old friend of mine had a tire blow and eject on his Airstream. He wasn't aware of the problem and had towed quite a ways with it flopping around.

After it was all repaired, he installed an intercom system between his International Travelall (they were popular tow vehicles at the time) and trailer. It had a microphone mounted over each wheel well.

He would turn down his CB radio about every ten minutes and check his trailer intercom. You could hear everything going on; brakes being applied, road noise differences between pavement types, silverware rattling in the drawer, etc. I'm sure it would transmit a rough wheel bearing prblem. Needless to say he never had another problem.

I'm not very diligent in this, however I always carry a set of bearings, races and grease in a plastic bag as well as tools to replace. I also check tire and hub temperature with my hand at each stop. Have had to use my bearing stash once. It was New Years day. Glad I had it.
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Old 06-29-2006, 05:54 PM   #7
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I think that the repacking of bearings is over done...mind you, it doesn`t hurt as long as you know how to pack a bearing......how often do most people repack the front bearings in rear wheel drive cars, and how often the rear bearings in front drives??? usually about every 35-50,000 miles or every brake job!.....Benny
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Old 06-29-2006, 08:31 PM   #8
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Benny, I tend to agree. Especially with modern high-temp lubricants and seals.

My fear when repacking is that I'll introduce a piece of grit inadvertently that will do more harm than the good that was done by replacing the grease.

Even when I'm really careful, I still wonder. I tend to go with the philosophy "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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Old 06-30-2006, 12:09 AM   #9
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The difference is that the automotive service manuals say repack at 30,000 or so miles and the Dexter service literature for the trailer bearings sez repack 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first -- So what do the manfs know that we don't? I don't think Dexter is trying to sell more grease and seals...

A bearing set for a trailer axle is in the range of $10; last time I checked, a bearing set for my 82' D150's front wheels was $75 -- There seems to be a difference, certainly the truck bearings were a lot beefier, yet the weight capacity of the truck's front axle wasn't drastically more than that of my Scamp.

Al-Ko says this:

QUOTE
Most trailer axle bearings are unlike those in your motor vehicle in that
they require periodic maintenance (see page 11) to ensure reliable, safe
operation of your trailer.
QUOTE

And then goes on to say:

QUOTE
Repack bearings,
inspect for wear or
damage.
6,000 Miles
or 6 Months
whichever
comes first
QUOTE

The owner's manual for my old Jayco 16 had a similar repack interval for the bearings.

I know of RVers who claim to have NEVER repacked their bearings on larger travel trailers -- Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice!
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Old 06-30-2006, 08:27 AM   #10
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Pete,

Interesting price comparison between a set of trailer bearings and as set for your pickup.

Now I'm thinking (and that is sometimes dangerous) . . . . .

Is this difference because the automotive bearings are about the same size, but a better quality?

Is it because the automotive bearings are larger, therefore a greater safety factor or mean-time-between-failure has been part of the engineering?

What would it take to retro-fit a trailer to a better system?

Hope I haven't opened a can-'O-worms.
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Old 06-30-2006, 09:07 AM   #11
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What would it take to retro-fit a trailer to a better system?
That's why I went with this: Dexter EZ Lube when I ordered the new axle for my Scamp.
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Old 06-30-2006, 10:44 AM   #12
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well next year I may start thinking about repacking them ...should be close to 35,000 km and should have a look at them.....also I wasn`t making a comparison to a pick up truck but to a typical car which carries about the same weight per axle.....Conical bearing are conical bearings except that most of the current ones are coming from off shore and can be iffy.....the older ones were pretty well all made in the USA .......I`ve had problems with life span of ball bearings made off shore.......like Pete says: you pays your money and takes your choice! .... ...Benny
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Old 06-30-2006, 11:32 AM   #13
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I have never repacked the bearings (in vehicles without sealed bearings) as often as annually, but I have also not generally left them parked quite as long as the over-winter period for a trailer. In one case - our 1980 Chev pickup - I had front bearing failures: should have repacked and adjusted those earlier!

I suspect that the price difference between trailer and truck bearings may have more to do with supply and demand than physical differences. These trailer bearings are nearly universal, so the market can supply them more cheaply than a bearing specific to a few years of one brand of pickup truck.

I don't remember what the Chev pickup bearings cost, and I don't recall replacing them in my Toyota Tercel rear hubs - just cleaning and repacking. In any case, for me the effort is more valuable than the parts, and like Loren I just don't like the idea of opening them up.

The Dexter [b]E-Z Lube system allows the addition of grease without disassembly, which is good, but when I first saw this I thought it was strange to go to this effort instead of just using sealed bearings (which Dexter also offers, as Nev-R-Lube) - I still feel that way. Also, grease getting past the seal of an E-Z Lube setup contaminates the brakes, so I don't see this system as an advantage for me. If I were putting a boat trailer in the water each time, and wanted a way to force grease in and water out, and didn't have brakes on the boat trailer, then I would consider E-Z Lube.

Here's what Dexter has in their FAQ, which tells me that converting to E-Z Lube would save me zero effort, but would work for someone who wants to add or purge grease very frequently:
Quote:
[b]E-Z LUBE - What is the E-Z Lube option?
The E-Z Lube option was designed specifically for the marine application where the axles are constantly being immersed in water. This feature provides a convenient method for purging the water from the hub cavity without having to pull the hub every time. The hubs should be removed every 12 months or 12,000 miles to inspect the bearings and it is imperative to replace the seal at this time to assure that the grease does not leak out the back onto the brake linings rendering the brakes non-functional.
Both E-Z lube and Nev-R-Lube need different spindles; Nev-R-Lube changes the hubs as well. With what is left, the conversion is essentially replacing the axle - maybe not such as bad idea in some cases. The Nev-R-Lube hub is not available in the 5-on-4.5" hub pattern commonly used by our trailers, which would be a conversion concern.
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Old 06-30-2006, 01:53 PM   #14
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So it seems that Dexter is talking 12 months in marine application where water submersion could cause a problem and not on a travel trailer application or am I missing something? Oh, Brian, I`ve never had a bearing failure on any vehicle that I owned other than rear axle which runs in oil.....I am exressing my opinion on bearing repacking and if the bearings are washed, they should be repacked well between the rollers and cone.....Benny
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