Category Archives: Trailer Bearings

Lube Up! Tips About Greasing Your Bearings

You know your wheel bearings need to be greased, but when? And with what kind? Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about greasing.

What type of grease should I use? It ultimately depends on how your trailer was assembled, so check with your local mechanic first. However, Champion Trailers recommends CRC StaLube Marine Grease. It is is great for boat trailer applications and utility trailer use.  This marine grease is a blue tacky, aluminum complex grease using a highly refined base oil. It has been formulated with a polymer to provide adhesive, non-blend and water wash-out characteristics. It will resist water under the most severe water conditions.  Each 14 oz cartridge will repack a standard 4 or 5 lug trailer hub and is great for grease guns.
What is the best time to check and add grease? Your hubs are often subjected to water infiltration when you launch your boat. This can cause your hot grease to reduce, so add grease to displace the water. Also be sure to monitor hub conditions at each gas stop when towing long distances. Add grease when necessary.
Should I add grease after retrieving my boat? Often, this is not necessary because the trailer has sat at the ramp all day and cooled. However, if you store your trailer more than a few miles from the ramp, you should add grease after retrieving your boat.


What Size Are My Wheel Bearings?

By now, hopefully you have a general idea of what your wheel bearings are and what they do. If not, refer to our previous posts from this month. Perhaps you’ve realized that you need to replace your bearings, or you just want to be more in tune with the inner workings of your trailer. Either way, it is important to know that one size wheel bearing does not fit all.

Trailer wheel bearings are specific to the spindle installed on your trailer axle. To determine the size you need for your trailer, you will need to take apart your hub. Make sure the trailer is supported with a jack, then remove the wheel and tire. Next, take off the grease cap, cotter pin, and washer. If you are already confused, you may want to take a look at some of our other blog posts about trailer hubs, or call your local mechanic. If you’re sticking with us, the next step is to remove the spindle nut, and then the hub itself.  Once the hub is removed you will be able to get the part numbers from the inner and outer bearings to determine the correct replacement parts.

When is it Time to Repack My Bearings?

If you’re new to trailer ownership, you likely don’t know all the ins and outs of trailer maintenance yet. One important pro tip you should be aware of is to regularly repack your bearings.  Trailer bearings are a collection of metallic (usually steel) balls held together by a ring known as the race. This goes on the inner part of the wheel to help it spin smoothly around the axle and decrease friction upon rotation. Without bearings, the wheel and axle will wear out much faster and cause damage to your vehicle.

 To find out if your bearings need to be repacked, jack the trailer up and put a jack stand beneath it. You can tell if you need to repack your bearings by attempting to shake the wheel up and down and side to side. If it moves, this indicates the bearings are bad.
You can either take your trailer to a mechanic and have them repack the bearings for you, or you can attempt it yourself. It is not the easiest process, so we recommend you ask a friend with experience to help you out. You can also use our handy guide.


Bearing or a Bearing Kit? Which to Buy

Sellers like us often carry two different types of trailer bearing products: bearings and bearing kits. If you’ve never changed your own bearing before, or aren’t entirely sure what you’re looking for, read on to find out which is most suitable for your needs!

Bearings are different than bearing kits because they don’t come with parts for the whole hub. They are cheap, usually between $2 and $6 individually. They often can be bought in bulk, too. If you are simply needing to replace the bearing on your boat, enclosed, cargo, or utility trailer, this is your best option.

If you need to replace the entire hub, you should consider a bearing kit. These kits contain bearings, as well as trailer races, trailer seals, washers, and pins.* They are often priced between $10 and $15, and are labelled by size and requirements the same as an individual bearing.

*Based on bearing kits from Champion Trailers. Contents of kits vary on seller and brand. You should always check to make sure you are purchasing what you need before purchase.

Which do you prefer to purchase when you replace your trailer bearings?

What’s the Difference Between Buying a Bearing and a Bearing Kit?

If you’re looking to purchase bearings for your trailer, you might notice that sellers offer bearings as well as bearing kits. What’s the difference?

Bearings are exactly that: just the bearing. You can buy them individually or in bulk, but they include no other parts in the purchase.

Bearing kits contain more than just the bearings. They usually include races, seals, washers, and pins – with different components depending on the manufacturer and the kind you’re looking to purchase.

Prices between each vary by the seller, but while bearing kits are more expensive, you’re getting more for your money in the purchase. We recommend taking a look at your wheel and figuring out which option is best for you.


How Much Does It Cost to Repack a Wheel Bearing?

In a car, it will cost between $100 and $400 on average to have your bearings checked, repacked, or changed professionally (depending on your location and mechanic). Some servicers will provide these optionally during break tune-ups; others do not. Trailers tend to be cheaper to repack professionally (think $100-$200), but don’t underestimate the power of the upsells a mechanic might try to give you.

If you’re serious about cash, you can likely save a few bucks by repacking your bearings yourself. However, the tradeoff is a few hours of your time to learn and do the procedure, and a probable lack of experience in doing so. You stand to save a considerable amount of money if you do it right though – just make sure you know what you’re doing. Best case scenario: find someone who has done it before and ask them to show you how it’s done!

Whether you choose to use a professional or do it yourself, weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully before making your decision.

Don’t know what repacking a bearing means? Read this article to find out! Wondering how to repack it yourself? Here is a simple how-to guide for you to use.


What Does Repacking a Bearing Mean?

Chances are that at some point in your trailer ownership, someone will tell a story about “repacking” their bearings or you’ll stumble across the term on the internet and you’ll have to go looking for its meaning.

We’re here to help you define the term and give you a quick how-to on how to tell if you need to do it.

The Definition

Repacking a bearing is the process of removing the parts of the wheel to access, clean, and add more grease to the bearing.

How can I tell if I need to repack it?

If you jack the trailer up and put a jack stand beneath it, you can tell if you need to repack your bearing by attempting to shake the wheel up and down and side to side. If it moves, this indicates the bearings are bad.

How do I repack it?

We have a wonderful and easy-to-follow guide available to you here! Many people prefer to take the trailer (or other wheeled vehicle) to a specialist to have their bearings repacked. Bearings are delicate parts and no one wants to mess it up. Whether you choose to repack them on your own or seek a mechanic, now you know what “repacking” means and if you need to do it.


Bearings: What They Are and What They Do

Simply put, a bearing is a collection of metallic (usually steel) balls held together by a ring known as the race. This goes on the inner part of the wheel to help it spin smoothly around the axle.

Their “job” is to decrease friction upon rotation. Should a wheel have just been spinning around the axle with nothing to act as a friction-decreasing agent, either or both parts would wear out much faster and cause damage to your vehicle.

Wheel bearings exist on all sorts of vehicles today, including cars, bicycles, and (of course) trailers.

This month we’ll be sharing more information about bearings, so stay tuned!

How to Preload Trailer Bearings

When installing new hubs or new bearings into an old hub, it is necessary to pre-load the bearings. This prevents potential swerving from a wobbly hub. You want to be sure that the races in the hubs are 100% in place against their machined stop points.

First, install the spindle washer and spindle nut onto the spindle with the hub and bearings in place. Tighten the spindle nut finger tight, then tighten it another quarter turn with channel lock pliers or a crescent wrench. This will fully seat the races. Next, loosen the spindle nut until it is very loose, then re-tighten to finger tight to engage the nut retaining device. Some reverse lubricating spindles use a tab washer for the retaining device. It is very important to not run your spindle nut too tight nor too loose. A nut that is too tight will cause your bearings to overheat, while a nut that is too loose can cause individual rollers to come apart in the bearing and then cause the hub to fracture.

After 20 to 40 miles of highway travel, check to see if the hub is loose on the spindle. Pull the tire in and out a few times. If the hub is loose, you will need to re-tighten the spindle nut and re-engage the nut retaining cotter pin or tab washer. Never reuse the same tab on the tab washer. They are designed to be used only once.

You are now ready to install your dustcap and complete the hub installation.

What’s All the Hubbub with My Trailer Hub?

Trailer HubIn order to safely drive your trailer, it is important to make sure all the components are working and to replace them if they are not. In particular, a worn or damaged trailer hub can ruin your trip before your boat even hits the water. Make sure to check your hubs before you leave, and purchase replacement parts if necessary at a trailer retailer such as Champion Trailers.

Exposing the Trailer Hub

Make sure you have the following tools before dismantling your hub: flathead screwdriver, mallet, 1” wooden dowel, heavy-duty degreaser or low suds dish detergent, hollow cinder block or several 2x4s, and a roll of paper towels. You may also need a chisel. When inspecting your hub first remove the tire itself from the trailer. Once the hub is exposed, you will need to remove the grease cap. Use your flathead screwdriver and pry the cap off in a circular motion.

Removing the grease cap will reveal the castle nut. This is what holds the trailer hub and bearings in place. It will be connected to the spindle by one of three devices. Usually you will find a cotter pin which you can simply bend and pull out. You may find a “tab” on the castle nut. This is the tang washer. Use your screwdriver to push the tab back towards the spindle. If the spindle is D-shaped you have an EZ lube spindle, in which case it will almost certainly have a tang washer. Gently pry off the cage by using a circular motion with your screwdriver.

Removing the Trailer Hub

Trailer BearingYou are finally ready to remove the hub itself. A trailer hub that is in good condition should slide right off the spindle. Make sure to hold in the outer bearing with a paper towel when you remove it. If it is difficult to remove, rock the hub in a circular motion or use a mallet to tap the back of the hub in a few places. During the colder months you may find the hub froze to the spindle. Use a little more force to knock it loose. The bearing and seal may stay attached to the spindle. Use a chisel to break it loose, but be careful not to damage the spindle. The bearings and seal are easily damaged.

Disassembling the Trailer Hub

Trailer SealNow that the hub is no longer attached to the spindle, it is time to take it apart and inspect its parts. First remove the outer bearing and spindle washer. It is closest to the outside of the hub and may have even fallen off when you removed the hub from the spindle. Next, place the hub with the wheel studs up on the cinder block or 2x4s. Insert the dowel rod into the center of the hub and knock out the inner bearing with the mallet. The rod will protect the bearing and race from nicks. The grease seal will be pushed out when the bearing is removed.

Find your bearings and check for nicks, dents, lines, spots, or discoloration in the metal. Any of these issues calls for getting replacements. Check the sides or ends to find the stamped number you will need to purchase replacements. If they are not damaged, clean them with degreaser or detergent and a paper towel and allow them to dry. Because the seal was removed from the hub it will need to be replaced. If the seal does not sit well in the hub or is no longer round it will not work correctly. Find the numbers stamped on the rubber part of the seal to order your replacement.

Trailer RaceNext check the race. Check the surface and look for nicks and discoloration. Run your fingernail over it to find any indentations. Generally, if you replace the bearings you should also replace the races. You can find the identification number stamped on one end. In the center of the hub you can see the race sticking out. Work in a circular motion from the inside out and knock out the race with your screwdriver and mallet. This will probably take some time; however, if it comes out after a few whacks you will probably need to replace the hub too.

Make sure to clean out the hub before you begin reassembly. The cleaner it is, the easier it will be. Check your spindle too for any damage. Use the fingernail test and pay special attention to where the seal rides against it. Now that you have checked the condition of your trailer hub and its components you are ready to reassemble and hit the waves!