Wheel bearings are the heart of your trailer. If one fails that everything fails including your trip.
Wheel bearings hold all the weight of your trailer and are under constant pressure. The slightest problem can cause major failure and repair costs.
LTR has rescued many, many vacationers, boaters, and companies from the road side with bad wheel bearings. And there is not always a warning that they are going bad. There is no light that comes on to say you need to service them or that something is getting loose or anything. When they go, they go and you are stuck.
Wheel bearings can get damaged by overloading a trailer, being in a collision, overheating due to lack of maintenance, and most of the time on boat trailers because of water damage and rust.
Here’s how it all goes down.
Land Based Trailers
Land based trailers normally see bearing damage from lack of servicing. It’s just not something everyone thinks about. However if the bearings are older and or not lubricated properly from the factory, than they can develop damage. The first internal signs are discoloration, and then the metal starts to break down causing pitting on the bearings rollers. This metal doesn’t just go away, it grinds into the bearings making things worse. In the end the bearing will fail, destroying itself and the drum or hub that it is inside of and in most cases the axle spindle that it rides on as well. Then you are looking at a very expense and time consuming repair or replacement.
Boat trailers have things the worst because they are putting the bearings into water on a regular basis. And no matter how much you think your bearings are 100% water proof, after 18 years of working on boat trailers we know that most are not. Some systems work very well at keeping water out but it only takes one time for that system to be compromised and water will get in.
Think of this for a minute, have you ever sweated a copper plumbing water pipe? If you have than you know that you put the heat towards the middle of the joint and as the solder starts to melt the heat pulls it into and around the pipe and joint. That’s the reason you can sweat a joint upside down. Well a wheel bearing hub can do the same thing. If the inside of the hub heats up and you put it in the water the heat can create a vacuum, drawing the water to the heat. There you go, now you have water inside your hubs and in your bearings
Now you go home and it sits for a week or two before your next trip, things are going to start rusting and you will never stop the rust without removing all of the damaged parts.
What happens when a bearing does fail?
When a bearing does fail you may see grease thrown up on the inside of the fenders because the seal is destroyed, or you may hear it, or your wheel may come all the way off your trailer while you’re driving and pass you, “that’s not a good thing to see”.
A failing bearing will start destroying everything around it because again it has so much weight and pressure on it. The entire hub and wheel will ultimately lean towards the inside of the axle putting all of the trailers weight on the outside of the axle spindle. This weight along with the metal coming apart and being ground up inside the hub will scar, slice , rip, and destroy you spindle. 99% of the time when things get this bad you cannot save it and you will need a whole new axle.
In many cases if things have not gotten too bad , there’s a chance to get all the damaged parts out of there and clean the spindle and put all new equipment on and you are done, but things are never the same after a failure and special care will need to be taken for that wheel.
What’s the solution?
Have your wheel bearing pulled apart at least once a year by a professional like the guys here at LTR. Boaters may consider having a service done in the spring before they start using the boat trailer and mid-way through the season again to be sure everything is ok. Even new bearings can fail if they get water in them, so don’t think your new bearings are going to last for years.
Let LTR perform your preventive maintenance and set your mind at ease that you are ready to safely tow your boat.