RVers who haul towable trailers should always know when and how to repack their trailer wheel bearings, since doing it at home can save hundreds of dollars at the shop.
Most RV repair shops recommend repacking trailer wheel bearings annually.
Without routine maintenance of your trailer wheel bearings, here’s the progression you’ll likely experience:
- condensation occurs if wheels aren’t ‘rolled’ for long periods of time
- the condensation causes rust to form inside the trailer wheel bearing
- rust particulates can scratch surfaces inside the bearing housing
- scratches lead to friction and eventual bearing failure
How to Repack Your Own Wheel Bearings
Even if you’re not a gifted mechanic you can still pack your own trailer wheel bearings by following this guide.
Parts List to Repack Trailer Wheel Bearings:
- Trailer jack
- The exact torquing amount for reassembling your trailer wheels (from manual or manufacturer)
- High-temperature lithium or bentone-based wheel bearing grease.
- Photos of your disassembled trailer wheel and bearings (so you can put it back together in reverse).
- New grease seals and if applicable, cotter pins for each wheel
- Paper towels
- Hammer and chisel
- Grease gun or wheel bearing packer
Before you begin this project, always consult your trailer’s service manual or contact the manufacturer to know how tightly you should torque your trailer wheels during re-installation.
Without the correct number, your axle will be be subject to excessive wear and your wheels could overheat or even fall off if you torque them too little or too much.
Next, use your trailer wheel chocks to lock tires on the opposite side of where you’ll be working, then put your wheel jack in place and slowly lift the trailer until the wheel is just off the ground.
Set your parts and cleaning materials down next to the wheel that’s being removed.
Carefully remove the wheel hub’s dust cap with a chisel and hammer, then firmly pull on the hub to expose a six-sided castellated nut.
You can unscrew the nut by removing the castellated tab that holds it in place (some trailer wheels will have a non-reusable cotter pin, or reusable lock washer or cage instead).
Don’t forget to start taking photos of the process so you’ll know how to put everything back in proper order.
Grasp the wheel and gently spin it to loosen the outer bearing; this will allow you to remove the wheel and hub from the trailer axle spindle.
Take the wheel and lay it down down on a towel, making sure that the wheel and hub are positioned inner side down.
Use this opportunity to inspect your trailer brakes and axle spindle by looking for excess wear and tear.
Take your chisel and gently tap on the inner bearing with a hammer to remove the wheel’s grease seal.
Carefully remove the inner wheel bearings, the washer and outer wheel bearings and place everything on a clean towel next to your job site.
Remember to keep the bearing clean – any dirt that gets trapped in the repacked bearing can cause damage over time.
Roll the bearings in a clean paper towel to eliminate old grease.
As you clean, roll the bearings in your hand and examine their surfaces carefully to pinpoint any damaged or worn-out areas (a magnifying glass can make it easier to spot damage).
Should you have any bearings that need to be replaced, visit your closest trailer supply store and ask for an exact match. Remember to clean the hub too by using paper towels to get rid of dirt and water.
Get your gloves and grab a grease gun to pack a generous amount of new high temperature grease into the hub, then place more grease externally around the rollers.
For less mess, use a bearing packer tool. Set the hub down on a clean towel then add extra grease to the axle spindle – but don’t get it on the brakes!
Turn over the wheel and return the cleaned, inner bearing to the hub.
Take your new grease seal and lay it inside the hub with the rubber side facing in. Gently tap along the seal with a thin block of wood to place the new seal flat against the hub surface.
Once it’s in place, add more lubricant along the grease seal’s lip.
Return the newly assembled hub to the spindle, using care to replace parts in the same order in which you removed them (outer bearing, washer, castellated nut and tab).
Apply a small amount of grease to the castellated nut, then place it over the castellated tab. Gently hand tighten and click the tab into place while using care not to over-tighten.
Rotate the castle nut until it stops, rotate the drum in the opposite direction until you feel resistance, then put the cap back onto the wheel hub.
Adjust the wheel brake.
Inside the back of the wheel hub, you should see a rubber cover that when removed, will expose a notched starwheel.
Place a flat head screwdriver inside the starwheel grooves then turn the wheel until you feel total resistance. Slowly rotate the wheel backwards, one notch at a time, until it’s just moving freely again.
Repeat this process on your other three trailer wheels.
Need More Guidance?
These videos about repacking trailer wheel bearings may be helpful:
How To Re-Pack Trailer Wheel Bearing Grease and Save
How to Pack / Grease Trailer Wheel Bearings