Repacking Trailer Wheel Bearings

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by Drawout, Jul 16, 2006.

  1. Drawout

    Drawout Active Member

    For those of you who may be new to this boat wheel bearing game, let me share some words of hard learned wisdom, to hopefully prevent you from winding up like so many boats I see every year on the side of the road with the wheel and hub missing.

    First off, for boats I am a strong believer in marine grade bearing grease. Not just the regular grade bearing grease. For example, I have a commercial grade parts washer I clean my bearings and hubs in. With regular bearing grease, naptha will wash it off like soapy water washes dirt off. But, not marine grade grease. You gotta scrub it off, like dirt behind a little boys ears.

    Last week I knew I had a trip coming up that was going to require me to tow the boat about 200 miles, so I thought it best I go ahead and perform my annual bearing regrease job.

    Now understand, I have the bearing buddies, and I keep the grease applied after every fishing trip (I keep the grease gun hanging right beside where my wheels back up to in the carport. But, I still break my wheels down for a bearing inspection and regrease once a year, regardless of what the old boy who makes bearing buddies claims. Do you really want to trust your boat and trailer to the word of a salesman??

    Well, good thing I did, because the rear bearing races on both sides of the brake wheels had gaulding marks. And, after cleaning the grease out and dropping the old bearing back in and giving it a spin, I found that both bearings rotated like a square wheel turning in a round hole. So, off to NAPA Auto I went. I had to get four new grease seals anyway, so I went ahead and bought two bearing and race kits as well.

    BTW: If you ever need to change out the bearing, please go ahead and replace the race. You may not be able to see the damage, but if you have had a bad bearing turning in a race, I guarantee the damage is there. They sell the race and bearing as a matched set if you ask for it. Yes, they will sell you the bearing by itself....But, don't do it!!

    For those of you who may never have done this before let me try to present you with a one, two, three sequence:

    1: First off, get a shop hammer and flat face punch long enough to reach the width of the hub. Turn wheel hub down on a flat hard surface, with the bearing race you need to drive out turned down and away from you. Then run your flat punch through the spindle hole down to where you can feel the lip of the race. Then hammer tap lightly all the way around the race several times until you feel, or hear the race fall out of the hub.

    2. When re-installing this race, a little trick is to hang on to the old bearing long enough to use as a race protector and guide during the re-driving process. Flip the hub over with the race channel pointing up toward you. Drop the old bearing into the new race and insert both into the race channel on the hub. Now tap lightly all the way around the old bearing until the race seats. You can even lay a short piece of 2X4 across the top of the old bearing and strike your hammer on the 2X4 to further prevent any damage. But, the 2X4 will only get you so far down. At this point I happen to have a set of 3/4" drive sockets, of which one is large enough to fit over the old bearing without falling through, and I use it to seat the race all the way down. For those of you who may not have.....You need to rip a 2X4 lengthwise for about six inches, then cross cut it to make you a soft driving dowel to finish the job. Then simply hammer the race on down using the wooden dowel you have created, or using the big socket if you happen to have one.

    Then, as a final thing, and be careful here: Remove the old bearing, take your hammer and flat face punch and very lightly tap it all the way around the lip of the race, listening for that good solid "clunk" sound you should hear if the race is well seating in the channel.

    One critical test right here....Make sure the race does require some effort to insert back into the hub. You do not want a race that will spin inside the hub, or you'll wind up with a worn out hub. It does not require a machine shop to reseat the race, but you do want to make sure you did have to lightly tap it with a hammer and punch several times to feel it seat good.

    3: For those of you who do not know the proper way to grease a wheel bearing let me take a shot at explaining the process here:

    Assuming you are right handed like me, place a glob of bearing grease in your left hand. Then while holding the dry wheel bearing in your right hand, and with the rear of the bearing pointing outward and a couple of your fingers running through the center of the bearing to hold it tight, make a scooping motion into the grease in the palm of your left hand, like you are going to dig just a little bit of grease at a time out of the palm of your hand. Use enough pressure when doing this that you will see the grease pass completely through the bearing from the rear, and ooze out the front of the bearing through that little thin line in the face of the bearing (not the hole your fingers are running through) within a couple of strokes. When it does, rotate the bearing in your right hand just a bit and repeat this process until you have grease evenly oozing out of the front of your bearing all the way around. If done properly, you will likely have a rosey colored left palm when you have done this on all four bearings.

    I hope this is clear, because it is dang sure critical. I remember coming up on a fellow performing this job one time, and all he knew to do was kind of coat his bearings with grease and put them back into the race. Thus not forcing any grease into the actual bearing itself. And, on a boat trailer this will be a dissaster!! He would have been one of those "boats on the side of the highway statistics" in no time.

    4. Drop your rear bearing into the race, then drive a new grease seal into place. Guys, do not scrimp on a $1.50 grease seal at this point either....Never try to reuse the old grease seal. You are aweful good if you can get the old one out without damaging it anyway, and the effort simply wasn't worth it.

    5. When I put my hubs back on the spindle, I tighten the spindle nut until the hub just stops turning, then I begin to back it off 1/8 of a turn at a time until I get the hub to spin freely. Then I set a new cotter pin. This is critical...Do not over tighten the spindle nut. But, don't leave any side lash in the hub either. I hope this will clear up some things for the ones that arent to sure how to work on bearings.:tire: