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ExRocketScientist

Laurel, MD

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Posted: 02/23/12 08:22am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Vulcaneer wrote:

Does anyone ever wonder if part of the reason so many trailer bearings fail is because so many are needlessly taken apart, cleaned, re-packed, and re-torqued? And many times not by a real qualified technician.

I have seen it done quite a few times where one or more parts of the process is not done correctly. May be cleaning, packing, or re-assembly in the hub, or re-torquing. Ex: blowing out the cleaning solvent from the bearing with unfiltered/un-dried compressed air.

I do believe this is where the term, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.", came from.

I'm glad you bring up the subject of cleaning the bearings. I will readily admit to not being an expert here. I have read the warnings from Dexter about blowing on them with compressed air because of possible damage. I never could figure out what the issue would be, but now that I think about it, I do some sandblasting; I have seen first hand what a piece of dirt blown by compressed air can do to metal, and moisture in bearings is a sure cause of failure. But I would like your opinion on the use of solvents. I don't clean my bearings with solvent. I spend a lot of time with a lot of paper towels trying to clean all of the grease off of all of the rollers. Needless to say, I don't get rid of 100% of all of the old grease. Could I be causing problems by doing it this way instead of 100% removal through use of a solvent? If I must use a solvent, what would be the best for me to use given I am doing this in my driveway?


ERS

jmtandem

western nevada

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Posted: 02/23/12 08:56am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

I'm glad you bring up the subject of cleaning the bearings. I will readily admit to not being an expert here. I have read the warnings from Dexter about blowing on them with compressed air because of possible damage. I never could figure out what the issue would be, but now that I think about it, I do some sandblasting; I have seen first hand what a piece of dirt blown by compressed air can do to metal, and moisture in bearings is a sure cause of failure. But I would like your opinion on the use of solvents. I don't clean my bearings with solvent. I spend a lot of time with a lot of paper towels trying to clean all of the grease off of all of the rollers. Needless to say, I don't get rid of 100% of all of the old grease. Could I be causing problems by doing it this way instead of 100% removal through use of a solvent? If I must use a solvent, what would be the best for me to use given I am doing this in my driveway?



I have always used solvent and it will get all the old grease out. Then dry on a paper towel or clean rag in the sun to let the solvent totally dry. Then pack new grease into the bearings, not just on the surfaces of the race. At the time the bearings are clean and before reinstallation each roller should be inspected and so should the race. If there are problems with either, replace both before reinstallation. If you don't know what a problem bearing looks like or a scored/pitted race then let somebody else that knows help with the bearing repack the first time. I would replace the bearings with Timken should one have to be replaced. The original trailer bearings are probably not Timken bearings.

EZ lube, for its potential problems is probably the better choice for many RVers that never want to get their hands dirty and will not spend money to fix things that are not broke. While EZ lube may not be the perfect solution to bearing repacking, it is one step better than bearing buddies. More recently Dexter offers 'never lube' bearings. When greasing with EZ lube bearings be sure to jack the wheel off the ground and check the bearing 'play'. If it is too tight or loose it needs to be adjusted. My trailer has Dexter axles and the acceptable 'play' info is on their website, along with how to adjust the bearings using a torque setting.

As an aside using an infrared temp scanner (relatively inexpensive for the benefits derrived) can be an early warning that something is going wrong inside the hub. Just be sure to scan all hubs and look for one that is substantially hotter. If it is not the brakes dragging then the bearing should probably be looked at. If they are all about the same temp after driving some miles then there is less chance of a problem bearing.

* This post was last edited 02/23/12 09:28am by jmtandem *   View edit history


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Vulcaneer

Central New Hampshire, Naples, FL

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Posted: 02/23/12 09:31am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

There are a lot of aspects to cleaning the bearings as JMTandem has reported. But to address the compressed air thing...Many home compressors do not get drained as often as needed. And the air in the tank contains a lot of humidity. Then the tank can rust inside. Then the rust can flake off and can get blown out through the hose. And into the bearing. Along with water in the air. And there are other impurities that can be breathed into an air compressor too. And those can come back out too. For the most part, these are not problems for most of what you use an air compressor for. But when it comes to things you need real clean air for (like bearings), unclean compressor air should not be used.

A good degreasing solvent should be used. And it also should be CLEAN. Dropping a bearing into a degreaser with sludge in it is not a good idea.

And then there are things about handling bearings, too. And removing/installing races from hubs. And checking bearings for wear. And packing correctly.

And sometimes people are lucky. They don't do everything perfectly correct, and can be just fine. We don't all have "clean rooms" for bearing service. But the point is, that many times when something is not done right, then there is a failure. And the bearing gets blamed for the failure. But more often it is operator error.

For that reason, I prefer to service bearings as little as possible. Because any time we take them apart we run the risk of causing unknown problems.


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mapguy

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Posted: 02/23/12 09:42am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Lots of pros and cons for every service interval proposed.

But consider that the real reason that the OEM running gear makers suggest annual inspections is to make sure the brakes are fully functional and adjusted.

For me - I have settled on bearing repack/seal replacement every other year. I do still pull the drums every year and look at the brake hardware and magnet wear pattern and grease contamination.

Clean bearings with solvent of some kind to allow proper inspection. Brake Cleaner works great for this after the large volume of grease is removed -if solvent tank/bath is not available.

Using compressed air to dry bearings is fine -even if only the air is filtered (no dryer. Just don't spin those puppies without lubrication.

As already noted -proper bearing adjustment is critical -even in this low tech bearing assembly. I use a dial indicator to check free play. Bearing adjustment is doubly critical when the cups/cones are replaced.

Again with all devices -preventive maintainence is actually cheaper over the long haul than waiting for it to break/fail. Pick your poision as which ever maintenance method you chose -there is a cost associated with it both direct and in-direct. Failure on the road has very high in-direct costs typically......

jmtandem

western nevada

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Posted: 02/23/12 09:57am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

Lots of pros and cons for every service interval proposed.

But consider that the real reason that the OEM running gear makers suggest annual inspections is to make sure the brakes are fully functional and adjusted.

For me - I have settled on bearing repack/seal replacement every other year. I do still pull the drums every year and look at the brake hardware and magnet wear pattern and grease contamination.

Clean bearings with solvent of some kind to allow proper inspection. Brake Cleaner works great for this after the large volume of grease is removed -if solvent tank/bath is not available.

Using compressed air to dry bearings is fine -even if only the air is filtered (no dryer. Just don't spin those puppies without lubrication.

As already noted -proper bearing adjustment is critical -even in this low tech bearing assembly. I use a dial indicator to check free play. Bearing adjustment is doubly critical when the cups/cones are replaced.

Again with all devices -preventive maintainence is actually cheaper over the long haul than waiting for it to break/fail. Pick your poision as which ever maintenance method you chose -there is a cost associated with it both direct and in-direct. Failure on the road has very high in-direct costs typically......





As so many trailers come with barely able tires, attention is paid to the tires far more often with a TT/FW than most do with their car. For that reason it should be easier to remember the brakes (adjustment and wear) and bearings as well. Who thinks about repacking the bearings on their VW Jetta or Prius? Almost never.

But with a TT or FW this should be an area of reoccuring attention. It is not at all unreasonable to take the tools, rags, grease, seals and one set of spare bearings on a long trip should you need to address a bearing issue somewhere along the way.

I was shocked to finally note that both axles of my trailer do not carry the same weight when I had them weighed separately. One carries more weight than the other that makes the tires and all the parts of that heavier axle work harder. For that reason, I reloaded the trailer to try to get more equal weight. Unfortunately, most trailers come with axles that are rated for the trailer/fifth wheel and not much more, minus the tongue or pin weight. If one axle is carrying more weight than the other it may be that there is not sufficient extra axle weight capacity available and problems begin.

* This post was edited 02/23/12 10:06am by jmtandem *

mowermech

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Posted: 02/23/12 10:00am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The reason they tell you not to blow compressed air on roller bearings is because if you accidentally allow the bearing to spin, the centrifugal force will cause it to explode. That is VERY dangerous! So, as a preventive measure, just don't use compressed air on a bearing, period! Yes, I have seen it happen. We set up a (fairly) safe demonstration for people who did not believe it! SCARY!!!
IF you hold the bearing so it will not turn, and IF you have a source of clean air, you can use compressed air to blow the old grease out, or dry the bearing after washing.
For those who are interested in "doing it right", I recommend a google search for "bearing maintenance". You will find LOTS of guides and references, from guides from manufacturers (SKF, Timken, etc.) to military technical manuals. My personal favorite is an Army TM which discusses the cleaning, care, and installation of anti-friction bearings (TM 9-214) look here: http://www.liberatedmanuals.com/TM-9-214.pdf
It is a very good guide to the PROPER way to take care of your bearings!


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ExRocketScientist

Laurel, MD

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Posted: 02/23/12 10:34am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thank you all for the information. Too often we just say "repack the bearings" but don't talk about the minor nuances of the process. It is one of those things that is a little more technical than we want it to be, but not out of reach of someone with a little mechanical nohow.

jmtandem

western nevada

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Posted: 02/23/12 10:40am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

Thank you all for the information. Too often we just say "repack the bearings" but don't talk about the minor nuances of the process. It is one of those things that is a little more technical than we want it to be, but not out of reach of someone with a little mechanical nohow.



ERS,

The beauty of doing your own bearings is that you can also do them on the road if you need to. And.....if you get lost on what goes where putting it all back together you have three others to use as examples (on a tandem axle trailer).

RAS43

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Posted: 02/23/12 12:16pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

jmtandem wrote:


Correct! Bearing buddies are found on boat axles typically without brakes. The grease displaces water and too much new grease has no place to go except out the seals. If the axle has brakes the grease will get into the brakes past the seals. Often with these buddies the excess grease has been pushed onto the inside of the wheels.


The Bearing Buddies on my boat trailer have a relief valve built in so any excess grease will come out at the point where the grease zerk is so it doesn't leak past the axle seal.And since I have a cover (bra) over the Bearing Buddy there is not an issue with grease on the outer part of the wheel/tire.
There are many boat trailers that have brakes so a good seal is important.
The idea behind Bearing Buddies is as someone else pointed out-the grease expands when the hub warms up while running down the road, building a slight pressure inside the hub. When the trailer is backed into the water the hub would be cooled but the slight pressure inside the hub remains, keeping water out of the hub. Adding grease is for maintaining the pressure in the hub, not to push water out. Water inside the hub is bad!!

SailingOn

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Posted: 02/23/12 03:07pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

The beauty of doing your own bearings is that you can also do them on the road if you need to.

And doing so gets you a long way toward understanding how the brakes and suspension work, and means you've proven you can get the lug nuts off.
Someone here suggested that the way to deal with that spare bearing and race is to carry them in a ziplock bag, packed with grease and ready. That seemed great insurance to me.


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