Photos courtesy Prolong
Chances are good you want your trailer ready to hit the road for racing season. Lubrication of the trailer’s wheel bearings should be part of your preparations. Your trailer has probably been sitting out in the snow and cold weather all winter, making springtime maintenance a must.
Trailers have lots of bare metal parts that do not get used very often and tend to develop light rust from sitting. Check the metal door latches and the clamp that locks the hitch on the ball. Check the ball itself and the inside of the receiver on the tow vehicle. Chances are you’ll see surface rust. Expect that same type of rust on the wheel bearings if they’re not adequately coated with lubricant.
Just a thin film of lubricant prevents catastrophic failure of the metal bearing surfaces that turn on each other. An efficient lubricant will do this job better, last longer and be more forgiving if service is put off for awhile. To properly lubricate trailer wheel bearings, you’ll need an extreme performance (EP) multi-purpose grease. It should be formulated with an anti-friction metal treatment that provides lubrication and protection under severe loads and pressures.
Another important characteristic of a good trailer wheel grease is shear resistance. Any lubricant suitable for trailer wheel bearings will resist shearing at the molecular level where lubricants start to fail and cease to be effective. The proper lubricant will be formulated to protect against damage at places where the metal parts of the wheels and axles ride on or turn against other metal parts. Where you have metal-on-metal activity, you get friction and heat building up.
Many race trailers are serviced with conventional greases that don’t protect the trailer’s wheel bearings like extreme performance grease. Extreme performance (EP or EP-2) multi-purpose greases are best for the wheel bearings of single or tandem axle trailers. EP lubricants give continuing protection that you’ll appreciate after making long-haul trips while pulling a trailer behind you.
To lube trailer wheel bearings, start by jacking the trailer up and safely supporting it so that the wheels and tires on each side can be raised off the ground and removed. Before the tires are off the ground, use a large X-type lug wrench or air-impact gun to remove the lug nuts. Carefully pull the wheels off and remove the dust cap to gain access to the nut that secures the drum to the axle.
If the old grease is a general purpose lubricant it will be gray since it’s contaminated by metal particles and also had a molecular breakdown. A rag will remove old lubricant from wheels and bearings. Remove the cotter pin and clean it for reuse. Remove the large nut from the axle. Gently coax the brake drum off. You may see minor spindle wear and will want to keep it from accelerating.
The inside of the brake drum should be cleaned with a towel. If the bearing braces are good, they can just be reused after cleaning and re-greasing. The inner bearing should be re-installed and coated with lubricant. Next, the grease seal can be removed using a seal remover tool. The grease seal is a small, but important part that ensures no foreign matter will enter the bearing.
Coat the outer bearing with EP grease. The drum can now be re-installed. Finally, tighten the large nut with a torque wrench and install the cotter pin. The wheels can be re-installed and tightened with the lug wrench or impact gun.
The trailer is lifted and safely supported in order to remove the wheels.
An impact gun loosens and removes the lug nuts.
A generous application of EP-2 grease should be applied.
Oil seal is installed to ensure to keep foreign matter out of bearing.