Replacing Trailer Wheel Bearings - SailNet Community

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Old 03-21-2007
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Replacing Trailer Wheel Bearings

I've recently purchased a small sailboat and trailer and am wanting to repack the existing bearings or replace them if needed and have a question or two. Since this is my first attempt at repacking the bearings or replacing them, I would rather spend my time, effort and money in installing the correct parts as opposed to paying someone (like a tire and wheel place) to put in parts that are not really geared for marine use.

Since I will be sailing in fresh water only, is it necessary for the wheel bearing grease seal to have a double lip or is a single lip sufficient in helping to keep water from entering the hub? Is this really an issue when unloading and loading the boat in fresh water as opposed to salt water? I'm sure any type of water is undesirable but I just do not want to have problems with wheel bearing failure to and from the lake and want to do this right the first time.

Another question in regards to the type of grease: As long as I use a marine grade type of wheel bearing grease does it really matter what brand? I'm sure there may be some that are more favorable than others and if so what's the better brand? The reason I ask is that I can either order the grease online or I can pick up a marine wheel bearing grease at our local Auto Zone. The closest marine dealer is about an hours drive from my location.

Any advise here is appreciated.
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Old 03-21-2007
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Hi,

The more "sealed" the bearings are the better, regardless of salt or fresh water.

Any good quality marine trailer grease will do.
The most important thing is to keep the grease full and fresh.
This will prevent most problems.

Cheers,

Todd
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Old 03-21-2007
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Check out this page on sailing texas. I found it very helpful for my first attempt at repacking bearings.

Good luck. Also, I was repacking bearings on a tandem axle and one axle had bearing buddies and the other didn't... the one that did had good bearings, the other's were rusted up. Of course, if you repack often it is probably not an issue. I can only begin to guess how long this trailer had gone without a repack.
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Thanks Todd -
I appreciate the input. It only makes sense that a double lip would provide a better seal to keep out water......but I didn't know if the single lip would work okay with frequent use in and out of the water. Most of the shops that I've checked with locally are not geared towards marine applications and therefore only use the normal single lip grease seals.....like the ones that would typically go in a utility type trailer.

Since it is not an emergency to get the wheel bearing thing worked out on my trailer right now, I think I'll just pull the bearings out, get the numbers and then order a kit that has the double lip on the grease seal....if one is available for the size that I need. I have the small 4.80-8 wheel and tires on my trailer - no breaks so this might be a painless ordeal.
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Matt -

The instruction video on Sailing Texas is where I first saw how easy this task should be and ultimately helped me decide to do it myself. I'm a little hesitant primarily because I've never done it before.....but after calling around to see how much a shop charges to do this the more I'm convinced that I can do it myself.....and put marine parts in to boot.

When I bought my boat, I asked the owner when the last time the bearings were either packed or replaced........he told me that he had never repacked them. That was my first clue that this should be a priority item on my "to do" list before hauling the trailer too much or too far. I pulled the dust cover off one of the wheels the other day....just out of curiosity....and sure enough, water was in there. The grease is milky looking so they will have to be done before I get out on the road with the boat and trailer.

This is okay as I'm refinishing the wood parts for my boat and some other misc. things getting everything ready. The bearings will be next on my list.

Again - I appreciate all the input!
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Old 03-21-2007
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One thing I've found concerning replacing trailer bearings is that it's not much more money to buy a complete hub with the bearings in it and packed with grease. Sure is a lot quicker and not as messy. If you really want to get greasy, rebuild your old hubs and bearings and keep them as spares. It never hurts to have a spare hub complete with bearings ready to go in the truck.
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resdog -
You're right! After calling a few places to see what they'd charge for replacing the wheel bearings, etc., I quickly saw that going with a new hub assmbly would be a very good alternate recourse. Not a whole lot of price difference there.

I may invest in a spare hub assembly to carry in the truck with me on our lake trips. Ya never know when it might be needed. Even if it's never needed, the peace of mind just knowing it's there is worth allot!
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I might have to get one for my trailer... Not a bad idea Resdog... Good ideas must be a dog thing...
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Old 03-22-2007
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Just a note on bearings. If you pull your's apart to repack, and the bearings are good, then i would advise to not replace the bearings themselves. You actually have a better chance of getting a bad bearing from the factory than a used but good one going bad. Ask any auto-mechanic. Recommend the bearing buddies as well.

It's also not a bad idea, after a long road trip, to let the bearings cool down prior to launching. Usually rigging the mast takes up an adequate amount of time for this.

Get the highest quality grease you can. A tub of it will last you quite some time. Note that some greases are specified for trailers, as well as some for disc versus drum brakes. The disc brake grease is a higher temp grease. I like the red stuff with the lithium in it.
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Old 03-22-2007
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You probably don't need marine grease - I understand that that applies specifically to the aluminium in outboards some additives not being present.
I am no expert in this, but what I do know the hard way is that the major error is sticking too much grease in. I got neurotic about it as I was blowing so many bearings till I found I was causing it. Apparently the heat build up expands the grease blowing the seal.
Bearing buddies are also good. It isn't just paying someone to do the job, but waiting days till they can, or having a trip curtailed.
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