Wheel bearings are important, apparently. And tires

Camping, Travel, Uncategorized, Vintage travel trailer

The tires on our old trailer looked pretty grim, so I looked into changing them.

Turns out there are special tires made just for trailers. Good to know. The ones we had on there were for passenger cars (probably late 1970s passenger cars). The special trailer tires (marked with a prefix of ST on the tire for “special trailer”) are built differently.

From TrailerTires.com: In general, trailer tires have the same load range (or ply) from bead to bead and are bias ply construction. This allows for a stiffer side wall which provides safer towing by helping to reduce trailer sway problems. The use of “Passenger Car” (P) tires on a trailer is not recommended because their construction, usually radial or bial belted, allows for more flexible side walls. This could lead to increased trailer sway and loss of control.

Add this to the list of things I did not know. Look, I’m not a scientist, and I don’t know how tires are made, but if there’s a tire specifically for trailers, then that’s probably what I ought to have on my trailer.

And while I was changing out the tires, I started reading up on wheel bearings. Did you know that if the wheel bearing is bad, it can somehow weld itself to the spindle and cause the whole thing to either seize up or break off? I didn’t. Some people have even said an entire trailer can flip over. I don’t know about that. I suppose anything’s possible, and so what the hell. You can check your bearings by hoisting up the rig and wiggling the tires and spinning them. If they sound gritty or anything less than smooth and quiet, you might have a problem. Also, if there’s any play, you might have a problem.

In my case, everything seemed fine, but while I’m here, I might as well take everything apart and have a look-see.

Our trailer tire

The first thing you'll want to do is take everything apart. I put it all on a towel in the same order so I could remember how to put it all back together. Removing the bearings is a breeze. Just take off the cap and remove the cotter pin and pull everything out. Done.

 

It's important to have a lug wrench that fits

I thought lug nuts were all the same. Figured the lug wrench from the Jeep would fit the trailer. Why wouldn't it? But no. So I had to take the first of many trips to the hardware store for this handy little guy. This is really something that should be universal. Seriously, what a pain in the ass. Anyway, lesson 1 learned.

 

After removing all the caps, etc.

There's a cotter pin holding all this on, and it's worthwhile to pick up some replacements before you start. That way, you don't have to go to the auto parts store while you're all greasy and stinky. Lesson 2 learned.

 

Cleaning all the parts

When you remove the bearings, etc., you'll want to clean them pretty good before slathering them in new grease and putting them back in. I used CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner, which works like a dream. Also, I love the smell of solvents. Anyway, it's worthwhile to pick up a couple cans, maybe even three, before you start. Otherwise you'll be headed to the auto parts store (again). Lesson 3 learned.

 

Repacking the bearings

They make these little gadgets that you put the bearings into and it squishes the new grease through them, so you can keep your hands clean. What's the fun of that? Man up and do it by hand. Sheesh. Sure it's dirty. But it's fun. Make sure to inspect the bearings before you coat them in grease again. Make sure they spin freely and are in good shape.

 

Repacking the bearing with fresh grease

People have a lot of strong opinions about grease. Me, I don't have any opinions about it. But once you look at all the different types of grease available, it becomes pretty clear that maybe I should have just trusted this to the professionals. Do some googling and see what people are saying. I saw a lot of good things about Mobil 1 Synthetic Grease in the blue and silver can. It's bright red and a name brand, so that's what I went with. So far so good. The technique is to put some in your palm and rock the bearing onto it until the new grease pushes up through the top. You want that whole thing filled and slathered with slippery red greasy goodness.

 

Repacking the bearings with fresh grease

Keep some towels around for cleaning up your grimey hands. Lesson 4 learned. Also, it helps to wear a fishing hat.

After putting it all back together (in the same order), that’s it. Done. Couple things to keep in mind. If you’re doing this in the front yard, there will be grease and oil and other assorted grime and filth that will absolutely stain the sidewalk. And while your girlfriend might be proud that you were able to do something yourself (she might even bring you a beer while you’re working). She will not, however, approve much of the oil-stained sidewalk in front of the house. You will need to clean it up. I used kitty litter, then Dawn soap. Use a dropcloth. Lesson 5 learned.

There are those who say that this is a job best left for a “professional.” Pshaw. One, it’s expensive. Cheapest I found was about $60 per tire. I’m not Donald Trump, people! My total cost for the whole shebang was about $8 for the grease, $6 for the brake cleaner, $2 for a dumb box of cotter pins (of which I only needed two). That’s it. Next time it’ll be free since I have a lot of the material still left. And since I was slow and learning on the way, it took me a whole afternoon. Next time it’ll take a couple hours max. Worth it.

 

 

Share