Trailer wheel bearings; why you should always carry a set

If you tow a caravan, camper trailer or hybrid regularly, you really should have a spare set of wheel bearings with you, know how to replace them, and if possible, have them pre-prepared and ready to install.

Wheel bearings are a funny thing; if they are installed well, kept free of dust, water and other ingress and adjusted as needed you should get thousands and thousands of kilometres out of them. I’ve seen some Land Cruisers do 200,000km on a set of rear wheel bearings and still have no issues with them, because they are set up perfectly from the factory, well designed and they just work.

Trailer wheel bearings have a habit of failing far more often, and I have to wonder if its because more, less qualified people play with them all the time, and they are not installed properly or maintained at the same level. Regardless, wheel bearings are cheap, and you are mad not to carry a set with you and know how to replace them.

Cheap wheel bearings
Wheel bearings for a trailer are cheap, easy to take and a worthy spare

What do wheel bearings cost?

I mentioned above that wheel bearings are cheap. So cheap in fact, that I don’t even see the point in removing, cleaning and re-greasing them. You can buy even the bigger ones for heavier caravans and campers for under $70 a side, and in the grand scheme of things its so insignificant.

Get good quality bearings

I will make a point of suggesting that you do not buy cheap, no brand bearings. Stick with the quality ones that have a proven reputation for quality and reliability, or you’ll get stung. Koyo and Timken are the two most well known brands for wheel bearings, and they are absolutely worth getting.

New camper trailer wheel bearings
If you are getting bearings, buy quality brand ones

Can you change them on the side of the road?

You can swap a set of wheel bearings on the side of the road with a few basic tools, and some knowledge of how to do it. If you’ve never been shown though, good luck trying to do it for the first time on the side of the road.

Yes, you’ll get a better job in a workshop where its clean and you have access to a press, but it is possible on the side of the road as necessary.

Please don’t attempt to install wheel bearings yourself unless you’ve been shown how to do it properly. I replaced the ones on our soft floor camper trailer after owning it for a year or two, and found that the previous owners had installed them backwards, so they couldn’t be tensioned properly! Admittedly they worked, but if you get it wrong it can lead to some really nasty problems.

How do they fail?

Bearings are pretty amazing things. We’ve got some at work that have been running at huge speeds for 20 odd years and have never given us any grief at all. Providing they are installed properly, no dust, water or other ingress occurs you’ll have a long, trouble free life.

The moment your wheel bearings get water or dust in them, good luck getting more than a few thousand kilometres out of them. This, along with poor installation (too tight/too loose, not enough grease, poorly packed etc) are the primary reasons for a wheel bearing to fail.

Of course, you can put the cotter pin in the wrong way and have it come loose too, but in general they fail due to a lack of maintenance and ingress.

Carry them pre-greased and vacuum sealed

If you know how to replace wheel bearings (even if you don’t, its worth having), the best thing to do is get a set of wheel bearings and pre-pack them with grease, and then vacuum seal them and put them somewhere safe in your vehicle or trailer. This way, if you do have a failure, you can install the new bearings that are ready to go without having to pack them on the side of the road and muck around with grease everywhere.

A spare hub that is ready to go is the ultimate solution

Even better than the above, if you can get a spare hub and have the bearings already installed in them, then vacuum seal or wrap them up, its even better. We always carried a spare hub with our off road boat trailer, knowing that if a bearing did fail you could just unbolt the wheel, rip the hub off (with the old bearings) and slide the new one on.

Camper trailer hub upgrade
If you can carry a new hub that is ready to go its the ultimate solution

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *