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Author Topic:   Trailer Bearing Failure
rjgorion posted 10-03-2009 10:47 PM ET (US)   Profile for rjgorion   Send Email to rjgorion  
It could have been much worse. After a day of fishing yesterday, I backed the trailer into the driveway to wash the boat and noticed the bearing buddy was missing, there was grease all over the starboard side wheel and tire and the wheel cocked on some funny angle that was not normal. Well this morning, I took it all apart to find only grease and ground up metal inside the hub, no bearings and the remnants of one of the races. After I got it all cleaned up, it looks like there is enough damage to the spindle that it cannot be safely used and it would not be possible to install new races and bearings over the damaged part.

Now I get to shop for a new axle for the trailer. I wanted to eventually upgrade the axle to a higher weight rating but I did not want to do it like this.

The good news is that there is no damage to the boat, trailer frame, wheels, and tires, and no one was hurt. And, if this was going to happen, it could not have happened in a better place.

Since I've had my Outrage 18 I have added grease to the wheel bearings via the bearing buddies once or twice per season and often checked for temperature changes on the hubs when towing longer distances and never noticed anything out of the ordinary. Although I use the boat often, I rarely travel over 100 miles round trip with a five mile round trip to the local launch ramp being the norm.

I'm not sure why or how this happened (blown seal), and we can speculate at length. But these things happen occasionally.

So I guess the take-home lesson for me and other who might learn from my misfortune is that it would probably be much better and safer (for piece of mind) to remove the hubs to inspect and replace or repack the wheel bearings once per year than to rely on the bearing buddies and fresh grease every once in a while.

Safely home,


Buckda posted 10-05-2009 09:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Glad it wasn't worse.

Good idea to add to your ritual: Do a quick "walk around" inspection of the trailer twice on every leg - before you start the tow, and when you get to your destination. For longer trips, I also inspect upon stopping for fuel or food.

You should repeat this process every time - even at the ramp right after you've hauled out (or before you get in the truck to retrieve the boat).

Those tie-down lanes are important - use them and inspect your boat and rig before hitting the road.



Peter posted 10-05-2009 10:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
"Since I've had my Outrage 18 I have added grease to the wheel bearings via the bearing buddies once or twice per season ......"

I think a good practice is to pump grease into the bearing buddies after each use. In my experience, the seals on trailer bearings don't hold the grease in all that well.

Buckda posted 10-05-2009 10:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Peter -

I disagree. You should follow the instructions that are available on the bearing buddy website for how to properly operate this important bit of trailer equipment.

Sounds to me like his bearing buddy was loose or knocked loose on the ride home and allowed the grease to exit the hub resulting in the damage. This happens's part of the "risk" of trailering your boat.

K Albus posted 10-05-2009 10:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
Peter, you suggested course of action is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you put grease into your Bearing Buddies after each use because you believe the rear seals will leak, you will likely damage the rear seals, causing them to leak. You will then have to put grease into your Bearing Buddies after each use.

If you have good seals, and you follow Bearing Buddies' instructions, you should only have to add grease occasionally.

Peter posted 10-05-2009 11:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Seems you freshwater guys have better luck with bearing seals that I do in saltwater even with freshwater rinsing.
Tohsgib posted 10-05-2009 12:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tohsgib  Send Email to Tohsgib     
A single axle is not very expensive. The correct jack stands and a couple hours is all you need. I would seriously buy new hubs, bearings, etc since you are there. SS brackets are a nice addition as well. Also double check your springs, they are cheap and again..while you are there. I did springs, hubs, axle for my 13' trailer and it was under $200.
andygere posted 10-05-2009 04:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Glad to hear the trailer and boat made it home safely despite the bearing failure. When you replace the axle, I suggest using the Bearing Buddy Spindle Seals in conjunction with the new bearings, races and Bearing Buddies. I have found that these simple devices are very effective at keeping the real seals intact, and are worth the modest price. You can order them directly from the Bearing Buddy website.

hauptjm posted 10-05-2009 07:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
You can always go this route and forget about Bearing Buddies:
rjgorion posted 10-05-2009 08:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for rjgorion  Send Email to rjgorion     
Thanks everyone for your suggestions and helpful comments.

Nick, the trailer is only six years old and the springs appear to be in good shape. Although they are a little rusty. I will have to inspect them closer as I take the whole thing apart. And I do plan on replacing the whole works along with the axel.

Andy, thanks for the heads up concerning the Spindle Seals. that is something I will look into.

There seems to be a variety of different axel types available so I need to do some research to determine which one is best for my application. Some are solid steel 2" x 2" bar stock such as the ones sold by Champion Trailers and some are square or round steel tubing such as the ones sold by Pacific Trailers and others.

I know that this is something that I can do but I do need to do the research. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks very much,


frontier posted 10-05-2009 08:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for frontier  Send Email to frontier     
Mechanics and trailer shops love Bearing Buddies.
Means lots of business.
As a good mechanic friend says, 80% of the trailer owners go by "if a little grease is good, more is better".
They end up blowing out the inside seals with too much grease, making a big mess on the inside of the tire and wheel.
And ultimately causing bearing failure.
andygere posted 10-06-2009 11:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Mechanics and trailer shops love Bearing Buddies.
Means lots of business.

This is only true if you don't follow the simple directions provided by Bearing Buddy:

Lubricant level can be checked by pressing on the edge of the piston. If you can rock or move the piston, the hub is properly filled. If the piston won't rock or move, add grease until piston moves outward about 1/8 inch. When adding grease, always use a hand grease gun. An automatic grease gun will destroy the hub's inner seal.

Bearing Buddy also strongly recommends use of the Spindle Seal kit. Since I started using them, I have never had a failure of a rear hub seal. For simplicity and reliability, I think nothing beats this system if it's installed and used properly.

I have been intrigued by the Tiedown Turbo Lube hubs for a while, but I'm turned off by the plastic caps and little rubber plugs as the only means to keep the oil bath in place. They are probably quite tough, but I would worry that road debris (or some idiot's foot in a parking lot) could easily break the plastic cap and instantly fail the system. Similarly, it seems like a slightly worn rear seal would leak oil more easily than the same seal would leak grease. Probably not true, but the worry was enough to keep me with the tried and true Bearing Buddy system.

A few keys to avoiding bearing failures: Buy quality bearings, and repack them by hand every other year or so. Forget about the no-name Chinese made bearing kits sold at Boat-O-Rama or Wally World. Get Timken bearings and races, and put new races in when you replace the bearings. Throw away hubs when they get rusty, and check the condition of the axle to be sure it's not worn or burred. Be sure to preload the bearings after installing them, then back the nut off enough so the bearings are not over-tight. A quick and easy check of bearing condition can be made by jacking up the trailer and rotating the wheel by hand. Listen for any sound that might indicate wear, and check for play and wear in the bearings by rocking the tire in and out. Finally, check the hubs for excessive heat after towing at highway speeds for 15 minutes or so, and get in the habit of checking them at every stop on a longer trip. Note that this is generic advice, and I'm not suggesting that Ron ignored any of these tips. I've seen his boat a number of times, which he keeps maintains to a high standard, and I'm sure he does the same with his trailer.

rjgorion posted 10-06-2009 10:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for rjgorion  Send Email to rjgorion     
Andy, thank you for the kind words. While I'm doing the research, I'll have to save a few bucks so I can get started on this. I may go with one of the axles from Pacific trailers, pending further study. Once again thanks to everyone and any comments or suggestions are welcome.


fno posted 10-06-2009 11:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for fno  Send Email to fno     
I have to agree with Andy on this one. The TurboLube seems like a good idea, but think like this. A blown seal or Bearing Buddy will only cause a leak of "some" grease. You will most likely get home or be able to solve the problem before any catastrophic failure occures. With TurboLube if you have a leak, then you loose your lube long before you will be aware of it on a normal road trip and your bearings will be toast. I'll give a recent example. Last time I went down to Nicks (Tohsgib) after a three hour drive my brakes locked up, caught fire, and melted the grease in the hubs. Most of it oozed out of the front side after the caps blew off. No major damage to the spindles and hubs, and the bearings were not in bad shape. We removed the calipers, repacked the bearings, and I returned home with a three hour drive. I fix things for a living and have to look hard and long at a product that is designed and marketed as something to reduce or eliminate normal maintenance. Usually, such things will bite you in the butt.
jimh posted 10-07-2009 08:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I concur with several of the recommendations given, and will repeat them, if I may:

--do not continually add grease to the bearings via hub caps with grease fittings, as you will generally just force grease past the rear seal;

--use rear seals with double lips and circumferential spring tensioning, or use the SPINDLE SEAL brand rear seals;

--use quality bearings.

My local trailer rental, sales, and repair shop told me the same story as mentioned above: they see boat trailers with grease fittings on the hub caps and blown rear seals. They infer the problem was too much grease added.

The SPINDLE SEAL brand seals are endorsed by several experienced trailer boaters, however they can be hard to purchase, as many retailers do not have them in stock.

You can often find U.S.-made quality bearings at well-stocked auto repair parts stores--not the big-box, national chains but the old-fashioned local store that sells mainly to automobile repair shops.

In addition, I will add these recommendations:

--use a proper quality grease lubricant in the wheel bearing;

--use a marine grease with high temperature rating;

--pre pack the bearings with grease during installation.

Although dealing with trailer wheel bearings is a messy job and not particularly high-tech, I recommend that all trailer boaters be familiar with the process and the details of their particular boat. Roadside repairs seem almost inevitable for anyone whose boat trailer is extensively used. Having first-hand knowledge of the wheel assembly, having some spare parts on hand, and being able to make a quick repair are all beneficial.

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