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  • #23787
    Jonathan Jenkins

    Bit of confessional type post this one.

    Until recently my total knowledge / maintenance of trailer bearings consisted of checking there was some very small amount of play in the wheel when jacked up, topping up the grease occasionally when I remembered and carrying two spare sets of bearings with me at all times lest the worst should happen.

    As part of pre-season preparations I did my normal check of the amount of play in the wheel and decided that there was definitely more than there used to be. Easy job I thought, all I had to do was remove the cotter pin, tighten the castle nut slightly and refit the cotter pin. Wrong. No luck, the play in the wheel was exactly as before. On closer inspection I then saw that inner bearing seal had perished and was hanging loose. No problem at all, I’d got the spare bearings so now would seem like a good time to put the new ones in. Not so easy, the hub did not want to free itself off the axle. Resorted to whacking it from behind and using all sorts of softwood off-cuts to drift it forwards. Eventually it came free and I could see what a mess the inner bearing was, it had pretty much disintegrated and had to be totally destroyed to part it from the axle, using a variety of old blunt chisels and more bits of softwood. Clearly I had been well into borrowed time, and failure at the roadside couldn’t have been far off, most likely half way to Scotland on a perfect forecast.

    So now the whole lot was in pieces all I had to do was re-assemble it. Wrong. I cleaned up the grease off the axle and then just checked that the new bearing would slide over it and then noticed that the axle stub was somewhat scored from where I had had to free the old bearings. Eventually after speaking to the local motor factors I used a variety of grades of wet and dry sandpaper which did a good job of cleaning off the axles to the point at which the new bearings would easily fit on. Now all I had was the easy job of reassembling the hubs. Wrong. I just could not work out why the newly assembled hubs were too long to be able to re-fit the castle nut. In the end I asked a local garage to sort it out for me and this is where my ignorance and embarrassment hit a low point. The answer came that all you have to do is remove the old races before fitting the new ones, something I had completely overlooked. Doh. So I set about using some punches to extract the old races from the hub. Once I had done that, all I had to do was drive the new ones in, using the old ones inverted to punch them in with. Then finally after packing out the new bearings with grease, re-assembly was a doddle and it all went back together perfectly.

    Having done the offside I obviously then turned to the nearside. First thing I noticed was the inner seal was absolutely fine. The hub came off with no difficulty and both bearings were in good condition. I made the assumption bearings should be changed as pairs so I replaced both the inner and outer bearings and races.

    So what I thought was going to be a few minutes job actually ended up being spread out over several weeks, but ended up being a valuable learning process and one that almost certainly saved me a roadside breakdown. I now am confident I understand how the bearings work and would like to think that in future I will pay much greater attention to what are absolutely critical parts for anyone towing. My recent 600 mile round trip to Plymouth was a good test and happily was totally uneventful. I have of course ordered another complete spare set ‘just in case’.

    If anyone wants to add their experiences or add to / correct anything I’ve written above please go ahead!


    Andrew Morrice

    Great Post Jonathan, thanks for sharing your experience.  The key point you give yourself insufficient credit for is that you checked and embarked on all this weeks before you needed the trailer.

    I had to hurriedly replace my hubs last year, because I hadn’t checked weeks before, and ended up rushing.  The first thing that happened was a grease nipple snapped out into the grease gun and couldn’t be dislodged.  It all turned dark and stormy after that, but unlike you I didn’t take the time to write it all up and now cannot remember all the details of the similarly painful and embarrasing sequence of catastrophes that unfolded before I was roadworthy again, with two entirely new hubs.  The new hubs I have to say are a joy, the trailing experience is much better!.

    check early. carry spare hubs, a spare wheel, and learn how it all goes together.

    one day I may become a wise man!

    Boris  W6330 “Delphy”.

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