When’s the last time you checked or repacked the grease in your trailer wheel bearings? The experts recommend that you repack them once a year or every 12,000km according to my research. If you search on this you will find the one year guideline is pretty consistent but the mileage recommendations vary. The consequences of a wheel bearing failure are as bad as you imagine… fires, wheels coming off on the road, destroying your axle etc. I know of very few people who actually follow these recommendations, and none of them have had any problems (yet). But you have to ask yourself what is your risk tolerance?
For myself the first thing I did when I got my trailer home from the dealer was pull the wheels & brake hubs off and take a look. And what I found was pretty scary with grease leaking everywhere. I did test the brakes before leaving the dealer and they did work… for more about the brakes head over to this post about trailer brakes. I’ve included some links below if you want to know how to do it yourself, it’s not that hard. The number one thing you’ll have to figure out how to do is jack the trailer up safely, this has proved challenging for me on my sloped driveway. My trick is to hitch up the trailer to the truck and securely block the truck, and then only work on one side at a time. And never, ever jack on the axle tubes according to the manufacturers! I recently bought this Bearing Packer tool from Canadian Tire and it works great, I used to do the packing by hand but this is so much better.
Another tool I purchased that has proved useful is one of those temperature guns like this one that I bought on Amazon: Etekcity Non-Contact Temperature Gun. I use it to monitor the temperatures of the trailer wheels and tires, especially on the first trip after doing any work. If the bearings or tires to start to heat up unusually you know you have a problem, before something really bad happens.
The first time I had everything apart (right after purchasing the trailer) I left the original bearings in. The second time I decided to actually replace the bearings as a proactive measure. The bearings installed in the trailer were stamped as being made in Romania and I don’t know what kind of quality they were or how much life was left in them. So I did my homework and just like my tires I wanted something made here in North America. I’d stay away from any bearings made in China. My research told me that Timken is made in the USA and has a great reputation, so that’s what I decided to get.