By Roger Danforth
Much has been written about the wisdom of pulling your trailer wheels apart every year or two and taking the time to inspect and repack the axle bearings. Oftentimes you’ll hear a response like: “Why waste the time? Just put on a lube system that allows you to pump fresh grease into the system. No need to fool with jacking up the rig and tearing down the hubs.”
Well, if a picture paints a thousand words, let this one say it all:
photo: Butch Williams
The jury is still out about the use of a “Bearing Buddy” or “Easy Lube” system on an RV axle. I’m still not convinced that the system is all that great, in that, if you pump in a different kind of grease than is already in the system, you may easily have fatal compatibility issues. But even without that point, the picture illustrates the wisdom of periodic inspections of the inside of those hubs.
Here’s the back story: One of our readers, Butch Williams, does a fair amount of RV maintenance on a professional level. One of Butch’s customers uses a lube system on his 2004 fifth wheel. He was preparing for an extended RV trip and dropped by Butch’s business to inquire about maybe having the wheels inspected. Butch strongly urged the man to do it, and squirming a little, the man decided to go for the inspection.
When Butch yanked the wheels to expose the inner workings of the brake system, here’s what he says: “The bearings looked fine, BUT the brake shoes were coming apart – unbonding. Notice the lining, separating from the shoes.” Three out of the four wheels showed this same problem. Butch’s conclusion is frightening: “Had this not been caught and repaired, most likely, the linings would have come totally detached and jammed between the other shoe lining, and could have locked up the wheel.” Talk about bringing your RV trip to a screeching halt.
Yeah, lube systems may be a lot easier, and far less time-consuming than a manual bearing lube job – but if the system lulls you to sleep about other things hiding under that brake drum, you could be a lot worse for wear.