By Steve Savage, Mobility RV Service
If you have a towable RV — a travel trailer or fifth wheel — you just might be thinking about making a list of things to do so it’s ready to hit the road at any time. If you find yourself in that category, I would suggest you start with the roof and the wheel bearings. Why start there, you might ask. Because those two things are neglected more than any other.
To do the roof, it is almost imperative you get up on it, so if that is something you might not be comfortable with, hire it done. First off is simply inspecting the roof. It’s a bit nicer if first you use a pressure washer — electric, not high-powered gas — and, along with a long-handled brush and detergent, get the dirt off everything. If your rig has been sitting uncovered, dirt on the roof is a given.
Once it is clean, check all the caulking, paying particular attention to where the front and rear caps join the roof along with any skylights, as those areas tend to be the most problematic. Patch any tears in the rubber membrane. Renew caulking around the vents, if necessary, and if there has been an area that has been a repetitive problem, do not simply slather on more caulk. Get all the old caulk up and fix the problem, then re-caulk. You cannot buy the caulk for the roof at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I recommend Dicor self-leveling caulk. (And no, I did not get paid for that recommendation. I use Dicor exclusively because it is good stuff.)
Once you have the roof done, if you haven’t lubed the wheel bearings in a couple of years, do that next. I know they are a pain — I don’t like doing bearings either — but the job is not a difficult one. There are several how-tos on YouTube demonstrating wheel bearing service. You have to clean and pack the inner and outer bearings — which means you will need a seal puller to get the rear bearing out. That tool can be found at any automotive store and is not expensive. You will also need a new seal for each wheel and you can get those at an RV dealer or service center, but take the old one along as they come in different sizes.
Clean the bearings and hubs, then repack with wheel bearing grease and reassemble everything. Once you have the hub back on, tighten the lock nut until the wheel just begins to spin less freely, then back off the nut a 1/4 to 1/2 turn and retighten it finger-tight only. That should leave the hub turning freely. Now, putting one hand on the top and one hand on the bottom of the hub, you should just barely rock it. I think the actual measurement is only about five-thousands of an inch, so it is very slight. Again, for more information, reference the Internet, or if you are not comfortable with this step, have it done at a dealership or service center.
The taper bearings that you will find in your hub do not need to be preloaded as once they are going down the road they will heat up and expand, eliminating the slop you left in during reassemble. If you preload the bearings, your hubs will run hot, as will also be the case if you fail to lube them, ultimately destroying the bearing. Smoking a hub on the road is a surefire way to ruin a vacation, so don’t procrastinate here!
Once you have these two steps done, you can do all the fun things you would rather be doing to make your rig look nice — a wash, maybe a wax and so on. If you are like me and basically would rather camp than service your RV, remember you do not have to do everything at one time. For example, do the bearings on one side one day and the other the next. Your RV will love you for it!! 🙂
photo courtesy picserver.org