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10 Steps to Replace Trailer Wheel Bearings

10 Steps to Replace Trailer Wheel Bearings

Just as we do with our car every six or so months, we need to service trailers. Boat trailers need service most especially because of the harsh conditions they are put through, including being submersed in salt water.


One of the most important items on your maintenance schedule should be to check the wheel bearings. These bearings should be changed if the wheel does not spin freely when jacked up or if undue noise is heard from the wheel. Bearings are comprised of a cup pressed into the hub and the cone, which contains the bearing rollers. When inspecting the cone, look for signs of wear, pits, chips, or discolouration of the rollers. Inspect the cup for wear, damage or scoring marks. If any damage is found, the bearings should be replaced. In an emergency, you can remove the cone and replace it with a new one with a screwdriver.


While replacing a wheel bearing may seem an intimidating task, following these 10 steps will help you become an expert.


Step 1

Take off the wheel and hub. Remove the tyre and wheel from the trailer, and use a flathead screwdriver to remove the grease cap by prying it off in a circular motion.


Step 2

Remove the castle nut on the spindle. The castle nut should be visible after removing the grease cap. Wipe the extra grease off the nut, and then look for a “tab” (one of the castle nut notches). Push the tab back toward the spindle with your screwdriver. You may also see a “cage” surrounding the nut, which can easily be pried away in a circular motion using your screwdriver.


Step 3

Remove the hub. Use a paper towel to hold in the outer bearing as you pull off the hub. If the hub is stuck, rock it in a circular motion to help it slide off. If the bearing is frozen to the spindle, you will need to knock off the hub with some force. Remember, even the smallest of nicks can wear out the bearings and their seals very quickly. If there are nicks in the spindle where the bearings and seal sit, consider replacing the spindle or the entire trailer axle.


Step 4

Once removed, disassemble the hub. First, remove the outer bearing by pulling out the outer bearing and spindle washer, and set it aside. Then, remove the inner bearing and seal. Place the hub on a cinder block, with the wheel studs facing up, and place a 2.5cm wooden dowel to knock out the bearing.


Step 5

Clean and inspect the bearings, looking for nicks and dents in the roller cage. If you see these problems, or lines, spots or discolouration of metal, discard the bearings. If everything passes inspection, clean out and dry the bearings.


Step 6

Check the seal. If the seal is no longer round, or the rubber looks dry rotted, the seal should be replaced. Sometimes, removing the grease seal from the hub causes enough damage to require its replacement.


Step 7

Repack the trailer bearings with grease. Ensure that you fill every space of the bearing. To repack the bearings by hand, place a gob of grease in your palm and press the bearing into the grease with force.


Step 8

Insert the inner bearing and seal by turning the hub over so the front sides of the wheel studs face down. Place the inner bearing in the hub and install the seal on top. Tap the seal in a circular motion until it sits flush. Then, apply a thin layer of grease to the spindle, and slide on the hub.


Step 9

Insert the outer bearing and seal by sliding it in while rocking the hub back and forth until the bearing is seated soundly.


Step 10

Install the castle nut, by tightening it until it stops or becomes snug. Rock the hub and push in to ensure the hub is properly seated onto the spindle. Then, tighten the castle nut as needed.


Swiftco Trailers offer a FREE TRAILER SAFETY CHECK at any of our four locations. This free service is open to all makes and models of trailers and includes the check of bearings, brakes and general condition.


Swiftco Trailers also have a spare parts division where you can source all spare parts including all hubs, bearings, discs, suspension kits/parts, brake kits/parts, guards, winches, couplings, lights, axles, boat rollers and all fittings.