Your wheel bearings are one of the most important components of your camper, so learning how to check camper wheel bearings is key.
Without good bearings, you run the risk of a devastating accident resulting in damage to your RV, to the towing vehicle, and to the occupants of that vehicle. It’s important to make checking your wheel bearings a part of your regularly scheduled maintenance.
To check your camper wheel bearings, you will need to listen for grinding or squeaking noises, check for smooth motion, and check for friction. A well-operating wheel bearing is essential to your camping experience, and you’ll be up the creek without a paddle if one of them goes bad while driving down the road.
In this article, we’re going to go into more detail about each of the above ways to check your bearings and how to fix bad bearings. Having the proper tools and equipment to fix a bearing is extremely important, and we’ll discuss that as well.
How to Check the Sound of Your Camper Bearings
The first and easiest way to check your camper wheel bearings is by listening to how they sound while you’re driving. Here’s a step-by-step process of checking for sound.
- You’re going to want two people for this job, one to tow the RV and one to listen.
- If your partner is driving the towing vehicle, have them drive around 20 to 25 miles per hour. You may want to find a parking lot or deserted area, so you don’t affect traffic.
- Stand to one side of the camper being towed and listen for any squeaks, grinding noises, or clicking noises that are coming from the camper wheels.
If you hear any of these sounds, there’s a good chance that your wheel bearings need to be checked and repaired or replaced.
How to Check Motion on Your Camper Bearings
Checking your wheels for motion is more in-depth and slightly more difficult, as you will need a wheel jack. If you have a jack handy and want to check your bearings, then here’s how to do it.
- Jack up one side of the trailer so that the wheels are off the ground and can move freely. Before doing this, make sure that your camper can’t move by placing blocks or wheel chocks behind the wheels on the opposite side of the camper.
- Forcefully spin the wheels on the elevated side of the camper with your hand. If the bearing is in good shape, the wheel should spin freely and with little resistance. If, however, the wheel doesn’t want to rotate or makes one of the above noises during rotation, your bearings need to be regreased or repaired.
- If you see that the wheel spins freely, your next test is to firmly grasp the tire in both hands and attempt to rock it back and forth. Camper wheels are designed to have a little bit of play and rock back and forth ever so slightly. If your tire doesn’t have any play whatsoever, it will result in the bearing heating up and could cause some serious damage. Make sure to tighten or loosen the attaching nut accordingly.
How to Check Friction on Your Camper Bearings
Finally, we come to the third and final manual test of how to check your camper bearings.
- If your camper bearings check out ok on the first two tests and you feel like you can comfortably tow it on the highway, do so for a stretch of 10 to 20 miles. Make sure that you’re traveling at whatever speed you normally go to ensure authenticity.
- Once you’ve gone 10 to 20 miles at high speeds, pull over to the side of the road out of the way of any oncoming traffic. Gas stations, rest areas, or parking lots are preferable to ensure safety.
- Take your hand and place it on the wheel hub of each of your tires. If the wheel is so hot that you can’t leave your hand on the hub, then your bearings have either gone bad, need to be greased, or are on too tight. Either way, you’re going to need to fix the problem before any long trips with your camper.
How Often Should I Grease My Camper Wheel Bearings?
As a general rule, you should check your wheel bearings every 5,000 to 10,000 miles and grease them whenever necessary. For smaller campers, this process should happen every 2,000 miles. If you check your bearings in any of the above ways and notice problems, then the first and cheapest remedy is to simply regrease the bearings and move on with life. You can take your travel trailer to a mechanic or attempt the task yourself.
The advantage of doing the work yourself is that you’ll save a ton of money. Mechanics charge per axle when they grease your bearings, and you could end up paying several hundred dollars or more each time you need to have this done. If you’re brave enough to take the job on yourself, then here’s what you do.
How to Grease Trailer Wheel Bearings
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to check your owner’s manual. Your manual will contain important information like how much weight your bearings can handle as well as how tight your trailer bearings should be when you reassemble it after greasing.
Just as you did to check the trailer bearings, you’ll want to use a trailer jack to raise the camper wheels off the ground. Before doing this, however, make sure that the wheels are locked, and your RV can’t roll away.
The third step is going to be to remove the dust cap covering your outer wheel bearings. To properly remove the dust cap, you’ll need a hammer and chisel or flathead screwdriver to loosen it and then remove any nuts or screws that are holding attaching it to your wheel.
With the dust cap removed, you’ll now have access to the outer bearings and can detach those. Lay them face down on a soft surface like a clean towel or paper towels to make sure they don’t get damaged or make anything dirty.
Fifthly, remove everything else on the wheel that you need to get access to the inner bearings. This includes the grease seal, the wheel hub, the washer, and any other connecting pieces, as well as the inner and outer bearings. Take the time to line everything up and take pictures so that you remember exactly how it all goes back together.
Next, take time to thoroughly clean each individual component of your travel trailer’s wheel bearings. Make so that the old excess grease is removed so that the new grease seal can do its job. You can use a clean towel, paper towels, brake cleaner, a magnifying glass, and a spray gun with the cleaner to ensure that your bearings are clean and ready to go.
Step seven is to take your grease gun and start greasing the tar out of your wheel bearings. Make sure that you apply enough grease without over greasing. You’ll want to focus on areas like the wheel hubs and other places that will experience a lot of friction while driving. It might be good to use a wheel bearing packer to cut down on the massive mess that can result from dirty bearings and grease.
It’s also a good idea to start reassembling each piece of the wheel bearing as you clean and grease it. Start with the inner bearing and work your way out until you finish with the outer bearing and the wheel hub. Add more grease as needed to each component until you’re satisfied with the outcome. Make sure to have your cleaning materials handy for the grease and any trapped dirt that might be inside the bearings.
As you’re reassembling your hub on the axle spindle and so on and so forth, the pictures that you took beforehand will come in very handy to keep you on the right track. As a final measure, you might need to adjust your trailer brakes to ensure that they’re in good shape as well.
Ensure that when you tighten your lug nuts on the wheels and the spindle nut, you don’t over-tighten them. This can lead to friction and grinding on your From start to finish, the greasing and repacking trailer wheel bearings should take you about an hour per side if each side has two wheel bearings and you have a decent trailer jack.
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Here’s Why You Should Regularly Check Your Wheel Bearings
Proper maintenance of your travel trailer wheel bearings should be a part of your routine maintenance checks on your camper.
Bad bearings will lead to things like uncomfortable steering wheel vibration, increased tire wear, increased wheel heat due to friction, and even axle damage. Each of these problems can be very expensive to fix, and it’s much cheaper and safer to stay on top of your wheel bearings and keep them primed and ready to roll.
How to Check Camper Wheel Bearings – Final Thoughts
I hope that I’ve done my job in convincing you of how important your camper wheel bearings are, how to check them, and how to maintain them. The last thing you want is for a wheel bearing to give out while you’re on the way to a long-awaited camping trip. By staying on top of your bearings and regularly checking and greasing them, you can avoid any heartache and hardship. Happy camping!