It can be easy to overlook servicing your boat trailer. Other than the lights, brakes, and tires you may not give it much thought. One of the most important components on your boat trailer, the wheel bearings, should be on your list of regular maintenance items. Bearing failure can prevent you from trailering your boat or leave you stranded on the side of the road.
Boat trailer bearings require more frequent maintenance than those found on a regular trailer due to water exposure.
In this article, you will learn about the importance of proper boat trailer bearing maintenance, and how to perform the service at home!
How Often Should I Grease Boat Trailer Bearings?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule on how often you should service the bearings. The way you use your trailer impacts how frequently you should service the bearings.
If you trailer your boat to and from the water every time you go out, the bearings are exposed to water a lot more frequently. If you don’t keep your boat at a marina all summer, you should service your bearings a minimum of once a year.
If you go out infrequently or keep you boat at a marina, you can probably get away with servicing them every two years.
How to Grease Boat Trailer Bearings
It’s easy to service the bearings on your boat trailer at home. With a bit of mechanical knowledge and a willingness to get a little greasy, you can perform this service in your driveway in an afternoon!
Secure the Trailer
Before beginning the project, make sure to secure the trailer. The safest way to do this in your driveway is to hook the trailer up to your truck, put it in park, and chock the wheels with a cinderblock, block of wood, or wheel chock. Be sure you are working on the flattest surface possible.
Jack Up the Trailer and Remove the Wheels
Break the lugs loose on the wheel while it’s still on the ground. Using a floor jack, jack the trailer up enough to get the wheel off the ground. If you have a dual-axle trailer, do one wheel at a time per side.
Remove the Dust Cap
Dust caps prevent contaminants from entering the bearing. To service the bearings themselves, the dust caps need to come off. Using a flathead screwdriver, gently pry the cap off. You can use a hammer or mallet to lightly tap the screwdriver if needed.
If your trailer has Bearing Buddy’s or bearing protectors, a screwdriver will not work for removing them. Instead, gently tap the bearing protector while rotating the hub, and they should come off.
Remove Cotter Pin and Spindle Nut
With the dust cap off, you will see a spindle nut with a cotter pin going through it. remove the cotter pin with plyers. Once the nut is off, you can remove the hub -and the bearings contained within it- from the spindle.
Remove the Bearings
With the hub off, you can remove the bearing components. They shouldn’t require much force to remove as long as they are not severely rusted or corroded. The front bearing seal can be removed with a seal puller or a screwdriver (the seal will be replaced, so you don’t need to worry about damaging it). With the seal removed, the bearing components will come out easily. To remove the rear bearings, a block of wood can be placed through the hub and tapped, pushing both the bearing and seal out.
The bearings themselves are contained in a metal ring called a race, which will come out of the hub with it
Clean and Inspect the Bearings
Now that the bearings are out of the hub, it’s time to clean them up. Using a rag, wipe off any excess grease. Using a solvent like kerosene, wash the components clean and inspect them for any rust, corrosion, or damage.
Pack the Bearings with Grease
You can pack bearings by hand or with a packing tool. A bearing packer makes the job far less messy but isn’t required. To do it by hand, take a palm full of high-temperature grease and begin working it into the bearing. Keep doing this until the cage and rollers are filled. Be sure to grease the inside of the hub as well as the bearing races.
Install the Bearings in the Hub
With the bearings packed, you can install them back into the hub. Place the rear bearing into the race and insert it into the back of the hub, followed by the seal.
Take the hub and slide it back over the spindle, with the bearing you just installed going on first. Next, insert the front bearing and race, followed by the washer and nut. If you are having trouble, using a large socket and a hammer can help get the rear bearing flush with the hub.
Secure, Tighten, and Finish
Using a wrench, tighten the spindle nut to seat the bearings. Next, loosen the nut with the wrench and tighten it again with your fingers – it should only be finger-tight so the hub can rotate freely. Install a new cotter pin and lock the nut in place. Replace the dust cap and that’s it, you’re done!
Boat Trailer Bearing Service at Matson Point S
If you’d rather a professional service your boat trailer, make an appointment at Matson Point S! Our marine specialists will ensure your trailer is ready to go, and won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road on the way to the lake.