$1,300+ Wheel Bearing Service

Discussion in 'Electrical & Mechanical Issues' started by Inn42, Apr 28, 2017.

  1. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    If you are thinking $1,300 is a bit high for having wheel bearings repacked, I completely agree. The original price was only $85, which included checking and adjusting the brakes. Our camper had north of 60,000 miles on it, and we were headed to Baja, Mexico. We had been advised to get caught up on any maintenance issues ahead of time, because once we got much south of Ensenada, availability of any needed repair parts could be very sketchy.

    The place that adjusted the bearings is located in Glendale, AZ, and my friend and former neighbor had used them to work on his trailers, so we didn't worry about the quality of work that was being done for us. I wish we had. We posted about how to check that the bearings are properly tightened a little while back. It is well worth the effort to learn this simple skill - to avoid unnecessary expense and to have peace of mind when venturing off into the unknown.

    In case anyone hasn't already heard our story, the bearings were overtightened and eventually failed catastrophically on the outskirts of Todos Santos. So how did it happen that the final bill ended up tallying over $1,300?

    Initially, we had thought we got off the hook for an additional $165, for Antonio' s labor, and new bearings and seals. But after de-winterizing our camper earlier in the year, I attempted to adjust the brakes and the brake controller. Only I couldn't get the trailer brakes to lock up, no matter how I adjusted the controller. Initially I thought the brakes must be WAY out of adjustment. But when I crawled under the trailer to check them I found the issue was caused because the streetside brake wires had been severed. That was something that Antonio had done in order to get us back on the road in Todo Santos.

    So we took the camper in to Major Tire and Hitch in Garden City to have that corrected. They reconnected the wires, but still no brakes. They took the hub apart and found that it had been cracked. I ordered a replacement hub and had it shipped to them. The labor to have all that done, the brakes on that side replaced and some other minor items came to $235 + $85 for the hub & shipping. That is $505 so far.

    We blissfully went off camping for the weekend, content in the knowledge that everything was once again in good working order. Just before getting to the campground, we started to hear an intermittent loud squeal, which became more constant as we rolled into the park. I stopped and checked the hub, and it was scorching hot.

    I called M T & H, and they offered some suggestions for possible causes. I backed the brakes off a bit, based upon their advice. We returned to Boise a few days later, but we only made it about 30 miles before it was clear that we still had a problem. We waited in Cambridge for the hub to cool down, then drove to the only auto repair in town. The mechanic confirmed that the bearings were fine, and determined the brakes were the problem. He backed the brakes all the way off, allowing us to get back to the hitch shop, thinking it would be dealt with under warrantee. He charged us $45. Now the total bill is $550.

    Back at the hitch shop, they said that they couldn't get our existing brake controller to put out anything put full power. They suspected that might be causing the problem, so I was out another $105 for a replacement. $655 so far.

    After driving a few miles down the road, it was clear the issue had not been resolved. Since they had implicated the brake controller, we disconnected the 7 pin. The problem persisted. We returned the following morning.

    The owner was insistent that we were causing the problem by providing too much power to the brakes. I related the 7 pin scenario, and we recreated the issue and squealing for him. He didn't know the cause, but it was clear to him where the problem was located in the hub. So we left it with him.

    We got a call a bit later that day. The cause had been found: when the bearing failed and the wheel collapsed on the hub, the spindle had been slightly bent. The hub would roll freely when the wheel was jacked up, but the weight of the trailer would put the fresh new brakes in contact with it. They recommended that I call Camp Inn to see about where to get a replacement torsion arm. By the time I called back, they had removed the old torsion arm and discovered that the axle bushings were severely worn (at this point I am imagining a future scenario similar to Bear's frozen axle, which was nearly shorn off his trailer).

    The recommendation from the shop was to get a completely new axle, torsion arms, hubs and brakes. The new hub and backing plate had been cooked pretty well by the heat of the dragging brake shoe, one torsion arm needed to be replaced, the axle needed to be replaced, and the backing plate on the opposite side would need to be replaced in another year or so (possibly also the bearings and seals), and that torsion bar should probably be adjusted. Their labor to do all that piecemeal was likely to be nearly as much as a full axle assembly, maybe more. And we would likely be doing more service again in a couple of years, which would clearly be out on the road somewhere, and probably some place and time very inconvenient to our travel plans. The cost for them to bolt the new axle on was just $75. I ordered the replacement axle assembly directly from Camp Inn's source - JTI in Ohio. That set us back $622 - $450 for the axle, $125 for shipping and the rest for crating it up.

    So, in the end the total bill was over $1,350. An expense that could have been avoided, had I known how to tell if the bearings had been correctly tightened (as I now do). Hopefully anyone reading this will take the time now to gain this simple knowledge, so that you can save your money for fun and more margaritas...
  2. Evan

    Evan Administrator Staff Member

    That sounds so painful! Thanks for the warning and lesson.
  3. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    To be fair, some part of this expense will help us avoid inevitable future expenses (and possibly a catastrophic failure like Bear's axle). It sort of like paying your taxes sooner, rather than later. But at the same time, we are getting tired of surprises like this.
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  4. Bear

    Bear Junior Ranger


    I feel your pain! Now that you're well versed on how to adjust the bearings, I highly recommend that you carry multiple sets of spare bearing with you at ALL times. Given that it doesn't sound like your travels are anywhere near their end, you won't regret the decision. With over 100, 000 miles on the Stagecoach, I have had to replace the bearings multiple times---about a half dozen---and it usually happens when there is no town and no mechanic available. Should you be lucky enough to be close to a town as I have been (on a couple of occasions), you may quickly discover that the bearings aren't available within town/city limits---been there and done that. It really sucks when your week is eaten up waiting on a delivery as you have already discovered. What can take days to accomplish could take as little as a few hours if the bearings are on hand.

    There is my four cents for whatever it is worth.

    Walk in Beauty,

    Evan likes this.
  5. Randy

    Randy Junior Ranger Donating Member

    I would like to carry an extra bearing set. Can anyone provide the exact parts numbers and perhaps a link to a place to buy them?

  6. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    Thanks for the advice, Bear! I think I've finally arrived at that same conclusion, and will invest in at least one set of bearings and seals (perhaps more, if we ever venture to Central America or beyond).

    At least this last time around, waiting for parts gave us an excuse to extend our visit with friends. But I can think of plenty of places where we have been where a week-long layover would have felt like Purgatory.
  7. mcjimjam

    mcjimjam Junior Ranger Donating Member

    And here is a word to the wise..... After learning, on this forum, that there was a possibility of wheel bearing failure, we began carrying an extra set of bearings and seals (obtained from Northern Tool) in our 550. This past February, the bearing on the driver's side of the camper did indeed fail. We were, or so we thought, prepared for this scenario. That is until Jim discovered that he hadn't packed a tub of wheel bearing grease in our "emergency wheel bearing kit"! Fortunately for us, Jim was able to make the necessary repairs with the "emergency kit", his tool box, and access to an auto parts store (for the tub o'grease) which was right across the street from the lot where we had pulled over. We were back on the road within 3 hours.

    Lesson learned: always have the proper tools, parts, and the grease, on hand! Even if you are not mechanically inclined enough to make such a repair, at least have the parts on hand for the first mechanic you come across!!

    IMG_3137.JPG IMG_3138.JPG

    Below is part of a post by Cary, from a while back about this issue. It contains the part #'s.

    Talked to Craig last Monday about the wheel bearings and he recommends having two spare bearings and a bearing seal while towing. They didn't have any at the Necedah Mothership, but he gave me their CarQuest numbers:

    Bearing: B-A4 (get 2)

    Seal: 474276 (get 1)

    I would like to counterpoint this. In our experience most bearing failures we see are shortly after having bearing service. Generally the service is "just because" and not following the guidelines for when to service the bearings found in the owner's manual. Packing the bearings just because it is spring time or because you are taking a long trip we have found to be the main cause for most bearing failures. Improperly tightened in some cases, others (mostly we find) are because too much grease is used. There is a tendency to use what might have been learned from having owned a boat trailer with these bearings and that is not applicable. With a boat trailer you fill the hubs with grease to keep water out, but then again a boat trailer should not go more than 55mph because those are not high speed hubs. If too much grease is in the hubs they run hot at high speeds and cook the grease out. So, when someone says they burned up a set of bearings that generally is the cause.

    So no, do not service your bearings once a year whether they need it or not. Follow our guidelines. 1) Every 2000 miles do a end play test by shaking the tire for the proper end play. If the bearings are getting too loose, service the bearings. 2) Tire replacement, service the bearings when tires are due. 3) 50K miles. If you made it that far without doing any bearing service then pack the bearings. The grease is old and should be changed. This number is a tad high based on the light load of the trailer and our experience. The hub manufacturer will actually recommend 25K. So, if you would like to error on the side of caution pack the bearings every 25K if you did not have to for reasons 1 or 2.
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  8. Randy

    Randy Junior Ranger Donating Member

    Thanks for the very helpful post and part numbers.

  9. jfocallag

    jfocallag Junior Ranger Donating Member

    Jamie, thanks for the reminder! Need to put this on my to do list.
  10. mcjimjam

    mcjimjam Junior Ranger Donating Member

    Once we got home, I ordered a new spindle from the manufacturer (JTI, Inc. phone =440-232-4311). I did not want to take any chances on the spindle being damaged, after I had to remove the old bearing by hammer and punch. I was able to talk with the manufacturer about how to properly tighten the nut for the wheel bearing. His comment was most people overtighten them. While he did not give me a specific torque setting, he said put the nut on hand tight then go 180 degrees more. Proper torque is set when you grab the tire at opposite sides and have some free play (he said 1/16" to 1/8" - but if you can measure that, you would be very creative).
  11. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    Great post mcjimjam! And thanks for the part numbers - it saved me from going hunting for them.

    My guess would be that towing speed is another variable to consider when deciding to repack bearings. Highway towing is a tiny fraction of our mileage: most of the time we are driving at low speed for short distances (generally not more than 10-15 miles), then stopping for a while. So the irony for us is that even with over 60K miles on our camper, the Glendale RV shop had told us that it really wasn't necessary that we repacked them...
  12. Randy

    Randy Junior Ranger Donating Member

    I am wanting to carry an extra set of bearing parts. I wasn't able to locate them using mcjimjam's Carquest part numbers but found this older post:

    "The numbers are L44610 for the cup and L44649 for the cone, they come as a set. These are industry standard numbers and a good auto parts store should have them and be able to set you up with the proper grease seal as well. Manufacturer's part numbers may vary but that's ok. I believe the cotter pin you may need is a 5/32" by 2 1/2" or so. Both inner and outer bearings are the same so two bearing sets, one grease seal, and one cotter pin per wheel."

    Is this the kit that I should buy? Any additional parts required?
    Amazon.com : Pair Of Trailer Bearing Repair Kits For 1-1/16 Inch Straight Spindles : Sports & Outdoors


  13. Inn42

    Inn42 Junior Ranger

    I can only confirm what you have already figured out - the numbers all match, so it appears to have everything you need. The fact that you also get new dust caps is a big plus in my mind. Our dust cap was unusable after our incident. I found one in La Paz that, with some modification, sort of fit. I would think it wise to carry a spare dust cap as well - we were always worrying that the substitute cap would come loose and fall off, allowing the grease to become contaminated. Thanks for tracking this down. I've added it to my wish list for our next Amazon purchase.

    Anyone who already has a bearing set - the link gives what I suspect to be the proper dimensions for the dust cap, which should help in tracking down the correct size for a backup.
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
    Gypsy likes this.
  14. Randy

    Randy Junior Ranger Donating Member

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