RV wheel bearings are extremely important to the health of all motorhomes and travel trailers. Without them, you’re not going to get far, but wheel bearings are often overlooked during regular RV maintenance.
Forgetting about them is as big a mistake; almost as dangerous as not maintaining your RV tires. Remember to service your RV wheel bearings regularly so you can travel safely this camping season.
Here’s what you need to know about wheel bearings:
What Are RV Wheel Bearings?
Your wheel bearings are located inside the hub of your RV wheels. They allow the wheels to spin properly and they also carry the weight of your RV. So one way to protect your wheel bearings is to understand your trailer’s weight ratings and never exceed them.
Some vehicles have something called sealed bearings. This design prevents debris from getting into the bearings and also traps the bearing grease inside. Sealed bearings do not need to be cleaned and repacked regularly like unsealed bearings do.
Unfortunately, you’ll find unsealed bearings on all but the most top-of-the-line trailers and RVs. So, for the purposes of this tutorial, we’re referring to unsealed wheel bearings.
Additionally, wheel bearings are packed with a special type of grease that prevents friction and allows the wheels to spin freely. While wheel bearings themselves are theoretically designed to last for the entire life of your RV, unsealed wheel bearings need to be cleaned and repacked with fresh grease at regular intervals.
Why Grease RV Wheel Bearings?
Over time, the grease packed inside wheel bearings breaks down and it will also start to acquire debris that gets inside unsealed bearings. If that grease isn’t cleaned out and your RV bearings aren’t re-packed with fresh grease regularly, the worst-case scenario is your entire wheel will seize when you’re driving your RV.
If a wheel seizes while you’re traveling at high speeds, it will put you and everyone on the road around you at risk. Even if a wheel seizes at slow speeds, it will leave you seeking roadside assistance and saddled with the costs of expensive RV repairs.
How Often Should You Grease RV Wheel Bearings?
Start by referring to your RV manufacturer’s specifications for wheel bearing maintenance.
For starters, all recreational vehicles come with multiple manuals for all of their components. If you can’t locate the manual for your axle, contact the manufacturer or a Camping World service center ASAP to get a physical or digital copy for reference.
Inside that manual, you should find service tables that specify mileages for recommended service and maintenance on your vehicle. Following that table closely will help you keep your RV in tip-top shape as it ages.
RV wheel bearings should be repacked with grease once a year or every 10,000 to 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
If you travel frequently, this is a useful metric to go by, even if it means having your RV wheel bearings repacked a couple of times each year.
If you only go on a few short trips every year, some specifications recommend repacking your bearings once a year or every 2,000 miles, whichever comes first. While using RV tire covers will reduce the amount of debris that gets into bearings if your RV is just sitting, that grease can still break down and should be replaced regularly.
Note for new RV owners: If you’ve recently acquired a new or used motorhome, have a service technician inspect your wheel bearings before you hit the road. Unless you know exactly when your wheel bearings were last serviced, it’s best to take care of this essential RV maintenance check before you set out on your next adventure.
This is also the ideal time to have a technician inspect, clean, and make any necessary adjustments to your brakes. Any adjustments should always be made according to manufacturer specifications.
How To Tell When Wheel Bearings Need to Be Repacked
If you stick to your RV manufacturer’s recommended service intervals for wheel bearing maintenance, you should be safe. But you should still be aware of the main signs that your wheel bearings may be wearing out.
A Visual Sign
If you can visibly see grease or an oily film coming out of the hub or coated around the wheel, it may signal that the grease is breaking down and your bearings need to be repacked.
An Audible Clue
If you hear a screeching or grinding sound coming from inside your tires while your RV is in motion, your bearings may need to be serviced.
A Physical Test
If you can jack up your RV so that the weight is off your tires, place your hands on the top and bottom of a tire. Push with your top hand first and then your bottom hand to see how much your tire moves. Repeat this test with your hands across from each other on the sides of your tire.
The tire should barely move on the axle and if you can move it enough to hear an audible clunk, this is a definite sign that your wheel bearings need to be serviced.
However, jacking up a heavy RV or travel trailer requires a heavy-duty floor jack, so only attempt this test if you have experience doing this safely and you know what you’re feeling for in terms of play in the bearing.
A Steering Feel
A more practical test for RVers is how your RV handles on the road. If it’s veering to one side of the road consistently or you’re noticing more play in the steering wheel than normal, it may be a sign that bearing maintenance is needed.
Keep in mind that axle and hub issues can be complex. If you suspect issues with your wheel bearings or other components on your RV, your best bet is to take your coach to your closest Camping World service center for further inspection.
How To Grease RV Wheel Bearings
Cleaning and repacking RV wheel bearings is something you can do at home. However, it requires a heavy-duty floor jack, jack stands underneath your axle(s) and/or the tongue of your trailer, and the right mechanic’s tools to get the job done.
Unless you know how to jack up a trailer, disconnect the electric brakes, remove the wheel, take the hub apart, clean and repack the bearings, replace the wheel bearing seal, and put everything back together exactly as it came apart, we recommend leaving this RV service item up to the professionals.
It does also require the willingness to get dirty too. Few, if any, RV mechanics have cleaned and repacked bearings without winding up with a good deal of grease on their hands. So if you want to save yourself time, energy, and a substantial clean-up, have your RV wheel bearings inspected and serviced by a trained professional at the regular intervals recommended in your RV’s owner’s manual.
Book a service appointment to get your RV wheel bearings inspected today.
Best Grease for RV Wheel Bearings
Bearing grease for travel trailers is something that most RV mechanics stock in bulk. However, it is available in smaller quantities if you need it. If you are cleaning and repacking RV wheel bearings on your own, try this high-temp disc brake wheel bearing grease from MAG1.
RV wheel bearings are just one critical piece of the RV maintenance puzzle, but all of those pieces are essential to guarantee your safety on all your RV journeys. Trust this maintenance task to a trained professional as part of your annual RV checkup to keep your tires spinning free and easy down the road!
When is the last time you had your travel trailer’s wheel bearings serviced? Leave a comment below.
If you’re still learning the ins and outs of RV maintenance, check out our downloadable RV ownership and maintenance booklet!