How to Change Wheel Bearings on a Trailer: Step-By-Step Guide

By: Date: 05 December 2022

The wheel bearings on your trailer are some of the most important parts that require regular maintenance to ensure smooth towing. All too often you may see a trailer on the side of the road, missing a wheel, and posing a danger to its passengers and passers-by. Chances are these trailers’ owners have not kept on top of regular bearing checks and maintenance.

Simply put, well-greased and correctly fitted trailer wheel bearings are essential for a safe and easy towing experience. Dry, worn, or aged bearings that have excessive play in them are not just a danger to you and your passengers but can also be a hazard to other people on the road.

In this blog, we’ll cover the critical factors in wheel bearing replacement and maintenance. Our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to change wheel bearings on a trailer and the key elements to ensuring a safe and effective towing experience every time. Let’s dive in!

Regular Trailer Wheel Bearing Checks and Maintenance

Regular checks and maintenance are key to ensuring you don’t have any issues with your trailer’s wheel bearings. Periodic checks are the first step. Generally, you’ll want to check your bearings every six months or so, but we recommend taking a look before any longer trips or those on particularly rough terrain as well.

Importance of Routine Checks for Wheel Bearings

Your wheel bearings are the unsung heroes of your trailer’s suspension system, keeping things smooth and allowing you to conquer those rough trails. But they can’t do their job properly if they’re neglected or worn out. That’s why giving your wheel bearings some TLC deserves a top spot on your pre-adventure checklist.

Greasing Schedule: Maintaining Optimal Lubrication

Different trailers have different greasing requirements, so always double-check your trailer’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations. But as a rule of thumb, it’s good practice to give your wheel bearings a grease-up every 10,000 kilometres, or sooner if you’ve been hitting the dirt tracks hard.

A visual inspection can also determine whether your bearings will need to be regreased. If your visual inspection shows signs of overheating or wear, then you’ll definitely want to do a bit more investigating.

When it comes to greasing, don’t hold back! Use a high-quality, waterproof grease that can handle all the mud, water crossings, and rough terrain you’ll encounter on your off-road adventures. And make sure to clean the old grease off before applying the fresh stuff.

Signs of Wear: When to Address Wheel Bearing Issues

Now, let’s talk about the tell-tale signs that your wheel bearings might be crying out for attention. These trusty components won’t last forever, and ignoring the signs of wear can lead to costly repairs and even dangerous situations on the trails.

One of the most common signs of worn-out wheel bearings, and one that may call for a wheel bearing replacement, is a humming or growling noise coming from your trailer’s wheels. It can start off as a faint rumble, but if you hear it getting louder as you pick up speed, it’s time to give those bearings a thorough inspection.

Another red flag to watch out for is any excessive freeplay or looseness in your wheels. If you feel like your wheels have a bit too much wobble or shake, it’s a clear indication that something’s not right with your wheel bearings. The best way to check for freeplay in your bearings is to jack the wheel off the ground, hold it at the top and bottom corner, and move it back and forth. You’ll feel immediately if there is any freeplay. If there is, then it’s time to replace your bearings.

And of course, don’t overlook any visible damage, like rust, pitting, or loss of grease. These are all signs that your bearings are on the verge of giving up the ghost and need some attention pronto.

Selecting the Correct Wheel Bearings

If you’ve inspected your trailer wheel bearings and have determined that you need to replace them, you need to be careful to ensure you’re replacing them with the right ones.

Firstly, two elements of the bearing will need replacing: the cup and the cone. The cup is the part that is pressed into your trailer’s hub, whereas the cone is the component that contains the rollers of the bearing. You can identify what type of bearing your trailer needs by examining the old ones that you remove. They will have part numbers on both the bearing and on the cup.

If you’re unable to find a part number on the old bearing, then you can use measurements to determine the correct bearing. The two measurements you’ll require to find a suitable replacement bearing are the ID (internal diameter) and the OD (outer diameter), as well as the measurements of the seal.

Generally, there are two common types of bearings used in trailers in Australia: Holden and Ford, although with Holden closing down, this is bound to change in the future. You can easily find the correct replacement bearing for your trailer on our online shop, along with all the information you need to select the correct wheel bearing. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Bearing Specifications: Matching Size and Load Capacity

When it comes to bearing specifications, two critical factors to consider are size and load capacity. Ensuring you match these specifications to your trailer’s and 4WD’s requirements will keep you rolling smoothly on all your off-road escapades.

  • Size: Just like a well-fitted glove, the size of your wheel bearings should be a perfect match for your trailer. Too small, and they won’t provide the support and stability required for rough trails. Too large, and you’ll face unnecessary friction and potential damage. Consult your trailer’s manual or reach out to the experts at ARK to find the right size for your rig.
  • Load Capacity: Picture yourself loading up your trailer with all the camping gear, jerry cans, and recovery equipment you’ll need for a wild weekend in the bush. Your wheel bearings need to handle the weight. Check the load capacity specifications to ensure you’ve got bearings that can shoulder the load without breaking a sweat.

By matching the right size and load capacity, you’ll set yourself up for a smooth and carefree ride, no matter what challenging trails you encounter on your off-road journeys.

Quality Matters: Choosing Reliable Bearing Brands

Choosing reliable bearing brands can make all the difference between a thrilling adventure and a frustrating breakdown in the middle of nowhere.

At ARK, we know the ropes when it comes to providing top-notch trailer parts, and our selection of wheel bearings is no exception. Opting for a reputable brand like ARK ensures you’re investing in reliable, durable bearings built to withstand the toughest off-road conditions.

Remember, don’t cut corners when it comes to quality. Go for brands that have earned the trust and respect of the off-roading community. With ARK by your side, you’ll be set for countless thrilling journeys, knowing your wheel bearings can handle whatever challenges the outback throws your way.

Once you have the correct replacement parts, it’s time to get stuck into the wheel bearing replacement.

Trailer Bearings Wear With Use

Step by Step: How to Change Wheel Bearings on a Trailer

The process of replacing wheel bearings on a trailer can be a little tricky, and we only recommend you do it if you have a decent amount of mechanical knowledge. The tools that will be needed are:

  • Basic set of mechanical tools (i.e spanners, sockets, etc.)
  • Hammer
  • Punch
  • File
  • Sandpaper
  • Bench vice (preferable, though not essential)
  • Replacement parts

If you have everything you need and are ready to get stuck into it, then here’s our step-by-step DIY guide to wheel bearing replacement.

1. Remove the Hub Assembly

First up you’ll need to remove the dust cap, cotter pins, adjusting nut and washers. Be very careful when performing this step and ensure the outer bearing doesn’t fall out. Pull the hub towards you so the inner bearing and seal come out with the hub.

2. Remove the old Bearings from the Hub and Clean the Hub

This is where having a vice comes in very handy! Place the hub in your bench vice, and remove the outer bearing by lifting it out. Remove the inner bearing and seal using your hammer and punch, and then clean out the hub to remove all the old grease. Give it a clean with some brake cleaner or solvent, too.

3. Check the Spindle and Hub for Damage, and Apply some Grease

Carefully check the spindle for a damaged thread or any scoring or damage. If there’s any damage present, you may need to consider replacing the part. If the part looks in adequate condition, then apply a light coating of grease to the spindle. Check the hub bore and cub backing for any nicks and burrs, and remove any if found.

4. Prepare the New Bearings

Remove the new bearings from the packaging and pack them with grease by forcing grease under the cage between the rollers, beginning from the larger side until you see grease on the smaller side. You’ll also want to fill the hub with grease to the inside diameter of the outer bearing.

5. Fit the Bearings into the Hub

Again, using a bench vice if you have one, install the inner bearing and the seal into the hub. TOP TIP: Double-check that the bearing is placed the correct way! This is a common mistake. Then you’ll want to install the outer bearing into the hub.

6. Reinstall the Hub to your Trailer

Being careful not to damage the seal against the end of the spindle, slide the hub onto the spindle. This is where you’ll be glad to have greased the spindle first.

7. Adjust the Bearing for Proper Clearance

Tighten up the adjusting nut and then back it off a couple of turns. This will apply preload to the bearing before the final adjustment. Using a 12” wrench for final adjustment, turn until the hub binds – you’ll then know that it’s all been properly seated. Back the nut off a quarter of a turn and then lock it in place with the new cotter pin.

8. Replace the Cap and Wheel Securely

Tap the cap onto the hub with a hammer until it is solidly seated against the hub. Reinstall the wheel.

9. Perform a Test Run and Recheck the Hub

Hook the trailer up to your tow vehicle and take it for a short test drive, being careful to feel for anything unusual. Once you have completed the test drive, double-check the trailer’s wheels for any freeplay or signs of overheating. If everything is smooth sailing, then you’re all done with your wheel bearing replacement!

Ark Traile and Camping specialists

Keep your Trailer up to Scratch with ARK

At ARK, we’ve been leaders in trailer parts, towing gear and 4WD accessories for over 40 years, and are 100% Australian owned and independent. You can be sure that when you buy a product from Ark, you’re getting something that has been properly tried and tested in real Aussie conditions!

Keep Your Trailer Bearings up to Scratch with ARK

At ARK, we’ve been leaders in trailer parts, towing gear, and 4WD accessories for over 40 years, and are 100% Australian-owned and independent. You can be sure that when you buy a product from us, you’re getting something that has been properly tried and tested in real Aussie conditions! 

Changing a trailer wheel bearing as we’ve outlined above may be required if you notice extensive wear and tear. If you need a hand with wheel bearing replacement or trailer bearing care, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly team for expert advice and guidance.

Future Maintenance: Planning Your Next Inspection

Staying ahead of any potential problems with routine inspections and preventative maintenance can save you from costly repairs and breakdowns on the road.

Here are some tips to help you plan for your next inspection:

  • Set a reminder schedule: Whether it’s a physical calendar, digital reminder, or a note on your phone, make sure to set a schedule for regular inspections and greasing.
  • Keep a record: Keep track of your maintenance history and note any signs of wear or issues that need attention. This record can help you stay ahead of any potential problems and make informed decisions about future maintenance needs.
  • Stay up to date on manufacturer recommendations: Make sure to stay informed on any updates or changes to your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule or procedures.

By planning ahead, keeping records, and staying informed, you can ensure your trailer wheel bearings are prepared for all your upcoming adventures.

Expert Assistance: When to Seek Professional Help

Even with all the preventative maintenance in the world, there may come a time when you need expert assistance with your trailer bearings. Ignoring a problem can lead to further damage or even put your safety at risk. So, how do you know when it’s time to seek professional help?

  • Unusual noises or vibrations: If your trailer is making unusual noises or vibrations that you can’t attribute to anything else, it’s time to get it checked out.
  • Clear signs of wear or damage: Any visible signs of wear, cracks, or leaks should be addressed promptly to prevent further damage.
  • Lack of experience or tools: If you’re not confident in your ability to inspect or maintain your trailer bearings, it’s best to leave it to the experts who have the experience and tools required.

Need some more gadgets to finish your setup? Check out our full range of high-quality trailer parts to ensure you’re riding with the best in the biz. Happy off-roading!

At ARK, we’ve been leaders in trailer parts, towing gear and 4WD accessories for over 40 years, and are 100% Australian owned and independent. You can be sure that when you buy a product from Ark, you’re getting something that has been properly tried and tested in real Aussie conditions!