How To Change Boat Trailer Bearings | BoatUS


Hi, I’m Dustin Hoover with Legendary
Trailer Repairs and one of BoatU.S.’s trailer guys. We’re here today to look at
wheel bearings how to replace them and what to look for. If there’s any damage
involved some of the parts that we’re going to look for inside the wheels are
the double lip grease seals, the inner bearing, the inner race, the outer bearing,
the outer race, the cotter pins, and the grease caps. Some of the tools we’re
going to use today are a standard hammer, standard flathead screwdriver, a punch if
necessary, channel lock pliers and wire cutters for our cotter pin.The other
tools are going to be a premium marine grease and an industrial bearing packer,
this is going to make things easier when considering where to jack the trailer up.
You want to find a solid surface not on the springs of the trailer and not on
anything that could bend or give way once the weight of the trailer is on the
jack. We also want to check to make sure that the tires on the other side are
chopped and that the coupler is securely fastened to the vehicle and the
emergency brake is on. If the tow vehicle is not available to latch to make sure
that your tongue jack is down and or the tongue of the trailer is firmly blocked
so that it cannot fall while you’re jacking the rear of the trailer. You must
always make sure you secure the trailer on a jack stand, don’t rely on the jack
to keep the trailer up with you underneath of it. Now that we know our
trailer is safely on the jack stands the first thing we’re going to check for is
that he play in the tire, shaking the tire we should feel just a small amount
of play which tells us that the adjustment of the bearings is OK.
Secondly we’re going to spin the wheel to see if we hear anything, on this particular wheel we do hear
bearing damage, it could be rust it could be the bearing starting to pit but we’re
going to get inside and find out what exactly that noise is. The first thing
we’re going to do is remove the dust cap or bearing buddy, in this case we have a
bearing buddy. The outer sleeve is just a dust protector once the sleeve is off, using
a standard hammer, we’re going to tap the bearing buddy as we rotate the tire. This
is going to start to dislodge the bearing buddy and allow it to come off. Once the bearing buddy is removed we can
inspect some of the grease to see if we see any kind of contaminants. Using
standard paper towels so that we don’t add any kind of oil products such as
brake cleaner to the wheel bearings we’re going to simply wipe things off
and see what they look like inside. We’re now going to try to access the nut and
the cotter pin that holds everything together. Simply wiping it off will allow
you to see where the parts are and how to get to them. On this trailer we do
have a standard cotter pin that holds the nut and the bearings together. So
using your wire cutters you start to pry the bottom side of the cotter pin, and
once it’s loose you can pry the cotter pin out, by rotating it upwards and to
the side. With the cotter pin removed it’s now time to take the axle nut off.
Using a standard pair of channel locks simply rotate the nut counterclockwise,
if the axle is clean the nut should come off with relatively easy pressure. Each
part can be individually cleaned off and stored separately so that we know where
all of our parts are before re-installation. Next we’re going to try
to jar the bearings loose which is going to allow the outer bearing to come free
and the axle washer. In our hands now we have the axle washer and the outer
bearing. We’re first going to look very closely to see if there’s any shavings
in the grease, with no shavings found we’re going to continue to clean things
off with the outer bearing and the axle washer. Now in our hands the first thing
we’re going to look any kind of metal shards that may
indicate the bearings starting to come apart. In this case we don’t see any so
we’re going to continue to clean things and be able to visually inspect each
bearing, rubbing your paper towel across the rollers will expose the shiny metal
and in this case we can see the damage in the bearing ,which is apparent by rust
marks and black pits in each bearing roller. Our next step after pulling the
outer bearing is to pull the tire and hub. Once it’s off if you leave it
upright you’ll be able to clean a lot of the grease out of it easier than let it
pour out onto the ground. This is going to make the job cleaner in
the long run. With most of the grease removed, will now see what the inner side
of the hub looks like. Right off the bat it’s apparent that the seal is damaged.
The amount of grease on the inside of this of the hub is also an indication
that the seals have been worn out and should be replaced. In this application
because of the way we remove the seal, and the price of the seals, there’s no
reason not to replace the seals each and every time you repack your wheel
bearings. Using your channel locks once again we’re going to pry the seal out of
the backside of the hub, a little bit of pressure will pop the seal right out.
This is going to be discarded and we’re going to start fresh with a new seal
when we reinstall everything. Now we have access to our inner bearing, our inner
bearing just like our outer is going to be carefully inspected for any kind of
damage. Right off the bat we can see that this bearing has lots of rust
on it which is going to cause vibration, heat, and finally failure of the bearing.
We have the bearings removed from the hub now but we’re also going to look for
some other things that could be an indication of bad bearings. One of them
is the grease on the inside of the wheel, that shows us that that grease seal was
allowing the grease to get out, if the thick grease can get out the thin water
can get in, so a good indication of something to look for even if you aren’t
actually doing the wheel bearings. Another thing we’re going to find here
on the actual spindle of the axle we have a buildup of grease on the backside
of the axle and we have fishing line completely wrapped around this spindle.
Fishing line just like the propeller of a boot can damage seals this is all the
kind of stuff that we want to look for and clean off so that we have a nice
smooth surface for the bearings and the seals to ride .Now that we’ve determined
that both bearings have damage we want to get them out of the hub. We can’t
neglect the races though because that’s what the bearing rides on. The races are
clearly seen inside the hub which right here on the outside looking at this
particular race because of the bearing it’s also damaged and has pits on it so
now that we’re it’s time to get those races out. We’re going to clean the
excess grease out to allow our tools to work better for us. With the tire laying
face down the front of the hub is actually facing the ground, we’re going
to use a standard metal punch, always wearing safety glasses and we’re going
to punch the outer race towards the ground. We work side to side to keep the
race flat, once the outer race is completely removed from the hub we can
see it here underneath, again closer inspection will reveal that it does have
damage from the bearings. We’re going to discard that and flip our tire over to
now start to remove the inner race, using the same process, our punch will be lead
on the inside of the inner race and punched towards the ground. Working side
to side, the race will slowly start to come out of the hub. Now that we have the
hub completely clean of grease, bearings, and races we’ll start the install
process. With the tire laying backside down to the ground we’re going to work
on the outer race. The outer race can be put on the hub
and started carefully with a hammer to keep the race square as it goes in. Then
using the proper race tool we’re going to drive the race down into the hub
until it bottoms out. Often you can hear the difference in the sound once
the race is all completely down. We’ll flip the tire and be ready to install
the inner race. The inner race is a little trickier here because you can’t
start the race flat because of the outer surface of the hub. In this case we have
to be careful to try to drive the race in straight again using our race drivers. OK that sound indicates that race is
completely lodged in, we’ll try one more time to clean the hub, and remove any
kind of shavings that the metal races against the metal hub may have created.
At this point we’re ready to install the new bearings. We’re going to use a
Premium Plus multi-purpose grease, it is a NLGI grade number two grease, that has
great properties against high heat and saltwater washout. Now filling the hub is
easy enough to do and if we overfill it when we finally install the hub, it will
push the excess grease out to us. For this particular wheel this is a 1 1/16″ bearing, this is actually our outer bearing that we’re going to start to
pack first. Placing it in the bearing packer we’re going to squeeze new grease
into this bearing. If you were repacking an old bearing, and the bearing were
clean this particular type of tool will push the old grease out and the new
grease in. We’re going to set our outer bearing aside now and go back to working
on the inner bearing. Our inner bearing is now packed and it’s
going to be placed in the hub with a smaller cone side down. We want to seat
the bearing, and just kind of clean the grease out around it. The next part we’re
going to install is a double lip grease seal, the importance of the double lip is
one side can fight the bearing grease getting out, the other side can fight the
water getting in. For all boat or marine applications a double lip seal should be
used. Placing the seal into the hub slightly
on an angle, you’ll actually start to impact the seal on the opposite higher
side. Once a seal has started in the hub you’ll work in a circular motion to keep
the seal flat and undamaged. We’ll clean off any excess grease which will also
allow us to keep an eye on any new grease that may come out, the hub is now
ready to put back onto the trailer spindle. The next step of the
installation of the wheel bearings is going to be to put the hub back together.
Before we do that we have noticed one thing, looking back at the spindle of the
trailer axle we noticed that it could use stainless steel collars. The collars
are normally an aftermarket installation which gives the seal a nice clean
surface to ride on. This may be something we install on this trailer at a later
time. You’re going to pick up slightly on the wheel so not to damage the inner
seal as the hub goes back on the spindle. Any excess grease can be removed from
the hub and installed back into your bearing buddy or your dust cap. The hub
is now ready for the installation of the outer bearing which again we’ll go cone
or small side of the bearing to the inside, and try to firmly place it back
into the back side of the hub. Next we’ll install our axle washer, and our axle nut.
Using our channel locks again we’ll start to tighten the axle nut and
so is completely snug on the spindle. Once we have it all the way snug then
we’ll do our adjustment to get the proper amount of relief on the bearings.
Here we have no play in the in the axle whatsoever, which actually puts
compresses the bearings and won’t allow them to move inside the hub the way they
need to. So knowing where the hole for the cotter pin is and the amount of
adjustment notches we have on the nut we’re going to back it up one notch
until we get to that hole, that’s going to allow us just a very slight little
bit of play in the wheel and again take the pressure off of those bearings. The
next step is to reinstall a stainless steel cotter pin in which we’ll use our
wire cutters to bend the ears of the cotter pin over. The excess of the cotter
pin can be removed so that it doesn’t interfere with your bearing buddy riding
around them. OK with our cotter pin firmly in place
we’re going to continue and fill the rest of our bearing buddy with
additional grease, which again will be pushed out if the hub doesn’t need it. Starting the bearing buddy on square
again we’ll rotate the tire, until the bearing buddy is fully pressed against
the hub. The last step is that we’re going to add a little bit of bearing
grease to the outside of the bearing buddy, filling that cavity will just help
keep the water out and the exposed surfaces clean. After installing the
external dust cap the wheel is now done with the new bearings, we have just a
very small bit of play in the tire and a nice sound and no longer hear the bad
bearings in there. We’re now done with the installation of this bearing we’re
going to move to the other side. I’m Dustin Hoover we’ll see you in the BoatU.S. Magazine.

100 thoughts on “How To Change Boat Trailer Bearings | BoatUS

  1. Great video my friend, nice to be able to know how to do this now. Your video has good sound quality and good camera work, so helpful on a video like this. I am new to boating so any information shared helps out a lot and helps keep my kids safe when out on the water, ok bearings dont but you get the idea, it helps to get us there to have great days out.

  2. I think your punch is in a dangerous condition, The head is mushroomed out with hammering and bits could fly off in use. It should be ground off before it reaches this state. Otherwise a very good video. Thanks. Dave, (ex-Blacksmith) UK.

  3. Great video, thanks for uploading. Stick an ad on it so you can make some money, I feel bad getting all this info for nothing.

  4. when you buy your new kit is there a difference between the inner and outer bearing? you kept being very specific that this is the inner bearing and this is the outer. if there is a difference how can you tell?

  5. I've probably watched a dozen Youtube videos on this subject over the last couple days as I begin a first-time project to replace my bearings. Your video is by far the best out there. Your explanations were clear and you had great camera angles. Thanks for putting out such an informative and well done video.

  6. blosom – some, but not all, trailer hubs use different sizes for the inner and outer bearings. It's important to lay the bearings out in an organized manner to make sure that the parts get put back in the right way.

  7. blosom – some, but not all, trailer hubs use different sizes for the inner and outer bearings. It's important to lay the bearings out in an organized manner to make sure that the parts get put back in the right way.

  8. Good video HOWEVER, mushroomed head of the punch is a significant safety issue. Good thing you are wearing safety goggles because a piece of that could easily fly off and hit you in the eye.

  9. 13 thumbs down votes = 13 idiots. So far, this is the most informative, well produced how-to video I've ever seen on You Tube. Now I can confidently (and easily) tackle my own boat trailer wheel bearings. Thank you very much. Well done!

  10. Where exactly did you get that bearing packer?
    especially the race installing tool, where did you get that?  that's awesome!!!

  11. Great video! I'm about to get on the road with a tow dolly and I feel confident I can change the bearings.

  12. Awesome! I have been wondering for many years how to do this – all I need is a race tool and possibly a bearing packer. I understand that you can pack bearings by hand – it takes a while, but it is a doable task, right?
    What about that stainless steel collar? Do you have any links to that being installed or maybe just a picture?

  13. Wonderful! Until seeing this video I would never have attempted any bearing replacement. Now I will try. I echo the thoughts of an earlier poster, you should consider some advertising because your video is that good. Maybe a big box auto chain or online parts supplier?

  14. Love it!  I just got a brand new tandem axle EZ Loader trailer with the boat I cought and I'm looking at the wheels and thinking to myself "damn, I need to know how to change the bearings on this thing or even just understand how they look like just to have the know-how", and now, not only do I know what the inside looks like, I feel pretty damn comfortable tackling this operation on my own.  Just gotta go buy that bearing packer kit and race installing tool and I'm good to go. 

    First thing I need to do, though, is jack the trailer up to check for any noises.  Great tip and what a difference from the original wheel noise to after you replaced and repacked the bearings!  Thanks for an awesome and informative video.

  15. Awesome vid.  I just inherited a 16 bass boat and trailer. I am pretty mechanically inclined and I most certainly can tell I need to do this.  However, how can I find out what size bearings I need? 

  16. I have watched a dozen videos on how to change my trailer bearings. Far and above this was best one, informative and well done. Nice job. Thank you.

  17. What's a spindle? No…, just kidding…been doing this shit all my life. This is a good demonstration of "how to" for the everyday man "at home." I hate "how to" vids that show people using high-end pullers and specialty tools…what regular guy has that stuff, right? Good job. I would have done only two things differently in this setting:  Prepping better by cleaning all areas around the parts being serviced and, though it seems leaving the tire on the hub helps with aspects of handling et cetera, I'd remove the tire for multiple personal reasons but most importantly the risk of the seal being damaged during reassembly. This video is really a big help for those who may lack confidence related to performing this task. I'd point anyone (who asked me about this maintenance task) at this video. Again, this is good.  For the dude who might wish to criticize my observations, try to understand that I spent years rebuilding industrial refrigeration compressors in both marine and commercial applications…know a thing or two about bearings, seals and the importance of cleanliness around highly engineered moving-part surfaces.  Press on.

  18. This video has to be the best I have seen.  Step by step with an explanation.  You can't get any better than that.  Do you have other video's out on YouTube?  Thanks again.  Claude S., Rocklin, CA

  19. Decent how to , few minor things I have to harp about #1 grind off the mushroom top on your punch (main reason you wear safety glasses) #2 you did not apply a thin layer of grease to the lip seal #3 the codder pin ears needs to be spread out opposite of each other to prevent it from "popping out" (uni-directional) #4 smacking around the codder pin with side cutters hitting the threads can be a nightmare for the next guy

    Other than that it's all good . I myself would not recommend bearing buddies , everyone always over greases them causing high temperatures and premature bearing failure along with blowing the lip seal out on the back. Also if you blindly keep adding grease to the bearings the grease is obviously going somewhere. Take the time and do the steps to properly take care of the trailer bearings, a couple dollars for a blown lip seal and a repack on the bearings are going to pay you back in spades.

  20. Dustin thanks man. One of the best step by steps I've seen. Great job and thanks man.
    Pidge, Ontario Canada.

  21. Great video! Getting ready to do this job on my boat trailer and this was extra informative. Saves me time and money on a mechanic and I like that a lot!

  22. I replaced my races, bearings and tightened down the nut and backed it off as you suggested.  I spun the wheel to make sure it was silent and fitting well.  When I put the bearing buddy back on and filled it with grease, I did it until the fitting just rocked a little bit.   After doing this however, when I went to spin the wheel, it would only spin about one revolution or so before stopping.   I wouldn't think the extra grease would have this affect.  Have you run into this?   What did I do wrong?   I

  23. Good video. I would only add that you shouldn't put the hub on WITH the wheel. Also u should put grease in every cavity as possible not remove it. And grease the seal and axle before install. Bend the cotter pin COUNTER clockwise and use a piece of wood with the hammer. Then spin in and use a grease gun to fill cavities. Do it a few times until the bearing buddy no longer goes in much after spinning.

  24. I like how u used a bearing packer too. And I swear by that green trailer grease you used. I always check my bearings like u did for sound.
    Also if towing I stop after about 10 mins to check them for heat. Replaced lots of failed bearings on trailers that I bought but luckily never had one fail yet (knock wood).
    Oh, I usually use a piece of wood to drive the other wheel up on instead of jacking it.
    Thx again.

  25. Excellent job! I have watched a lot of video's on how to adjust the bearing torque. Your's is the only one that recommends a very slight amount of play which is the proper way to set the bearings. As for having the wheel on before tightening the nut, this allow a much better feel to adjust the slack. I always check the play with the tire on. Not leaving a slight amount of play is the best way to burn up a bearing. I've done hundreds of bearings and always back off the nut until I can grab the top of the tire and feel a very slight amount of movement. Very good job. I hope people realize, a slight amount of play is what you are shooting for.

  26. With this video and some of the troubleshooting and responses below, I'm positive that I can easily swap out the bearings on a trailer. TY!!

  27. Excellent video! No bullcrap trying to be a comedian, just packed full of perfect step by step instruction. One of the best instructional videos I have seen. Thank you!

  28. One of the best videos out there This is the one you wanna listen to if you're a first time trailer owner looking to work on your trailer

  29. A video like this proves that people will hate on anything, just to be hating. This is a great video and breaks down every step. 33 people giving this a thumbs down shows that people are ass holes just to be ass holes. Great video man. It helped me do mine without a single issue. THANK YOU!!!

  30. Great Video! I like the comment about safety glasses. I was always taught to grind the mushrooming top off the chisel. Safety first 🙂 8:10
    499 likes!

  31. this is an awesome vid…but I use a brass punch to remove the races and also you need to use a grease gun and fill the hub using the bearing buddy nipple…fill the hub until you see the bearing buddy disk starting to move outward…always wear safety glasses too!

  32. Thank you for your informative video. I will put this lesson to use on the magic tilt boat trailer that I just bought. A+++

  33. Thanks so much for a great video. I just blew my bearing. I literally just got home now. Had to get a tow truck to tow the boat home. And no fish either… This will help me big time. Thanks mate.

  34. Don't you need to fill behind the bearing buddy through the zerk fitting before you put the dust cap on? Also ought to clean all the old grease from the failed seal on the inside of the wheel. Why not use the bearing punch and sealer to seat the grease seal instead of using the hammer. If you do that there is less chance to deform the seal that may cause a leak. Otherwise this is a very good instructional video.

  35. I was intimidated to tackling this project but I didn't really know where to take my utility trailer for service. I decided to do it myself and this video was spot on. I had to ruin my seal when removing, but I was replacing anyhow. Original bearings are 14yrs old, I thought that's pushing it on age, so hopefully these will last another 14yrs. Thanks again – perfect video

  36. Great video! Thanks for the help. I especially appreciated how you showed all the tools and supplies ahead of time.

  37. Nice to see a how-to YouTube video done by a real mechanic. Correct application of force is essential, and well explained here. I would tend to take the wheel off first (per the recommendation below) but a matter of style. There may be a buildup of corruption/corrosion between the wheel and the hub, and doesn't hurt to check. But Dustin makes it work his way.

  38. Great Video…I can only reflect what the others have said: I knew I needed to change the bearings and knew nothing of how to. I searched the tube and was disgusted by the comedians, the shaky cameras, non information…then I found your presentation and you went right through the process clearly, no bullshit…and now my wheels turn round and round down the road…Thank You.

  39. Great video and the first I've seen that demonstrated what a bad bearing sounds and looks like. Good job. I also thought that the bearing grease looked a little milky on the initial disassembly and might have been worth mentioning ( or it could have been that extra beer I consumed while going thru several videos ) . I hope to produce some 'how-to' videos in the future and hope that I can do near the great job that you have presented. The fishing line into the bearing seal is another observation that I'm glad you mentioned, (who would-a-thunk-it). Yes I agree with the reviewer who felt you should find a sponsor.
    Great job… Thanks

  40. This is the video to watch for service of bearings,after several break downs and expensive gouging at repair shops from Morehead City to Wilson NC I learned to not only service and change my bearings, but to have spare parts for everything,people like you who post these helpful videos should be commended.

  41. my hub wouldnt slide onto the spindle at all. I would need to be beat on. I measured to be sure Ihad the right kit. the spindle was just a few thousands too large. I don't knowif itwas old grease/dirt or what. I ended up cleaning spindal with emery cloth. Oh the old race had to be hammered off. Just a heads up for any of you slow brained people like myself.

  42. Legionary Trailer Repair? No one takes the hub off without removing the WHEEL FIRST. Unless you LIKE having to manhandle all that weight All the time. Geez man. don't make a video until you KNOW how to do the job..PLEASE.

  43. Decent video but there’s some things that can be noted.

    Those lug nuts need to be changed for an open lug nut not sealed.

    The bearing buddy wasn’t gone over and how to properly use them. Were they seized up? How much grease do you pump in and most of all when? Brake hubs vs non brake hubs as well…

  44. Best part of this video they use MARINE GREASE… Not regular grease. Knew some one who didn't use it. After a couple months regular launch use with a new wheel hub. The entire assembly fell off going down the road.

  45. Great vid I personally don’t use bearing buddies they allow water in I’ve done wheel bearings for years I use sealed caps and some sealant on cap to prevent water in.
    Then make sure to put some grease on your lugs so they don’t rust
    And I usually just replace the whole hub just easier and cost effective .

  46. mine was/is making an awful noise! seal is gone so little to no grease and tire wobbles at low speed then gets so hot they turn blue and even smoke. you can see metal shards. i repacked them with Vaseline and didnt have another seal so i cut out a semi round piece of flex tape.
    full send it

  47. I am amazed watching all these YouTube videos about how to service wheel bearings, I have not seen anyone yet that seems to have had any kind of training, no proper tools, no bearing preload setup, at least this guy says to make sure you feel a slight amount of free play after you tighten the bearing properly. these people are hacks it might be good enough but it's not right

  48. Use the proper tools, a socket for the castle nut, use gloves, grease is bad for you to have on your hands. Take the friggen tire off the hub, much easier to not damage seal during re install and you get to inspect lug bolts and nuts. Show how to pack bearings by hand, most people don't have a bearing packer. Use finger tight tecknique after setting preload, hint you have to have the wheel off the hub to do it properly. Learn how to install a cotter key properly.

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