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Trailer bearing brands/quality

billdawgbilldawg Posts: 67 Deckhand
Hey all. I recently had a bearing pretty much explode. Luckily I caught it when it was in the garage before taking it out again so no harm done. 

My question is, assuming everything is properly greased up, does the brand/quality of the bearing matter? I have $4 ones made in china from the local marine store which seem to be the standard that people use. I always thought it was scary that such an important part was so cheap.

Think it would be worth a few extra bucks to get some higher quality ones online? Thanks.


  • hhfishermanhhfisherman Posts: 177 Deckhand
    How can you have a bearing explode on you in the garage?
    I still remembered the one time I had a bearing exploded on me.
    I was on I-95 South bound coming home from a fishing trip in Stuart by myself doing about 60 MPH. at 2 o'clock in the morning. I am about to exit onto the golden state interchange. I felt the trailer was acting weird like I was running on a gravel road. I looked back on the passenger side mirror. I saw sparks was flying out of my wheel and it was smoking like crazy.
    Unlucky me, that stretch of I-95 was under construction and I was unable to pull off to the side of the road.I just held my breath, lightly press on the gas pedal , and kept on driving for another 5 miles until I was able to get off to the next exit. I was literally praying and crying the whole time as I was sure that trailer wheel was gonna coming off in any minute. I was able to pull into the back of the Shell gas station. As I came to a complete stop, the trailer wheel was literally fell off. It was slanted on the side. Amazingly, what prevented the wheel from coming off was because of the high heat, a piece of a bearing race was like welded onto the spindle. And that what kept the wheel from flying off to the side of the road. The seals,  the bearings, and the dust cap was all gone.
    Now every 2 years, I just replaced the whole hub assembly from Northern tool and I always carry an extra wheel hub with bearing assembly just in case.

  • livebait1livebait1 west JaxPosts: 149 Deckhand
    What he fisherman said-and do not overload hubs with them stupid bearing buddies. Put hubs with pregreased bearings in them, squirt grease gun 3 times in bearing buddy and quit. Your back seals will thank you. One more thing-tire pressure is critical. Read it on the tire,do it and check about every 3rd time
  • billdawgbilldawg Posts: 67 Deckhand
    Before taking the boat out every time, I jack up each side and spin forward and backward to make sure it sounds the way it should and is smooth. Well I did that today and it made a subtle grinding noise. Very subtle though. When I got to the inner bearing, the bearing rollers all fell out back of the hub and the inner part of the bearing was fused onto the spindle.

    So it must have "exploded" while I was driving home last time but somehow it didn't make enough noise to notice and still functioned properly.

    So it didn't happen in the garage, but I discovered it in the garage.

    Glad I spun the wheels before taking it out.
  • billdawgbilldawg Posts: 67 Deckhand
    edited August 2020 #5
    I think it was due to not enough grease. And I was stingy with the grease last time because the inner seal blew out before that. Just need to find that sweet spot.
  • GotseaGotsea Posts: 838 Officer
    I don't know what kind of bearings my trailer has, but they are the ones that came with the trailer 15 years ago, never have had a problem, just keep the hub body greased, don't top it off but leave space for heat expansion, once a year lift the tires take them out clean, re-grease and adjust, never a problem, dry bearing is 99% of failures  
  • tagtag Posts: 9,165 Admiral
    edited August 2020 #7
    If You can find them I would use a bearing made (Assembled) anywhere but China.
  • RobertRRobertR Posts: 360 Deckhand
    my boat trailer and 6x10 
    utility trailer have Dexter 3500lb single axles. They use the Accu Lube system where the grease fitting is on the end of the axle. No problems so far, I use Lucas Marine  grease. Dexter says they use American parts. locally  there is a Miller bearing and another bearing  store.. they can cross reference your Chinese bearing number and maybe upgrade you to a better product..
  • rehartlinerehartline Posts: 809 Officer
    I have the grease fittings in the spindle as well but decided to go with the Vortex hubs and I am happy with my decision. No more grease slinging no matter what and they are maintenance free for years. 
  • gogittumgogittum SW New MexicoPosts: 2,239 Captain
    I think it's been said, but again.....I used regular ol' Bearing Buddies for years and never had a failure - but you gotta maintain them.  I did learn a couple of things.  1.)  overfill it and it'll sling grease out of the inner seal and make a mess inside the fender and on tire.  2.)  Keep it clean so's you can see the workings of the grease n.i.p.p.l.e area.  That way, a quick glance down as you do your pre-flight will tell you if all is OK.  Grease the H.e.l.l. out of the innards as you put it together.  Centrifugal force will even it out inside the hub and you want those bearings covered. 

    When you assemble the hub and tap the outer piece into place, look at the "piston" behind the spring.  That's the part the grease n.i.p.p.l.e is mounted on.  Usually will have about 1/4" - 3/8" of room to move.  Add grease till that piston is just half way out and Stop.  Be careful - they're easy to twist sideways and jam....and leak.  That's plenty of grease to do the job and not over expand with heat.  The spring being halfway compressed tells you there's a bit of pressure in there and water cannot intrude.  I don't like the black plastic covers they supply to make it "look nice."  You can't see the condition of the Buddy.

    Something I've seen quite a few times over the years and not always in trailer hubs - the inner grease seal can/will wear a groove on the axle over many miles and it will eventually leak grease.  Don't need a new axle - get a bearing sleeve that taps on over the axle and covers the groove.  They work very well and are inexpensive, esp. compared to a new axle.  Biggest use I had for them was commercial washing machines, but they work very well on trailer axles, too.  You can see an example at:  https://www.grainger.com/category/power-transmission/bearings/wear-sleeves
  • CapnSkipCapnSkip East Central FloridaPosts: 44 Deckhand
    To answer your question, in my opinion, the brand does matter with respect to quality. If you are looking for a high quality, made in USA bearing then you might want to look at Timken bearings. You can find them on E Bay or do a search for them. Look on the outside edge of the inner race of the bearings you now have and you will see a number that starts with the letter L. That is a number that is a universal part number for that particular bearing. Use this for your search criteria when looking for a replacement. Another good brand to consider would be BCA/National. A good number of these bearings are made in the EU, however, some are made in China. The most important bearing in the hub would be the inner bearing since this is the main load carrying bearing. Using a cheap Chinese bearing for the outer one shouldn't be too much cause for concern, even less so if you have a Bearing Buddy installed.
  • mdemottmdemott Posts: 86 Deckhand
    I have always used Timkin bearings on my trailers. Carfully check the seal as some have said they don't fit exactly. Made in USA. Hand pack them the old fashioned way and maintain them properly.
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 15,822 AG
    I have the grease fittings in the spindle as well but decided to go with the Vortex hubs and I am happy with my decision. No more grease slinging no matter what and they are maintenance free for years. 
    Just looked those up and next time i'm putting those on my trailer. 
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • GettnreddyGettnreddy Posts: 130 Deckhand
    Not sure what brand I have. Installed over 5 years ago and still running strong. No buddy bearings either. Been to keys several times and captiva several times. Well I guess on that note I have a trip to chokolaskee in December, I am replacing before I go and will take spare set. LOL
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