Trailer Wheels: Keeping It Rolling
Feel The Heat
Every time you stop during a haul, walk around the trailer and touch the hubs. They should be cool or warm to the touch; if they're hot as fire, you're about to have a bearing failure.
In a pinch, lost trailer-bearing covers can be replaced by snipping off the bottom of an aluminum soda can.
How Many Axles?
That flat tire you'll inevitably get one day will derail you if you have a single axle. My triple axle has had flats and I didn't even know it until a passing motorist waved me over. The more axles you have, the safer you are, and the easier it is to back up. Plus, single axles are notoriously squirrelly. Triple axles are forgiving and easy to correct. For larger trailerable boats, I'd say dual axle is a fair compromise. But I wouldn't trade my triple axle.
The More Brakes The Better
Get a brake wash-down kit installed for every wheel. Buy brakes on every axle. If someone cuts you off, you can't have too much stopping power.
Try to stick with one brand of grease and don't mix them if possible. Grease is essentially waterproof, but look for one specifically designed for the marine environment.
To help maximize the longevity of our trailer brake linings, calipers, and rotors, we carry a two-gallon spray container filled with fresh water. After we've launched or retrieved from saltwater, I use the sprayer to rinse as much of the salty water as I can from the braking system.
Dust Cap Removal:
Get a piece of galvanized pipe of proper size to fit easily and snugly over your dust cap. Around a foot long should do. Hit the other end of the pipe with a mallet, alternating sides. This will remove it without any damage. You can reinstall the cap with the pipe by placing it against the flange of the dust cap and hitting the other end with the mallet. Again, no damage to the dust cap. If they're difficult to get back on, put them in the freezer for 15 minutes or so to shrink them so they slip in. When they return to ambient temperature, they'll be tight.
It's tough to spend $30 on a tool you won't use that often, but here's a good one: dust cap pliers. You may have to give them a slight tap with a hammer to set them, but then the cap will come off easily without damage. Now you'll look forward to wheel bearing maintenance!
— Published: Fall 2013
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