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Old 11-02-2010, 03:50 PM
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Bill Bill is offline
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Location: The mountains of Scottsdale, AZ, and the beaches of Maine
Posts: 9,259
Default Greasing the Wheel Bearings - with Update

Introduction: Most TMs come with Dexter E-Z Lube for greasing the wheel bearings and hubs. Dexter recommends greasing these bearings once a year, or every 12,000 miles. The E-Z Lube design enables you to grease the bearings without removing the wheels and hubs from the trailer. Having done it a few times, I decided to write up a tutorial, with the goal of making it easier for others to do the same. I hope it helps. Comments and corrections by PM are welcome.

Disclaimers: A few TMs are equipped with other types of hubs. This article does not attempt to address those. It should also be noted that some TMO members have not had good luck with the EZ-Lube, with occasional reports of grease leaking past the seals. This is a seal problem, not an EZ-Lube problem, but nonetheless it must be dealt with. Not having experienced this, I cannot address it. But if you have E-Z Lube hubs, and you decide to use the standard Dexter procedure, this tutorial may help.

Time required: Once you have gathered all the supplies, you can expect to spend about two hours on this job. It gets a lot faster if you’ve done it before.

Tools and supplies needed: See Photo 1 below.
  • Grease gun. As shown in the photo, I have one of the mini-guns, sold for a few dollars in many stores including hardware stores, Wal-Mart, and auto supply stores. If you have a standard-size gun, so much the better.
  • Grease. According to Dexter, you must use a lithium-complex grease labeled NLGI No. 2. There are many greases side-by-side on the shelf – be sure to get the right one. Ignore descriptive words like "High temperature" or "High pressure" or "Extra tough heavy duty". You can buy grease in cylindrical cartridges that fit the gun, or you can buy it in a bulk tub, and load it into the gun by hand. (Hand-loading is sloppy.) Expect to use about 6 oz of grease – that’s two mini cartridges, or 1/3 of a 1-lb tub. Note that the new grease can be found in several colors. If you choose one that is not black, you will be happier, since you can see when all the old grease (black) has been expelled, and new grease has been fed through.
  • A can of mineral spirits, aka paint thinner.
  • A roll of paper towels. A whole roll. This is a messy job.
  • A bucket or cardboard box into which to throw the used towels as you work.
  • A hammer or mallet.
  • A medium-size straight screwdriver.
  • If you are old and decrepit like me, a short stool to sit on while you work. The one that comes with the TM, for getting into the bed, is just right.
Get resigned to the fact that this is a messy job. Until you have done it a few times, you will get lots of grease on your hands, maybe on your clothes, and maybe on your driveway.

Using a paper towel soaked with paint thinner, clean off the bearing cap. The bearing cap is the silvery sheet metal cylinder, about 1 inches in diameter, in the center of the hub. Photo 2 shows the cap with the center rubber diaphragm.

Remove the bearing cap from the hub. Some people bop it sideways with a mallet, and work it off. As shown in Photo 3, I set a screwdriver in the small gap where the cap meets the hub, tunk it into the gap with a hammer, and twist to get it off. Dexter told me that many people knock it off with a cold chisel! Apparently the method is not too critical, but try hard not to deform the cap, since it functions as the grease seal. If you deform it, grease will leak and and splat onto your wheels. Not a big deal - replacement caps are easily available.*

Clean out the bearing cap with a paper towel, being careful of the sharp edges. Blood is not a good bearing lubricant.

Remove the rubber diaphragm from the center of the cap, and clean it. Set the cap and diaphragm aside. See Photo 4.

Wipe off the grease that has accumulated on the hub under the cap. Cleaning will reveal a big hex nut, and either a sheet steel locking washer (colored yellowish-green in the Photo 5) or a cotter pin. Leave those alone.

The work:

Load the grease gun. To do so, draw back the loading rod, latch it, and unscrew the cylinder from the pump head. If you use a cartridge, insert it into the cylinder in the direction indicated on the cartridge. If you use bulk grease, use a table knife or your fingers to pack grease into the cylinder. Screw the cylinder back onto the pump head, and release the loading rod.

In the very center of the hub, you will find a small metal grease fitting variously called a grease nipple or a zerk fitting. Carefully wipe off the nozzle of the gun - otherwise, if there is crud stuck in the grease at the end of the nozzle, you could pump it into the bearing! Now push the nozzle of the gun onto the fitting until it clicks solidly into place. See Photo 6.

Pump the gun to inject grease into the fitting. After a couple dozen pumps, you should see grease start to ooze out around the edge of the hub. This is the old grease, and it is grubby black from wear. As big globs of it come out, wipe them away with a paper towel, and keep on pumping. Note that you should see grease ooze out more or less equally from all around the hub. If it comes out only in one area, you will need to jack the trailer up enough to rotate the wheel half a turn. Dexter actually recommends rotating the wheel as you work.

Eventually, all the old grease will be gone, and you will begin to see new grease squeezing out of the edge of the hub. If your new grease is any color other than black, it is easy to see. If it is black, it is harder to see, but the new grease does look a bit different from the old. When you have a solid show of new grease, you have pumped in enough. Remove the gun, and clean up the area with a paper towel.

Replace the bearing cap. Tap it gently into place with a mallet or a piece of wood and a hammer, again being careful not to deform it.

Put the rubber diaphragm in place in the center of the cap, and seat its groove over the edge of the cap. Depress the little rubber bump in the center of the diaphragm.

Clean up. Have a well-deserved beer. You're done for the year.


*Edit. The video on the Dexter Axle web site suggests that it is not necessary to remove the cap. Just pull off the rubber plug and insert the grease gun through the hole in the cap. It is messy, because the old grease fills the cap, pushes out around the grease gun nozzle, and drops off in globs. But not having to remove the cap may make it worthwhile. Your choice.
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2020 2720QS (aka 2720SL)
2014 Ford F-150 4WD 5.0L
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Old 11-04-2010, 09:44 AM
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Bill Bill is offline
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Location: The mountains of Scottsdale, AZ, and the beaches of Maine
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Default Update

Since I posted this, I’ve had two important comments from members.

Brulaz reminded me that if you take the wheel hub off the TM, to inspect or replace the brakes, for instance, then the rear bearing seal should be replaced as part of reassembly. The Dexter manual calls this out. I forgot to include it, but it is probably important, and failure to do so may result in grease leaking past the seal and onto the brakes. Not good!

And Keith Wire told me something that I never knew. When you push the nozzle of a grease gun onto a Zerk fitting, the nozzle grips the fitting. If the grip is too loose, grease can squeeze out where the two meet. And if the grip is too tight, it is hard to get the nozzle off when you are done. In fact, sometimes the Zerk can actually pull out. Over the years, I have done a fair amount of greasing, but somehow I never knew that the strength of the grip is adjustable! Just turn the end of the nozzle. Thanks, Keith!

2020 2720QS (aka 2720SL)
2014 Ford F-150 4WD 5.0L
Bill's Tech Stuff album
Old 09-18-2015, 08:58 AM
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Bill Bill is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: The mountains of Scottsdale, AZ, and the beaches of Maine
Posts: 9,259

Here are a few more "helpful hints" from my experience with this process.

Mini-grease gun:
1. The mini gun works pretty well. I have used it for years. But I have recently found that a full-size gun is much faster, and I now use that exclusively. A full-size gun is not expensive - maybe $15 from NAPA.
2. I no longer even try to bulk-pack the gun. It is an exercise in frustration. Use the cartridges.
3. The instructions for the gun say to simply remove the plastic cap from the cartridge (1st pic), and then slide that end all the way into the barrel. On some cartridges, this leaves a foil seal (2nd pic) facing the pump head. The idea is that the pressure from the plunger will burst the foil seal, allowing grease to be pushed into the pump head. Sounds nice and clean, but on a couple occasions, a stray piece of the foil was pushed into the pump, blocking the passage. Better idea? After inserting the cartridge into the barrel, remove the foil seal with a sharp knife.
4. I have had a couple instances when the grease gun refused to pump. The handle simply flops back and forth uselessly. I tried pushing the plunger rod, with the idea of forcing grease into the pump head, but that doesn't work. I finally discovered the problem - there is a pocket of air trapped inside the pump, between the top of the cartridge and the pump head. To cure this, pull the plunger all the way out and latch it. Pull the pump lever outward away from the pump body (3rd pic). Unscrew the barrel and pull out the cartridge. Now with your finger, pick up a glob of grease from the back end of the cartridge, and pack it into the pump head, humping it up slightly. Pack it firmly to eliminate air pockets, and be sure to force a bit into the grease port (the small circular opening inside the pump head, 4th pic). Replace the cartridge in the barrel. Now when you screw the pump head onto the barrel, the grease that you added will contact the grease in the top of the cartridge, displacing the air between them. After screwing the barrel back into the head, release the plunger, and stroke the handle few times to confirm that the mechanism is loaded.

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2020 2720QS (aka 2720SL)
2014 Ford F-150 4WD 5.0L
Bill's Tech Stuff album
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