By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Last fall we bought a used 2008 travel trailer. For most of its prior life, it had spent time just parked in a Palm Springs, California, RV park. Its snowbird owners would fly down from Canada, spent a few months at the park, and then fly home. For the most part, it had lived an easy life.
When we bought the rig, we noticed it had Zerk fittings under the axle dust caps. It’s a Lippert Super Lube system, purported to make your life easier – just give your axles a squirt of grease and forget about all that hassle of pulling the drums off and hand-packing the bearings. Sounds like a great idea, right?
The instructions, per a Lippert-released YouTube video, show the happy RVer pulling a rubber plug from the dust cap, attaching the grease gun to the Zerk, then squeezing the handle on the grease gun until grease appears to flow back. Wipe up the excess, replace the rubber plug, and you’re good to go. That’s what we thought – so we hooked up the grease gun, gave a few pumps, and waited for the grease to flow back. It didn’t. It became a bit worrisome, and after a few more pumps, we decided to back off and take the rig home to Arizona.
Our thinking is, buy a used rig – buy somebody else’s problems, particularly if you’re not sure about their attitude toward maintenance. Still, the rig had spent most of its time parked, so we didn’t expect to find much brake wear.
On pulling the first drum open, we found that truly there wasn’t much brake wear – but the brakes were totally worthless. The entire interior area of the drum was full of gunky grease, which had taken up residence on the inside of the drum, the magnet face, and thoroughly and irreparably destroyed a healthy thickness of brake lining.
Hoping against hope, we ordered a new brake and backing plate assembly, replacing the first one. On pulling the second of the four wheels, sad to say, “Same song, second verse.” Again, grease had inundated areas where grease should never be, wiping out the brakes.
This time we just guessed that this could be an issue all around, and ordered brakes for the entire trailer. Turns out, the driver side of the rig showed signs of grease infiltration, and if we’d been careful, we might have saved the brakes – but having them on hand, we just went for the gusto and replaced all. We’re feeling a lot more assured with a 3,500-mile road trip ahead of us in a few days.
So why did it happen? It’s obvious that the grease seals gave way and allowed this mess to happen. Was it because of the “Super Lube” system? In recent years, some RVers who have purchased a rig built on a Lippert chassis have reported serious grease-in-hub problems, and many of them had those problems adjusted through the warranty process. Some were, indeed, users of the Super Lube system. Others had Lippert axles but had the standard “take ’em apart and hand-pack” system. Both suffered grease damage issues.
Our gut feeling is there may be something rotten in Denmark when it comes to Lippert’s seals or assembly procedures. By adding the additional pressure of the Super Lube system, a fault in the seal just makes it a ripe situation for this kind of issue. We’re not willing to take the risk again. Heaven knows it was costly enough to buy the parts to fix this issue, and if we’d had to pay shop labor to right it, we’d be headed the wrong way on our monthly balance sheet.
If there is, indeed, an issue with the Super Lube creating problems, well, we’ll just head it off by ignoring those Zerk fittings. Fact is, so many of the Lippert dust caps were damaged too, we bought standard all-metal dust caps and replaced the lot.
After this, we’ll run a regular maintenance schedule of pulling the drums off and doing a thorough inspection of the brakes and bearings, and repacking the bearings the old-fashioned way. If we did take the easy way out, pumping a bit of grease in now and then, we’d never really know where we stood on the condition of all those other components.
As it is, all four of the wheels needed either inner or outer bearings – they showed obvious signs of overheating. A shot of grease with the grease gun would never have fixed that issue, and the image of a wheel bouncing down the highway is something we’ve dealt with in the past – and don’t ever want to repeat. In our minds, safety of both ourselves and “the other guy” on the highway is worth a lot more than the simplicity of a few chugs on the handle of a grease gun.