By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A friend of ours who’s an RV newbie spent a weekend on a busy beach, loaded with RVers. He was having problems with his rig, and like we’ve all experienced, lots of RV folks were happy to lend him a hand. In a conversation with one, the subject of axle bearing maintenance came up. By the time Mike got home, he was “sold” on the idea of using a boat trailer axle bearing grease system — the kind where you simply pump lube through a zerk fitting, as opposed to hand packing the grease. Think of the savings on maintenance!
Well, those systems aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, particularly for RV applications. Bearing Buddy systems are designed for sealed marine applications. The trouble with squirting grease into an RV axle is you don’t really have a handle on how much grease is already in there. Push in too much, where will it go? Out into the wheel area, likely onto the brakes, and whoopsie doo, on your next 7 percent downgrade you’ll find out just how mixing grease and trailer brakes is a really BAD idea.
Enter Dexter’s “E-Z Lube” system. Dexter builds axles used on a lot of RVs, and some of them have the “E-Z” system–specially designed, it allows the owner to pump grease through the axle spindles and into the bearings. But many RVers who have the system complain they can’t pump enough grease to get the old grease out; others say they fear blowing out the rear seals; still others say their RV maintenance guys fear the same problems that are posed by Bearing Buddy system: Grease on the brakes.
There’s much to be said for hand-packing your axle bearings: It forces you to take the wheels off the axles, giving you the opportunity to inspect your brakes, brake magnets, and associated hardware. Like one RVer says, “I figure those eight wheel bearings are supporting over 11,000 lbs of very valuable RV and equipment… one afternoon a year [to hand pack the bearings] is a small price to pay.”
Another disadvantage of “systems” like these is this: Unless you are absolutely certain of what type of grease was pumped into your axles last time, and can use that same type of grease, there’s a considerable risk. How so? Because unless every trace of axle grease is removed before pumping in a new load of grease, if two incompatible types of grease mix with each other, you may find the very thing the grease is supposed to do, doesn’t happen. Your bearings can fail, leaving you in a precarious position on the highway.
Yes, it’s true that there are RVers who really love their EZ Lube systems, and haven’t had any problems with them. We’d add, “at least not yet.” We don’t know how much we’d want to gamble all our stuff on it.