Use an axle greasing “system” or do it by hand?


    By Russ and Tiña De Maris

    grease-745A 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.


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    4 years ago

    I pumped 4 or 5 “squirts” of grease into my EZ Lube Dexter axles for three years spring and fall. I use my RV all summer and take it south as a snowbird. Then, my 5th wheel brakes didn’t seem to be as effective and I found grease on one set of brake shoes as the seal blew out. I now only repack by hand. As said previously, gives a chance to check shoes and magnets too.

    Keira Bianchi
    4 years ago

    You forgot to mention the main advantage to the EZ Lube systems that the axle manufacturers offer. People actually lube their bearings more often. To jack the trailer, remove the wheels, get dirty, pack the bearings, put it all back together and clean up takes a lot of time and skill. To pump in some grease with a grease gun is something almost anyone can do in 15 minutes.

    Bill Massicotte
    4 years ago
    Reply to  Keira Bianchi

    You are right on. In fact, not many people can hand-pack bearings properly, and take the risk of frying the bearings!

    Bob Wilson
    4 years ago

    Bearing Buddy is only designed to keep the water out of your bearings. They are nice for boat trailers where you back your trailer into the water to launch your boat. They are not a bearing lubrication system, and are not advertised as such.

    Bob Wilson
    4 years ago

    I am an engineer who spent a lot of time working with bearings on conveyor systems. The grease incompatibility comment is an myth that I have seen on RV websites and on one trailer axle manufacturer’s website. Some of the more exotic expensive greases do not mix well with the typical axle grease, but the bearings would still be well lubricated. The two greases would just not mix together very quickly.

    Roy Ellithorpe
    4 years ago
    Reply to  Bob Wilson

    Thank you, I have always had trouble swallowing that particular bit of. …. and was about to Google it.

    Paul Detwiler
    4 years ago

    You are wrong about Bearing Buddy. It has a relief valve to limit the pressure to only 3 PSI. The extra grease goes out the opposite direction than the seal and brakes. The only way the grease goes to the brakes is by a badly installed seal that was not seated. They are not plastic and not cheap but quality stainless steel construction. Start with packing quality grease and keep a grease gun filled with the same grease for only the axle refill is what I do.