Saturday, December 2, 2023


Brake failures and the importance of a wheel bearing pack service

Here I’ll explain the importance of a wheel bearing pack service and will show you what we found on a unit recently on our lot. When was the last time you inspected your brakes and bearings?

During a recent wheel bearing pack service we found the following items on an RV unit:

  • The brake shoes were worn down on three out of four brakes. This also caused damage to the drums.
  • The roadside rear brake magnet wiring was cut in half and the backing plate/shoe and the drum were rusted.
  • All bearings were burnt and loose in bearing cages due to lack of lubrication.
Brake material has broken away from the shoe and is now metal to metal.
The magnet and brake shoe has damaged and scarred the surface and face of the drum.
Grease has leaked past the seal and brake shoe dust has collected on the grease.
Brake magnet wire was found cut internally in the hub, causing this brake to be inoperable.
Brake shoe material cracked and disintegrating.

Causes of brake failure

Making sure that the brakes and suspension are in good working condition is key for any RV. With that being said, a lot of braking and suspension systems go unchecked and can cause accidents and trailer fires. We want to make sure this is prevented so trips can be enjoyed with family and friends. Trailer brakes should be inspected yearly or more often, depending on performance.

There are many causes for brakes to not work properly:

  • Poor connections
  • Open circuit
  • Insufficient wire size
  • Broken wires hanging below the axle
  • Improperly set up controller
  • Internally shorted magnets
  • Defective controller
  • Brake wire shorted to ground somewhere in the system
  • Corrosion between the ground wire and the brake wire in the electrical connector plug
New brakes installed.

Wheel bearing pack service

A wheel bearing pack service is recommended every 12 months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Whether you are a DIY guy or gal or you utilize an RV repair shop, be sure to get this service done if your RV is due (based on mileage and/or time) or question the functionality of your brakes.

A thorough service will include:

  • Inspection of brakes and bearings for wear or damage
  • Cleaning and repacking of wheel bearings and replacing the seals
  • Cleaning and adjusting the brake shoes as well as testing the operation
  • Adjusting tire pressure and torquing wheels to specifications
  • Inspecting shackle links, springs, hangers, all welds and wiring at axles

If you would like to see a wheel bearing service completed from start to finish, watch the video below.

If you want to learn more about wheel bearings, check out this additional video:


More from Dustin

Dustin owns and operates California RV Specialists, an independent RV repair shop located in Lodi, CA. He thrives on sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm of RV repair and maintenance with his team, customers, and virtual friends.

Make sure you check out Dustin’s website, California RV Specialists, and their YouTube channel for more helpful information, and see our published articles on and other social media pages.

Dustin proudly operates the business alongside his wife, Ashley; but the true pair that run the show are their Boston Terriers, Arvie and Hitch.


Dustin Simpson
Dustin Simpson
With over 25 years in the RV Industry, Mr. Dustin Simpson has worn many hats. From an RV Technician, Warranty & Parts Administrator, Parts & Service Manager and Business Owner. Outside of these typical roles and responsibilities within the industry, Dustin enjoys being a Content Creator, Brand Ambassador, Author, and Expert Witness. He has served as an expert witness in multiple cases in California, Washington, Idaho, and Texas. His repair facility has been servicing customers at the same location since 2003. What sets us apart from the dealerships is we are here to fix and maintain what you have, and not sell you a new one. Whether you own a million-dollar unit or an entry level, my message to you will be the same, it needs to be maintained.



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bobby (@guest_254912)
2 months ago

we do not full time and only take about 4 trips per year locally. im in norther cali and the farthest i went this year was Crater Lake. all totalled, i logged around 1000 miles. had the bearings packed and brakes checked before the season started. im thinking i can go a solid three seasons before i will have it checked again. i cant see even remotely approaching 12k miles in that amount of time.

Bob Walter (@guest_254613)
2 months ago

Question: I have Bearing Buddies on my utility trailer which I grease periodically. Do I still need to repack the bearings manually once in a while?

Jim Johnson (@guest_253910)
2 months ago

I will recommend a bearing pack service for almost new trailers. We bought a new travel trailer and I took it into the local shop at roughly 6,000 miles. “Repack the bearings and adjust the brakes.” The tech gave me a look that pretty much said “It’s a waste of your money.” To which I replied, “Peace of mind.” He did say he was pretty sure all the new units came with self-adjusting brakes.

When I picked it up, the tech’s attitude changed. “Good thing you brought it in…” Barely enough grease at the factory to lightly coat the bearing races. The rear seal on one side was torn. The brakes were NOT auto-adjusting.

Thomas D (@guest_253898)
2 months ago

Why not put the effort into replacing the 19th century brakes with disc brakes.
Even the cheapest car on the road has at least front disc.
My fiver had grease on the pads when I bought it new.
I replaced them with disc brakes and always said ” stop on a dime gives you 9 cents change
You know that the manufacturer will only install the cheapest

Leonard (@guest_253897)
2 months ago

I forgot to mention that this was an excellent post! Suspensions and brakes are probably underlooked in routine maintenance. Thanks!

Leonard (@guest_253896)
2 months ago

Two items from me;
1) My Montana 5th wheel is three years old, so I knew it was time for me to pull the drums off and check the brakes. They were still like new as I use the brakes sparingly and let the engine break on my 3500 do the heavy work. When I took off the tires for the first time to do this, I noticed that one of the studs was cross threaded from the factory. Are you kidding me?! One of the leaf spring hangers had broken off the frame where it was welded, so I was super lucky that I was completing a thorough suspension inspection. My local spring shop welded in a new spring hanger, replaced the cross threaded stud, and replaced one of the wet bolts on the suspension that never took grease from day 1. Four other wet bolts would not take grease, but I YouTubed it and fixed them myself by loosening them and rotating them until they took grease. I have the E-Z lube axles, so I grease them yearly.
2) Question for Dustin; Why would you allow your technician to take all the tires off and have the entire RV weight supported by the leveling jacks? Seems very dangerous to me without the use of jack stands.

Will Perkins (@guest_253880)
2 months ago

Good article on Brake Service and you left out an important part: this also applies for motorhomes ! which have different brakes. Please add a follow-up for these RVers.

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