An aluminum dump trailer is a versatile piece of equipment, especially if you have it custom-made to your specifications. However, even a well-made trailer needs care and maintenance from the owner to keep it operating at peak efficiency for the duration of its useful life.
While it is necessary to keep all components of your trailer maintained and in good working condition, the axles are especially important. These are the central shafts that connect your wheels to the body of the trailer. A problem with the axles on any wheeled vehicle could prevent it from moving at all. With a trailer, it could mean loss of or damage to your valuable cargo.
One of the most important aspects of servicing your axles is to keep your bearing greased on a routine basis. Failure to do so accounts for the majority of all the axle problems that your trailer may encounter.
The first step is to remove the bearing cap after you take the wheel off the trailer. You can do this with a flat blade screwdriver, a channel lock, or a rubber mallet. Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, remove the cotter pin to access the bearing nut. You may require a socket or crescent wrench to remove this, but ideally, it should be finger tight.
Once you access the bearings but before applying more grease, you should inspect them for signs of wear, such as pits or corrosion, chatter while spinning, or roll resistance. If any are present, replace the bearings. Be sure to inspect the spindle at the same time as the bearings after wiping it down. The bearings will wear out again quickly if the spindle is not perfectly shiny and smooth.
Grease the spindles by pressing your hand along the sides of the clean bearing after applying a ping-pong ball-sized glob of grease to the heel of your palm. While you do that, rotate the bearing so that all the gaps become properly lubricated.
Removing the bearings so they can be greased does damage to the seal. This component is necessary to keep grease from leaking out and prevent dirt and debris from getting in. You will have to install a new seal before reassembling the bearing.
As your wheels spin, the components can rub up against each other, producing friction and heat. Greasing the bearings helps prevent overheating of the wheels due to friction. If you neglect this routine step, you may find that the tires run off your axle. It is better to prevent this with scheduled maintenance in your own garage than to try to deal with the situation on an emergency basis while driving. Greasing the bearings also helps to prevent the destruction of the brake hubs and spindles.
However, there is such a thing as too much grease. Applying too much lubricant can also damage your seal. This can allow dirt, debris, and moisture to get into your bearings, which in turn can reduce the effectiveness of your lubricant, leading to damage of the components.
You should make it a habit to perform maintenance on your bearings, inspecting them for wear and applying more grease, on an annual basis. The right time to do so may depend on what you use your trailer for and when you are the most and least busy. It is probably best to perform this task during your off-season, whatever it may be for your particular activity so that you are not in a rush. You can also inspect and grease your bearings when you observe signs of a potential problem, such as shaking tires or leaking hubs.
A well-maintained trailer is both powerful and reliable.