You know you’re in trouble when cars passing you on the highway are honking their horns and waving their hands, then pointing back toward your trailer.
One clear, sunny day just before Thanksgiving, this happened to us as we were driving through the high desert of California. We pulled over to try to figure out what was wrong and it didn’t take long to see what the problem was. We were missing a wheel from our travel trailer. Not a tire… the whole wheel. The axle stuck out like an amputated stump with absolutely nothing on it. We’d never seen anything like it.
For reasons we will never know, something on that wheel assembly locked. As we drove, the other 3 wheels kept us rolling, but the pressure was building on the locked wheel until it finally exploded, shooting the wheel off into the desert. We explored several miles of the highway but never found that wheel.
We spent several hours waiting for roadside assistance, then slept in a repair shop parking lot for a few nights while it was being fixed, and we nearly missed our planned Thanksgiving celebrations. The moral of the story? Make sure you keep your wheels rolling smoothly!
Crazy things can happen on the road. That’s part of RV life. But proper maintenance can help prevent a lot of mishaps, and when it comes to keeping your wheels moving, well-greased wheel bearings are very important.
Are your wheel bearings in need of a little attention? Don’t wait and risk a costly and inconvenient repair. The first step to making sure your wheel bearings are properly lubricated is to choose and purchase wheel bearing grease. There are many different types of wheel bearing grease and a wide variety of brands, so the choice might seem overwhelming at first. Here’s what you need to know in order to choose wisely.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Wheel Bearing Grease
Keeping the wheels rolling on your travel trailer subjects your wheel bearing grease to harsh conditions, including extreme temperatures and pressures. All lubricants will break down over time, especially under these conditions, so choose a wheel bearing grease that is able to stand up to the strain for miles and miles.
It is important to note that while longevity is a factor worth considering, maintaining your wheel bearings is something that still must be done regularly. Long-lasting grease may extend the time between maintenance slightly, but it will not enable you to postpone the task for very long.
The ordinary friction of driving and braking creates extremely high temperatures in the wheel of your travel trailer. Different kinds of grease are able to tolerate a different range of temperatures without breaking down. Grease that has broken down is not lubricating as it should, and then you’re headed for trouble.
Most wheel bearing grease will give its temperature rating on the package. The minimum temperature rating you should consider is 300°F, but higher is better. The lower end of the temperature rating spectrum is also worth paying attention to, especially if you use or store your travel trailer in cold weather conditions.
For this reason, multipurpose grease is not a suitable choice for the wheel bearings of a travel trailer.
Similar to temperature, different types of grease are rated for different pressure ranges. The wheels of your travel trailer are under a lot of pressure, and subjecting your wheel bearing grease to a higher pressure than it is rated for can cause it to break down and fail. Look for a product that is able to withstand high-pressure use.
The viscosity of the grease is a measure of its consistency. Higher viscosity indicates a thicker consistency, while lower viscosity is more liquid in consistency. The National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) has a standardized chart that classifies the consistency of lubricating greases according to a scale from 000 to 6.
Most travel trailers should have a wheel bearing grease with an NLGI rating of 2, which is similar to peanut butter inconsistency. This can vary between rigs, however, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual before purchasing your grease.
Ease of Use
Wheel bearing grease can be… greasy. It can be messy and difficult to both apply and remove. Its water-resistant qualities can make it very difficult to clean up if things end up in the wrong place.
There are different types of packaging to look for when purchasing grease. You may find it convenient to use a grease gun when applying it, though some people prefer packaging that makes it easier to use their fingers.
Water-resistant grease will help protect your wheel bearings and other nearby parts from damaging effects of water or moisture. The water-resistance of your lubricant is related to its oil content. While most grease offers at least some protection, the degree of water resistance varies from low-resistance all the way to fully waterproof. Evaluate how much time you spend driving in wet conditions and decide how high of a priority this is for your circumstances.
Some types of grease are not easily compatible with other types of grease. If you are replacing your existing grease with a new kind and the two are not compatible, it is vital that your wheel bearings and the surrounding area are thoroughly cleaned of the old lubricant before applying the new one.
Choosing a grease with higher compatibility saves you this time and effort both now and later, since you may need to thoroughly clean everything again if you choose a new lubricant in the future.
While the wheel bearing grease market is still dominated by petroleum-based products, there are bio-based grease products available that reduce the environmental impact significantly. Bio-based greases do not consume non-renewable petroleum resources, and they are also fully biodegradable.
In most cases, choosing a bio-based product does not mean compromising on quality or function at all, and in some cases, it even results in improved function. If you are interested in making environmentally-responsible choices, consider finding a bio-based wheel bearing grease.
While the prices of different wheel bearing greases can vary, none of them would usually be deemed expensive. The cost of lubricating wheel bearings should be considered a normal part of regular maintenance for your travel trailer, just as regularly changing oil and filters is an ordinary part of owning a vehicle. All the same, it isn’t worth spending more for similar performance, so it’s worth weighing cost as a factor.
Types of Wheel Bearing Grease for Travel Trailers
There are several different types of grease available that can be considered for use on travel trailers. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each before choosing a wheel bearing grease.
Moly EP grease is named for the key ingredient molybdenum disulfide, which increases its tolerance for extreme pressure (EP).
- Advantages: Moly EP is unmatched for high-pressure conditions. Molybdenum disulfide is also resistant to corrosion and tolerates very high temperatures.
- Disadvantages: Shop carefully. Most Moly EP greases have a lower viscosity than is recommended for trailer wheel bearings. It can be hard to find a Moly EP grease that will meet your needs.
Disc/Drum grease is specifically designed to lubricate disc and drum brakes and related parts such as wheel bearings.
- Advantages: This type of grease is specifically designed for wheel bearings, so the temperature and pressure tolerances, viscosity, and water resistance are ideal for typical travel-trailer use.
- Disadvantages: This is the most recommended type of grease for wheel bearings, so there aren’t many disadvantages. It is sufficient in all important factors but it is not the best in any one area. Other types of grease have higher tolerance for pressure or temperature, and still, others are more waterproof.
LMX stands for lithium complex. LMX Red greases are often considered to be a premium grease option.
- Advantages: LMX Red greases are known for excellent pressure and temperature tolerance, good water resistance, and for adhering well to moving parts.
- Disadvantages: These tend to be among the most expensive lubricating greases on the market. Their excellent adhesion can make them difficult to remove and therefore messy, especially given their red color.
As the name suggests, marine grease is specially formulated for the needs of boat trailers and other items that regularly come into contact with water, even saltwater.
- Advantages: Marine grease is top of the line when it comes to being waterproof and resisting the corrosive effects of both water and salt. While you’re unlikely to back your travel trailer into the water like a boat trailer, marine grease might be a good choice if you spend a lot of time at the coast or driving on roads that are brined with saltwater in the winter.
- Disadvantages: Marine grease is often made with calcium sulfonate, which is incompatible with lithium complex greases. Any old grease needs to be removed completely to avoid compatibility issues.
Bio-based / Biodegradable
Bio-based greases use vegetable oils instead of petroleum as the base for the grease. They are not their own specific type of grease, but rather the above types of grease, such as LMX Red, can be either bio-based or petroleum-based.
- Advantages: Bio-based greases deliver all the same functions as their petroleum-based counterparts, but they are biodegradable and made with renewable resources. Their natural viscosity is higher, so they are less likely to thin out due to heat or other conditions.
- Disadvantages: Because bio-based greases still represent a very small portion of the lubricating grease market, there aren’t as many to choose from, they are sometimes hard to find, and they often cost more
Top 10 Recommendations for Wheel Bearing Grease
#10: Triax Spheron HT-2
In addition to the features that most wheel bearing grease offers, such as high temperature and pressure tolerance and excellent water resistance, the Triax Spheron HT-2 grease is also formulated to help protect against dust. This may be an extra advantage if you are spending a lot of time in the desert or other high-dust environments.
As the name implies, this lithium complex grease is fully synthetic. It is also moly-fortified to withstand extreme pressures. Valvoline is a trusted brand in the automotive industry. This grease can tolerate high loads and extreme temperatures. It is a multi-purpose grease that will serve well in your travel trailer’s wheel bearings.
Royal Purple is well-known for quality and performance and this aluminum, synthetic, multi-purpose grease does the job well. It can handle heavy-duty loads and is formulated to help reduce the operating temperature while resisting corrosion and washout from exposure to water.
This marine grease is highly suitable for non-marine uses as well. It is a calcium sulfonate complex that is insoluble in water and provides excellent corrosion protection. It is temperature rated for up to 550°F so there is no question that it can stand up to the heat of your travel trailer’s wheel bearings, including disc brake wheel bearings.
#6: Timken GR224C
Timken’s GR224C is an EP (extreme pressure) disc/drum grease that includes additives to protect against corrosion. Timken is a reliable brand when it comes to wheel bearings and this grease claims a proprietary formula that will enhance the life of your wheel bearings. Take note that this grease is designed for light to medium duty applications, so it may not be the ideal choice for a heavier travel trailer or one that is used extensively.
Designed specifically to lubricate wheel bearings, and other automotive purposes, this is a great disc/drum grease with added elements to protect against corrosion. This is a great compromise if you are considering using a marine grease due to water and salt exposure but want the peace of mind of a disc/drum grease that’s perfectly suited for your travel trailer’s wheel bearings.
#4: Sta-Lube SL3121
This aluminum complex grease is blue in color to reflect its marine qualities. This grease is highly water resistant and comes in a tub or in a tube for use with grease guns. It is temperature rated to over 500°F so it should meet all your needs for travel trailer wheel bearings. Just be careful with compatibility and be sure to clean out other types of grease before repacking the bearings with this.
#3: Star Brite
Star Brite is a trusted name in the marine industry, so if your travel trailer’s wheel bearings are in need of superior waterproof protection that will resist the corrosive effects of salt and moisture, look no further.
Excellent performance for a budget-friendly price is possible! This heavy-duty grease from Lucas Oil does the job without a lot of bells and whistles. If you feel like “grease is grease” and don’t have any special circumstances you’re concerned about, then this is a great buy. Note: this grease is not compatible with lithium lubricants. Remove all old grease first.
This bio-based grease combines all the premium advantages of LMX Red greases with the quality and natural advantages that come with being vegetable-based. Plews and Edelmann is a reputable and reliable brand. As you explore beautiful places with your travel trailer, you’ll rest easy knowing that your choice of wheel bearing grease isn’t polluting them.
|Brand/Model||Type of Grease||Price Range / Size|
|Triax Spheron HT-2||LMX Red||$10-15 / 14.1 oz. tube|
|Valvoline VV985 Full Synthetic||Moly EP
|$10-15 / 14.1 oz. tube|
|Royal Purple 01312 Ultra Performance||Multi-purpose
|$15-20 / 14.1 oz. tube|
|LubriMatic 11404 Marine Corrosion Control||Marine||$10-15 / 16 oz. can|
|Timken GR224C||Disc/Drum||$10-15 / 14 oz. tube or 15 oz. can|
|Timken Allstar ALL78241||Disc/Drum||$10-15 / 16 oz. can or 14 oz. tube|
|Sta-Lube SL3121||Marine||$10-15 / 14 oz. tube or can|
|Star Brite||Marine||$10-15 / 14 oz. tube|
|Lucas Oil 10301 Heavy Duty||Multi-purpose||$5-10 / 14.5 oz. tube|
|Plews & Edelmann UltraLube 11320 LMX||LMX Red
|$15-20 / 14 oz. tube|
The wheel bearings on a travel trailer should be greased and repacked at least once per year or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. Even if your travel trailer isn’t used frequently or if you don’t tow it long distances, grease begins to break down over time. If you haven’t serviced your wheel bearings within the last year, it is time to do so.
Servicing your travel trailer bearings is something you can pay a qualified technician to do, but if you have the interest and some basic mechanical skills, it is also a job that you can learn to do yourself. It is important to your safety that your wheel bearings are repacked properly and that your wheels are re-installed according to the proper specifications. Consult your owner’s manual for information specific to your travel trailer. Search YouTube for video instructions, or consult this step-by-step guide.
One 14 oz. tube of wheel bearing grease should be enough to repack your travel trailer’s bearings. To make sure you have enough of the same kind, consider purchasing a second tube. Stocking up is not advised, though, unless you have multiple vehicles to service. The grease will break down over time, so you’ll need to purchase a new tube for next year.
EZ Lube bearings are designed in such a way that the grease can be replaced easily, by simply squeezing new grease into a specific opening. The pressure will push the old grease out until all of the wheel bearing grease has been replaced.
Repacking is the process of removing the wheel of your travel trailer in order to access the bearings, then cleaning them and adding new grease in order to keep these vital moving parts properly lubricated.
Top Choice: Plews & Edelmann UltraLube 11320 LMX
There are many options for wheel bearing grease that will keep your wheels rolling and keep you and your travel trailer safely on the road for miles to come. Any of the 10 lubricating greases on the list will do the job well, and the price variation isn’t large. Ultimately the decision comes down to which specific functions and features are a priority for you and your travel choices.
For our money, if we have the option to make an environmentally-friendly choice, then it is worth a few extra dollars to do so. In this case, the biodegradable, bio-based UltraLube from Plews and Edelmann offers an eco-friendly option without sacrificing quality or function, and with only a marginal price difference. That’s what makes the Plews and Edelmann UltraLube 11320 LMX stand out from the crowd.