Last Updated on 04/16/2024 by Glynn Willard

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What do you do if your wheel falls off your travel trailer? This was a question we were faced with heading into a boondocking site at KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.

Everything seemed fine along the way to our site. In fact, it was almost too easy to find a location and there was very little traffic.

That was until I got out of the truck to see if we were in a good spot and if we were even close to being level.

Rose just happened to have jumped out of the truck at the same time with the camera rolling. We’re in the habit of always having the camera on when pulling into a site.

As I looked at the passenger side of our ORV, all I could think was “something’s not right.”

And then it occurred to me and I thought to myself, “holy %$#@, we’re missing a wheel!”

Why Did Our Wheel Fall Off?

There are several possibilities. And we think the following may be one of the reasons.

  1. I Used The Zerk Valves For Applying New Grease
    This was a mistake. I have yet to figure out why Dexter Axle even produces the EZ Lube system. My guess is easy marketing. It introduces two problems:

    • It can potentially push through the seal introducing grease into the hub and brakes and
    • If you use a different type of grease, you end up mixing grease. This can alter the chemical composition and cause degradation.

    I changed the breaks after injecting new grease and all the seals appeared to be in tack. But I did use a different grease since I had no idea what was currently in use.

    Of course, I checked the Dexter website to find out which grease to use and thought that was okay. It’s not okay to mix different greases in bearings!

    By mixing two different greases, the chemical composition can be altered. This can lower the temperature at which the grease breaks down leading to bearing failure.

    This degradation combined with the following factors likely played a role.

  3. I Did Not Torque The Spindle Nut Correctly
    When I changed the brakes on our Outdoors RV, I did not know about properly torqueing the spindle nut. So, I tightened it with the wrong tools and backed it off.

    I did not rotate the drum when tightening and I did not use a torque wrench to achieve 50lbs of torque.

    And I know I left it on too tight even after backing it off. A spindle nut that’s too tight doesn’t allow the grease to circulate around the outer bearings. This creates a dangerously hot situation.

    There’s plenty of self education available on YouTube and I didn’t take enough time to learn about reinstalling wheels.

    My mistake!

  5. I Did Not Apply The Keep Correctly On One Of The Wheels
    The keep, as its name describes, keeps the spindle nut in place when in motion. Three of them went on without a problem. One of them just didn’t seem right.

    It’s possible that it was too loose and allowed the spindle nut to loosen too much. I’m not an expert, but I imagine this situation would allow the outer bearings to leave the race.

    Under such a situation, they would degrade very quickly.

  7. The Dust Seals Were Missing On Several Of The Wheels (Including The Culprit)
    Steve, the individual who helped me out of this sticky bind believes this may be the biggest contributor. The dust seals that go on the end cap was missing and our punctured on three of my axles.

    Without that seal, dust and grains of sand can make their way into the outer bearings. This is a recipe for a real problem. And we tend to be on dirt roads A LOT!

    If you’re pulling a trailer and have access to check these seals, make the effort to do so. Do it even if you don’t spend a lot of time on dirt roads.



    How Did We Fix Our Wheel That Fell Off?


    Undamaged spindle

    The outer bearing race was almost welded to the spindle.

    It involved an Emory board, a paperclip and a rubber band. Okay, maybe not McGyver fans! But it did involve an Emory board. The spindle needed to be sanded and that’s all we had.

    It worked too!

    Once Steve arrived with the parts and tools, we cleaned the brakes, the spindle and the hub. Then we removed the outer race from the spindle. Those are the “sleaves” that the bearings roll against.

    Our outer bearing race was stuck to the spindle. It didn’t get welded to it, but it was close.

    We removed the inner race and bearings from the hub and did a heavy cleaning of the hub with brake cleaner.

    Then we installed new races into the hub, packed the bearings correctly and reinstalled the hub. We rotated the hub while adjusting it to 50lbs of torque. Then we backed the spindle nut off and applied the keep.

    Finally the wheel was returned to its rightful place and we were able to roll out of the campsite.


    What Tools Do We Now Keep On Hand To Repair Bearings?

    I now carry some specific tools and supplies when towing. I suggest you do the same if you’re comfortable working with bearings. We carry:

    • Spare bearings and races.
    • A spare keep.
    • Brake cleaner
    • Torque wrench
    • A 1.5″ socket for the spindle nut.
    • A 12 ton jack.
    • Jack stands
    • A 10″ flat punch (for removing the races)
    • A rubber mallet.

    Several of the tools have multiple uses, so the additional weight is justified.
    What would you do if your wheel fell off your RV?
    Happy and safe travels! And may your wheels stay attached!
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