Technical (?) question - wheels getting hot - how hot - please read to help. Thx

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Well-known member
Jul 21, 2019
Hi all,

I am planning to bring back a pop up camper (I didn't want to post it in the pop up section as i believe this is somewhat general question) this weekend.  I would be driving back about 450 miles from where I am planning to pick it up.

I asked the owner when was last he applied grease to the wheel bearings (I guess this is called repacking wheel bearings - you can tell how newbie I am).  He did it about 2/3 years back (as far as he remembers).  He just drove about 400 miles from a camping trip as well.  Typically he does about 4-6 trips, but I am not sure how far he went for camping with the camper.

So, this is getting me worried now as I know that depending on how often and how far you travel, it is better to repack the wheel bearings once every year or two at the most.

He doesn't have time to do this before the weekend and I cannot wait until later.  So, I am still planning to drive it back this weekend.  I am planning to stop often and give it a rest / cool down.

But can anyone tell me how hot is hot?  I can take an infrared digital thermometer and monitor the heat of the wheels to see if I need to stop more frequently or maybe there is enough grease left and I can drive back home.  I do plan to replace the tires immediately after I get back (as well as fix the propane issue - my other post in the pop up section) My first expense, I guess :).

Any help or suggestion would be appreciated.

Many thanks folks!
On that trailer, inflate the tires to the maximum as shown on the tire itself.  The age of the tires is important too. Usually 6 or 7 years is the longest life recommended so use good judgement before undertaking this trip (see the library for determining tire age info). Keep the speed down too as that can cause tires to heat up too much. I don't think there is an absolute temperature range that anyone can recommend, but who knows. The temperature gauge is a good idea, especially if recorded for your future information.

The grease doesn't go anywhere normally but you may find traces of it if the seals are going or you loose a grease cap along the way. Unfortunately it can grease the brake shoes or run down the outside/inside of a wheel should those things happen. Smaller Trailer wheels do get quite a bit hotter than say, a car wheel.
The bearings should be OK if he's telling the truth. They should be good for 4 or 5 years before needing to repack them if they only see 450 miles a year.
I would give more concern on the tires. Usually tent trailer have 8 and 10" rims, a 12" your better off. Look at the inside of the tire/rim, if you see grease splattered all along the inside, replace seals and bearing before you hit the road. If its clean, just road dirt, highly probable all is good. Now those small tires will never wear the tread out, they self destruct first. I have owned two tent trailers and a jet ski trailer with those small tires, I know what I say. Anything over 150/160deg outside hub temp, things are getting warm on the inside from the bearings, unless you have elec. brakes on that unit, those can gin up some heat too and that will mask the bearing to hub temp,,,gregg
Pop-Up camper: I agree, you'll be fine with the bearings.  Not much weight on them.  Think about old cars, we only repacked the wheel bearings when we did brakes every 20k miles.  Personally, if there is somewhere that states the recommended tire pressure, I'd do that rather than running at max pressure.  I would guess around 50 psi, that's what my 20' Travel Trailer is.  I'm personally not a fan of max pressure. I've never come across a pop up, or Travel Trailer, that the mfg asked for the tires to be run at max pressure, maybe some of the bigger rigs.  I use an IR every stop.  I shoot wheels and tires.  Usually wheels are maybe 110, tires maybe 115.  Only be concerned if they change or one side is much higher (keep in mind, the Sun can add 10 degrees).  My YukonXl rear wheels and tires run hotter than my front, and they all run hotter than my Travel Trailer.
I have a pop up and what I do is after starting off and driving 30 or so miles at highway speed pull over in a safe place, get out and feel the wheel hubs. If they are just warm or less, you are good to go. If they are hot, you better have them checked.  Then I do it at every gas stop or rest stop.
Also keep in mind, that if you have electric brakes, and they are dragging, the wheel can also get hot.

Also, if you or no one has checked the wheels prior to your start grab each wheel, and try to wobble it. It should be nice and firm with zero movement

Jack L
There is no way I would hook onto that trailer and take off on a 450 mile trip without checking out the tires and bearings.  The bearings are not that big a deal to grease - take the tools with you and get it done.  Tires - inspect them closely.  If you take off and have a problem out on the road - it'll cost you time and $$$ - way more than taking care of it in the seller's yard.
Hi all,

Wow - thanks so much for the cautionary words and suggestions.  Extremely valuable and I will definitely check them.  I think what I get is that it is probably best to change the tires than worry about the grease! 

Many thanks, now I know what I am getting into!
Leaving tomorrow morning and hope to get back by Sun evening.  Will let you all know how it went.  Keep su in your thoughts and thanks so much!
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