More Trailer Woes

I began the weekend with the hope of getting the 4 newly mounted tires on my trailer, and then quickly knocking out rewiring the lights. With any luck, we’d be able to take The Beast out on Sunday for a ride on the beaches in town.

That about sums up my wishes for a quick project.

First things first, I attempted to put the trailer in the garage so I’d have a place to work out of the rain. I had easy access to mount the wheels on the front axle when it was parked next to the house, so I did that and started moving it. I’ll spare you the details of my many painstaking attempts to make this happen and cut to the chase: my trailer is about 2″ too wide to fit in my garage. Finally I put it as far back as I could so that at least the rear axle was over the garage concrete apron and was under the eave. It was time to get to work on mounting these wheels. I knew at some point I’d probably want to inspect the bearings, but for this weekend I just wanted to get the wheels on. Unfortunately, as I was working on putting the wheel on one of the hubs with brakes (only one axle has brakes) I noticed that there was a ton of resistance as that wheel spun.

So at that point, my plan for the day changed. I was now officially taking the wheel hub apart. I’d like to first state that I’ve never done this before. I vaguely recall watching Mama B’s father reassemble a wheel hub on an agriculture implement after replacing a bad bearing … about 5 years ago. And I was only half paying attention at the time. Trial by fire in the automotive arena typically is a very time consuming experience for me, filled with many trips to the laptop and many calls to my always gracious brother-in-law. This was no exception.

Before going further, let me share an image that I found instrumental in wrapping my head around what was happening between the axle spindle and the wheel. For any other visual learners out there, this will likely be very helpful. With the exception of the brake assembly to the right of the Double Lip Seal in the image, it’s exactly what I was working on.

Wheel Hub

At first I was thrown by the dust caps of all things. They were covered with grease, dirt, and grime to the point where it almost looked like the cap was welded on. In reality, they were sealed with some kind of brittle plastic/caulk, and it chipped right out to expose a small lip that I used to pry the cap off. What I found underneath was not on the diagram above. Grease. Everywhere. For the other wheel hub rookies out there, everything between the spindle and the dust cap is covered in grease. Bring gloves to this party. I was rather surprised to see the faint pink in the grease; that’s an indication that the bearings have been repacked (the grease replaced) recently.

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With the hub/drum and brake assembly both off, it was apparent that my problem rested in the brake assembly. It was rusted, corroded, and did not move freely like it once did. The reddish “C” shaped arm on the far-right photo above is the mechanical linkage that actuates the brakes. When the electromagnet at the bottom (the oval with 4 holes in it) is energized, it moves into the rear wall of the brake drum. The friction on a rotating drum causes the magnet to move left for the passenger side brake that’s pictured. The other end of the “C” is attached to the pivot point for the two brake shoes. As the arm moves out, it pushes the shoes out into the brake drum. Or at least in theory. In my case, the right shoe went out and then stuck there. The left shoe never moved. The whole assembly is rusty and movement is anything but smooth.

After discussing this with my on-call mechanic (thanks again!) I was told this is all serviceable, and that a trip to O’Reilly was in order. The goal was simple. Take the entire assembly apart, go to town with a wire brush, lube any movement point, and then put it all back together. Since I had the whole hub apart, I was also going to clean the bearings I’d taken out and inspect them for damage. Confidence and morale was up.

Just before I took off, I heard a faint hissing sound. I noticed that one of my newly mounted tires just happened to be leaned up against the house with the valve stem to the bottom. The rain had puddled right at the stem and exposed a leak. I was hearing the air escape and it was immediately visible from the bubbles. {sigh} Well, at least I could kill two birds with one stone.


Off I went. The tire shop got everything squared away in about 20 minutes. I left O’Reilly with a few brake shoe specialty tools, some new grease, a bearing packer to refill the bearings with grease, and a few cans of brake cleaner. I stopped in NAPA to see what sort of product selection they have here in town, and I must say, I was impressed. Most NAPAs I’ve been in have low inventory in-house and have regular shipments from a nearby warehouse. I’m pretty sure the nearest NAPA warehouse is in Anchorage, so they stock quite a bit. They even stocked 1 gallon jugs of brake cleaner! I likely overuse the heck out of that product when working on anything mechanical. Sure, it’ll kill you and the environment  but it gets anything off anything with ease.

On the way home, the clouds parted and the sun came out so I quit for the rest of the afternoon. We’re in a rainy coastal town – when you get sunshine on the weekend, you make a point to enjoy it.

Before heading in for the night, I took off the left side hub and inspected it. Same diagnosis. Bearings look to be in good shape, but the brake assembly could use some work.


Before going to bed I was focused on the magnets. They were very rutted and so were the back sides of the drums. The pictures don’t capture that very well, but it’s the best I was able to do:

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At the end of the day I didn’t have much in the way of actual progress, but I did have a much better understanding of how electric brakes work, how wheel hubs work, and I at least had forward momentum.


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