Plan the Work…
Originally posted 4/8/2013
Checking the weather forecast for today shows a cloudy and high wind day, with wind gusts up to 50 MPH. Much of that wind will be from the south, directly onto the driver’s side of the trailer. That means I had better angle the solar panels down and strap them, as well as anchor the wheel chocks in case the trailer itself is tempted to shift. Done. This simple procedure took about an hour this morning, and unstrapping later will take more than that because of the poor quality of the cheapo Chinese ratchet strap mechanisms. The straps themselves are also wearing because of fluttering in the wind. Time to revise that system, probably with something rope-based.
My “action plan” this week is to get the trailer back up onto its feet and end the ongoing spate of problems with wheel bearings and tires. Since the remaining three old tires are potentially fragile, they must be replaced. With the wheel bearings in doubt, any road crisis involving use of the Axle Crutch would require severely overloading the remaining tire on that side. Doing that to an aged tire already at its load limit would be like pleading for that entire side of the trailer to hit the ground. This new tire thing unfortunately includes the spare, since it is the wrong size. Mounting different diameter tires on a leaf spring suspension can cause the axle to “steer” slightly to one side. That conflict in aiming between the two axles would induce both tread wear and additional bearing stress. I’m tempted to simply use one of the old tires as a spare in order to save money, but in the event that one of the new tires blows out on the road, swapping it out for a lighter-duty ancient tire just doesn’t appeal.
Local camper Steve had pointed out yesterday that when the first bearing had failed in Quartzsite, the safest thing to do would have been to go ahead and replace all the wheel bearings, as the others were probably not far behind. That maxim was certainly proved out, and is now folded neatly into my newbie learning curve. I’d considered the first failure to be a fluke, and now I know that it isn’t.
Since none of the wheels are technically overloaded, a combination of new bearings all-round with new tires should end further road adventures once and for all. The only question mark – and it’s a significant one – is whether the spindle damaged from the last go-round will affect the new bearing. Under lighter loading, I wouldn’t be concerned. These bearings are loaded to about 90% of their maximum capacity however, and any remaining deficiencies in the surfaces that support the bearings can promote failure again.
It’s only about a 4 to 5 mile trip into Wickenburg, so this week I’ll be methodically jacking up one wheel at a time and taking the hubs in for bearing replacement, while the wheels go in for tire replacement. I’ll also be carrying a spare bearing set. Once done, I can hit the road at any time, but will need to keep an eye on hub temperatures. The bearing replaced in Quartzsite has been running stone cold so far, which is an excellent sign. The two others which have suffered no trauma should mimic that, too. The one riding on the once-mangled spindle might do just fine, or it might not. There’s no way to tell now. My hope is obviously that it will be happy in its work. Failing that, that it will survive at least most of the trip back before needing replacement with the spare. The axle itself will then need replacement at a repair facility back in Illinois. Should it fail promptly, the axle would need to be swapped out at a facility onroute. Either that, or if the distance covered was notable, attempt to keep feeding it new bearings.
My plan is to be optimistic but careful. Sure, my re-sculpturing of the spindle with a hand file is crazy, but it’s crazy enough that it just…might…work.