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Old 11-30-2012, 09:17 PM   #1
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Default Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Discussions of wheel bearing failures in Chevies (in particular) have been pretty common on several of the class B forums. One topic that comes up regularly is if it is possible to grease the "sealed" Chevy front wheel bearings. I did a bunch of reading last year during one of the discussions, and cut apart a Chevy hub that I had changed on our 07 C190P Roadtrek. What I learned was that the pickup truck guys have had the same issue for a long time, and quite a few talked about greasing them through the ABS sensor hole. Depending on who you choose to believe, life gets extended somewhere in the 2-5 times with regular greasing (most do once a year). As placebo effect is pretty common in this kind of "life" testing, I wanted to see if grease would actually get into the bearings if put in through the ABS sensor hole. I removed the back cap and front seal from the old hub so I could see if clean grease got there, and then greased the hub on the bench in a couple of different ways, turning it and not, blowing the grease around with compressed air, etc. and found it goes to the inboard bearing very quickly, as there is no seal on either side, and plenty of space on the backside. The outboard bearing is tight up on the seal and flange, with much less space for things to come through, but it did come through, especially when boosted with a shot of compressed with an air nozzle pointed that way through the hole. I don't really think you need the compressed air, as the grease will get flung around from the rotation, but I needed to make sure it was open enough to get grease through.

This year is the first time to actually try out greasing on mounted hubs. Ours are very low miles at this point, so I didn't put much grease in them, only two pumps from a one hand gun into each bearing (4 per hub). Here are some pics and text about how it went.

The van was already on stands with the wheels off, so I had an easy starting point. The Hawk brakes had bedded very nicely.



You need to remove the caliper, adapter, bracket for ABS cable and brake line, and rotor to get to the ABS sensor. Two bolts each on the adapter and caliper. You could take off just the adapter bolts and remove the whole works as a "loaded caliper", but I have never liked doing that. I want to be able to check the pads and caliper for proper movement. Be sure to carefully support the caliper so you don't hurt the brake hose.



With those parts off, you get to the ABS sensor, right on top of the hub.



Brake line and ABS cable bracket



Allen head bolt removed and sensor carefully pulled out being careful not to damage it as it comes by the splash shield.



Looking into the ABS sensor hole at the toothed wheel that the tool will sit on



I made a small adapter for the grease gun, so that it would sit in the ABS sensor hole, on top of the ABS reluctor wheel. It has a closed end and a hole out the side, at just the right height to shoot grease at the open part of the bearings. You just turn it 180* between for inboard or outboard bearings. A needle adapter would also work, but it puts the grease a bit further away from the open area of the bearing.

Here is the tool



How far the grease shoots from the tool toward the bearing-I used Royal Purple synthetic grease.



The tool sitting in the ABS sensor hole ready for greasing



With a one hand grease gun on it ready to grease



All done-I always clean the hub flange and the inside of the rotor completely to keep from getting runout. I put lugnuts on immediately when I put on the rotor, so nothing can fall in between the hub and rotor. The rustier the area is, the more important this is to do.



The only hard part of this job is that the caliper and adapter bolts are big and tight, other than that this job is really pretty simple. I didn't even have 20 minutes per side in doing it, but I started with it up and wheels off. Since I like to check the brakes every year, and make sure the calipers are free sliding, this only will ad a few minutes each year. Hopefully, it will greatly extend the bearing life. I do still think that the wrong offset wheels used on several of the class B's are a major contributor to bearing failures, and highly recommend going to stock offset wheels, even if you do grease.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:40 AM   #2
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Very interesting. Thank you for posting it.
Clever tool.
I want to get some jack stands - do you use four 2 ton capacity jack stands?

Do you need experience working on brakes to be able to do the job or can it all be taken apart and put back together without adjustment? If I have to ask that question is it a job I better leave to a pro?
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Old 12-01-2012, 01:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

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Originally Posted by markopolo
Very interesting. Thank you for posting it.
Clever tool.
I want to get some jack stands - do you use four 2 ton capacity jack stands?

Do you need experience working on brakes to be able to do the job or can it all be taken apart and put back together without adjustment? If I have to ask that question is it a job I better leave to a pro?
I have a couple of sets (4 each) of stands that I use on the RT. One is an older set of NAPA stands rated at 2 tons and a newer set of GM aftermarket stands rated at 3 tons. The 2 ton stands are actually beefier than the 3 ton ones, with nice big tops on them, but the 3 ton ones go higher. I mix and match depending on how high I need to go.

It is always a good idea to know what you are doing when you work on brakes. In this case, you are simply removing parts and putting them back in the same as they were, so it is pretty simple. Any Haynes type manual will give you plenty enough info to do it. No need to push back pistons or mess with any fluid, etc. I think the only thing that might bite someone, and is probably one of the most common errors even experienced mechanics will sometimes make, is to forget to push the brake pedal several time before even putting it into gear. Whenever you mess with the disc brake pads and calipers, the pistons get moved back a bit. Many times this is just enough that the brake pedal will go to the floor the first time you push it after everything is back together. Once you push the pedal a couple of time, everything is back in place and ready to go. I can tell you from personal experience, it really gets your attention when happens. Luckily, I had a clear path in front of me and had time to give it a pump and get the brakes back.
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:32 AM   #4
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Thanks for the info.

My van is 15 years old - probably could use some new grease on the bearings.
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:30 PM   #5
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Booster,
This is some very good info. I wish there was a zerk mounted just for this type of maintenance.

I wonder if the truck owners ever maintained the grease on one side-only, to see if it actually outlasted the non-greased hub.

I have a spare hub also, from when I upgraded to the #10k hubs. If I get a chance, I may look into a way to add a grease zerk.

Thanks again.
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:50 PM   #6
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

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Booster,
This is some very good info. I wish there was a zerk mounted just for this type of maintenance.

I wonder if the truck owners ever maintained the grease on one side-only, to see if it actually outlasted the non-greased hub.

I have a spare hub also, from when I upgraded to the #10k hubs. If I get a chance, I may look into a way to add a grease zerk.

Thanks again.
I looked at the idea of adding a zerk. There is quite a bit of room to do it, but the hubs are sealed so you run into the problem of chips from drilling and tapping the hole (or just drilling if you use a press in) getting into the hub. I decided the risk wasn't worth it, as it is easy to do this way. The best way would also be to have two of them so you can get both bearings. That is why my adapter squirts to the side.

If I did the drilling, I was going to modify an ABS sensor so I could hook it up to compressed air hose. By slightly pressurizing the hub, you probably could make sure all the chips come back up the drill and tap, but you would have to do it dry, with no cutting oil.
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Old 01-01-2015, 07:00 PM   #7
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Hey Booster,
I am getting ready to install new Hawk rotors and pads up front. Do you have any new advice on this hub grease job since you did it 2 years ago?

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Old 01-01-2015, 07:16 PM   #8
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

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Originally Posted by peteco
Hey Booster,
I am getting ready to install new Hawk rotors and pads up front. Do you have any new advice on this hub grease job since you did it 2 years ago?

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Nothing new, but I did it once since the writeup, and will be doing again this year before I take the van off the stands. Hubs have been running nice and cool, but I think most of that is from getting right offset wheels.

I think you will like the Hawk brakes, we beat ours very hard on the mountain, east coast, parkways last year, and they performed perfectly. Got the wheels pretty dirty though, but it was about 1000 miles of 3rd gear hills, in a 7500 mile trip so I can't complain.
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Old 01-05-2015, 03:20 AM   #9
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

As part of changing the brakes I greased the hubs. I made a right angle grease tool like Booster showed previously.

One difficult part is removing the caliper mount as the bolts are very tight. Fortunately I had purchased a Harbor Freight 3/4" drive torque wrench in order to tighten the bolts to the 221 ft-lbs spec. The torque wrench was also perfect for removing the tight bolts. It was just the right length as I was able to put my foot on the wrench to push with enough torque to break the bolts free. My 1/2" drive breaker bar was too short and too flexible to break the bolts free.

I'm not sure I want to do this every year as Booster has suggested, but definitely every 2 years.

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Old 01-05-2015, 05:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

I put 8 pumps of grease in each hub. I hope that was enough. I just read this post where they put a lot more in. My concern with too much is that it might get in the ABS sensor wheel teeth.

"I usually pump 20 strokes from my grease gun. I have heard of people putting 50 or 60 pumps in them with no problems. I believe the only mistake one could make is if they had the greaser fitting tightly in the abs hole and pressured the seals with too much grease. The wheel bearing greaser that is available on ebay lifts out of the hole automatically if it encounters any pressure. "
http://www.duramaxdiesels.com/forum/sho ... 902&page=2


I assume this is the eBay wheel bearing greaser. I asked the seller how much grease to add and he said 15 pumps.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Front-Wheel-Bea ... l%3ABlazer


Here is some more info. They recommend packing it pretty full.

http://www.courtsara.com/tips

So it sounds like we should be putting more grease in.

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Old 01-05-2015, 06:52 PM   #11
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by peteco
I put 8 pumps of grease in each hub. I hope that was enough. I just read this post where they put a lot more in. My concern with too much is that it might get in the ABS sensor wheel teeth.

"I usually pump 20 strokes from my grease gun. I have heard of people putting 50 or 60 pumps in them with no problems. I believe the only mistake one could make is if they had the greaser fitting tightly in the abs hole and pressured the seals with too much grease. The wheel bearing greaser that is available on ebay lifts out of the hole automatically if it encounters any pressure. "
http://www.duramaxdiesels.com/forum/sho ... 902&page=2


It wonder what the eBay wheel bearing greaser is? edit: OK. Just found this. I like booster's better. I wonder what the directions say on how much grease to add. I asked that question on eBay and will report the answer if I get one.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Front-Wheel-Bea ... l%3ABlazer

I think you are just about right on the amount of grease, as long as it got to the bearings. With the angled greaser, it is highly likely you got it right where it should be.




Here is some more info. They recommend packing it pretty full.

http://www.courtsara.com/tips


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IMO, the folks saying to fill it up are totally wrong, and may even cause early failures. In industrial machinery (which I worked since I was teenager) and automotive stuff, the "more is better" theory has mostly gone away, unless the bearing is designed to do it that way, and used where it is needed. All that extra grease does nothing for lubrication, as it never gets to the bearing. What it does do is insulate the entire center area of the hub, so less heat can get out of the bearings and to the outside, which is very bad. For anyone that remembers the old adjustable, tapered roller, front wheel bearings, the same argument went on for years. Some said fill it up, others said only around the bearing to help cooling. My first lesson in it came in 1966 when I took my old Plymouth (which I did my own teenage work on) to the Chrysler dealer where my dad was Parts Manager for a wheel alignment. The front end man, who I had known since I was a very small kid, ran me up and down the flagpole about all the grease I had in the bearings. I changed then and there, and everything I have seen since reinforces that.

The main exception would be bearings that are made to be periodically greased, that have Zerks, and operate in harsh environments, and are have shields that will bleed grease. The harsh environment is the critical part, usually. Good greaseable bearings usually do a good job of putting the new grease into a good place in the bearing, so no big problem there. A little new grease goes a long ways on them and is the right thing to them in clean areas. The faster the bearing runs, the more important that it is to keep the too much grease away.

If you have greaseable, shielded, bearings running in a harsh environment, the procedure changes, as does the bearing design sometimes. Failures on these bearings will usually come from contamination, not heat (which should have been allowed for in the selection of the bearing), so you need to grease and clean them. The grease path in the bearings will go though the bearing and then out the shield at the shaft area, when you put grease in the Zerk. You pump in grease until the grease coming out of the shields is clean, or if you have done mean time between failure studies, still dirty but fully purged (the bearing area itself will have clean grease). The bearings we had on the big fans for the machines at my last job were outside, run hard, and done this way. When you see a bearing spit a bunch of water with first grease coming out, you quickly know why you are doing it that way At startup after greasing, you could put an infrared temp gun on them and see them go about 20-30* hot for about 20 minutes, and then they would settle in right where they usually run. The engineer at the bearing company I talked to said that the bearings were designed to purge (out the shields) excess grease from areas that would make them run hot, as they run after greasing. Not relevant to vans, but interesting, I think.

Could you feel the hub turn smoother as you where greasing them? The first time I did ours, I could one one of them, which was a bit of a surprise.
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Old 01-05-2015, 07:45 PM   #12
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

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Could you feel the hub turn smoother as you where greasing them? The first time I did ours, I could one one of them, which was a bit of a surprise.
I could not tell any difference in how the hubs turned, as it was smooth both before and after.

While greasing the hubs I wondered how the new grease gets into the bearings. The courtsara post shows grease coming out of the seal. Maybe that is why they put so much in, to make sure the grease got into the bearing. I have an old hub that I had taken out a year ago because I thought the bearing was failing but I think it was OK. I had pumped some grease in to test it. I hit it with a rubber mallet to try to force grease into the bearing, and it did seem to rotate smoother after I did that. I will try pumping it full to see if any grease comes out the seal.

I have bearing buddies on my trailers and they get pumped full of grease. I can also see your point of too much grease affecting heat transfer way from the bearings.

Hopefully the small amount we put in will find its way to the bearings.

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Old 01-05-2015, 08:09 PM   #13
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

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Originally Posted by peteco
Quote:
Originally Posted by booster
Could you feel the hub turn smoother as you where greasing them? The first time I did ours, I could one one of them, which was a bit of a surprise.
I could not tell any difference in how the hubs turned, as it was smooth both before and after.

While greasing the hubs I wondered how the new grease gets into the bearings. The courtsara post shows grease coming out of the seal. Maybe that is why they put so much in, to make sure the grease got into the bearing. I have an old hub that I had taken out a year ago because I thought the bearing was failing but I think it was OK. I had pumped some grease in to test it. I hit it with a rubber mallet to try to force grease into the bearing, and it did seem to rotate smoother after I did that. I will try pumping it full to see if any grease comes out the seal.

I have bearing buddies on my trailers and they get pumped full of grease. I can also see your point of too much grease affecting heat transfer way from the bearings.

Hopefully the small amount we put in will find its way to the bearings.

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The getting the grease to the bearing is what made me make the 90* greaser. I use a one hand gun so I can be pumping the gun while I rotate the hub. The pic of how far the grease will squirt in the first post was in relation to it getting the bearing and not just laying in the hub. I did 3-4 pumps over the rotation of the hub, each direction. Just to be sure, after that, I put a little bit of compressed air in with a football pumping needle, angled toward the bearings, while turning. I don't think that was really necessary.

One thing they are going to find out, if they fill the cavity until grease comes out the seal, is that when the grease heats up and expands, it is going to come out of the seal even more. When the bearing and grease cool, they will pull dirt and water back in with the grease film and air. If you carefully cut apart a bearing that has been run overfull (I saw pictures from a bearing manufacturers tests), you would find that were the balls run there would be a channel though the grease (no surprise there). That tunnel would be wider than the balls and cage, basically pulled away from them, do to the fact that as the other grease shrinks back it pulls the grease near the bearing with it. Add to that the fact that the grease in that area will likely see very high temps, due to no air circulation, and may very well be burnt to a hard shell preventing any new grease getting where needed. They really like a grease film only, no grease mass in the way of heat getting out of the bearing, which is working like a cooling fan and actually thowing a lot of air around. I think the ABS reluctor also helps stir the air in the hub to cool the bearings.

When I cut apart the hub I replaced preemptiviely after the wheel offset change (under 15K on it) and cut it apart, even I was amazed at how little grease was in it. If you looked at the bearing loose, I would estimate the non steel area of the bearing, outside to outside, had no more than about 20% of the available volume as grease. I was surprised as that as most of the factory fill bearings I have seen in other applications were closer to 50% filled. I was also surprised at how dried out the grease was, but that could have been the offset thing and the related heat generation. I have to assume SKF has extensively tested how much grease is best at the loads and speeds, but big offset wheels and the heavy vans probably tax the grease more than most vans would.

Bearing buddies are exactly one of the extreme condition applications I mentioned. With boat trailers the issue is water most of the time, and the way folks use the trailers is as bad as it gets, besides. Most boaters take off, drive a couple hundred miles to their favorite water, in the summer heat, lots of stuff in the boat, on the trailer, etc. Trailer bearings get hot, as expected, no big deal if within the temp the bearing and grease can handle. THEN, they back the trailer and boat into the water on the ramps. 150*+ hub and bearings meet 70* water. Cools them off very well, but the air and grease in the bearing contracts as it cools so that volume needs to be filled. No seal will hold vacuum in a case like this that I have seen. The hub is underwater, so all it can pull into the volume is water, which is does. Drive away happily with cool hubs, that are also comtaminated with water. Bearing buddies allow you to flush out the water in the hub, before it gets a chance to reach the bearings themselves. I know folks that grease right after they pull out of the water, others when the get home every time, others occasionally. All say they see much longer life than when using the normal hand greased, cleaned way they did before. Buddies are good products for anything that goes in the water IMO. The amount of life you use to more heat (if the trailer isn't overloaded) is more than saved in water damage.
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Old 01-05-2015, 09:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: Greasing Chevy sealed wheel bearings

Reading the courtsara post a little closer shows that they do try to remove as much grease as possible after the grease has been pumped into the bearings.

"Now take a screwdriver and go in the hole, angle it so its going against the direction of rotation, till you hit the commutator inside. When you feel it, lift the screw driver up a little and rotate the hub so more grease comes up the screwdriver. When you rotate the hub you create an air void with the screwdriver to allow for expansion. Now finish cleaning the sensor hole by pulling as much grease out as you can and install the abs sensor. "

So it looks like they are doing what you are suggesting to provide space for grease expansion.

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Old 08-26-2015, 05:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Reading the courtsara post a little closer shows that they do try to remove as much grease as possible after the grease has been pumped into the bearings.
On the Courtsara web site, which I own, I have also stated that 1/2 ton = 26 pumps of grease, 3/4 ton = 35 pumps of grease. Either way you will have an air void with the screwdriver or the limited pumps. I have checked the hubs on my 2500 hd with an infrared temperature gun and found a rise to 117 degrees when greased and that was with the ambient temperature of 95 degrees. As miles are packed on, the temperature drops to 98 degrees with the same ambient temperature. This occurs within 2000 miles. I have used IXL 710 synthetic grease and Kendall Super Blu 427 grease. Kendall has a drip point of 350 degrees and the IXL is 425 so either one is way above the 117 degrees my hubs ran. Keep in mind that these bearings, like any bearing, need to be periodically greased. I have found the IXL gets 50k between services where the Kendall is about 30 to 35k.

I have used this method on hundreds if not thousands of pickup trucks. When I say the number of pumps I am referring to 4wd. 2WD takes less grease. For instance a 2wd 1/2 ton would be 12 pumps of grease a 3/4 ton would be 19. Now naturally on a 1 or 1 1/2 ton you would be bigger and need more grease. I personally havent done any of these but its not rocket science. Or just refer to the screwdriver and pull out the excess. I hope this information helps you. Its enough of a money saver that SKF has started putting tamper proof screws in the abs hole. Some of my posts tell the McMaster part number for the tool to get them out. They are listed on the GM or Dodge, or Ford forums.
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Old 08-26-2015, 02:22 PM   #16
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Greaser, thanks for the info. I put about 8 pumps in using Valvoline Multi-Purpose Grease /GM before I had seen your post. Specs on this page:

http://content.valvoline.com/pdf/mul...ose_grease.pdf

I have a 1 ton Express van, 2 WD.

Should I keep using the same grease?

What would your recommended service interval be?

Thanks,

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Old 08-26-2015, 02:41 PM   #17
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It would sure be fun to find a small enough borescope or camera that would fit into the ABS hole, so you could actually see how well the grease gets into the bearings. It would also let you see where the grease is after they are run for a while.
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Old 08-26-2015, 03:29 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peteco View Post
Greaser, thanks for the info. I put about 8 pumps in using Valvoline Multi-Purpose Grease /GM before I had seen your post. Specs on this page:

http://content.valvoline.com/pdf/mul...ose_grease.pdf

I have a 1 ton Express van, 2 WD.

Should I keep using the same grease?

What would your recommended service interval be?

Thanks,

Pete
2006 Roadtrek 210P
Pete, I dont have any experience with that grease. I have used the Lucas Red and Tacky and found it to be junk and it has the same specs as the Valvoline. The only two I can attest to are the two I listed but that doesnt mean that others are bad. It just means that when I find something that works, I stick with it. I'm just guessing here but I think on your 1 ton 2wd van I would put about 25 pumps in. 8 is not near enough.

One thing everyone needs to know is the day of Americans building things that are superior and last way longer than anyone else has gone by the wayside. These people have meetings to discuss when they want things to fail. The easiest way to program failure in a sealed hub is to regulate the amount of grease that is put in at the factory. I want to get back to the old way where American Made meant something. Take the time to check out my site. Right now I am getting this new way of doing things started, with the old style tapered bearings (either 2 or 4wd), that make it so you dont have to take them apart to pack them. Manufacturers dont want this because they are makings millions of dollars selling parts. Why would they want to install something that, to date, has run 8 times the norm without a failure? Remember this, grease is cheap/parts are not.

In this thread I have read about too much grease. To a certain extent this is true. The dust seals will let some out as well as the air void you create with the screwdriver or limited pumps. On my old style spindles there is a pressure relief that lets grease out as it is affected by centrifugal force and heat. Greases have greatly improved since the early statistics some on this forum are referencing. Like I said earlier, if this was a bad idea then why is SKF doing the tamper proof screws? Because its costing them money....thats why!
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Old 08-26-2015, 04:00 PM   #19
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Pete, I dont have any experience with that grease. I have used the Lucas Red and Tacky and found it to be junk and it has the same specs as the Valvoline. The only two I can attest to are the two I listed but that doesnt mean that others are bad. It just means that when I find something that works, I stick with it. I'm just guessing here but I think on your 1 ton 2wd van I would put about 25 pumps in. 8 is not near enough.
I have about 10,000 miles with the Valvoline grease. One hub has 70,000 miles on it. The other has about 20,000 miles on it.

Do you see any problem putting the recommended grease in with the Valvoline?
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Old 08-26-2015, 05:13 PM   #20
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I see that Amazon has the Kendall Super Blue 427 grease.

Where can you get the IXL 710 synthetic grease?
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