One of the things that seems to get ignored the most on many vehicles and equipment is greasing the bearings and axles. For most of us this is one of those maintenance tasks that's right up there with cleaning the bathroom. But, if ignored, can lead to very expensive repairs. Grease is a funny substance that can't seem to make up it's mind. Over time, if a bearing or shaft is used regularly the grease begins to break down and gets runny, eventually losing it's ability to do it's job. If it's a left to sit and not moved regularly it gets hard and again stops doing it's job. So that means if you want to keep your equipment healthy and happy the old grease needs to be cleaned out and replaced.
You may or may not realize it but your wheel bearings, steering components and linkage parts are all greased to provide lubrication. Without grease the bearings will wear out prematurely or worse...rust. If you wait too long between servicing you may find that you can't get things apart without a large hammer and propane torch or maybe the jaws of life. So the real question is how do you make sure this doesn't happen? Believe it or not, it's easier than you think.
Many pieces of equipment and vehicles have a thing called a "zerk" fitting. These little fittings are designed so that the tip of grease gun "snaps" into place, a couple of pumps of grease and your finished. The old grease is pushed aside and the new grease is in place. Some things to remember about zerk fittings; first you need to make sure there is no old grease and dirt covering the fitting before you attach the grease gun. Second, the tip of the grease gun needs to be held firmly in place. When you pump the handle, if the grease comes out around the tip, it's not going into the fitting. Third, if you can't get the grease to go into the fitting it may be time to pull things apart and clean out the old grease. If the grease gets too hard a grease gun won't work.
What if it's a bearing that doesn't have a zerk fitting? Unfortunately many bearings do not have zerk fittings, these include things like wheel bearings, linkage bearings and more. Linkage bearings and lower shock bearings on dirt bikes are particularly prone to failing. If you think about it, every time you ride, those bearings are working. Every mud puddle, stream or washing is exposing those wear surfaces to water. These bearings should be inspected, cleaned and greased annually. Once these bearings lose grease they rust and deteriorate very quickly and can lead to serious damage.
Even though servicing bearings is no fun, it's not a difficult task generally, unless of course you have waited to long. When servicing your bearings you should use a low flash solvent to clean the old grease and dirt out. Once you have the bearing clean you can inspect it for damage. Assuming there are no issues, use a good quality grease; preferably something water proof. Once you put things back together make sure the excess grease is removed. Leaving blobs of grease outside the bearing or axle is pretty much a dirt magnet.
Some final thoughts, if you are greasing axles, make sure to clean all the old grease off, if there is any rust completely remove it with a wire brush or a very fine abrasive. WD-40 and Scotch-brite works well, do not use a grinder, file or heavy sand paper. On these particular parts, a little grease goes a long way so don't get crazy with it. Also keep in mind that grease is a petroleum distillate, which means it's no bueno for you. Wear gloves, eye protection and appropriate safety equipment for the task.
If all of this sounds like a little too much fun, don't worry, we will take care of it, just give us a call.