Jerked by a Zerk

Reader Contribution by Allan Douglas

Today I spent three hours doing the spring maintenance on my riding mower: oil change, grease job, cleaning out the debris, checking filters, tires, etc. All went well until I got to greasing the front wheel bearings. 

I took the dust cover off of the first hub: no grease zerk. That’s odd. The manual did say not to oil or grease anything that uses a new UHMW plastic bushing. I didn’t SEE plastic bushings, but without dismantling the front wheels I wouldn’t. Still, no grease port: can’t grease it. Move on,

When I was all done I took it back to the barn. As I was backing it in, it occurred to me that perhaps the zerk is on the INSIDE of the wheel. I checked. Sure enough, there it was. Back to the workshop, juggle the gate trying not to let any dogs escape, drag my tools back out.

Looking in from above with the hood up, I wasn’t able to connect the grease gun to the zerk. It seemed the zerk was so far inside the wheel that the rim blocked access to it. I’m gonna need to take the wheel off.

Had I stopped and thought about that for a moment I’d have realized that was stupid: You can’t pump grease into a joint if you take it apart first. But I didn’t. 

I needed to lift the front of the mower off the ground, but I had no jack. Wood blocks sufficed: a 6×6 as the base, a piece of 1x to get close, three pieces of 1/4 stock to finish it off. Lift the axle with one hand, slide in a piece of wood with the other. Repeat until the wheel doesn’t touch the ground.

I’m going to be very sore tomorrow.

Remove the E clip, remove the big washer, slide the wheel out a little, look for the zerk.

No zerk.

What the …

Look inside the rim: There’s the zerk, it’s in the rim hub. Confusion abounds for about 15 seconds. Why would they put a grease port where you cannot get a grease gun on it? Maybe it needs a special right-angle fitting on the gun: promoting dealer maintenance. But the manual did not say, “take it to an authorized service center for this” – as it did for things like servicing the hydraulic transaxle.

OK, so, I could remove the wheel and get SOME grease in there by smearing it on the spindle and the inside of the hub. Did that. Reassembled the wheel. Noticed that with the wheel turned 180 degrees from what it had been initially, the zerk was quite easily accessible. DUH!

So I hooked up the grease gun and pumped it until some grease started peeking out of the outside washer under the E clip. Reinstalled the dust boot and greased the other front wheel (without blocking it up or dismantling it first).

It was bright and sunny and warm today. I’m blaming that mental lapse on brain-fry. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  • Published on Jun 10, 2014
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