ELKHART — Lippert Components today addressed reports of leaking axles resulting in grease contamination of brake pads and rotors by noting the problems are likely impacting only one-tenth of 1 percent of travel trailer and fifth wheel owners using the firm’s products.
The company makes chassis for a variety of RV manufacturers and Lippert’s staff estimates its chassis form the foundation of more than half of all towable recreation vehicles.
The issue surfaced a few weeks ago on a Grand Design owners forum where an unofficial poll revealed that 74 percent of the 164 owners responding to the survey were reporting their axle seals had failed and they had grease on their brakes. Another 12 percent indicated they didn’t have that problem, and 14 percent weren’t sure.
However, simply asking the question generated more than 500 comments. The forum question can be found at granddesignowners.com.
Grand Design officials told RV Daily Report the company acquires chassis from Lippert Components and that their chassis are not specially designed exclusively for Grand Design.
Andy Murray, the vice president of RV sales for Lippert Components, told RV Daily Report that his company is, indeed, aware of the problem and aware of the conversation among Grand Design owners.
However, he noted Lippert technicians have not witnessed the seals cracking, and that the company does not believe it to be a contributing factor to the problem. The company has produced a frequently asked questions sheet concerning axle grease and brake contamination. In it, Lippert notes that the appearance of grease on wheels may not necessarily be the result of broken axle seal, but rather residual grease remaining from the manufacturing process that should have been wiped clean.
“Brake contamination occurs only if the braking components are saturated with excess grease,” the FAQ sheet explains.
Lippert explains there may be several causes for grease to appear on wheels, including:
- A leaking grease seal that can cause excess grease to coat braking components.
- Improper disassembly of a hub can extract grease from the seal causing the braking components to be
- Failure to properly clean and reassemble a hub can cause excess grease to appear.
- Failure to strictly adhere to service procedures when servicing axles can cause excess grease.
- Use of a powered grease gun to fill the hub cavity can cause grease to get past the seal or push the seal out
of the hub bore.
It is normal to have a small residual amount of grease on the exterior of a new hub. Most of the time, simply wiping off the residual grease is an appropriate solution, the company explained.
However, it is not normal for a hub to continue to weep grease after its initial installation. Excess grease can coat the brake pads, magnets and braking surfaces inside of the hub, causing brake contamination. If this occurs, there will be noticeable diminished braking capability.
RVers who suspect their braking capability has been reduced — especially if they continue to see grease on their wheels after wiping it clean — should have the hub checked by a qualified service provider.
Servicing wheels and axles should be performed ONLY by trained technicians, Lippert warned, because disassembling the hub will likely break the grease seal and will result in contamination of the brakes. Should the hubs have to be pulled for any reason, then Lippert highly recommends replacing the grease seals and wiping the brakes with a commercial brake cleaner to remove any grease residue.
Possibility of recall?
Some Grand Design owners have reported the issue to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fearing that grease leaking onto the brakes creates a dangerous safety issue. The owners who contacted RV Daily Report, have not heard anything back from NHTSA.
However, Murray said Lippert Components has reviewed the issue with NHTSA personnel in detail, and the outcome of that discussion was a focus on owner education related to the problem, and continued process improvement int he manufacturing and shipping of chassis. The company developed the axle grease/brake contamination FAQ to assist with consumer education.
“We have made significant and ongoing improvements to our processes,” he explained. “Based on our warranty claim data, the overall frequency of this issue was less than 1/10th of 1 percent across all our products for the past 12 months of activity. That is significantly lower than results reported in the poll on the owners’ forum.”
In the meantime, Lippert Components is covering the cost of inspections for anyone concerned that this issue impact their RVs, and the firm is covering the cost of any necessary repairs that are identified as a result of the inspections.
“It is EXTREMELY important that disassembly of the hub for detailed inspection be handled only by qualified technicians, as improper handling can easily create this issue by unknowingly disrupting the seals or spreading grease unintentionally,” Murray warned.
Maintenance is important
Lippert stressed that axles should be inspected and serviced every 12 months or 12,000 miles, and that brakes need to be inspected and adjusted every 3,000 miles.
The company provides more information on service schedules and inspection guides within its owners manuals.
However, customers who have concerns about the possibility of grease leaking onto brakes are encouraged to contact Lippert at 574.537.8900 or by email at email@example.com.