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Lippert addresses reports of leaking RV axles

Lippert addresses reports of leaking RV axles

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
    saturated.
  • 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 customerservice@lci1.com.

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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is a freelance writer and podcaster who has been writing about the RV industry since 2000. He is the former editor of RV Daily Report and can be reached at greg@rvdailyreport.com.

22 comments

  1. There’s just too many brake failures on fifth wheel trailer with Lippert hub components. Yes, the seals they use are cheap Chinese generic seals, and quality seals might cost $10 per RV more. But the thin “grease” is more like 90 weight oil, and the reason Lippert’s using it is (1) it’s cheap and (2) injecting grease into the hub is cheaper than hand packing the bearings with $10 worth of thick, sticky axle grease.

    I too have a Grand Design Reflection fifth wheel, and the braking is insufficient. Another issue is putting non-adjusting brakes on RV’s. It costs very little more to install seld adjusting brakes, and i believe Grand Design has finally started installing them. Taking a 36′, 12,000 lb. trailer in for a simple brake adjustment is such a hassle, especially since repair shops are so often backed up weeks and weeks.

  2. This is not a new problem for Lippert. My 2014 Columbus had this same problem. All braking components had to be replaced. Many of our Columbus forum members have had to do the same. Complaints were filed with the government who did nothing. Lipperts 1/10 of 1% number is a lie, they very well know this problem is a major one but refuse to fix it. If you have a trailer with Lippert braking components, get them checked for grease contamination before you have an accident.

  3. We have a 2016 Reflection 337rls. Shortly after picking up unit I noticed weak braking so took it back to the dealer to check along with several other problems. Their report on the brakes was “no trouble found.” I had religiously followed the brake break in procedure outlined by Lippert in the manual. The braking power continued to be weak and after about 1000 miles I noticed grease on the outside of the wheels. Our dealer has 2 locations and this time I went to the other one. They found the brakes contaminated with grease which had become “thin as oil.” Their opinion was that Lippert had used “bad” grease and after cleaning brakes replaced with their own thicker grease. Brakes are now working well. Talking to service techs and other owners this is a much more widespread problem than Lippert has admitted.

  4. LSI= AKA LIPPERT COMPONETS.

    THIS ANOTHER NAME FOR GAME CHANGERS.

    Large corp. taking over the aftermarket of the R.V. business. a lot of there stuff is junk . But they are stuck on this , we do not make mistakes. but every manufacturer uses there stuff because its cheap.

    we can all fix this problem, quit buying this junk

    by the way warranty is changing , as a dealer , warranty is very hard to get anymore . the R.V. business does not make mistakes anymore??????????????????????????????????????/

    dealers will hold the bag.

  5. Lippert’s “FAQ” is a feeble attempt at “CYA”, trying to point the finger at anyone but themselves. The technology used for sealing axles has been around for well over a century. Ford Motor Co. assembled thousands of axles per day on the model T assembly line with great success.

    My Reflection TT with build date of 11/2016 had all 4 brakes heavily contaminated with grease. The seal on one of the hubs was blown out of the hub. Poor assembly technique coupled with low quality components is the culprit here. This is not a new problem, reports going back years.

    I’m disappointed with the “wait and see who catches this problem” policy that has been adopted by Grand Design. Their name is on the final product, not Lippert. How many owners didn’t catch this until their 1 year warranty was up? A simple order to their dealer network to inspect brakes prior to delivery until this issue is resolved seems to be in order.

  6. I have a 2015 Crossroads Elevation Toy Hauler. It has 3 axles all made by Lippert. One of the wheel rims had grease on it, so i ask the service center to add that to the work order, since they were doing other work to the unit. Was told friday 3/17/17 that the rim that had grease on it, the brakes had been compromised by the grease on that wheel. Now they want me to make a decision on whether or not to have the other 5 wheels pulled off and checked for grease contamination. If they find a defect they will turn it in under warranty work. If not i have to pay $200.00 for labor. The toyhauler is still under warranty until June 2017. Don’t think i should have to pay for an inspection.

  7. This is in no way a “new” issue with LCI and their axle’s! And the NHTSA is a JOKE! LCI pay’s them off, nothing is done, and they go on making millions! Documented cases going back to 2012 that I know of with at least one report of GBI (Great Bodily Injury) resulting from this issue were reported. LCI is NOT going to recall crap, NHTSA is NOT going to do anything about it, so as the consumer, it is best to pass the word along, make sure you inspect your axles/brakes and upgrade to better component’s. Timkin seals, use Lucas Red High Temp grease and pack those bearing by hand, DO NOT use the EZ Lube ports on these axles and if you’ve got the $, go with a better name, DEXTER!

  8. We have full timed in a Grand Design Reflection 337 for three years. I am a paying member of the Grand Design Owner’s forum. The first time I experienced greased brakes was when I decided to repack the bearings after 8 months of use. The brakes were soaked with grease that had the consistency of pudding. Grand Design denied me any financial assistance. Fast forward to May 2015, tires on rear axle smoked on inside edges, wheels toed out 1 inch. Emails back and forth with GDRV, figured out unit shipped with 5200 lb. axles, should have been 6000 lb. Recall began. GDRV shipped complete axles with brakes to dealer in Durango, CO, covered install, comped me 4 tires. 9 months later was losing all braking, tore brakes apart, drenched in grease. Ordered parts from etrailer, replaced on my dime. In my 3 plus years on Grand Design forum, multiple threads on brake issues, probably over 2000 posts. Lippert says they are getting better equipment “soon” to pack less grease into hubs, but it is still too runny! Many who are buying new units today are having problem, Lippert is supposed to be paying shops to inspect. It is not just, Grand Design, friend with almost new Redwood, same issue.

  9. So Lippert puts this on the owner? How is it my fault that my brakes were coated in grease with less than 4,000 miles on the trailer that was less than a year old? Looks like Lippert packed the bearings with blue grease then added a thin grease which coated my brakes. NHTSA should do more than have a cup of coffee with Lippert. Get some inspectors on it or it will keep happening.

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