Okay...this weekend I was prepping my 6x6 for my Farewell trip which is less than two weeks away. I changed the oil, checked the condition of the coolant, air cleaner, the list goes on and on. Finally I go to tighten the rear drive chain (definitely the biggest weakness of the 6x6). I remove the rear chainguard and grab the chain to check the tension and as I pull, I notice the framework moves waaaay too much. A little investigation I find that the bearings on the middle axle are SHOT. All that is left are the inner and outer races....no balls/needles to be found! Luckily I think I cought it before any damage was done. Sooo, a mere $80 later for parts (2 bearings/2 seals/2 O-rings) and it should be back up to speed.
I thought I had been good at keeping the thing lubed, but this points out to me that it needs to be greased several times a summer instead of only a couple. I'm thinking that since the inner seal was loose on the axle that it had actually come out at some point and that is what caused the bearings to go. When I put the new seals in, I think I will smear a light coat of RTV on them to help hold 'em in place.
Any other ideas on how to keep the wheel bearings in good shape with the abuse they take?