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Bad Wheel Bearings?

I have a 1999 Chevy 4x4 Pickup with 216,000 miles. I was told the Front Wheel bearings were bad. I asked how much to replace them and i was told “Oh, over $1000.” I obviously went elsewhere and got a second opinion. The second opinion was the Wheel Bearings are fine. The cost would have been $302 to replace them. The problem is how do i tell if the Bearings are bad WITHOUT physically removing everything to actually see them ? I have no vibration in the Steering or front end when i drive. No sounds that would tell me the Bearings are bad. I don’t drive on bad roads, But 216,000 miles seem like a lot for the original Bearings to still be good. Any input on this question would be greatly appreciated. It seems i can’t trust any Mechanics or their Managers around my area. On that note, i am happy to spread the word that it was a MIDAS shop that told me it would be “over $1000” to replace those front Bearings !!! They also ripped me off by selling me unneeded parts and labor to put them on at the same day as their $1000+ quote was given.
Thanks, CornFedUp.

Not familiar with this vehicle. Just with how a lot of stuff is put together. On most of these; you cannot actually SEE the wheel bearing; because it is held on (essentially) only with friction or an interference fit.

Recently, I was driving and came across someone with their front wheel out at an angle. A steering tie rod bearing had given out. This was right at a corner and they were going to make a turn. If they had been going just a bit faster - their wheel would have left; and the drivers side front end would have been sliding down the roadway…

I recently replaced the bearings on my Camry - only because of mileage. No noise, etc. Just don’t need major body work damage and other troubles.

The bearings are pressed on over the drive shaft. They do have a nut with a cotter pin coming out of the end; but these won’t keep stuff on - if the bearing goes south and your moving. The bearings these days are ‘lifetime’. They help determine the ‘life’ of the vehicle. A special tool is needed to press them off and replace. You can easily order the bearings and the new required drive wheel plate (I forget what its called; the wheel bolts up to it) as a complete set - from RockAuto. The price will be very reasonable. Now that you have these two units you can make arrangements to have them installed at your convenience. You probably still do have some miles left; but now with your miles - yep, it would be a good time to change them. But it does require a special tool. Includes a bunch of various metal plates to fit various cars… So, it can be pricey. I purchased the tool from Granger at a closeout, steal of a deal. Normally $700; but Granger only wanted $260.

Hope this helps. I would agree that it is time to think about the bearings. Rear ones too.

If your truck doesn’t vibrate at any speed, it doesn’t feel like it jumps when rounding a curve, and your tires wear evenly, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Sometimes you can hear the bearings “growl” when the wheel is off the ground and the tire is turned. Sometimes you can hear them “growl” while going down the road. I have seen a mechanic take hold of the tire when the truck is up on a lift and grab the tire with both hands in opposite sides of the whell and push the tire in and out to see if there is any play in the bearing. My two wheel drive 2001 Silverado is on its third set of front bearings. You can buy American made Timken bearings on the Internet (last time I paid a little over $100 per bearing) if you can find a mechanic willing to install them without selling you the parts (and marking them up to make more money).

There is a good chance that they need replacing if they are original equipment.

Try testing them as outlined above. The “growl” is the sound made by the metal roller bearings that are now loose from wear, kind of like a muffled metal-on-metal grinding sound. Once you have heard it you will know what it is. There should be little sound coming from a good bearing.

If your wheel bearings are not growling and you can jack the wheel up and grab it top and bottom and try to rock the wheel in and out at the top and bottom without seeing or feeling any play, your bearings are fine. As for DS777s post, there are no bearings in a tie rod and although a broken tie rod end will cause lack of steering and let the wheel turn in or out it will not make the wheel come off.

The ball joint at the end of the steering tie rod suffered a catastrophic failure. If they had been going any faster than the very slow speed they were traveling at - most certainly the wheel would have come off. As it was, it was most definitely no longer vertical with the car. And yes, ball joints do have a minimal bearing surface. They are not drive axle bearings, but it was an example of lack of maintenance consequences.

My point was that maintenance is a wise action. The original OP wanted to know about changing out wheel bearings with 216K on them. Since they are pressed into the steering knuckle; they need a shop to do it; you can’t see them; and it requires a special tool. It also is not a bad idea at all to do it. We don’t wait for the timing belt to fail; I don’t see why we should be waiting around for our bearings to start growling and making noise. Drive wheel bearings are held on with an interference fit (press); and failure can result in severe damage. I have seen a vehicle with no wheel; body on the ground - do to sudden bearing failure. I wanted to help them; but not a lot you can do anymore - at that point.

A bit more info: (fwd) bearings are pressed onto the Hub; and the Hub is pressed into the steering knuckle. And you cannot see them or look at them; without getting them out - which requires a special tool, and basically destroys them.

On my own car - I replaced the bearings which had no noise, and were not growling; and the wheel had no excess play - at around 275K. Once I got access to the bearings - the grease was very dry and no longer doing much… It would be a good idea for the OP to replace the bearings. Getting a set of them from RockAuto would not be pricey. (Hub, Bearing, Seals, Dust covers, etc.) I tend to forget the correct part names sometimes. Sorry about that.