Front Defrential Problem 97 K1500

The passenger side bearing on the front deferential of my 97 K1500 seems to be going out. When I rotate the passenger side front tire (after freeing up
the disk brake) I can hear a grumble and when I fell around, it seems to be coming from the end of the extension tube on passenger side of the differential. I also have a small leak on the seal on the driver side. I have not had one of these apart before, so I am looking for some advice from anyone who has.
Questions: If I have to work on both sides of the differential, is it better just to drop the whole thing out or better to work on it in place? I can not tell from the exploded view in my shop manual if the bearing at the end of the extension tube is a sealed bearing or if it is lubricated from the differential. Can anyone tell me? If it is not a sealed bearing, I assume it is like the bearings in the rear differential and the inner race is the output shaft itself. If this is the case, what is the chance that this shaft is not damaged? I checked .... it costs about $400.00. If the bearing is really tore up, should I plan to split the case to clean out any metal particles?
Any other advice on how to go about this job would be appreciated.
Wayne Roller
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Roller wrote:

You cannot work on the "whole thing" while it's in place. You can do minor things like remove the right side extension tube, and replace both the right and left axle seals while it's in the vehicle, but if you have to get at the gear set and bearings, you need to remove the whole thing. Which is quite simple.

It is lubricated from the differential, it is not a sealed bearing.

It's highly unlikely that the right side shaft would be damaged there. I can't remember the last time that I've seen any damage to the shaft at that needle bearing location.

Probably best to remove the right side axle extension tube and have a look at the components in there. If you see nothing, then pull the diff out, and pull it apart. You may find side bearings that are worn out. Fairly common problem.
Ian
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