Front Wheel Bearing: Failure Mode?

My '98 'burb - 150k+, never had a wheel bearing replaced - has started making a rotational-related noise.
Gonna take it to the shop tomorrow, but my money is on their
telling me that they can't hear anything.
If that's the case, it seems like I've got two choices: ------------------------------------------------------- 1) Wait and see
2) Just replace both front wheel bearings preemptively -------------------------------------------------------
So... what's the failure mode of a front wheel bearing?
Gradually noisier and noisier until just about anybody can hear it and then failure at some later time?
Or can there be a catastrophic failure even when it's not making any noise?
Seems like one thing in favor of Plan B is the number of miles on the vehicle. Those things can't last forever.... and maybe it's about that time anyhow...
--
PeteCresswell

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They usually get so loud there is no mistaking which one. Catastrophic failures are very rare.

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I had a RF bearing go bad, so I jacked it up and to my suprise the wheel had a lot of play in it. Nut seemed loose, so tightned it up and everything was ok for 2 days when the noise happened again, nut was loose again?? Yes the Cotter pin was in place but when it was taken apart, it was pretty torn up inside and was just eating itself , screwed the spindel as well. New spindel, new bearings.. right and left...everything AOK for the last 3 years.

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wrote:

Teese bearings are actually pretty relaible on a stock vehcile. (no lift or big tires) I have never known one to lock up and sieze. Usually when they are replaced it is because of ABS issues because there is a speed sensor in hub. (I have a friend that manages a auto part chain store and he told me that most are sold because of ABS issues. When they go bad they start to get noisy. Sometimes they can get a little noise in them and run that way for a very long time. When they start getting end play in them it is time to replace them. Having just replaced one on a 2000 K3500 I will offer you a few tips. (BTW, my bearing did not fail even after 8 winters of plowing snow but on that model truck you have to pull bearing to replace rotor so I replaced it while it was apart and I got a real sweet deal on a pair of bearings so I have one on had for other side if I ever need it) You do want to replace the bolts that hold bearing to knuckle because they are specail high strength bolts and the heads of them rust with age and it make to hard to remove. (I had this problem big time with mine, I actually had to force/drive a smaller impact socket on them to get a good bite on 3 of the 4 bolts as the stock sized 15 MM 6 point was wanting to slip and even then they were nasty to get out) These bolt require a LOT of torque to remove sometimes and you do not want to reuse old bolt heads or even bolts really beacuse they are all that holds wheel on vehicle. Also there is a seal inside knuckle on a 4x4 that rides on axle CV housing to seal rear of hub assembly. Change these when it is apart for any reason regardless of how well seal looks. It keeps moisture and dirt out of bearing area as bearing perminantly lubed and sealed other wise via this seal. (there is no seals in bearing itself). One more thing, if you do this work yourself, youwant to remove axle shaft first which is easy to do on that model if you disconnect shcck and remove stabilizer bar link it will come out pretty easy once unbolted. A tip here is that stabilizer link can be a pill to remove on that body style so you want to cut it if it is and go buy a new link kit to replace it when done. (they are about 10 or 12 bucks at a parts store) ----------------- TheSnoMan.com
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