96 Taurus univeral shaft question

Hi. I'm getting scraping/grinding sounds from the driver's side front wheel area of my 96 Sable station wagon (OK so it's really a Mercury.... hope you don't mind). It's a background noise but
noticeable at speed. Sounds sorta like disk pads that have worn to the rivets. The sound pitch changes as the road speed changes. I pulled the tire, and can see that brakes pads are brand new. Disks are perfectly smooth. I'm thinking wheel bearing or universal shaft. I pulled the wheel and raised the drivers side front of the car and listened...the sound seems to be coming more toward the tranny end than the wheel end, but it's hard to tell.
I've changed universal shafts before on GMs and Hondas but never on a Ford product. Is this a major project? Are the parts expense typical? What might a fair price be for a shop to do this?
I'm hoping that it's not the tranny. When I jack up only the passenger side of the car and put it in drive, I don't hear any of these noises. Would this eliminate the possibility of tranny problems and pinpoint the problem to the drivers side shaft or bearing?
If it's the tranny I'll dump the car. But if its a lesser fix, I'd like to keep it.
What'ya think?
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Mercury's are shit. You should have gotten a Ford.
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Mercury is just factory-seconds that were not good enough for the Ford badge. Their quality is much lower.
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They come from the same plant !!!
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Guys, recognize a joke when you see one...
CJ

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Go to www.ford.com and look in the middle right section of the screen, see the Mercury logo under "Know what you're looking for? Pick one of our brands and go get it." ?
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Sounds like it might be the wheel bearing.
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Before you do anything, pull the rear wheels and make sure the rear brakes are OK. The sounds you believe is coming from the front could be coming from the rear.

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