SOLVED! Bad Wheel Bearings

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
I've been getting a subtle 'droning' noise for months now that has started to get worse and worse. It's pretty loud at this point. I don't think it's my tires, they're pretty low mileage and in great shape and i rotate them periodically.

So assuming it is the wheel bearing, how do you determine which one it is? The sound only happens when you're moving at 30mph or more. And it's low enough that you can't really tell the direction, it sounds like it's just coming form everywhere.

I do not want to put my truck up on four jacks, put it in 4wd, then drive and let it rip. Is that how a professional mechanic would determine which side it is? Is there another way?
 

TJBaker57

Guru
Aug 16, 2015
1,999
Colorado
Used to be for a front wheel they said to listen to the noise while turning one way or the other. Old school was that the wheel that made noise would make more noise when you turned away from that side. So a right front wheel would make more noise when you turned left and more load was on that side. I experienced just the opposite and it was the unloaded side that was the noisy/bad one.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
Hmmmmm interesting. I think it makes a tiny bit more noise when I turn right but it's very subtle. And its like 15° out so I'm not going to drive with my head out my window to try to listen for it :biggrin:
 

Mooseman

Master Blaster
Moderator
Dec 4, 2011
21,822
Ottawa, ON
I was able to hear noise while on the hoist just by turning it by hand with the tires off. You could also replace both with the thinking that if one failed, the other isn't too far behind.
 

Matt

Guru
Dec 2, 2011
3,833
They're cheap enough just to do both. Sometimes the swerve check doesn't work too well and you replace the wrong one...I know, I've done it. So I just replaced both as cheap insurance.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
Some more questions for you guys related to this.

First, is there a left or right? Looks like the answer is no, like they are reversible.

I was actually planning on having this done but I'm watching a youtube video and it looks very straight forward. Essentially a direct bolt-on repair job. Is it really that easy? I'm handy in general but when it comes to vehicle repairs, not very experienced. Is this a good job to take on myself or are there things that might get myself in trouble with here?

Is it really important to get the torque settings just right, like they do in videos? Or can you just make them "good and tight"?

Looking on RockAuto, they have a bunch of "Economy" options, even more "Standard" options, and then one "Heavy Duty" option. Is that BS or is the heavy duty hub really better? It's only about $10 more than the standard ones so if it's really more heavy duty and going to last longer, I might as well get it you think? I've owned this truck for about 5 years and already had both these hubs replaced at least once, maybe twice. They do seem to wear out fast.

One last question but it comes with a story so I'll put it in it's own reply....
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
I've been fighting metal rubbing noises most of the time I've owned this truck, and most of the noise has come from those brake shields. I finally got ride of nearly all of the rubbing when I almost fully removed the shields with an angle grinder. I brought up the idea of just replacing those shields with my then mechanic, and his suggestion was to just get rid of them as they serve no purpose.

So what do you guys think? Should I replace them? Or just remove what's left of them and toss them? I'm sure they're very cheap. If I am going without, should I use something in their place as a spacer, or is that not needed? Would I just toss them? Any thoughts?

Note that if it matters, i almost never drive on dirt roads. So that kind of dirt and dust is not an issue.
 

Matt

Guru
Dec 2, 2011
3,833
There's no left or right with them. It is an easy job, 36mm socket for the axle nut, remove the caliper and take the hub off. You'll probably need a brass drift to hit the axle to pop it from the hub.

As to what ones you should get, it's up to you. Personally, I never had a problem with the Detroit Axle ones, even running a lift kit. But I also knew that they'd only last 2 or 3 years before needing to be replaced.
 

christo829

Platinum Donor
Dec 7, 2011
424
Fairfax, Virginia
On my 04 TB I needed a 36mm socket. Popped the axle loose with a piece of 2x4. It's pretty straightforward. Make sure the brake hose doesn't get kinked, and make sure the wiring harness for the wheel sensor doesn't get pinched anywhere.

I put my brake shields back on and ended up having a rubbing noise. I suppose they could get left off, but one of the more machinist oriented members might be able to verify whether the thickness of that sheet metal will make a difference or not. I just figured out what part was rubbing and bent it out a little bit.

Oh...and if any of the mating surfaces have rust on them, you might want to clean that off before you put things back together. A tiny bit of rust can get in the way and make things not seat evenly.

Cheers-

Chris
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
So between here and youtube videos, I'm seeing 32mm, 35mm and 36mm for the socket size. Is it based on the model? Maybe the big engine models with the bigger brakes also have a bigger axle bolt?
 

Mooseman

Master Blaster
Moderator
Dec 4, 2011
21,822
Ottawa, ON
Officially, it's 35mm for the OEM nuts. Some aftermarket replacements are 36mm. Definitely not 32mm. The 36mm socket can be used on the 35mm nut so get that to cover both.

Remove the dust shields when you take the hubs off. Useless and just cause issues as they rust away.

It's very easy. Takes me 45min per side. Be sure to have a breaker bar to break loose the 18mm bolts for the brake caliper brackets and the hub bolts. I've never seen an axle stuck in the hub and just pushes out by hand or a light tap of a hammer. Since yours have been replaced before, I wouldn't expect the hubs to be stuck to the knuckles but might still take a couple of whacks of a hammer to get off. Never seen them really stuck on a GMT360 but have on a GMT800.

I saw the heavy duty Mevojunk TTX hub but I'm very soured at them right now for their standard inner tie rods that I have to replace again. Go with whatever makes you feel good. Detroit Axle might be OK. If keeping the truck, I'd go with SKF.
 

TJBaker57

Guru
Aug 16, 2015
1,999
Colorado
Another thing worth a mention here, if you have a local auto parts house with a tool rental program you might not need to purchase the axle nut socket. I have gotten the socket just for the job from an Autozone. You purchase the socket and get full refund upon returning after the job.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
What about torquing the big nut back on. Is important to get a very accurate torque setting on that? I do not have a torque wrench. I'm thinking I buy the 36mm socket but 'rent' a real torque wrench from auto zone, if needed.
 

Mooseman

Master Blaster
Moderator
Dec 4, 2011
21,822
Ottawa, ON
Yes. It's torqued to 103 lbs.ft.
 

mudpaws672

Registered Member
Mar 17, 2021
25
Long Island, NY
To EVERYBODY doing this job!!! Including and especially the OP if you haven’t purchased hubs yet: DO NOT use seller ACA AUTO on eBay. I bought “Machter” hubs from them (they were unbranded in ad), they lasted 9 months before beginning to rumble and groan again (I only drive 4500 miles a YEAR!). And YES, those ARE your hubs you’re hearing. It increases in intensity as you accelerate, at 30 MPH plus. After a while of driving on these, they begin to sound like an old WWII airplane. You’ll also feel it through the steering wheel. I second the SKF, and Timken is another quality piece. Good luck!

P.S. On the cheaper end, I’ve had good experience with Detroit Axle stuff.
 

Mooseman

Master Blaster
Moderator
Dec 4, 2011
21,822
Ottawa, ON
Even brand names aren't any better. I've had a Raybestos hub explode its ball bearings out within a month. No noise or anything.
 

TollKeeper

Platinum Donor
Dec 3, 2011
6,400
Brighton, CO
Remove the dust shields when you take the hubs off. Useless and just cause issues as they rust away.
What's this rust thing you speak of? (Just poking at you lol)

Mine are still minty!

My cheap Detroit axle hubs still going strong! Not bad for 50 bucks both sides.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
So I wasn't going to use ebay, I was going to get something from RockAuto. But they have literally 20 different hubs available and the only difference between them is price. From $35 up to $155. Not sure how you're supposed to decide in a case like this?

Other than the fact that the ACDELCO ($126) is the OEM right? Besides that.... I dunno, it's just a matter of how much money do you want to pay I guess? For maybe more quality or maybe not?

 

azswiss

Active Member
May 23, 2021
269
Tempe, AZ
ACDELCO has multiple quality/price tiers (OE, Professional, Gold, etc). On this item the OE part (FW121) is the $155 price, the $126 price (513188A) is their Gold line. Given the opportunity I always go with OE part. There is a distinct price tradeoff but in my experience the result is worth it if you are going to keep the vehicle.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
The more I look at this, the more I think I should just go for the heavy duty hubs. They're $20 cheaper than the OEM. Seems like a good choice. The roads around here are complete garbage so if they're even a little more durable, that should be a good thing.
 

mudpaws672

Registered Member
Mar 17, 2021
25
Long Island, NY
It’s weird to me with these. When I bought my truck (5/1/2020 @ 119,441 miles) both hubs were making noise. By July ‘20 after a nice road trip and dailying, they sounded like WWII aircraft lol.
What was crazy is when I went to change them (@ about 122k), one already said “China” on it, so it was done before. The other (driver side) was original GM. I don’t know, but I’ve been driving for over 33 years and I’ve never seen such inferior quality replacement parts out there.
I can understand a factory part, especially a hub, wearing out in 115-125k miles.
The China crap I bought on eBay from that ACA_Auto user was terrible. In my prior post, I mentioned they lasted 9 months til they started humming & grinding again. Watch who you buy from, check warranties, reviews, etc before purchase. Good luck!
 
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TequilaWarrior

Active Member
Dec 5, 2011
438
Central Pennsylvania
So I wasn't going to use ebay, I was going to get something from RockAuto. But they have literally 20 different hubs available and the only difference between them is price. From $35 up to $155. Not sure how you're supposed to decide in a case like this?

Other than the fact that the ACDELCO ($126) is the OEM right? Besides that.... I dunno, it's just a matter of how much money do you want to pay I guess? For maybe more quality or maybe not?

Realize that "AC Delco" branded parts for sale, may or may not be manufactured by a GM Supplier. The problem is that "AC Delco" is no different than any other brand on the planet - they purchase parts from suppliers and resell them. Some of the AC Delco parts out there are absolute garbage and are available via other brands. I've received "Delphi" manufactured parts in a few different brand boxes (Delphi not necessarily being garbage, just an example). When they "grade" parts like "Gold", "Professional" etc... it's just marketing in most cases and a change in warranty in some cases - often, same part with a different level of warranty. Rubbish, if you ask me. The problem with these hubs is less that the parts are MADE poorly.... it's a design/engineering problem more than anything else. You're driving around a 6,000 lb vehicle on hubs that today wouldn't be put on a 4,000 lb vehicle. My approach - not better, just my approach - is to buy a reasonably priced pair of hubs after checking reviews for any consistent concerning negatives. I don't usually fork out a ton of money, because I know I'll end up replacing them again... and again.... and again.... (290k ish miles on my Bravada, btw). I still have my dust shields and clean them every time I do brakes or hubs. Painting them when I have rust converting paint. They're in "ok" shape, but I'll probably lose them next time I'm in there. I also usually keep the old ABS sensor and clips when I replace a hub if they're in very good shape... just in case. I've broken 1 ABS sensor in all my years and I'll never again be in the position of not having one on hand to replace it.
 
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Ock

Newbie
Oct 14, 2020
3
MI
If you're gonna keep the car... Go with precision wheel bearings from a local parts store. Anything from rock Auto or eBay and you're gonna have to pay shipping costs to replace them. Which isn't pretty.

Furthermore, if the new part from the local parts store was to fail, you'd be able to do a "warranty return" then turn around and buy another one with a new warranty.

Detroit axle warranty is a one time replacement only. And tbh they're complete a-holes.

I had Detroit axle in the past, they failed 4 times. 2 per side.
 
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Ock

Newbie
Oct 14, 2020
3
MI
I don't like paying shipping on a warranty claim, and I don't like "one time replacement" warranties. My original AcDelco bearing went almost 200k on Michigan roads. So there's no reason detroit axles "oem quality" should fail in short order.
 

JerryIrons

Active Member
Dec 20, 2011
412
I've put a lot of wheel bearings on in almost 300,000 miles, and it doesn't seem to matter what brand, it's always a roll of the dice. SKF seemed to last longer, but not always. Seems like skf changed manufacturing locations if I remember correctly, which these days is questionable :smile:

As far as those $#@^ dust shields go, all they do is rust, get weak, and warp into the rotor causing the most god awful embarrassing grinding sound when you turn your wheel. I hate them! So the theory is that if you remove them, you lose a very small width of metal, that may impact the life of a wheel bearing due to clearance. Eventually I replaced mine, didn't really see a wheel bearing improvement, but who knows. The replacement shields eventually rusted up and started grinding again, and again I ripped them off in disgust. Being in the rust belt I think the speed sensor mount rust issue is the main factor on the longevity of a wheel bearing anyway.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
Could I use a few stainless steel washers as spacers? Or would that not be ideal since there would be space between the washers?
Alternately, I've already cut most of the shields off. I could just cut the rest off, but leave the contact area as a spacer and put those back. That's probably what I'll do in fact.
 

Mooseman

Master Blaster
Moderator
Dec 4, 2011
21,822
Ottawa, ON
The dust shields are being discussed ad-nauseam in another thread. and they are inconsequential to anything. We're talking about a fraction of a mm here. Guys have put on wheel spacers and haven't noticed excessive wear of the bearings or ball joints (or they probably don't care to notice). Adding shims may actually weaken the bolts' hold as you now don't have direct contact of the hub to the knuckle face.

Remove the shields and forget about it. They are so useless that even the Ontario Ministry of Transportation don't consider them essential to pass a safety.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
Parts are on the way but won't be here for a week. Big snow storm coming friday. Thus leading to a question:

I don't use auto 4wd normally. I'm in 2 hi almost always. But if the roads are really bad, I may go into 4 hi. Is 4 wheel drive going to have any affect on bad bearings? Make them worse? make them less worse (somehow)? Will it not matter much? It's a shame this truck didn't come with a G80.
 

flyboy2610

Registered Member
Aug 24, 2021
95
Lincoln, Ne.
I don't use auto 4wd normally.
Good on ya! A4WD is a good way to deplete your bank account. Transfer cases aren't cheap.
Since you probably won't be driving at high speeds in 4WD, and you'll probably only use it for short distances, I think you'll be fine until your new hubs come in. It takes me about 45 minutes from the time I jack the truck up until it comes down again. If I dawdle and take my time. It's really not a bad job.
 
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l008com

l008com

Hobbyist
Original poster
Feb 19, 2016
674
Massachusetts
I worked at a dealership around the time the Auto 4WD function came out. My boss got a nearly brand new Yukon XL Denali that he started driving as a demo. He put it in auto-4 and left it there. That was the guidance GM was giving out at the time. Well it wasn't too long until it needed a transfer case. It was probably several months of dry pavement driving, maybe close to a year. At the time I had a blazer that didn't have the function, only normal 2hi 4 hi 4lo. With this TB, I've never used the auto4 except during some very specific snow conditions. It made us wonder about the escalades that were all full time AWD. But they were way too hot an item to keep as a demo, they all had to sell.
 
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JerryIrons

Active Member
Dec 20, 2011
412
Parts are on the way but won't be here for a week. Big snow storm coming friday. Thus leading to a question:

I don't use auto 4wd normally. I'm in 2 hi almost always. But if the roads are really bad, I may go into 4 hi. Is 4 wheel drive going to have any affect on bad bearings? Make them worse? make them less worse (somehow)? Will it not matter much? It's a shame this truck didn't come with a G80.
I wouldn't think so, those bearings are being used whether it's in 4wd or not, the wheel is rotating either way.
 

TollKeeper

Platinum Donor
Dec 3, 2011
6,400
Brighton, CO
I pretty much use A4WD exclusively. If I see the road is getting particularly nasty, I switch to 4x4. No problems in the lifespan of the truck, now sitting at 205k miles.
 

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