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Discussion Starter #1
I read through a number of posts looking for similar experiences, as thought I'd post to see if my situation has been encountered before and share how my - eventual - resolution.

My 2004 GLX wagon (2.8L V-6, 5spd manual, FWD, 109k miles) has been making more noise recently. Based on the experience we had with my son's 2000 Passat some years ago, I believe the front wheel bearings were going bad. The noise varied with road speed, so it was not related to the output shaft bearing noise (I haven't pulled the transmission, yet, so haven't confirmed that noise) that I've been living with for the last 40k miles. The transmission noise hasn't gotten worse, it's just annoying.

Back to the wheel bearings. I ordered 2 new F.Auto.Gruppe (I can't use the acronym or it gets censored) front wheel bearing kits and set about replacing them. I got the Driver's Front (FL) wheel bearing replaced on Tuesday night and all went well. I drove the car on Wednesday with no trouble or worries. I use a Harbor-Freight on-vehicle bearing press kit for this, though I replaced the included screw and nut with stronger OTC tool parts. My thrust washers are starting to wear out, though, and I'll need to find a strong enough replacement for those.

On Wednesday evening I tackled the passenger side, and this is where the trouble began. First, the drive axle on the passenger side (FR) is much more difficult to remove. There isn't the clearance to lift the inner joint up to make room to remove the outer joint like there is on the driver's side (FL). I did get it out, and then removed the old bearing. I then installed the new bearing. When it came time to install the hub, I re-installed the drive axle, first, and then used the axle bolt to tighten everything down and pull the hub all the way into position. Re-installing the axle eventually went better, and the strange thing is that I found it easiest to reinstall it with the inner CV joint sitting on the output flange of the transmission (instead of up and out of the way of the output flange). Also, I noticed that the outer CV joint boot had cracks in the valleys of the boot - I didn't see a full-on break, but the cracks were pretty deep and I'm sure there are probably small holes where grease may exit or water may enter...the CV joint is likely on its way to failing, too, and could be contributing to the noise (though I don't hear the tell-tale CV joint failure clicking, yet).
Note: after reading through other threads on my symptoms, there are a couple of good tips on removing/installing the RF drive axle. One is to remove the lower control arm bolt to the steering knuckle and that allows enough room to pull the drive axle. Another is to jack up the steering knuckle (instead of leaving it hang) and that seems to provide more clearance as well. For the next go-round, I plan to try the tip with the jack, first; if that doesn't do the trick, then I'll free up the steering knuckle by removing that rearmost LCA bolt.

The Problem: The passenger side did not "feel" the same as I reassembled it. The axle bolt did not torque the same, and it seemed like I was "fighting" it. It probably didn't help that it was after 11pm by the time I was starting to put everything back together. Also, the wheel did not turn freely once installed - something was grinding, though there was no obvious explanation. I'm wondering if the ABS timing ring got bent and is rubbing on the inside of the steering knuckle. When I took it for a test drive, I thought that the noise was worse, even though I had just installed a new wheel bearing. Also, the ABS light was now on (it was not on, before - I do have a VAG 1552 and VAG-COM to help with diagnosing the ABS issue).
Another Note: When I was installing the new wheel bearing, I noticed something at the seam between the inner races. I took a pick and pryed it out, and it looked like a piece of metal - like "swarf" from drilling - I had to look up that term...I knew there was a name for the bits of metal that are cleared when drilling. That piece of swarf was clean and looked similar to the bearing race material - I did not think it was a good sign to find that with a bearing.

My thoughts:
  • I may have bent the ABS timing ring when re-installing the drive axle. This is dragging on the inside of the steering knuckle and contributing noise.
  • I may have further stressed the CV joint(s) on the drive axle, and they are contributing to the worse noise, now.
  • The new wheel bearing may be bad. There may have been swarf inside the bearing, as well, that is grinding and wearing.
Next steps:
I've ordered a replacement drive axle. I've also ordered a replacement wheel bearing. These should arrive next week and I'll go at replacing everything next weekend. I'll also have to check the ABS sensor for that corner, as at a minimum I am guessing it has metal flakes or rust on it now. I may also have to replace that sensor (live and learn).

I appreciate any feedback, and I'll post my findings once the repair is complete. This is my daily driver, but I have a backup vehicle so I've parked the Passat until I sort this out.
 

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could be mistaken (a little help here) but thought I read somewhere that the brake caliper brackets have two different length bolts????? cold weather is getting to my brain
 

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Discussion Starter #3
For this vehicle (GLX V6 FWD) and on the front, the caliper carrier bolts are the same length - but thanks for the feedback/idea.
 

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Either a bad bearing from the box or the bearing was damaged either with the hub install or by using the axle bolt to pull it in place.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Surprisingly, all the needed parts arrived by yesterday. Looking at the new bearing, there is no swarf visible in the seam of the inner races (good). Not surprisingly, I haven't had time to try and replace the wheel bearing and axle this weekend. I was able to replace the 1/2" breaker bar that I snapped when tightening the axle bolt last week - ACE is the Place for Craftsman tool replacement, now :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Next update: I got the Passat back into my shop this past weekend and finally got the driveaxle back out last night. The bearing does not show signs of excessive wear, but it separated when the hub was removed. The noise was because the ABS sensor got munged-up. Not sure what got in the way to damage it, but a new sensor is on order and then I'll reassemble everything (new wheel bearing, CV axle, and then install the new ABS sensor last).

I re-discovered a tip here in the forums to removing/installing the drive axle - once the axle and flange bolts are removed, put a jack under the knuckle and lift it up. This increases the distance between the bearing opening and the flange, and the CV axle basically falls out at that point. This tip would have been much better to re-discover before I started the wheel bearing replacements this time around. You don't need to remove the heat shield over the inner CV joint to remove the axle, either, by jacking up the knuckle.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The old bearing and ABS sensor are completely removed, now. The new ABS sensor should arrive today and I should have time on Sunday afternoon to put it all back together. The ABS sensor was really mucked up. So, as others have mentioned in posts, be sure to back the ABS sensor out a little when performing axle/wheel bearing R&R, and then push it back in when done. I've learned my le$$on...
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
The new parts are installed (wheel bearing, CV axle, ABS sensor) and the summer tires are installed. Everything is working as it should. I made sure to install the new ABS sensor in the steering knuckle only after the CV axle had been installed and the axle bolt was snugged up. There are no strange noises and the ABS warning lights are off again, too :)

To replace the wheel bearing, I used the on-vehicle wheel bearing kit from [email protected] Fre!ght. I had upgraded the bolt and nut with OTC tool parts, instead, as the originals wore out after the first few uses. The OTC parts are holding up well (be sure to lube the threads with 3-in-1 oil often during use). For the Passat, the kit has one plate that is just the right size to slip through the back of the knuckle to push out the bearing. And then when installing, there is another size that is just right to fit inside the knuckle but on the outside of the lip that the new bearing seats against once pulled in. Using that just-right size plate helps to keep the bolt closely centered as you pull the new bearing in. Also, as the bearing was first pulled into the knuckle, it was a little crooked. Once I had it pulled in enough, then I switched the puller around as if to remove the new bearing again, but instead I backed it out just a little until it was set straight in the knuckle again, and then switched it up once more to continue pulling the new bearing into the knuckle. It went smoothly at that point. I also lubed the inside of the knuckle with a thin film of synthetic brake caliper pin grease/lube to help the new bearing slide into place. This is one of those jobs that just takes time to do right, and if something feels like it is taking too much force, then likely something is misaligned and needs to be set straight before continuing.
 
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