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).
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.
- 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.
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.