Having just went through this myself.....I'll jump in here. Quick check....jack up that side of the axle and spin the tire and listen for grinding. This might not work if you have lockers....you might have to jack up both sides. Further checks.....remove the tire and brake drum and see if the axle can be moved up and down or side to side. If it can, the wheel bearing needs to be replaced. Not that hard to do. Good luck.
I checked for movement of the axle, and there was a little on both sides, with slightly more on the passenger side. Both bearings sounded fine when spun with no load on them.
I ordered the bearings, but continued driving it until one day when it started making even more noise on the way to work. On the way back, it started popping and crunching, so I parked it.
That gave me the incentive to finish repairing my Impala, so I pulled the Impala out and put the Samurai in the garage, and then pulled the axles.
The driver's side bearing looked like it had been replaced not too long ago, but the passenger side one had split at the outer race.
The axles are at the machine shop getting the bearings replaced right now. I should have it back together this weekend. Also replacing the drums, shoes, and wheel cylinders while it is apart.
I dislike whoever came up with the idea to put two lines, close together, into the passenger side wheel cylinder. I could not get a line-wrench on the upper line because it is too close to the lower line, and an open end wrench began stripping the flats. Ended up using vice-grips, which just makes me cringe. The lower line had already been stripped of its flats so again had to use vice-grips. Grrrr.... At least this is a job that should not have to be done again for a while...
'88.5 Samurai JX, mostly stock
While you have it apart, be sure to check out the SJ410 Backing Plates at TrailTough. You'll have to make a ~3" hole in the existing backing plate, but it's worth it if you ever have to go in there again.
I finished putting the Sami back together last night and drove it to work this morning. The wheel-bearing had been making noise since I bought it, 10,000 miles ago, and also causing a lot of vibration. Until today, I had not realized just how noisy and how much vibration it had been causing...
Driving it to work today, I was struck by how much smoother and quieter the Sami was.
I also replaced the rear brake drums, shoes, and wheel cylinders. I considered doing a disk conversion, but only $100(thanks to wholesaler closeouts on Rockauto) brought the rear brakes to new condition, so I figured I'd try that first. Again, I was struck by how much better Sami stops now.
The previous owner had replaced the shoes with quality semi-metallic ones, which looked almost new, but the drums had been worn/resurfaced to the point that they did not match the shoes anymore. The wheel cylinders looked good as well, but I figured I'd replace them since they were already off and were only $6 each.
'88.5 Samurai JX, mostly stock
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