Do I need a new wheel bearing?
Last year I replaced the bearings on both front wheels on a 2010 Rio LX. It was harder than I expected, not only because it was the first time I'd attempted something like this, but also because parts had seized due to rust and it was hard getting things off. But eventually I managed to get it all off and swapped the old bearings and hubs for new Timkens.
The car rode great afterwards, without the telltale whining sound at speed that worn bearings make. But just the other day I had the driver's side up to check on something else, and I noticed some play in the wheels, rocking back and forth when I held each side. This is a classic sign of a worn bearing. I checked the passenger's side wheel when it was up on jacks, but it had no such rocking.
I think I know what happened. When I replaced the bearings, I started with the passenger's side, and it went relatively smoothly, even with the rusted parts that were hard to get off. But the driver's side was much harder, especially the CV axle, which just wouldn't come off. I eventually had to take the whole thing off and get a shop to press it off, and due to the pounding I gave the axle end, I had to replace that too.
Because it took so long and was so hard to do the driver's side, by the time I had to press in the new bearing, I was pretty beat. Plus, it was cold out, and it was about to snow, so I was rushing to get it done. And in my haste, I think I used the wrong round bushing plate from the bearing installation tool I bought to do this job, and instead of pressing on the inner race of the bearing to press it onto the hub, I pressed on the outer race.
I realized this after I'd started to crank down on the tool with an impact wrench, backed off, put on the right plate, and pressed the bearing back on. But I had a bad feeling about it, and suspected that it would bite me down the line. I think that that's what happened, this mistake partially separated the inner from the outer race enough that it compromised its integrity, so that the bearing still worked, but wouldn't stand up to the dynamic loads of turns, acceleration, deceleration, and the ups and downs of bumps and potholes, and eventually separate.
Does this sound about right, and that the only solution is a new bearing--this time pressed in properly?