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rear axle has play on one side...1989 B250 Van

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Its a 1989 B250 panel van with 220,000 miles on it, 318 and 727 transmission (which was a swap some years ago)

Its a rough old van, with lots of road noises when you hit bumps, etc but I noticed a new one this morning...coming from the right rear....clacking sound sometimes with a pothole, and when turning left a bump-bump-bump.....

I jacked the right rear up and pulled the wheel and brake drum. The axle has some play in it, that is to say I can pull it out and push it back in a bit...maybe 3/16 of an inch. I recognize the noise it makes as I slide it in and out as one of the noises I heard while driving. There is no verticle play that I can discern......

does this sound like a bad rear wheel bearing? Trying to imagine why that would result in the in and out play I am seeing. Something in the differential? I can say this: for the last 2 years above 55 mph, it has a vibration in the rear end...not noticeable under load but if you accelerate to 65 and then ease off, it vibrates.

From what Ive seen I have to pull the axle to do a bearing.....?

Heres the crucial question!--I have to drive the thing 80 miles there and 80 miles back this weekend....or does it sound like the axle and wheel might part ways with the rest of the van if I try that without fixing the issue? (I dropped a driveshaft at 60 mph a few years back, that was a hoot!)

Thanks in advance for any replies/advice!!

Neil

Edit: I should also mention that the brakes back there look like total crap as well...read something about axles supposed to have some end play and the brakes center them up.....come to think of it my brake system light has been on the last few days also...added fluid, and it didnt go away....going to do the brakes this evening in any case.
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Super Moderator
1966 Crown Coupe, 2016 200 S AWD, 1962 Lark Daytona V8.
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16,978 Posts
B250 is the 3/4 ton van.
If this is the full-floating rear axle, the wheel bearings are adjustable. Maybe a nut is backing off? Use the service manual for side-play specs and the procedure for checking and adjusting the wheel bearings.
 

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Super Moderator
1966 Crown Coupe, 2016 200 S AWD, 1962 Lark Daytona V8.
Joined
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16,978 Posts
Losing the lock-up torque converter could do this. Other than that, the 3-speed 904 and 727 have a 1:1 top gear.
An overdrive would shine on the highway with light load and flat country, especially if you had a high-numerical rear axle ratio.
 
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