Bad wheel bearings

My 1999 Olds Sihouette has 137,000 miles on it. I took it in to have the brakes done, and they ended up replacing the two front wheel bearings. I took the car to NTB. 4 months and 9,000 miles ago they did a front end alignment and reported no bearing problem at that time. The bearings were not making any noise, the car tracked perfectly, and steering wheel play was normal. I have a feeling I was ripped off, and will be talking to the place tomorrow, hopefully. Anything in particular I should ask or say? I find it quite curious that they found the bearings fine just a few months ago (they admit they would have checked it during the alignment).

When it comes to ball bearings anything is possible.
The initial failure is minute and undetectable but within hours or day can result in catastrophic failure of the entire bearing assembly.
You certainly don’t want to chance a front end break down on the highway.
You should have asked for them to return the old bearings when they replaced the ones at 137k miles. Asking for the failed parts tends to keep them honest.

It does sound suspicious doesn’t it? I’d be curious to know how they diagnosed that the bearings needed to be replaced.

I had a front wheel bearing go out and took it in to get it fixed. I thought, “What the heck, the other front wheel bearings’ time is probably up and I’ll get it replaced too - and save them the time trying to persuade me.” To my surprise they said the other bearing might last for the life of the car and there was no reason to replace a good bearing.

Once you pull the wheels off to get at the brakes, you really don’t have to go much further to get at the bearings. In fact, as a service, some stations might just regrease them as long as they’re so close and that may be how they caught it. But they probably should have told you they were going to do it before they did it.

Doubtful they are ball-bearings, more likely they are roller type bearings with an inner race.
In the .mil we inspected and re-packed wheel bearings on acft every 6 months. Admittedly acft are much more safety oriented but you get the idea. It’s been 7 years and 137,000 miles, bearings are probably among the most neglected items on modern cars, batteries and brakes excepted I suppose.

I would vote to replace them in axle pairs, just to keep everything on the same sheet of music, despite any advice to the contrary. Don’t forget rear wheel bearings, either. Depending on axle design, a catastrophic failure would result in the entire wheel falling off, maybe at a most inopportune moment, down a long mountain pass? Usually the noise prior would clue the driver that Something Is Seriously Wrong, but maybe not?