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1996 Chevy silverado 4x4 w/manual trans w/160 K miles. Towed 5000 lb boat/trailer 2 hours. Smelled burnt oil. Trailer has surge brakes. Checked rear end oil. rear end got real hot, oil burnt. Oil level OK, no metal chunks or particles. Changed oil 30 K miles ago. Ran truck home without boat/trailer with a slight whine from rear end. Question - did I burn up the bearings? Any experience with surge brakes - possible cause? I hate to rebuild it and have it happen again. Any help would be appreciated. Stock Chevy parts, don't know what gear ratio rear end is. Thx.
 

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Those rear ends were a little weak to begin with. Later models came with synthetic fluid which cut down on the number of failures dramatically.

Is the noise a low pitch rumble from about 35-50mph? Then most likely the side bearing has failed.

Is it a high pitch whine at lower or higher speed? Then it is probably the pinion bearings but they usually only fail when the fluid level goes low.

I have seen the bolts break that hold the carrier caps on. The rear end will make a whining noise. That is a about a $20 fix for the bolt, syn fluid and gasket.

Also the axle bearings can fail damaging the axle. Check for seal leakage at the brakes.
 
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