A little over a month ago, I replaced my front wheel bearings/hubs. Considering the cost of OEM bearings and the fact that it was a Friday night, I started shopping around (flame suit on). I thought it would be a great time to review the wheel bearings that are available for our cars. This is not a DIY, but more of a review of the bearings themselves.
OEM - $220 (Edit: $150 - $170 from sponsors)
Of course there is no denying OEM quality. It is certain to fit, certain to work, and certain to provide the same experience that your car did when new. These bearings were quiet and provided very little rolling resistance, although their free-spinning characteristics may have been because of the miles on them, and the absence of grease. I don't have a new OEM bearing to review, but what can you really say? They are OEM and quality. Below is one of my used OEM wheel bearings. Please note the marked groove in the seal, this will be important later.
Timken - $107
I try to support local (Timken is local), but I will be as objective as possible. The Timken bearings appeared high-quality, and are packaged nicely. The bearing and ABS magnet assembly appeared identical to OE, and it came with a nice plastic alignment tool already in the bearing. Installation of the bearing was a breeze. The Timken bearings seem to have slightly more rolling resistance than my used OE bearings. Below is a picture of the Timken bearing, again please note the groove in the seal.
Duralast - $78
They say you get what you pay for, and in this case it rings true. The bearings themselves seemed to be high quality, however the ABS magnet assembly appears to be cut instead of cast, and is quite different than OE. This unit came without an alignment tool. It was difficult to slide the bearing onto the spindle, and the inner race popped out of the bearing in the process. After replacing the inner race and sliding the bearing on, it became obvious that the assembly was rubbing the dust shield. Remember the groove that was in the OE and Timken? It is not present on the Duralast. These bearings are a no-go. Below are pictures of the duralast bearing, and the dust shield that it rubs against.
OEM is always the best part to put on your car. If you are in a hurry and cannot get OEM at the moment, or if you are thrifty (both were applicable in my case), the Timken bearings can be a viable alternative that will accomplish the same task. I have put about 5000 miles on these Timken bearings so far with no issues. This is in just over a month - I drive a lot. If any issues do arise, I will be sure to update this thread. Hope this helps someone.
The other thread linked in this one (WDE46's - http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=1010936&highlight=) has the answer... Koyo is a great bearing. Put it in with confidence. In fact, I put these on my car a number of years ago and they have given me no troubles.