This may sound like a dumb question...but I'm going to ask anyway.
How do you know if your rear wheel bearings are bad?
Mine make no noise...and when the car is jacked up, the wheels seem to turn free and smooth...so I've assumed that they are okay.
My concern is that I've not replaced them in 15 years. In that time, I've used the car a fair amount...12K miles or so on land...a fair amount of water time, although not so much on land or water use the last few years. I've taken decent care (grease) of the bearings, but didn't grease them as much as I think I should have. At least once a year, though. I have had the drive shaft and occ/arm assembly out a few times in those 15 years, and again, nothing stood out as a problem with the bearings just by feel and turning the shaft.
Basically, I think I'm asking what should I be looking for...and how long should the bearings last?
If you grease the bearings properly, not too less and not too much, and if you drive more than 40 miles after swimming, the bearings will last nearly for ever.
If you turn the wheel by hand, and you do not hear a noise or feel a noncircular resistance (is it the right word?), everything is ok.
Marc - You have done what you should do to maintain them. No matter how far you drive after the water, if water gets in there will be problems! Once water and grease are emulsified, it's too late. They can last the life of the car if cared for and the seals do their job. If you don't hear or feel anything, then they are probably in good shape. Not always! But the only way to know for sure is to feel them with your fingers. Sometimes there can be small pits or damage that is the beginnig of the end. This can only be felt in hand. Usually it's only found if you happen to pull them for a restoration or replacing an axle. Then turn them (axel out) by hand feeling carefully for anything out of the norm. Be sure to look at the grease too for evidence of water intrusion.
Nothing to worry about, run 'em until you notice the growl or feel anything out of place. They aren't expensive and not terrible (time consuming, yes) to replace, so if you have doubts, replace them.