I got home tonight and was going to drink and play games all night like I normally do. But the 4runner noises are getting worse and really bothering me. So I jacked it up and put it on stands and put it in neutral. I do this so all the wheels will spin freely using hand pressure.
My undercarriage inspection revealed that both cv axles were firmly snapped into place in the differential.
So I started looking for noises. I spun each wheel forward and backward at different speeds. Listening for grinding as well as feeling for vibrations. The right wheel made some odd popping and crunching noises.
I removed it and the cv axle to give a closer inspection. It as then that I noticed the dried coating of old grease on the undercarriage. The inboard knuckle of the CV felt loose.
For background this is the same joint I replaced the boot on last year. The boot was still in good condition and tightly sealed. I opened it. There was no grease. I remember filling it with the provided grease when I changed the boot. The interior bearings were all ground down to loose rings on spindles. The grease inside was burned away from heat. The entire axle needed replacement.
Lucky for me the local parts store was still open and had one in stock. $76.
While I was at it I replaced the bearing with my new bearing hub pre-pressed assembly.
Another easy job. All the bolts came out without needing to be drilled or tapped or extracted.
Preliminary test drive shows only tire noise remaining.
Results: I was right that my highway noise was a CV axle noise but guessed the wrong one.
My previous repair of CV boot replacement was not worth the money I saved because the boot did not seal tightly around the axle. At some point the grease liquefied and blew through the seals under centrifugal force.
And having completed the job tonight leaves me free for the range tomorrow, weather depending.
On a happy note, I really enjoy finding a part that is obviously broke or worn out. It is much more gratifying than guessing. And the cost of replacing is a no brainer.