I wanted to throw this out to the AWD Express and Astro/Safari guys on the board to see if I'm in the minority.
Has anyone with an AWD front differential/carrier (GM 7.2" IFS used in the Express and Astro/Safari vans) had issues yet with carrier bearings? I've been chasing front-end drivetrain noises and "think" that is what I have now found. I grab the driver-side CV axle and get about 1/16" of play in all directions from the flange that comes out of the side of the differential. I'm not experienced with these systems but I'm guessing that isn't normal. A mechanic buddy of mine said there should be no play at all so I took a video of me manipulating it and sent it to him to see what he thinks.
I've done a bit of searching online and it seems that the AWD GM truck guys describe exactly what I'm seeing and hearing and it is relatively common. The front differential for AWD is engaged all of the time and they chew up carrier bearings, typically the driver-side, to give you play and bearing noise. I drained the fluid, ran a magnet through it and have a magnetic probe I slid into the drain hole - no STEEL chunks found anywhere. I'm not sure what kind of a repair I may be in for. I can't know for sure but I believe everything is factory with 128k miles on it.
EDIT: Went back and checked the fluid again. It was loaded with aluminum shavings! The stuff is so fine I could hardly see it. It looks like an extremely fine aluminum dust was dumped into the diff.