Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Northfield, MN
Bikes: 1997, stumpjumper S-works hardtail, Medici, Giant allegre (track dropouts and fixed gear), Columbia twosome, schwinn twinn, '67 raleigh 5 speed internal hub, Old triumph 3 speed, old BSA 3-speed, schwinn Racer 2spd kickback, Broken raysport criteriu
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If you only hear the noise when coasting, then it's not your bearings, it's the ratchet prawls. But I think you said pedaling AND coasting, so it's probably your axle bearings. It could be dirt, or rust, but if you're hearing crunching, it's proabably a cracked bearing.
The inner workings of the hub should still be okay (by the way, those should take oil). you should only have to disassemble the axel and cones, and bearings (those take Grease). You'll have no problem leaving the gears alone, they're a different assembly to remove.
If you see large chunks of bearing, it'll be obvious you need to replace one/some, but if you don't try counting the bearings to make sure they're all there. I'm not sure how many you need, so try to find a hub/axle schematic for your model (sheldon brown probably has one).