Can you tell if a ball joint is bad by looking at it? (pics inside) - TCCoA Forums
 
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 11:40 AM Thread Starter
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Is there an "ultimate guide" to replacing UCA with pics?

I've looked around but I see a lot of talk about replacing UCAs but no pics. Is there a guide around here with pics? I pick up my car tomorrow.

I do not have a repair manual (yet). I'm mostly looking for a few pix. Thx.
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 11:46 AM
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Really though it was so simple I never thought of taking pictures. Sorry. Three bolts out, three bolts in and you are done. The right side is a bit tedious on the rear bolt but you can actually change the left UCA in about 15 minutes. 45 minutes on the right UCA.
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 12:09 PM
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It's pretty self explanatory. Hardest part is getting at the rear shock tower bolts. Just make sure you jack up the lower control arm.

Aside from that the trick is getting the pinch bolt out; I find a good soaking in PB Blaster helps, along with rocking the square head of the bolt up and down with a crescent wrench to help free it up.

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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 12:22 PM
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A chisel helps too!

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 01:42 PM Thread Starter
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I suspect it will be fairly obvious once I actually pick up the car and take off a wheel. I've looked at a diagram on FordParts.com but I can't make out the detail on the upper two bolts.

I've replaced a tie-rod end and balljoint before (95 Escort) so I'm not too worried about this job. I am worried about how much other things will need replacing once I start taking things apart ;-)
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 03:05 PM
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The more you take apart the more you will find ..... especially being that the newest MN12 is 14 years old. Ball joints (UCA and LCA), sway arm endlinks, strut rod bushings are the things that are gaurenteed to need replacement at this age, as they are VERY common items to fail.

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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 04:07 PM
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I agree with John.

I just replaced my whole front end last summer. Low mileage car, but time takes it's toll on the boots around the ball joints and end links.
Be prepared!

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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 07:11 PM
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Suggestion: While you're doing the UCAs, do the LCAs for JustInCase.

On the outer tie rod ends, the boots tend to fail, then due to dirt infiltration, the joint itself does. While it's apart, replace the boots (or all of it.)

If you do the outer tie rod ends, do the inners and the rack bellows also.

This would be a good time to upgrade to sport brakes on the front, or at least to the Gen2 basic brakes (need spindles, calipers, and caliper brackets from a Gen2 MN12, plus the Gen2 sway bar end links.)

OTOH - if money is a consideration (and when is it not?), consider doing JUST the UCAs, shockes, and springs.

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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 07:27 PM
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I took pictures when I did mine so I'll try to slap together a quick write up.



This is obviously what it looks like when you get started. The first thing you do is remove the pinch bolt that holds the shaft from the ball joint onto the spindle. The nut is either 15mm or 18mm I cannot recall. With the nut off the bolt is usually fairly easy to slide out. You'll then have to use something like a screw driver to widen the gap in order to pull the control arm up.



Next use wire to hang the spindle with. You should notice a pair of holes in the top of the wheel wheel and I'm pretty sure these holes are there for that purpose.





I thought I had taken pics of all four bolt but these are the 2 from the passenger side. Obviously I have already removed the nuts and these are why you need the 18mm racheting wrench. In order to get the wrench on the passernger side nut closest to the firewall I had to loosen the canister that's in the way. I didn't have to do much to get the other nuts off but there isn't much room and it will take awhile since sometimes you can only turn the nut a few mm per try. The hardest one is the one closest to the brake booster only because of the awkward angle and how hard it is to keep the wrench on the nut. I left the flags on the old bolts because they actually helped with removal and installation. That way
I didn't have to use a wrench to keep the bolts from turning.



This is what it'll look like when it's done. Compared to most jobs this was still one of the easiest to do. More explaination shouldn't be required. Just don't tighten the bolts that hold the arm to the car until the wheels are back on the ground. I reused all of my old nuts and bolts and so far so good.

-Randy-
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-28-2011, 10:31 PM Thread Starter
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Great stuff, V8ThunderCat, thanks.

You guys are telling me what I don't want to hear which is "yeah, you'll wind up replacing the works up there". Oh well, that's OK. I'm willing to spend money on the car when it comes to safety...
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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 12:13 AM
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so V8ThunderCat

sorry for the dumb question because i don't really know much abut suspension parts
in the 5th picture, the "Spindle"... that part do you have to buy it new every time you change it?? or its just cleaned on that pic

i always used to send my car to the ford dealership to check my suspension when it starts to make noises or something... but this time i want to give it a try and fix it miself

thanks in advance
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 02:31 AM
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You mean the last pic, right? The only thing I see cleaned up in that pic is the upper control arm. Let me put it this way; the spindle, AKA knuckle, is what everything suspension and steering related is connected to. It's also what the hub and rotor is attached to. I guess it looks kind of like a stretched out triangle.

Hopefully this link works but it's part number 1.


-Randy-
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 02:51 AM
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Just as a note - the part I THINK you're calling "the spindle"is the upper control arm, and it comes with the ball joint and bushings. You can buy just the bushings, but they're not that much less, and it's the ball joint that causes most of the noise and all the safety problems.

Some people have found it's easier if you loosen or remove the shock/spring combination (what some folks call a strut.)

Since the spring is bound between the upper spring mount and the lower spring mount, if you loosen the three studs on top (around the top of the shock), it comes out as an assembly, and won't cause any problems in re spring compressors or what not.

If you decide to replace that, the misnamed "Quick Strut" from Monroe takes four nuts and one bolt, each side. You just need to support the spindle and control arms to keep from pulling on the brake hose.

And if you're replacing the spring, due to the age, I'd consider those - to get new shocks also.

The rear shocks are easier to do - if you drive it up on a ramp, and can still reach inside the trunk, you can do them easily enough, since they're not coil-over-spring construction.

(Yah, this stuff tends to snowball due to the age of the car. I'd opt for doing the front QuickStruts and upper control arms NOW for safety, then ordering in the bushings a few at a time from RockAuto and other places like that, then doing all the others on a long weekend.)

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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 11:39 AM
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Just for reference, the parts in the diagram that get replaced fairly regularly, (every 100k miles, lol) are:

7. top shock mount - Needs replacing everytime you replace shocks; will punch thru eventually. http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,ca...,parttype,7600

3. Upper Control Arm - Bushings and ball joints wear out, so replace as assembly. http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,ca...parttype,10401

13. Stabilizer Bar Link - Rattles over every bump when bad. Top will be frozen, bottom rattles. http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,ca...,parttype,7580

4. Lower Control Arm Assembly - http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,ca...parttype,10401

11. Frame side Strut Rod Bushings - Buy from Ford only. Thermoplastic sux. Here's the RA link anyway. http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,ca...,parttype,7608

2. Front Hub Assembly - usually good for 200k or more http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,ca...,parttype,1636

Shocks - I recommend Konis. Gabriel and Monroe are too soft, IMHO; YMMV.


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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-29-2011, 01:30 PM
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aa ok thank you V8ThunderCat, RalphP and Grog6

i was confusing the names the part i was saying was the upper control arm with that picture i see things better now

thanks
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post #16 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 06:24 PM Thread Starter
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Can you tell if a ball joint is bad by looking at it? (pics inside)

Can you tell? I don't notice any noises or greasy leaks...




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post #17 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 06:27 PM
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Boot looks good, as long as there's no niose or play in it i'd say it's fine

-Matt
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post #18 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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Aha, but here's the funny thing. At the latest oil change they said it needs to be replaced, both actually, to the tune of $660! Yes, if they do need to be changed I'll do them myself (yeah, I'll get the 18mm wrench)...

It looks totally fine, and the other side looks the same. I haven't had a chance yet to pull the wheel off and see if I can wiggle it or anything...

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post #19 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 06:59 PM
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How are the lowers?

The wheels do not need to come off to check the uppers or the lowers.

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post #20 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 08:02 PM Thread Starter
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Here's the driver side lower:


and


And the passenger side lower:


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post #21 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 09:06 PM
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This is what a bad UCA looks like...




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post #22 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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WHOA! My front end doesn't make noise and visually they look good. Those are some seriously shot UCAs (ball joints)!!!

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post #23 of 27 (permalink) Old 01-31-2011, 09:37 PM
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Passenger side looks ok, the pictures are way too far off on the driver side to tell...

Give the wheel a tug, if there's any movement where there shouldn't be, they're bad

-Matt
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post #24 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-01-2011, 08:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swanny View Post
WHOA! My front end doesn't make noise and visually they look good. Those are some seriously shot UCAs (ball joints)!!!
Yea my car sat for almost 2 years before I bought it so most of the front end was shot.

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post #25 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-01-2011, 08:45 AM
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I change my UCA, LCA, shocks and sway bar end links because I had noise. When I checked all the boots were either gone or ripped. Also close inspection of the rubber parts at the mounting points showed cracked rubber bushings. I had already replaced the tie rod ends before.

All the parts (MOOG) were purchased for just under $600 from Rock Auto. I spent a total of 8 hours replacing everything then $50 at the alignment shop. If mine wasn't making noise and all the rubber looked good with no abnormal tire wear I wouldn't have touched it. I could have got away with replacing the shocks. I used the Monroe Sensa-Trac easy shocks or whatever they are called. For $124 each they are all built up with new springs. Well worth the money and those were simple to change. Right about 20 minutes each. I had no rust so everything came apart without a problem.

I removed the shock/spring first then replaced the LCA and sway bar link allowing the spindle to hang off the UCA. Once the LCA was attached I inserted the new shock and spring assy. and connected the lower shock mount. Then I replaced the UCA. That way I never had to touch the brakes or stress the brake hose.
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post #26 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-01-2011, 11:17 AM
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Can't see the driver's lower ball joint in that pic, but the passenger side lower looks good, so if the driver's side looks the same, you should be good to go. However what I do see is you need strut rod bushings at the lower control arm, and you should replace both sides at the same time, and you have to remove the LCA to do that, so when you have it all apart check to see if there is any play in the lower ball joints, and if there is, replace them. It isn't hard to do, just before you take anything apart, use a marker or paint or something to mark the location of the alignment eccentrics so when you put it back together the alignment will be close enough that you can safely drive the car until you get to an alignment shop.

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post #27 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-01-2011, 11:54 AM
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The way to check for ball joints definitively is to jack up the car under the lower control arm by the lower ball joint. With the tire off the ground, slide a steel pipe or 2x4 under the wheel and pull up on the tire while having a second person watching for movement of the ball joints from under the car. There should be NO MOVEMENT if the ball joints are good.

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