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Old 05-26-2003, 12:59 PM
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Post Ball joints - all at once?

What's the general concensus on ball joint replacement - replace only the worn ones, or all of them at the same time?

I bought a '90 S-10 4x4 with 100K miles on the clock and it has to go through safety inspection. Just from driving it home I'm thinking at least one ball joint needs to be replaced, I haven't gotten underneath it yet other than to see that all four still have factory rivets in them. The 4WD joints are more than double the cost of the 2WD but I think I can afford to do all four if I do the work (except the wheel alignment) myself.

What do you guys usually do? All four, or just the ones that need replacing? And do you splurge and buy the premium joints, or usually the cheapies?

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Old 05-26-2003, 01:16 PM
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Well it varies depending on type of vehicle and sometimes whether or not the upper or lower is bad. Most of the ones needing replacement seem to be on Ford trucks. Now on a Ford F150 for example the steering knuckle comes off to service the ball joints. On that application it makes sense to do them in pairs. Many times on the Chevy trucks with torsion bars on the lower arms the upper ball joints are an easy replacement with the lower arm supported. We often only replace whichever joint is bad on these. Cars with struts obviously only have lowers and we replace whichever one is bad. You just need to decide for yourself if you want or need to do both while you are in there. We also use Napa ball joints for their warrenties where I work. An alignment is always a good idea even if you don't think you altered anything.


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Old 05-26-2003, 04:25 PM
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I think a lot has to do with why the original failed, was it a curb whack or just normal wear? If it is atributed to normal wear and tear I will do all four, if it is damage caused through neglect or abuse (burst boot from a grease gun etc.) and testing the other side shows them good I will only do the bad side...both.

Many times I just do all four (or two if MacPherson strut) just because I can do the work myself and I like a tight front end properly aligned with zero toe, tie rod ends are done at the same time usually along with center link or rack if they are worn.

I have found the factory sealed type to give the best service and mileage.
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Old 05-26-2003, 05:51 PM
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It depends on why they are being changed. If it is because of an impact, I replace both on that side, then have it aligned to check the knuckle. If it is because of wear, I check all, and change only the ones that show any movement or noise. The only time I replace all four is if I am rebuilding the front-end and am replacing everything. I see no need to replace all 4 just because one is worn out, if the others show no wear. That is like replacing all of the light bulbs in your house if one burns out. It is your money!
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Old 05-26-2003, 08:02 PM
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Thanks guys. I checked them out tonight and can only get movement out of the left lower so I'll start there. I found a torn boot, leaky shock and some movement in the tie rod end all on the left side at the same time, so lucky me, I only have to take one wheel off!

Problem is, once I take it to the shop, they won't let it go until it has an alignment and then I have to pay for someone else's labour. I'm a cheapskate and my labour's free.

I guess I figured you replace worn brakes and tires at the same time, why not ball joints? Obviously, brakes should wear evenly between all the pads as will tires. Ball joints are a bit different I guess.

Anyone ever heard of spot-welding ball joint bolts to the control arm? I heard that one not long ago, wasn't sure what I thought about it. Sounds like a good idea until it's time to replace it next time.
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Old 05-28-2003, 04:03 PM
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Sounds like you have a chicken before the egg or is it the other way? Did your shock go bad and cause the ball joint and tie rod end go bad on that side? Or did the ball joint go bad and do a number on the shock and tie rod end? or did the tie rod end go bad and do a number on the ball joint and shock? All these scenarios should be considered for future reference. My guess is your shock went bad and the excessively rebounding wheel did a number on the other two components and in this case, I would replace both ball joints, tie rod end and both shocks and take a good look at the otherside as well because you are going to pay for an alignment so why not do the same on the other side instead of paying for another alignment probably in the near future?

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Old 05-28-2003, 04:39 PM
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Most likely these parts have been bad for a while, I think you said you recently bought the truck. Like trees said, do front shocks (both sides) ball joints,tie-rod, and alignment. If there is anything loose on the other side take care of it now. If the other side seems ok don't worry about it. Here in Maine the winters are hard and the roads suck which puts a beatin' on all the 4x4's driven regularly. Here a 60,000 mile service should include ball joints and an alignment . Now I knew at work we use Napa ball joints cause they deliver to our shop and give a lifetime warrenty but I made some calls and found out that many parts stores around here offer lifetime warrenties on their ball joints. This means that if you're keeping the truck for a while you will never have to pay for ball joints again. Just something to think about.


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Old 05-29-2003, 04:47 AM
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an s-10 with bad ball joints...
imagine that!


i'd do 'em both (lowers)
actually, if it were mine, i'd do all 4..

track record on those is somethin' else..
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Old 05-29-2003, 05:25 AM
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My opinion goes along with the majority here -- replace the bad parts and go on. If you have to take the entire steering knuckle loose to change the bad ball joint, change both while it's out. Do the other side later if it's okay now. You should get at least a year of driving out of it, then it will be about time for another alignment anyway. Depending on where and how a vehicle is driven, it isn't uncommon for one side to wear out before the other. Maybe there was a pot hole or curb that was often hit on that one side...

I think you meant TACK welding the bolts to the control arm. A small tack weld will simply hold the bolts and nuts in position. Put the tack where you can get to it with a chisel in case you have to knock it off to remove later. It would be no worse (actually easier!) than dealing with the factory rivets if you have to replace the ball joints again. But you should get another 100K miles out of the new one, so the tack weld shouldn't be a big problem.
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Old 05-30-2003, 11:02 AM
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Thanks guys. I went with the premium parts, because of the lifetime warranty. I have to take the whole axle out to do the one CV boot, so I think I'll do both boots.

The top ball joint looked good when everything was still together but feels a little "clicky" when I move it around now that the knuckle is off. I'm going to think about that one for a couple of days since it can go in last.

Appreciate the feedback.
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