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Old 12-17-2009, 02:37 PM   #1
caffeineaholic
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Ball Joint question - confused...

Hi all,

I have read in my manual, online, and looked at other sources yet I still don't entirely understand when to tell when a ball joint is in need of replacement. (Sometimes I need detailed pictures in order to understand things).

Is it when the bottom of the nipple is flush with the bottom of the ball joint? below is a picture -- about 1mm or so is visible between the bottom of the nipple and the ball joint... Your help is very much appreciated; thanks!

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1985 Chevy Caprice small-block V8 305ci (5.0L) - 4-Barrel Q-Jet (E4ME) - 700R4 - 115k+ mi. - resonator and A/C components deleted.
Driven in severe weather most of the year (Arizona 100+ degrees during summer heat or in wet weather especially in harsh monsoons). About 30/70 highway/city driving.
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Old 12-17-2009, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

I know of your reading of this check ...I have never used it...

I prefer to jack up vehicle put a block under the lower control arm . drop vehicle so it sets on the a frame block. then with a pry bar under the tire work the bar as you look at the ball joint[s] for any movement...
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Old 12-17-2009, 09:11 PM   #3
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

The gap between the grease fitting and the metal it screws into shouldn't ever change. It has tapered threads on it, so most of the time they're not in all the way. The metal it's screwed into is just a thin plate to keep the grease in and dirt out.

j cAT described the only way to tell if they're loose (being kinda gentle with the wood block ) One thing I would add though, is that you should put the end of the pry bar about even with the inside of the tire. Too far in requires too much force and you might not pull up hard enough to move it. You also want some sideways movement because they can wear sideways too.

Or just move to Iowa. I can tell that the ball joint pictured is good because it's not covered in rust
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Old 12-18-2009, 09:48 AM   #4
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

You sure that's a picture of a ball Joint? Looks like a tie rod end to me. Either way, the joint pictured isn't the type that has the wear sensor in it. The ones I am familiar with have the grease zerk screwed into a nipple and you judge wear by the amount that nipple sticks out. I prefer the method described above, unload the ball joint and check for looseness by eye/feel.
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Old 12-18-2009, 11:47 PM   #5
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

Thanks for all your help. It is a picture of a tie rod end, but I thought that was considered a ball joint too?

Below is another picture of the ball joint but for one of the lower control arms, which are the load bearing ones. Both of those had wear indicators -- they both seem to be in good condition so far, they are not flush with the surrounding area and are about 1mm above it. The rear of the car doesn't seem to have any ball joints.

Are these the only ball joints? Or do the tie rod ends count? Thanks.

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1985 Chevy Caprice small-block V8 305ci (5.0L) - 4-Barrel Q-Jet (E4ME) - 700R4 - 115k+ mi. - resonator and A/C components deleted.
Driven in severe weather most of the year (Arizona 100+ degrees during summer heat or in wet weather especially in harsh monsoons). About 30/70 highway/city driving.
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Old 12-19-2009, 12:03 AM   #6
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

No, tie rod ends are not considered ball joints, even if their design is quite similar.

Your car has 2 lower ball joints and 2 upper ball joints. Sometimes the lower ones have wear indicators, because they carry the weight of the car. But the upper joints do not have indicators, and they must be checked manually.

I prefer to check lower joints manually, too Here's how: (click)

To check the upper joints.... place the jack under the lower control arm and raise the tire an inch or two off the ground. Grip the tire at the top and push and pull the tire back and forth as hard as you can, without knocking the car off the jack. Have a helper watch the upper ball joint and check for looseness.

BTW always raise a car by the lower control arm when checking joints. If you raise it by using the frame, the suspension will droop, which affects the accuracy of the result.
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Old 12-19-2009, 12:10 AM   #7
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

Thanks, good to know. I'll check my upper ones as well in the near future w/ a helper.
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1985 Chevy Caprice small-block V8 305ci (5.0L) - 4-Barrel Q-Jet (E4ME) - 700R4 - 115k+ mi. - resonator and A/C components deleted.
Driven in severe weather most of the year (Arizona 100+ degrees during summer heat or in wet weather especially in harsh monsoons). About 30/70 highway/city driving.
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:23 AM   #8
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

Quote:
Originally Posted by caffeineaholic View Post
Thanks, good to know. I'll check my upper ones as well in the near future w/ a helper.
with this model vehicle in the rust belt I would grease these fittings all front eng fittings with a ep2 lithium grease...or today you can get the synthetic grease..4X a year...in the rust belt this prevents chemicals used in de icing from attacking these components..

in AZ I would guess this is not the case...but if you drive thru flooded washes this would be the time to grease these fittings..

jacking the wheels slightly off the ground and greasing is best ,,,also the steering moves easier to get at all fittings easy..
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:17 PM   #9
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Re: Ball Joint question - confused...

I'll grease them as well when I get a chance to borrow a grease gun from a friend. Thanks for the help and advice.
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1985 Chevy Caprice small-block V8 305ci (5.0L) - 4-Barrel Q-Jet (E4ME) - 700R4 - 115k+ mi. - resonator and A/C components deleted.
Driven in severe weather most of the year (Arizona 100+ degrees during summer heat or in wet weather especially in harsh monsoons). About 30/70 highway/city driving.
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