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Discussion Starter #1
I have been working on my car quite a bit this past month+ and keep finding more stuff to do. I have been doing everything myself so far and would like to keep doing so. However, I think I have a problem with my upper balljoints.


Passenger side, which I believe was replaced around three years ago by my dealer, and it's breaking. So it feels fine, but is not obviously. Anything better than Motorcraft? Hopefully available at rock auto?


Drivers Side, and this one has very minor play (up down) and is most likely the cause of my slight pulling to the left at higher speeds over 55. The grease on these is from me inspecting it with greasy gloves and also putting some up there.... I don't know what I was thinking, it needs replacement.

So it looks like I need to replace both of these ball joints. The broken bushings seen here, do they come with new ball joints? What tools should I be looking at to do this job properly. I do not want to fiddle around with alternate tools, I know they have a ball joint installer and puller tool, is there anything else I should get? Also winter is coming up, would it be dangerous to put this job off for three months?

Any recommendations to keep this from happening? Or is this just from me not doing the recommended lubrication for my chassis components for so long. Or is this just what happens in a northern state after 3 years.

Sorry about all the questions, and thanks all.
 

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1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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Most of us here agree that the only worthwhile alternative to Motorcraft is Moog. When you do upper ball joints, you actually order the entire control arm; they are sold as a unit and are not available separately. The newer Motorcraft replacements also have a grease fitting; mine from Jon here at the parts counter cost me roughly $45. You can get the job done with a basic toolset, but an 18mm ratcheting wrench helps a LOT.
 

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You'll get two upper control arms complete with ball joints, boots, and new inner bushings where they attach to bod already assembled, and you'll likely get a new pinch bolt & nut in a package with each.

Do a search for "upper control arm" or "UCA replacement".

It happened because the car is 13 years old and these particular boots get flexed a lot.
 

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Most of us here agree that the only worthwhile alternative to Motorcraft is Moog. When you do upper ball joints, you actually order the entire control arm; they are sold as a unit and are not available separately. The newer Motorcraft replacements also have a grease fitting; mine from Jon here at the parts counter cost me roughly $45.
Seconded on the above. The ball joint is available at Rockauto, but it's almost as much as the entire arm and more of a pain to replace.

Your driver's side arm has play and definitely should be replaced. The passenger side has no play according to you so it's OK for now, however, the torn boot will allow dirt in and will shorten its life. The purists will say to replace both now. Your schedule and wallet may vary.

As far as care/longevity tips for the boots I have no idea. Surprised they quit as early, but quit they did. Tips, anyonso

You will need an 18mm for the control arm mounts (ratcheting wrench is the way to go) as well as whatever size wrench for the spindle attachment nut. The spindle attachment is NOT a taper. It will come out either on its own or with a little coercion from a hammer or pry bar depending on rust factor. Should take less than an hour of time for each. The passenger side will be more difficult as the back nut is mostly obscured. You may have to loosen a couple items to get to it. Again - we can't emphasize this enough - the 18mm ratcheting wrench will be money well spent.

While you have the car down, you may as well take ten minutes and check the other suspension parts (lower ball joint, tie rods, etc.) for wear.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I've seen worse boots, have you had the joints checked for wear yet?
I have not had anyone inspect them yet, but since I was doing so much break work (front and back) I have been trying to inspect everything based on the Haynes instructions. That is 12 and 6 O'clock and push top pull bottom and reverse, and 9 and 3 O'clock push in and pull out simultaneously. It was not until today that I noticed the wear with a accidental eye inspection, and tried giving it a good tug on the bar leading to the tire from the boot (sorry about my description). Drivers side moved a bit, passenger side feels solid.

I don't want to damage anything that is why I was looking at these tools.

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=38649

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=38335

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=4065

Although I can't tell the difference between the last two except the four-wheel drive one has extra parts, and cost's the same. I think $60 in tools to minimize my frustrations is totally worth it. I am going to search for the terms indicated now.

Thank you all for the speedy replies and the opinion of the condition of my parts.

The 18mm ratcheting wrench everyone is talking about, is that http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=95552 ? I have a channel lock ratchet set, what would the difference be? Anyway I will probably pick it up to be safe either way :).
 

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I changed mine after re-reading, I forgot you said you detected play. Yeah, for the POM and $$$, I'ld probably replace too, but gonna need an alignment.

My '95 has torn boots, but absolute no play, it only has near 55,000 on it. Drives super, no noises.

My '92 had torn boots too when I got it, and a hint of play, but it did have 130,000 plus on it so I replaced them. Took care of some noise and piece of mind. Quiet now, I still have lowers for it but original boots still OK and joints show no appreciable wear.
 

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The 18mm ratcheting wrench everyone is talking about, is that http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=95552 ? I have a channel lock ratchet set, what would the difference be? Anyway I will probably pick it up to be safe either way :).


I am also gathering parts and tools to do the UCA's, LCA's, all the tie rods, and the strut bushings, myself. If you get the complete control arm assembly (upper or lower), you won't need any of the ball joint tools, as the arms come with the joints already pressed in. A word of warning!!! The ratcheting wrench set that you provided a link to.... I just purchased the EXACT same set the other week, just because it supposedly had the 18mm wrench in it. It does not. I still have the piece of paper I printed out when I went into Harbor Freight to buy this set, and even though the part numbers matched, the set did not have an 18mm ratcheting wrench in it. It has a 17mm wrench instead. Booo, hisss. I still got it though, 'cause it was a good deal, I just had to go buy an 18mm from Sears. I pointed out the item description error to the manager, but nobody seems to care. Just thought I'd let you know....
 

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I'm about to replace my drivers side UCA/LCA probably on the weekend, I've done passengers now and have a good idea of what I'm doing, should I maybe get a video or something of some of the procedure?
 

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The drivers side is cake compared to the passenger side, in my opinion. If you can do the passenger side, you are definitely ready for the driver's!
-Rob
 

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1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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Luckily for me I was working on the a/c when I did the passenger's side... so no a/c accumulator in the way! :tongue:
 

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1995 Thunderbird LX 4.6 red
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I've done a couple of suspension rebuilds. Last year I installed Spicer pro line upper control arms on my 97. I bought them at rock auto. I like them a lot, as they are very sturdy looking and have greaseable ball joints. I haven't had any issues in a year. And the Vegas heat has not broke down the dust boot yet either.

As for tools I went to Lowes and found a racheting 18mm box end wrench that also swivels. Makes the job pretty simple. It was $20.
 

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1995 Thunderbird LX 4.6 red
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I have not had anyone inspect them yet, but since I was doing so much break work (front and back) I have been trying to inspect everything based on the Haynes instructions. That is 12 and 6 O'clock and push top pull bottom and reverse, and 9 and 3 O'clock push in and pull out simultaneously. It was not until today that I noticed the wear with a accidental eye inspection, and tried giving it a good tug on the bar leading to the tire from the boot (sorry about my description). Drivers side moved a bit, passenger side feels solid.

I don't want to damage anything that is why I was looking at these tools.

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=38649

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=38335

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=4065

Although I can't tell the difference between the last two except the four-wheel drive one has extra parts, and cost's the same. I think $60 in tools to minimize my frustrations is totally worth it. I am going to search for the terms indicated now.

Thank you all for the speedy replies and the opinion of the condition of my parts.

The 18mm ratcheting wrench everyone is talking about, is that http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=95552 ? I have a channel lock ratchet set, what would the difference be? Anyway I will probably pick it up to be safe either way :).
Fyi, you won't need or use that ball joint press on the upper control arms. As for the ball joint separator you can use that to get the ball joint out of the spindle, but you can hit the side of the spindle with a hammer if you put a piece of 2x4 in between the spindle and the hammer.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Seconded on the above. The ball joint is available at Rockauto, but it's almost as much as the entire arm and more of a pain to replace.

As far as care/longevity tips for the boots I have no idea. Surprised they quit as early, but quit they did. Tips, anyonso

While you have the car down, you may as well take ten minutes and check the other suspension parts (lower ball joint, tie rods, etc.) for wear.
I've decided I want to inspect the lower before I order parts, and see if I can get a better price at the parts counter here. I did see the price was about $20 difference at the most, would require me to buy the press tool, and than spend maybe 1-2 hours learning how to do it/doing it. Also the Haynes manual says the UCA is designed for entire replacements.

I am starting to think the lower ball joint was replaced on the passenger side. I remember being told I needed two new tires, a ball joint, and they needed to be replaced for an alignment.

I was inclined to have them do so as I just wanted to fix the problem and had about 1 day off every two weeks at the time. I am pretty happy I have our forum, and some time to research and complete these jobs now with confidence.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Tools

Found the tools I listed above are on sale in the store for $35, however, i do not think I will ever need them since all ball joint's are supposed to get replaced with arms it looks like. I am considering it though if I can actually do some practicing on the bad UCA's.

I am trying to get the part's for the best price possible, but so far it looks like I am going to go Moog and spend over $70 for each arm. I am thinking of cleaning and greasing the passanger side and than seeing what I can do to patch the dust boot up and probably try and finish it with a rubber seal (thinking of the under body coating and adding several layers on the patch to coat it fully maybe, I know I will have to replace it sooner than later, but this will help with cost for now.)

So far all the sets I found have everything BUT the 18 mm, which seems elusive. It will go by itself for $18 online shipped, $23 at autozone with tax, and higher.

So far this ebay auction looks best at $35 with $9 shipping.

http://cgi.ebay.com/7PC-COMBO-RATCHET-WRENCH-SET-METRIC_W0QQitemZ280367276063QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item414731201f

The seller also offers $5 off if you buy his SAE set as well, but total cost's would be over $85 shipped, but you would have a pretty good set of the standard sizes. I am debating if I will do this, but I have been spending a lot on parts and tools. The other option is to bid and hope for better prices on other sets with the 18 mm, which is about 6 auctions in total I can find and only in sets (not counting the snap-on and high end sets for over 100-200 dollars each)

Finally RockAuto is having a 5% discount code going on just in a nick of time for me.

Your discount code is:

24271892021169

Expires Jan 03, 2010 and the email states to give it to everyone!

"There's no limit on order size or the number of orders. Use the code for your next order, and share the code with friends, neighbors, relatives, the guy at the corner garage--anyone you know who works on cars or trucks."

Edit: Ordered parts, Moog uppers (both sides) from rock auto, $10 difference when compared to motorcraft after discount and shipping difference. ordered this http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280240353259&ssPageName=ADME:B:EOIBSA:US:1123 for the ratcheting wrench. 10 sizes for $36, or $33 from amazon. Looks like the seller is trying to stay away from amazon, still sent him a message asking to match shipping lol.

Also as a side note I was thinking about, drivers side rotor was a pain to get off. I am thinking the rotor is warped from the control arm issue coupled with the sticking pin. I used brake clean and it helped a bit with the rotor getting on and off. Do you think I can take the rotor to the zone and tell them it failed under thier warranty, to try and get a new one? Also about replacing them in pairs, opinions? Passenger side is OK.
 

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Doing the UCA is fairly easy. The passanger side was the harder one HOWEVER if you move the wiring harness box between the firewall and strut tower you will gain pleanty of room to get it done. I DEFINATELY agree with everyone though that a 18mm ratcheting wrench will be your BEST friend doing this job. Also make sure you use some good penetrating lube on the balljoint shaft so it will release fairly easily.
 

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Doing the UCA is fairly easy. The passanger side was the harder one HOWEVER if you move the wiring harness box between the firewall and strut tower you will gain pleanty of room to get it done. I DEFINATELY agree with everyone though that a 18mm ratcheting wrench will be your BEST friend doing this job. Also make sure you use some good penetrating lube on the balljoint shaft so it will release fairly easily.
On the passenger side put a fixed wrench on the nut under the hood and turn the bolt under the shocktower. You can hold the wrenches as a couple, or just let it hit something solid.

Break off the bolt flag.

THe 18mm wrench is a must for this job.

The pinchbolt retaining the ball joint shaft to the spindle is serrated and kind of mated to the spindle bore. I've found that wedging a screwdriver or punch between the bolt head and the spindle and then striking it helps a lot.
 

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On the passenger side put a fixed wrench on the nut under the hood and turn the bolt under the shocktower. You can hold the wrenches as a couple, or just let it hit something solid.

Break off the bolt flag.

THe 18mm wrench is a must for this job.

The pinchbolt retaining the ball joint shaft to the spindle is serrated and kind of mated to the spindle bore.
That's the hard way; slide the ratcheting wrench in from the top, clamp a pair of vicegrips to the flag on the inside, and remove the nut on top. The wrench will exactly fit in there; you don't get but a couple of teeth, but it's easy.

The vicegrips will keep the bolt from moving around.

If you remove the flag, you have to deal with the bolt it was on at the same time; and the corners are missing, so it slips easily.

The pinchbolt comes right out if you smack it on the end with a hammer; I've never had to pound it out. Leave the nut on the end, so you aren't bending the threads.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I've done a couple of suspension rebuilds. Last year I installed Spicer pro line upper control arms on my 97. I bought them at rock auto. I like them a lot, as they are very sturdy looking and have greaseable ball joints. I haven't had any issues in a year.
Can you point out the greasable points? I always thought I would see a nipple to attach the grease nozzle to for injecting the grease? I think I am going to end up putting a layer of grease on all bushings/boots ever 3-6 months to help prevent tears. knowing the grease points for inside boots would be great as well.

After I finish this job, hopefully on saturday and than have a shop inspect my suspension system, probably do an alignment, and most likely pay them to install my transmission cooler because I am getting tired of these jobs a bit, and have been putting this off because I fear screwing up and damaging my cooling/transmission system.

Also I think I should have caught the UCA's sooner (besides obvious boot breakage), and since I did not I don't exactly trust my opinion alone.
 

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They don't "tear", they crack as a function of age and quality. They do not turn with the wheel, only the "ball stud" turns with the spindle. The boot is stationary, it's just a semi snug slip fit on the stud where it attaches to the UCA. The boot is flexed as the suspension goes up and down however, no grease is gonna help it either.

Up side to greasable joints is you can grease them, down side is you have to grease them.

Up side to non greasable joints is no greasing to do, they are sealed, they often have a special inner surface for low friction, they last, they don't have a place for moisture or dirt to get in with a shot of grease.

Your choice, but if they have fittings, grease them. Do not plug them up.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Got everything in the mail today. It looks like they are sorta greased already, but not fully greased. It feels like there is no grease in the rubber bushing/boot, but I see it in the hole where I believe they want me to install the valve for greasing. I installed it, but it does not feel like it would ever go in fully flush, so I made sure it was turned completely 2.5 times giving me some thread sight, but firmly in the thread, and also made sure the end I can see is facing out so I can grease it easily. I am thinking some type of rubber boot for these stems to keep them clean would be a good idea.

Now my concern is with the instructions it states that "steering knuckle deformation can cause pinch bolt breakage." than it shows a diagram showing the inside to outside. It appears the inside to outside tips (the little gap that can be seen in my pictures that the pinch bolt goes through), should be perfectly straight all the way through, but if the tips are starting to bend in, and it's past .032 or worse difference, the steering knuckles should be replaced.

It also talks about "if any out of roundness, deformation, or damage is noted, or if the old ball joint was loose or broken, the STEERING KNUCKLE MUST BE REPLACED" Because there is a chance the ball joint stud may break. I am worried about the phrase "loose"

The play I experienced, was with the tire off, and I grabbed the steering knuckle, and was able to move it towards myself up a bit, or away from the vehicle a bit, but at the top of the steering knuckle.

I am going to be looking at what they are talking about, but it looks like I am going to want to buy a good grease gun to at least fill these full of grease. Also anyone have tips for filling them with grease? I thought I read somewhere to pump it in slowly and when you start to feel resistance more than what you have felt, stop.

I want to do the job right, so I will be replacing the knuckles if necessary, but how bad would it be to do those say next week rather than immediately if I find what they are talking about? Or is there a chance the play I experienced could be entirely associated with the UCA itself only? Speaking of which anyone know a torque spec for the pinchbolt and other bolts for the UCA's? Or is it just use locktite and as tight as possible?

Wow I had a lot more questions after I actually got the tools and can see what I may run into, sorry all, and thanks for bearing with me. I think I am going to get a good grease gun and some mobile one lube, as it's the only thing I have found so far that has a lower temperature point than -20 degrees, and up to 300degrees. Everything is at best -10, and Chicago can get cold.
 
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