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*Should* Replace Control Arms with Ball Joints?

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Old 05-07-2012, 08:12 PM   #1
robertjuric
 
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*Should* Replace Control Arms with Ball Joints?

Took our 04 Mountaineer to the dealership for an oil change last week and they noted both upper ball joints are worn with busted boots. Parts and labor = $435.

My question is *should* I replace the control arms when I replace the ball joints? How can I tell if the control arms are still good?

Also is it worth any extra work to install new bushings found in some suspension kits? The Mountaineer has over 110k miles on it and the ride does feel pretty rough.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:14 PM   #2
Blee1099
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How many miles are on the stock arms? If they are close to 100,000 miles then I'd replace the arms.. By that time the bushings in the arms are probably ready to go.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:37 PM   #3
imp
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Upper Arm Bushings

The upper control arm bushings cannot be predicted as "bad" or still "good", based on mileage alone, especially if they have been already replaced by aftermarket parts. The reason for this is that the properly installed bushing, factory installed, allows no movement between the ends of the bushing clamped between the support bracklets, and between the rubber-to-metal "bond" between the OD of the rubber itself and the ID of the steel shell surrounding it. That is, ALL the movement occurs as FLEXURE within the rubber. Flexed rubber does not "wear out", but the rubber compound changes chemically with age and temperature, and in time becomes harder, or softer, this allowing either cracking of the rubber, or slippage between the rubber and brackets or the steel shell.

Careful visual inspection of the part of the bushings exposed in the installation, can reveal a lot about their condition. Cracking of the rubber, or "mushing out" of it at the ends of the bushings, pieces of rubber missing, or a shiny appearance at the bushing ends where clamped between the brackets, are a good indication of replacement need. The BEST test is to separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle, and move the control arm up and down by hand; it should resist moving, offering resistance to being moved; free and easy movement is a sign of bushing failure.

Bushing shells are pressed into the control arm, not a ready process for the do it yourselfer. The entire arm, with new ball joint and bushings already installed may be replaced more easily. However, this MAY affect caster angle enough to cause unacceptable steering response. Further, dimensional differences of the mounting points of a replacement arm MAY affect camber angle which affects tire WEAR; either might require re-alignment. There you have the worst case possibilities, but you should be aware of them.

FWIW, the UPPER ball joints carry much less load than the LOWER; therefore, the lower are much more susceptible to failure. Still, uppers DO go bad. If the upper ball joint rubber seals ARE cracked, as you were told, it IS time to replace the B. J.s. Look at them for yourself! imp
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:41 PM   #4
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if im correct, and the moutaineer and the explorer are the same, you have to do the whole arms. you cant just buy the ball joints. i just did all mine this weekend. upper control arms, lower ball joints, and tie rod ends. just payed for the parts as i did the work myself. but you will notice a works of difference in the ride once you do them
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:08 AM   #5
swshawaii
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Originally Posted by Smaknu03 View Post
if im correct, and the moutaineer and the explorer are the same, you have to do the whole arms. you cant just buy the ball joints.
Upper ball joints can be replaced on Gen 3 Explorers. (2002-05)

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/...d.php?t=249135
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:24 AM   #6
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Upper ball joints can be replaced on Gen 3 Explorers. (2002-05)

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/...d.php?t=249135
o ok. i wasnt sure. i have an 01 ex and i know on those you have to do the whole arm. wasnt aware that they changed it. but robert if you wanted to save yourself some money im sure you could buy the parts from an autozone or something. and if you have the knowledge or ability to do them yourself you can also rent the tool. then all you have in it is the parts. and if you do go that route dont forget an alignment
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Old 05-08-2012, 07:53 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Smaknu03 View Post
i just did all mine this weekend. upper control arms, lower ball joints, and tie rod ends.
i did too, but it took longer than a weekend. With mine i knew i could do only the ball joints, but the Ball is like $30, whole arm is like $60. The bushings although workable, looked very dry. I did the uppers myself, its not bad, first side took an hour, second side 30min. Seemed worth it for the price difference.

When replacing i also picked up Camber/Castor kits, which helped get the alignment spot on. Prior, Camber was running .4-6 now its .1-.2.

While doing the uppers, i could check the lowers, ball seemed ok but lose, all of the bushings looked dry too, another was mushroomed a little. Lowers you can do the ball which is a lot quicker and cheaper. I replaced the whole arm. Its about 2 hours, $130 each arm.

It almost rides like new, only thing i didn't do was the tie rods and ends. Those will be next with the rear toe links. I plan on keeping it for another 100k so i hope its worth it in the long run?




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Old 05-08-2012, 09:25 AM   #8
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If I replace the control arms, I understand I might need my alignment fixed. Would the mis-alignment prevent me from driving to a shop that can do the alignment?
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:31 AM   #9
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If I replace the control arms, I understand I might need my alignment fixed. Would the mis-alignment prevent me from driving to a shop that can do the alignment?
as long as you drive it to a shop to get it aligned it wont really hurt you. it will hurt you if you drive a long period of time without an alighnment. it will cause uneven wear on your tires and cause them to wear out alot faster than normal
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:45 PM   #10
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I just changed the upper arms on both sides, but could not get the lower ball joints out for the life of me....
Any hints on how to get them out?
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:23 PM   #11
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I just changed the upper arms on both sides, but could not get the lower ball joints out for the life of me....
Any hints on how to get them out?
most auto parts stores have a tool you can rent. or you can beat it like a red headed step chile with a hammer and it should come out. but you will need the tool to get the new ones in
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Old 07-12-2012, 10:35 AM   #12
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New '03 Explorer owner here. How can I tell what generation? I am replacing upper control arms today, 117,000 miles. Is there a sticky for the lower control arm replacement? Thanks for any help.
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Old 07-12-2012, 12:39 PM   #13
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02-05 Explorers are 3rd gen. There is sticky to replace lower ball joints in the 95-01 explorer forum. It describes the procedure to replace just the ball joints and has pictures as well. it's not really neceassary to replace the arm itself. The process is pretty much the same for 3rd gen explorers.
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Old 07-12-2012, 04:53 PM   #14
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Thanks Blrob, I took off the front wheels and manipulated the lower ball joints and they appear to be tight, no movement or play. I have the upper control arms and those go in tonight. Looks pretty easy but then everything looks pretty easy sitting on a five gallon bucket holding a beer.
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Old 07-13-2012, 04:12 PM   #15
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Upper Control Arm replacement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huskerbob View Post
Thanks Blrob, I took off the front wheels and manipulated the lower ball joints and they appear to be tight, no movement or play. I have the upper control arms and those go in tonight. Looks pretty easy but then everything looks pretty easy sitting on a five gallon bucket holding a beer.
Not so bad. About an hour (1.5 beers) each side. Use the coat hanger to tie up the steering arm for sure. A little jack the raise the whole deal up to get the new ball joint stud in helps. The passenger side comes out pretty easy but the driver side takes some creative wiggling. Remove the forward portion first and then the rearward. Wear gloves so you don't cut your fingers. Don't ask. I used a ball joint breaker from Harbor Freight and that was the limit of it's capability. Big hammer helps.
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