1997 Upper Control Arms with Ball Joint Replacement & more (Pics added)(Parts arrived) | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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1997 Upper Control Arms with Ball Joint Replacement & more (Pics added)(Parts arrived)


Elite Explorer
February 6, 2016
Reaction score
City, State
No. Alabama USA
Year, Model & Trim Level
1997 Blue Ex 4.0 SOHC
KAGG 3611 (CB)
I have noticed that the inside of my front tires have been wearing and also the truck ('97 Explorer 2WD) has been pulling to the right. Today I was under it changing the oil and filter and noticed that the Lower Ball Joints (truck has 225K on it) were badly deteriorated (looked like they could be original to me). I have read the write ups in "useful threads" and it looks like I can do this in the driveway.The main question is...shopping for lower ball joints. I ran across one that said oversized. What is this for? and is 2WD and All Wheel Drive the same LBJ's. Since I don't have any Front End Alignment tools that fit, mainly a magnetic hub adapter for the gauge, and I don't want to get a Pro alignment until I replace the UBJ, I considered purchasing a 98 cent can of white W-Mart spray paint to paint the tire treads with, drive it a few miles and see if I can tell if the tire is sitting flatter on the pavement like it should. (This may not be the way to tell doing this)

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Thanks and that happened to be the same rockauto page I have open. I'll check out the MOOG info when the cat wakes me up.

Have a regular size ball joint AND an oversize ball joint on hand. These trucks are notorious for needing the oversize joint... even when it's the first time the joint has ever been replaced. Have both on hand and you won't have to stop mid-repair and go to the parts store. Also, if you can, find a ball joint press that includes the "Ford" adapter. This will make removing the joint much easier.

I doubt that you're going to need the oversized joint on the first replacement unless it is badly rusted in so you have play after cleaning that rust out of the arm hole. Not in AL at least, I'd imagine I have more salted winter roads up here and I didn't need the oversized BJs.

When my lower BJs were worn, I started hearing a clunk coming down off of bumps in the road, without any significant tire wear yet. If you aren't hearing a clunk in that situation, I would wonder if it's the upper BJs instead of lower, or some other suspension issue.

Better yet shop around online and get a set of lower control arms with new bushings and ball joints already installed ,

My '97 hasn't seen one grain of salt. I live in Alabama and they don't use salt here. It only snows about 2 to 4 hours a year here. I have been hearing a clunk but my brain was trying to tell me that it was my strut rod bushings, but this is my '97 and it doesn't have them like my '92. My '97 lower control arms look to be in really good condition. Bushings look good, but the lower ball joints definitely look ragged. Parts of the boots are gone and what would have grease packed in to the ball joint looks dried out. This weekend I hope to have time to jack up each side and do the top to bottom wiggle test and also check the tie rod end slack too.
Thank Y'all for all the input !

I was under the'97 Monday and about to get under it again. There is no tie-rod slack. When I jack up the passenger side there is a pronounced "pop" coming from the left upper. I don't have to put my hand on it because you can hear it coming from that direction. I have uppers on the way. I will replace the lower ball joints next week with one of the methods described above. When I look at the truck straight on you can see that it looks toed out, and the tires, particularly the left are leaning in at the top. I found a receipt in the glove box from 2014 (140K miles) where it had upper control arm cam adjusting kits installed and the adjustment is rolled all the way out on both sides. Maybe that way to make up for the wear in the upper ball joints?? The truck now has about 220K miles on it.

Before lunch I checked out the left (Driver's side) Upper Ball Joint. Did the pull on top of tire/wheel test. You can feel the play in the Ball joint. Lunch is almost over. Going to check the brakes on this side and wheel bearings while the wheel is off. I don't expect any surprises as I replaced the wheel bearings and brake pads about a year ago. UCA's will be here by the 31st. I'll update if anyone is interested.
I would include pictures except my 2011 Samsung Vibrant and Yahoo mail that I use to get pictures to the PC desktop won't work together. I click to open the pictures in mail and it doesn't recognize the format. Go figure... NO ! I"m NOT getting a newer cellphone/smartphone device. Technology is too advanced already...

I don't want a self driving car...I want a car that I can drive myself...

Ok, It's all back together until the 1st round of parts arrive. Brother has his camera here at work, so I was able to get him to take a few pics. Excuse the dirt, washing vehicles is not a regular thing for me.
1997 Explorer V-6 Automatic trans 2WD. In the background "Dora" (named by my neices) 1992 Ex Eddie Bauer Edition

Under fender picture of the left side front suspension. The upper ball joint is worn out. You might notice some slack in the sway bar end link assy. Bottom bushing on top of the lower control arm is gone. I don't have a spare made out of what ever this is, maybe a urethane material. I don't think rubber would last long. I'm using a 5 gallon bucket handle to hang the caliper.

The next pic shows the uneven tread wear. I'm pointing to some (help me out here tire techs) really jagged wear. Across the tread on the inside part of the tire is worn down more than the outside. This tire was made 09 week of 2015. I just noticed the cracking in beside the last tread.Hmmm?? I like my Wranglers. Hate seeing this one in this condition.
More next week...Thanks Bro for the pics

The factory original sway bar end link bushings were rubber. Urethane will last longer, and provide less movement for the first amount of travel of the sway bar for more control, but rubber should provide a fair lifespan provided the link nuts aren't over-tightened, IF it's high quality rubber, and that's getting harder to find with each passing year so urethane is a safer bet.

IIRC Autozone sells the Energy Suspension urethane bushings but I can't recall if it's an in-stock or ship-to-store part. Otherwise you'd pay more for the whole end link kit at Autozone than buying from Amazon (or Rock Auto, etc, assuming you replace both sides to offset shipping cost).

Since you're in AL you may not have the end link rust issue but here I wouldn't even bother ordering bushings until I took the nut off successfully and examined the bolt to see how rusted it is. Last time I did mine I ended up cutting them off with an angle grinder.

I will check the condition of my sway bar end link long bolt and nut 1st when I jack it up again.Thanks for the tip. It's probably ok. I'm not seeing any thread deterioration on anything else down there. If I had a chunk of 1 " "Delrin" rod, I could saw me off a piece ,drill a hole in it and install it for the moment to take up the slack. I test drove at 3:15 p.m. and was hearing a clunk that seemed like more than the ball joint clunking. Thanks again !

Just looked at the link: Well Dang ! that's cheap enough. Since I am on paved roads 99 % of the time I think I will order myself 2 sets of the 3/8" bushings only for this '97. However it sound like the 7/16" kits would be good for my '91 red 4x4 fix up. Thanks again

Saturday night, When we arrived back at the house from our Daycation trip, there was a box on the back porch with the new Upper Control Arms. These are from RA dot com and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are already drilled for and comes with the grease fittings too. I made sure that I purchased the same brand (not that it matters) but the most important thing that I did was put in the shopping cart several possibilities. RA will ship from different warehouses to fill an order so I picked the two parts from the same warehouse and they came in one box and saved a few dollar on shipping. Picture below:
Today I hope to be able to start the installation of the left one which is in the worst shape and tearing up My Wrangler p235/75R15s. By the way, I really like the Goodyear Wranglers and last fall I ordered some online for "MO the 5.0" and they were shipped to my back porch in less than 21 hours for $308- including shipping for 4 and the date code on them made them 3 weeks new and all matching. Darn good tires !

Well I wasn't able to work on the truck Sunday. 2 of the grandkids were at the house and I was spending time with them.
Monday morning I was able to start on it. The left side was going good, no rusty treads on the bolts etc. When it came time to take out the rear bolt of the upper control arm it wouldn't come out easily. There were 4 separate metal lines interfering. When I put it back together, I put the bolt in from the rear and the nut on the front of the bracket. If you do this, tap the bolt out of the spacer and washer (bolt has splines on it) flip it over so the placer is still oriented the way that it was when it was on the front. The rear spacer has to be turned the same direction that it was when it was on the right or backside of the bracket. One little problem though, its washer is tack welded on so I came up with a 1960's Ford grade 5 maybe 8 washer off of a seatbelt bolt. The washer goes against the bracket before you put the spacer and nut on. Torque to 80+ pounds. The right side was pretty easy, glad I saved it for last.
No pics today Monday), The Photographer was the Painter (for the day) over in the other building .
Next week I will install the Lower Ball Joints after they arrive !

WAIT! Instead of replacing the half-arm on the upper right control arm, order a new one-piece arm and install it. There's a very good possibility that the UCA bushings need to be replaced. With the one-piece arm, you can replace the bushings and ball joint at the same time. Also, it's worth the price difference... since you're already working in there... and you're replacing the left UCA bushings (pre-installed in the left UCA). You don't want to do all of this work and have a clunking sound afterwards... and have to go back in and work on it again.

Bad shocks can cause the tire wear you're experiencing. Think camber, not toe. When were the shocks last replaced? Since you have everything torn apart, now's the time to replace the shocks.

I replaced the shocks 20k ago with Monroe Yellows. The RH lower control arm is off of a 2001 low mileage
explorer with 120,000 miles on it. LCA bushings are really tight. Left lower control arms bushings are tight.In fact, the uppers that I removed have really tight control arm pivot bushings in them. It's too bad that I couldn't replace just the upper ball joints themselves. The old 2 upper ball joints and the left lower ball joints are so worn that once I had the disconnected I could hold the ball joint stem at the threads and jiggle it in its socket.
I own all or part of 4 or 5 dozen vehicles (I have not counted lately) so I can't always replace everything if I wanted to. But thanks for the advice. I'm replacing the LBJs in the morning and going to rent the tool at Advance instead of beating the luck out of them.
Thanks again !

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When I did my lowers I got the larger ($229!) BJ loaner tool from Advance Auto because I wasn't sure if their smaller loaner set had the longer extension tube needed.