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Driving with a coolant leak from the timing cover

The frame doesn't look rough enough to pay for a special inspection by a business, any good alignment shop should be capable of judging if the frame is really dangerous or not.

The camber is part of the alignment, and BJ's can have a major affect on camber. The BJ boots only keep debris out of the joint, and keep grease in it. The upper control arms are not hard to replace, labor isn't that bad for those, but the lower CA's take a lot more work. So most people only do the BJ's in them, which is the labor to R&R them on the car.

The body bushings are the least to worry about given the CEL and tire wear etc. The few pictures shown suggest those bushings are fine to not worry about anytime soon.

Worry about any error codes, the suspension, and go through the fluids and filters(basic tune up stuff). An estimate of those things could help to tell if the truck is worth keeping or moving to something else.
 



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Those upper control arms look original. Looks like the lower BJs have been replaced at some point, but they look rough. Uppers look real rough. Those outer tie rod ends look new-ish and well greased?

My #1 priority here would be ball joints...which means lower ball joints and upper controls arms with ball joints.

Old shocks aren’t great, but your wheels aren’t going to fall off if your shocks are shot.

I’m still curious about the state of the rear shock mount perch...that isn’t heavy gauge steel.
 






Not bad, up here that could be almost a creampuff. The frames actually don't rot out on these things. Maybe at the very back. Nothing $200 of welding can't fix.
 






The frame doesn't look rough enough to pay for a special inspection by a business, any good alignment shop should be capable of judging if the frame is really dangerous or not.

The camber is part of the alignment, and BJ's can have a major affect on camber. The BJ boots only keep debris out of the joint, and keep grease in it. The upper control arms are not hard to replace, labor isn't that bad for those, but the lower CA's take a lot more work. So most people only do the BJ's in them, which is the labor to R&R them on the car.

The body bushings are the least to worry about given the CEL and tire wear etc. The few pictures shown suggest those bushings are fine to not worry about anytime soon.

Worry about any error codes, the suspension, and go through the fluids and filters(basic tune up stuff). An estimate of those things could help to tell if the truck is worth keeping or moving to something else.


That's what I was thinking too, really don't want to spend that much just to get the frame check if not needed. One of my main mechs is going to assess the ball joints tomorrow and give me a quote on them too. He will also work on the CEL. I will pick up a rear o2 sensor today just in case he feels that is it and decides to put it in. If not, I will just return it. I could ask him too about what he thinks of the chasis but perhaps an alignment shop would be better suited. i know a couple highly regarded ones here.

After being up close right under the truck today, I don't see safety issues and I definitely don't see the entire chasis being rotten like the idiot mech described it yesterday.

I'm really upset that I paid that guy (on two visits) $75 and then $75 and he did absolutely nothing but unplug my battery a couple of times, reflash my PCM and did a few scans. But the point is, the CEL issue is still not fixed and he only gave me a likely fix for it but only with a 50% of it working. Then feeds me this crap about how my chasis is 100% rotten and every single suspension part on the truck is completely shot and I would be lucky to get $500 for the truck. Oh and that's $500cdn. A running truck with only 199k km on it and $600 worth of new parts in it is only worth $500? Give me a break. And I wasted 3 hours in his shop yesterday to listen to him go on and on about his bikes and him teaching me mechanics. I appreciated him going out of his way to tell me how things work but close to the end as he kept going on and on, I eventually caught on to what he was doing...he was about to charge me for his time to talk to me. So I cut him off and said I had to get going.

I won't replace the lower control arms, if I can get away with just doing the ball joints and upper arms I will do that. It's too bad the upper arms need to be replaced if the ball joints do.

I won't worry about the bushings thanks. The tires on the truck right now have about 39k km on them from new and still have about 40% tread left. Even with the uneven tire wear, I'd say that's really good! Oh and the set of tires were only $400cdn brand new. Now that is getting your moneys worth. Need to get this CEL out, I don't feel safe driving it with it on.

Those upper control arms look original. Looks like the lower BJs have been replaced at some point, but they look rough. Uppers look real rough. Those outer tie rod ends look new-ish and well greased?

My #1 priority here would be ball joints...which means lower ball joints and upper controls arms with ball joints.

Old shocks aren’t great, but your wheels aren’t going to fall off if your shocks are shot.

I’m still curious about the state of the rear shock mount perch...that isn’t heavy gauge steel.

I'm hoping all 4 ball joints don't need to be done. That with the labour will be costly, even if I buy from Rock Auto (which is quite a bit cheaper than local).

I mean geez at this point, what's another repair right? I guess it depends on the frame and how easy I can clear the CEL for good. BUT with that being said, at this point I really have to seriously consider just selling the darn thing and moving on (though I will miss it).
 






That's what I was thinking too, really don't want to spend that much just to get the frame check if not needed. One of my main mechs is going to assess the ball joints tomorrow and give me a quote on them too. He will also work on the CEL. I will pick up a rear o2 sensor today just in case he feels that is it and decides to put it in. If not, I will just return it. I could ask him too about what he thinks of the chasis but perhaps an alignment shop would be better suited. i know a couple highly regarded ones here.

After being up close right under the truck today, I don't see safety issues and I definitely don't see the entire chasis being rotten like the idiot mech described it yesterday.

I'm really upset that I paid that guy (on two visits) $75 and then $75 and he did absolutely nothing but unplug my battery a couple of times, reflash my PCM and did a few scans. But the point is, the CEL issue is still not fixed and he only gave me a likely fix for it but only with a 50% of it working. Then feeds me this crap about how my chasis is 100% rotten and every single suspension part on the truck is completely shot and I would be lucky to get $500 for the truck. Oh and that's $500cdn. A running truck with only 199k km on it and $600 worth of new parts in it is only worth $500? Give me a break. And I wasted 3 hours in his shop yesterday to listen to him go on and on about his bikes and him teaching me mechanics. I appreciated him going out of his way to tell me how things work but close to the end as he kept going on and on, I eventually caught on to what he was doing...he was about to charge me for his time to talk to me. So I cut him off and said I had to get going.

I won't replace the lower control arms, if I can get away with just doing the ball joints and upper arms I will do that. It's too bad the upper arms need to be replaced if the ball joints do.

I won't worry about the bushings thanks. The tires on the truck right now have about 39k km on them from new and still have about 40% tread left. Even with the uneven tire wear, I'd say that's really good! Oh and the set of tires were only $400cdn brand new. Now that is getting your moneys worth. Need to get this CEL out, I don't feel safe driving it with it on.



I'm hoping all 4 ball joints don't need to be done. That with the labour will be costly, even if I buy from Rock Auto (which is quite a bit cheaper than local).

I mean geez at this point, what's another repair right? I guess it depends on the frame and how easy I can clear the CEL for good. BUT with that being said, at this point I really have to seriously consider just selling the darn thing and moving on (though I will miss it).
Ball joints are very common fail points and will cause tire wear. I guess pro installation cost a bit but it is a relatively easy repair. Anything is going to have wear and tear at this age. I never heard of them failing catastrophically though. The way they are loaded it is unlikely. What you could do for now is get a cheap grease gun with a pin and shoot grease in the boots. It is a stop gap so you don't have metal on metal. If they don't have crazy play do at every oil change. Not perfect but it will reduce wear. You could get boots for them too, I replaced my lowers but my uppers had torn boots and are still tight, I bought poly boots and I fill them with grease.
 






Ball joints are very common fail points and will cause tire wear. I guess pro installation cost a bit but it is a relatively easy repair. Anything is going to have wear and tear at this age. I never heard of them failing catastrophically though. The way they are loaded it is unlikely. What you could do for now is get a cheap grease gun with a pin and shoot grease in the boots. It is a stop gap so you don't have metal on metal. If they don't have crazy play do at every oil change. Not perfect but it will reduce wear. You could get boots for them too, I replaced my lowers but my uppers had torn boots and are still tight, I bought poly boots and I fill them with grease.

Thanks, I will really consider that. If the top ones are still solid, I will get him to put grease in them each time at oil change and put boots on them. How easy is this to do? If the grease gun isn't much then I could probably do it. So you just put poly boots to wrap around the outside of your upper ball joint boots? How have they been holding up?

It sounds like the lower ones are the most important since they bear the weight of the truck. I'm pretty sure my mech who I am seeing tomorrow could do all 4 ball joints for max 1 hour each side (billed time) if all 4 are bad - if I'm lucky 1.5 hrs total. And he will do it so I won't need an alignment after. He did the ball joints on a previous car I had many years ago and he got them done in less than two hours and I didn't need any alignment after. The parts I found (ACdelco brand which is good) on Amazon for $192cdn all in (all 4 ball joints and upper arms) if needed. Local store wanted $400 for all, what a rip off.

Gauranteed my mech will do the 12/6 o'clock test tomorrow with the tires to check for tire play.

I will say that the two new o2 sensors do have readings when the mechanic yesterday did a scan on his computer. They had voltage but the rear one did not have voltage.

The two backyard mechanics that I wasted my time and money with this week are a complete disgrace. I don't trust anyone right now but the 2 main ones that I know and have used for years.
 






Your lowers are greaseable. Uppers...I can’t see well enough to say definitively, but likely not.

The only issue with the 12/6 test is that a badly worn hub or blown out control arm bushings can also cause play. It’s a good test for determining play exists, but additional detective work is often required to figure out exactly where.

I’ve seen BJ failures, but they are rare and often give PLENTY of warning...I'm talking groaning and clunking ball joints for months and months...but when they do, it’s ****ing ugly.
 






Your lowers are greaseable. Uppers...I can’t see well enough to say definitively, but likely not.

The only issue with the 12/6 test is that a badly worn hub or blown out control arm bushings can also cause play. It’s a good test for determining play exists, but additional detective work is often required to figure out exactly where.

I’ve seen BJ failures, but they are rare and often give PLENTY of warning...I'm talking groaning and clunking ball joints for months and months...but when they do, it’s ****ing ugly.
Not greaseable but just for now to shoot some grease in the boot, so there isn't metal to metal. Metal to metal causes extreme heat and failure. Nothing is going to fix them at this point. Mine had no play (I tested apart), but also lack the resistance of a good joint, so they were a good candidate to refurbish. The lower BJ are actually the same part as the F150 from that era.
 






Your lowers are greaseable. Uppers...I can’t see well enough to say definitively, but likely not.

The only issue with the 12/6 test is that a badly worn hub or blown out control arm bushings can also cause play. It’s a good test for determining play exists, but additional detective work is often required to figure out exactly where.

I’ve seen BJ failures, but they are rare and often give PLENTY of warning...I'm talking groaning and clunking ball joints for months and months...but when they do, it’s ****ing ugly.
Ok thanks. But if the lowers are bad then no point in greasing them, just replace them then apply grease. I hope the lowers can be changed out without replacing the upper arm, sounds like they can.

I see. I am highly confident I don't have a blown out control arm bushing, otherwise I would get noise when driving. I don't even get any clunking when going over bumps but the ride is a bit soft at the front (which the shocks would explain it). I'm just going to get my mech to check the entire suspension since it will be up on his hoist. He's been very good with this in the past.

But pretty much when any BJ is about to go bad, it will always give you warning before through sounds on the road.

Even though the previous owner did the ball joints 4 years ago, I'm surprised they already went. He likely replaced them with the cheapest junk part around. I don't put in junk parts, I see no point.

Not greaseable but just for now to shoot some grease in the boot, so there isn't metal to metal. Metal to metal causes extreme heat and failure. Nothing is going to fix them at this point. Mine had no play (I tested apart), but also lack the resistance of a good joint, so they were a good candidate to refurbish. The lower BJ are actually the same part as the F150 from that era.

When you put grease in your uppers, did they look as bad as mine do now?
 






Ok thanks. But if the lowers are bad then no point in greasing them, just replace them then apply grease. I hope the lowers can be changed out without replacing the upper arm, sounds like they can.

I see. I am highly confident I don't have a blown out control arm bushing, otherwise I would get noise when driving. I don't even get any clunking when going over bumps but the ride is a bit soft at the front (which the shocks would explain it). I'm just going to get my mech to check the entire suspension since it will be up on his hoist. He's been very good with this in the past.

But pretty much when any BJ is about to go bad, it will always give you warning before through sounds on the road.

Even though the previous owner did the ball joints 4 years ago, I'm surprised they already went. He likely replaced them with the cheapest junk part around. I don't put in junk parts, I see no point.



When you put grease in your uppers, did they look as bad as mine do now?
Yes, the boots were gone, but they had no play when I moved the socket. If they have play, metal is missing, eventually the ball can pop out. I don't know what shape yours are in. Of course I know how to monitor them every oil change.

Cheap ball joints are not an option on this truck. Moog has a good redesigned ball joint. Probably ACdelco (professional line, not their value line) is good too. They probably rebox some premium brand. I doubt GM is making these for old Fords (Although this part was used up to the 11 Ranger). The rangers kept the same front suspension as the 95-01 explorers to the last truck. Once it has quality parts it is pretty heavy duty. I use mine offroad and it holds up fine. And the UCA is still OEM.
 






Not greaseable but just for now to shoot some grease in the boot, so there isn't metal to metal. Metal to metal causes extreme heat and failure. Nothing is going to fix them at this point. Mine had no play (I tested apart), but also lack the resistance of a good joint, so they were a good candidate to refurbish. The lower BJ are actually the same part as the F150 from that era.

Yes, the boots were gone, but they had no play when I moved the socket. If they have play, metal is missing, eventually the ball can pop out. I don't know what shape yours are in. Of course I know how to monitor them every oil change.

Cheap ball joints are not an option on this truck. Moog has a good redesigned ball joint. Probably ACdelco (professional line, not their value line) is good too. They probably rebox some premium brand. I doubt GM is making these for old Fords (Although this part was used up to the 11 Ranger). The rangers kept the same front suspension as the 95-01 explorers to the last truck. Once it has quality parts it is pretty heavy duty. I use mine offroad and it holds up fine. And the UCA is still OEM.

Oh I see. Not even sure if mine have boots on them. Mine look dry. I am guessing this is the upper on one of the fronts. And then second pic, the lower.

The ACdelco parts in my cart right now are pro line for the lower BJ's but the uppers are out of stock except the regular line. The wait for the pro line for upper is 2-3 weeks. The difference in prices for these parts blows me away. One of my local shop has these same ACdelco pro parts in stock and they want $235cdn per arm with the upper bj, that's not even including the lower bj. That's unreal. Rock Auto has Moog arms with upper bj for $40cdn. Just too bad they don't have any Moog lower bj or else I would just order everything from them. But $40 vs $235? And Moogs are just as good as ACdelco pro line if not a bit better.

I am guessing the bj's on mine are worn so quickly because the previous owner didn't grease them. I don't see a pin hole anywhere on them to squirt grease into them. Just realized that not all ball joints have pin holes to be able to put grease into them, otherwise I see no point in getting ones that don't have it.

DSC_4448.JPG


DSC_4444.JPG
 






I’ve gotten good service life out of the Moogs. Upper control arms are easy to change out, but typically require alignment. Although I’ve found that on one of my trucks, if I slam the uppers all the way out, the camber is zeroed...so I typically don’t realign after that job. But each truck is slightly different.

Lower ball joints are just pressed (or hammered, depending) out and new pressed in. Easy day.
 






Oh I see. Not even sure if mine have boots on them. Mine look dry. I am guessing this is the upper on one of the fronts. And then second pic, the lower.

The ACdelco parts in my cart right now are pro line for the lower BJ's but the uppers are out of stock except the regular line. The wait for the pro line for upper is 2-3 weeks. The difference in prices for these parts blows me away. One of my local shop has these same ACdelco pro parts in stock and they want $235cdn per arm with the upper bj, that's not even including the lower bj. That's unreal. Rock Auto has Moog arms with upper bj for $40cdn. Just too bad they don't have any Moog lower bj or else I would just order everything from them. But $40 vs $235? And Moogs are just as good as ACdelco pro line if not a bit better.

I am guessing the bj's on mine are worn so quickly because the previous owner didn't grease them. I don't see a pin hole anywhere on them to squirt grease into them. Just realized that not all ball joints have pin holes to be able to put grease into them, otherwise I see no point in getting ones that don't have it.

View attachment 327992

View attachment 327993
No, the factory ones are lubed for life. Not made to be serviced. The grease is put in what is left of the boot, it is a stopgap. Service ones have zerks for a grease gun.

Bottom ones are pretty bad from what I see. 100% must be replaced. Top ??? probably needs to go too.
 






So now I really have to ask myself if I'm going to keep or sell the truck.

Was quoted $500 from one of my main (and lower priced mechs) to change all 4 balljoints. This is not including parts, I would have to get them on Rock Auto ($150ish for Moogs). The passenger upper BJ is loose so I will for sure not be driving the truck until it's fixed or sold.

The master brake cylinder is not leaking. Good news for a change. So that other mech was full of crap once again.

CEL got cleared but just came back on. Mech checked the wiring to the front two o2 sensors and said it's all fine. He also said it's not fuses. He put a new o2 for the rear and it didn't work. I will pull for new codes on it.

If I cant get this CEL cleared then why would I bother with the ball joint repair? At this point I really need to consider just getting rid of this even though I will miss it bad and all the lost time in the past month getting all this work done. I mean is it worth going this far and doing all this work on the truck and then tossing it all out the window? The truck runs perfect and better than ever right now.

I'm really fed up with the CEL. It has to be my non working temp gauge inside the truck causing it(fluctuates, always goes from warm to cold and constant moving), even though I just put in a new thermostat and new thermo sensor. Maybe I just keep driving it with the CEL on. I mean I'm so sick of it. It's not working, it's not the o2 sensors (got readings from them) and it's not fuses. And the chances of the heater circuits on both fronts being defective out of the box is like less than 1%. Especially NGK brand sensors.
 






So now I really have to ask myself if I'm going to keep or sell the truck.

Was quoted $500 from one of my main (and lower priced mechs) to change all 4 balljoints. This is not including parts, I would have to get them on Rock Auto ($150ish for Moogs). The passenger upper BJ is loose so I will for sure not be driving the truck until it's fixed or sold.

The master brake cylinder is not leaking. Good news for a change. So that other mech was full of crap once again.

CEL got cleared but just came back on. Mech checked the wiring to the front two o2 sensors and said it's all fine. He also said it's not fuses. He put a new o2 for the rear and it didn't work. I will pull for new codes on it.

If I cant get this CEL cleared then why would I bother with the ball joint repair? At this point I really need to consider just getting rid of this even though I will miss it bad and all the lost time in the past month getting all this work done. I mean is it worth going this far and doing all this work on the truck and then tossing it all out the window? The truck runs perfect and better than ever right now.

I'm really fed up with the CEL. It has to be my non working temp gauge inside the truck causing it(fluctuates, always goes from warm to cold and constant moving), even though I just put in a new thermostat and new thermo sensor. Maybe I just keep driving it with the CEL on. I mean I'm so sick of it. It's not working, it's not the o2 sensors (got readings from them) and it's not fuses. And the chances of the heater circuits on both fronts being defective out of the box is like less than 1%. Especially NGK brand sensors.

No the BJs are more important. But the 02 sensor, zero chance they are defective. All three heaters share the same wire. Wiring could be marginal. meaning it looks good but can't pass the full current.
The heated sensor is not complicated. Just a fuse and the PCM involved. This is not much different than you would find on brand new car today.

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So now I really have to ask myself if I'm going to keep or sell the truck.

Was quoted $500 from one of my main (and lower priced mechs) to change all 4 balljoints. This is not including parts, I would have to get them on Rock Auto ($150ish for Moogs). The passenger upper BJ is loose so I will for sure not be driving the truck until it's fixed or sold.

The master brake cylinder is not leaking. Good news for a change. So that other mech was full of crap once again.

CEL got cleared but just came back on. Mech checked the wiring to the front two o2 sensors and said it's all fine. He also said it's not fuses. He put a new o2 for the rear and it didn't work. I will pull for new codes on it.

If I cant get this CEL cleared then why would I bother with the ball joint repair? At this point I really need to consider just getting rid of this even though I will miss it bad and all the lost time in the past month getting all this work done. I mean is it worth going this far and doing all this work on the truck and then tossing it all out the window? The truck runs perfect and better than ever right now.

I'm really fed up with the CEL. It has to be my non working temp gauge inside the truck causing it(fluctuates, always goes from warm to cold and constant moving), even though I just put in a new thermostat and new thermo sensor. Maybe I just keep driving it with the CEL on. I mean I'm so sick of it. It's not working, it's not the o2 sensors (got readings from them) and it's not fuses. And the chances of the heater circuits on both fronts being defective out of the box is like less than 1%. Especially NGK brand sensors.
Epic thread. I just went thru all 17 pages of it. One thing:
I play with my oil viscosity across the range of vehicles I own. As they grow older and leakier I increase viscosity to suit. Thicker oil will leak and burn more slowly.
In one of my trucks I use 5w40 in the winter, for instance. It leaks slower but isn't so thick that it doesn't pump in the cold. During the summer I use 15w50, a high zinc oil that takes up a little bit of the space between worn engine components. HM oil is always good for swelling up the old seals and making them work a little better for their age.

Good luck, man, you are tenacious. I hope you can sort this truck out. They are great trucks when working right.
 






No the BJs are more important. But the 02 sensor, zero chance they are defective. All three heaters share the same wire. Wiring could be marginal. meaning it looks good but can't pass the full current.
The heated sensor is not complicated. Just a fuse and the PCM involved. This is not much different than you would find on brand new car today.

View attachment 328012

Thanks. I need to figure this out. So now that my mech has crossed out any of the o2 sensors being defective and working and receiving voltage from the PCM just fine. And all the wiring under the truck where the sensors plug into are fine. And the fuses are fine.

I sure hope the PCM doesn't have to be replaced.

It has to either be the wiring under the hood from the PCM (near the firewall) or my thermo sensor issue (with it not working properly and going up and down between 1/4 warm to 1/2 warm and back and fourth.

Are you saying it's okay to drive the truck with the CEL on for the time being? What if I can't ever figure this out?

Update: I did some thinking and I've decided that I am going to keep the truck and go ahead with the ball joint repairs BUT this is the last amount of money that I will be putting into the truck right now for anything. I just can't toss everything out the window right now. The truck runs great and I need it, plain and simple. Shocks will be done (hoping later this year) but it's not an immediate need. Will only be doing the fronts.

When I started doing the math, the $3425cdn that I've put into these repairs just recently doesn't look near as bad when I look at the grand scope of things this way.

I bought the truck 25 months ago for $2000cdn. Buying any truck or SUV at that price will always require some more money put into repairs. I didn't do any repairs except buy a new set of tires. So in the 25 months that I've had it driving it, I put $0 into repairs. I was well over due for them.

Costs:
Year 1: $2000 (my purchase price) - Works out to $166.67cdn a month to drive it. Cheap for a truck compared to a brand new one.
Year 2: $2000 (deducted from the $3425 that I just put out for it in the past month) - Works out to $166.67cdn a month to drive it. Cheap for a truck compared to a brand new one.
Year 3: Total cost invested = $5425 - $4000 (cost to own for the first 2 years) = $1425

So basically if I view it in the way that $2000 of the $3425 that I just spent is offset as year 2 costs, then my current year 3 repair costs are only $1425 to date, which to me sounds very reasonable. When I view that number for this year then it's not near as bad as just seeing it as a huge lump some all at once.

So I can add the cost of the 4 ball joints and new arms + the cost of the labour and it would come out with still a reasonable number for year 3.

I just ran an order on Rock Auto for Moog premium lower and upper bj's and premium upper arms. I was going to go with AC delco professional but with shipping it was $80 more and since I am getting Moog premium grade, it's just as good. Plus a big thing is the AC Delco pro's are pregreased and you can't squirt more grease into the boots over time, whereas the Moogs you can. So this was the huge tipping point to go with Moogs because I plan on squirting grease into them every oil change or so, to keep them well lubed.

How difficult is ball joint installs? Is this something you would trust a backyard mech to do? I mean if I wanted to cut costs even more, I could go with another backyard mech to do the job. I was quite shocked by the quote my main mech gave me today of $500, that seems rather high (and he's the cheapest of my 3 main mechs I've been using for years).
 






As for the BJ install. I am 50/50 on who I should get to do the job. My main mech from today or a backyard mechanic I just discovered who quoted me $240 for the job, exactly half the cost of my main mech. I really wanted to give my main mech the business by getting him to do it but I find $500 to do the job to be a bit outrageous.

From a moral standpoint. My main mech diagnoses stuff at no cost. He's done this for me for years. He only charges for actual labour. Though he's not the best at diagnosing certain things and he's not great at explaining things, the fact is, he's gone out of his way for me time and time again to do little things (like pulling codes and other small quick 10-15min jobs) and never charged me. Though he has flaws and I started to see them over time (that my other main mechanics are better at doing), he's still a good honest guy and I trust him with anything. This is why I've been going to him for 6 years now.

I can pay double the cost and get him to do it. That way he knows that I got him to assess the BJ's, quote the job and do the install. And then I can continue to keep taking the truck to him for maintenance. He's been the only mechanic who's been doing oil changes on it since I got it.

OR

I can get the backyard mech to do the BJ install for half the cost. BUT if I was to do this, I would not feel comfortable or right continuing to take the truck to my main mech anymore after this (even for oil changes). Because I told him today that I will order the parts and contact him when they arrive to book a time for me to bring the truck in. So he's technically expecting a call back from me. So if I went with a backyard mech to do the repair just for the sake of saving $260 (which is a good chunk of money especially right now, I'm not rich). Then I would have to do maintenance and oil changes at one of my other mechs for now on and since my main mech knows I have this truck and a car, he will ask what happened to the Ford and I can just say that I decided to get rid of it or whatever.
 






I've been following these posts and honestly think bouncing around from one mechanic to another has only compounded your issues (and most likely cost you money in the long run). I "get" wanting to pay the least amount of money for hired repairs, but you risk alienating any and all of them with this kind of practice. You mention your main mechanic has been good to you over the years. Don't jeopardize your relationship with him over a couple hundred bucks. Consider it payback for all he's done to help you out. If he starts feeling you are playing him against other shops all the time, he may be inclined to just let you walk. Or, at the very least, start charging you for all those free inspections, minor repairs, diagnostics, etc. Personally, I don't think his labor rate of $500 is completely outrageous given the rusty lower ball joints/control arms he has to contend with. It may be easy for those who live outside the Rust Belt to just bang those lower BJ's out...but with excessive rust involved, it's not uncommon to have to put a torch to them to break them free. He's probably just padding the labor a little to account for that possibility. Just my $.02 worth ($.026 CDN)......
 



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As for the BJ install. I am 50/50 on who I should get to do the job. My main mech from today or a backyard mechanic I just discovered who quoted me $240 for the job, exactly half the cost of my main mech. I really wanted to give my main mech the business by getting him to do it but I find $500 to do the job to be a bit outrageous.

From a moral standpoint. My main mech diagnoses stuff at no cost. He's done this for me for years. He only charges for actual labour. Though he's not the best at diagnosing certain things and he's not great at explaining things, the fact is, he's gone out of his way for me time and time again to do little things (like pulling codes and other small quick 10-15min jobs) and never charged me. Though he has flaws and I started to see them over time (that my other main mechanics are better at doing), he's still a good honest guy and I trust him with anything. This is why I've been going to him for 6 years now.

I can pay double the cost and get him to do it. That way he knows that I got him to assess the BJ's, quote the job and do the install. And then I can continue to keep taking the truck to him for maintenance. He's been the only mechanic who's been doing oil changes on it since I got it.

OR

I can get the backyard mech to do the BJ install for half the cost. BUT if I was to do this, I would not feel comfortable or right continuing to take the truck to my main mech anymore after this (even for oil changes). Because I told him today that I will order the parts and contact him when they arrive to book a time for me to bring the truck in. So he's technically expecting a call back from me. So if I went with a backyard mech to do the repair just for the sake of saving $260 (which is a good chunk of money especially right now, I'm not rich). Then I would have to do maintenance and oil changes at one of my other mechs for now on and since my main mech knows I have this truck and a car, he will ask what happened to the Ford and I can just say that I decided to get rid of it or whatever.
The bitterness of shoddy service persists long after the sweetness of low price has faded away.

I am not rich either, and I do much of my own work. But, I work alot and can't keep up with my own hobby, very often, so I have no choice but to go to a mechanic.
I have a guy for coarse repairs, like balljoints and exhausts and stuff. Then, I have a guy for things that require a little more subtlety and knowledge like wacky computer and transmission stuff. The price difference between the two is what you might imagine. You might choose to adopt this way of approaching stuff, IDK...there is a bit of a gamble involved. You should probably get an alignment after the balljoints, so you might want to spend the extra dough to get it all done by the same guy and make the problem go away permanently. Peace of mind, as it were.
 






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