1999 ford contour, need to replace the ball joints

I am hopeing that someone here can help me find some good info on how to replace the ball joints on my 99 contour. Most places are charging too much for labor, and they want to use their own parts, which are much higher than I can buy them at an auto parts store.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. JR

You need a good quality jack and jack stands and a repair manual for the car. A quality socket set will be a must and an impact wrench a huge plus. You’ll also likely need some specialty front end tools such as a pickle fork. The latter kinds of tools can be “borrowed” by some of the chain auto parts stores - you buy it, take it home & use it, and they give you a full refund after you return it.

They are charging for labor because it is a bear of a job. Afterwards you’ll need a front end alignment. If you are a very experienced, and strong mechanic you can do this. It isn’t going to be a fun job without the car up on a lift.

  1. Are the current ball joints held on by rivets, or nuts+bolts? If the former, they are (likely) original equip and will have to be drilled out. If the latter, then they are replacements, and can be unscrewed.

  2. You will need: a.Torx-head bits, and b. impact wrench, cheater bar, or other means of supplying a lot of torque. Lots of rust on the undercarriage = tough to break bolts loose.

  3. You will need a pickle fork to remove the ball joint.

  4. When you install the ball joints, you have to first compress the strut a bit before the part will fit into position, which is a pain. You can buy bolts of the same diameter/pitch, but 2" to 3" longer. This will allow you to put the ball joint on without compressing the strut. Once you get it tightened down, SWAP OUT THE BOLTS, ONE AT A TIME, FOR THE BOLTS THAT CAME WITH THE PART!! Hardware bolts are weaker steel, and they WILL fail, likely at a very bad time.

  5. My ball joints cam with grease fittings. This means you have to a. install them, and b. grease them on a regular basis. (The Jiffy-guy will say you don’t need grease, but he’s going off of OEM specs.)

Buy a repair manual for your car and read up on how to replace them. As I recall, the ball joints on your car are an absolute pain to replace, even for an experienced front end mechanic. It’s been a long time since I looked at a '99 Contour, but I’m pretty sure they are pressed into the control arm, so you will need a ball joint press to remove and install them. I can’t really tell you exactly how the job goes since it has been so long since I have looked at one of these cars. Once you read about it in the repair manual, you can gauge whether or not it is within your mechanical abilities. Keep in mind that if you get in the middle of it and realize you are in over your head, the tow bill will negate any savings you got buying your own parts, and a shop will probably charge you extra labor for taking over and finishing your work.

On the topic of shops charging too much for labor and wanting to use their own parts, this is because they are a business and have to make money on repairs to keep their doors open and their lights on. They have shop insurance to pay and many of the people working there have a family at home to provide for. Many mechanics have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars into their tool collections, and it’s not because they like spending all their money on tools. They have to buy those tools to fix your car. If your circuit breaker panel caught fire in your house, and you brought in an electrician to replace everything, would you take the itemized bill with you to a home improvement store and complain that you can get the parts cheaper and this jerk is charging you too much to fix your electrical system? It’s the same thing. All businesses have to make money to stay in business. If everyone brought their own parts to the shop, there would soon be no shops and lots of broken down cars with no one to fix them.

It’s been a long time since I looked at a '99 Contour, but I’m pretty sure they are pressed into the control arm, so you will need a ball joint press to remove and install them.

No, Mark, they’re riveted (OEM) or bolted (aftermarket) to the control arm with 3 fasteners. Then, they’re fastened to the knuckle with a Torx-head bolt through a “pinch fitting”(?..like a bicycle seat is fastened) I believe one can also buy the whole ball joint/control arm assembly, but don’t quote me on that…)

We were going to buy the control arm with the ball joints pressed on, but thought was going to be harder to get the control arm off, because of the left side. The book says you have to take out an engine bolt to get the control arm off.

My husband has done what the book said, and drilled into the rivets, but now they will not punch out. They seem to be acting like a shock, and bouncing around. Any suggestions, please!

Thanks, Julie

We got the ball joints done.

Now the problem is to figure out why there is still a small wobble. Before it was really bad, now its minor, but still there.

My first thought was the tires could have gotten a bad wear pattern. My son drove it for about 9 months with the bad ball joints.

It was also suggested that maybe the bad ball joints could have caused some brake issues.

The wobble is more noticable driving over 55 miles, and when slowing down.

If anyone has any suggestions on where to start looking, please let me know.

Thanks in advance!


There are just a few too many things that can create wobble, so maybe at this point it is best to have a good front end shop look it over. Unless the wobble is only associated with braking in which case you likely need new rotors.

Of course, the first thing I always do is just have the tires balanced. You can take it to a good, local tire/alignment kind of shop and ask them to balance and give the front end a once over. Sometimes you can identify other kinds if tire issues (e.g. belt separation) by moving the tires around on the car to see if things change with the position of the tires.

The wobble from the bad ball joints masked this other lessor wobble. You’ve got to go back to basics and start with tires and wheels. It is very possible in a '99 car that one of the wheels whacked a curb or pothole and is damaged and part of the problem.

Tie rod ends, rack and pinion, strut mounts, even the sub frame mount can cause such a problem.

We are going to take the car in to a shop in the morning, and see what is going on. Since there is so much that could be wrong, I would rather have them find it. We were planning on getting an alignment and tires, but I will wait and see what they say is wrong.

Thanks to all who replied!


A wobble can be caused by improper alignment and this is entirely possible considering the amount of front end work.

Checking the caster and camber at home is not for a novice but you can easily ballpark the toe, which could be the most likely cause of a wobble.

Take a tape measure and pick a line in the tread. It doesn’t matter which as long as you use the same row of tread in both measurements.
Measure from one row of tread on one front tire to the same row on the front of the opposite tire. Repeat this process on the back of the front tires and yes, it will take 2 people to do this.

You should keep the tape as high as possible pff the ground without bending the tape. Compare the measurements from front to back.
Ideally you’re looking for (roughly) straight ahead or a shade narrower on the front measurement.

If you see that the measurements are a 1/2" off, etc. this is likely your wobble. This can be adjusted out with the tie rod ends. Try to keep the turns the same to keep the steering wheel centered. Hope that helps.

Just got a call from the auto shop and something about a cambor angle leaning one way? He said the front top is leaning in, and the other is leaning out. So they are fixing that, and doing an all wheel alignment. He didnt say a thing about the struts. It was another shop that told my son that one of the struts was leaking. I wonder if I should even replace them. They told my son that the right side was leaking.(?) Since the shop didnt say anything about it, I dont know if I should still replace them or not. I may give them a call back. This shop has done really well with my other cars over the years, so I cant see them not seeing that if it was the case. I guess time will tell. I am anxious to see how well it drives!
Thanks to all who replied, and if anyone has any suggestions about the struts, please reply. We already bought them, just have not put them on yet.

Well they are telling me that the struts are fine. They did say that they are original, and the coils are a little rusted, but otherwise ok. Now I dont know who to believe. The first car place said the struts were bad, and this place said they are ok.
Any suggesions?
Thanks, Julie