'97 Taurus GL 147k: Suspension Q's


#1

Looks like I have a bad ball joint on the lower control arm/knuckle on my passenger side. While hoisted, I can actually yank the wheel in and out about 3/4" while lying on the ground!



Ford manual says " Lower ball joint and ball joint seal are not replaceable. If damaged, the front wheel knuckle (3K185) must be replaced".



However, AutoZone and Advanced both stock replacement ball joints. Is it possible to separate the ball joint from the knuckle, avoiding knuckle replacement? It seems ridiculous to replace the entire knuckle for just this little joint! Also, I know I’ve been driving on this bad ball joint for a while. The car would make a “clunk” noise every time I drove over a slightly uneven surface - like the soft curb at the lip of my driveway, for example, or a bump in the road. But it drove OK otherwise, and the tires only wore slightly unevenly on the inner edges. Not too bad. Is it possible that any of the other components now need replacement? They all LOOK OK - except for the rubber dust covers which all seem to be dried out and cracked everywhere I look (except for the tie rod on the other side).




#2

[b]The lower ball joint is pressed into the lower control arm. To replace the ball joint will require access to a ball joint removal/installation tool.

Some part stores either rent or allow free use of this tool when you buy the ball joint from them.

Tester[/b]


#3

Cars do not wear out one part at a time, while similar nearby parts remain unworn. Todays cars depend on rubber boots and seals to retain grease inside the joint and prevent dirt and water from getting in. In your case, the joint may have failed prematurely when the boot/seal failed. But the other front-end parts will not be far behind as you have noticed the condition of the protective covers and seals. The steering rack, the sway-bar mounts, the strut pivots, tie-rod ends, P.S. pump and hoses all are going to fail at some point. They were DESIGNED to do that. You WILL buy a new car…


#4

Tester,

The Haynes manual shows the ball joint separator being used to separate the control arm from the ball joint, but there is no mention of how to remove the ball joint from the knuckle. Maybe the same tool can be used? The one in the photo looks like it fits snug around the control arm, meaning it probably wouldn’t work on the knuckle. I hope I don’t have to hammer upward. That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me - unless it comes out easy. I remember removing one on my Colt several years ago. On that car, the nut was on the topside of the knuckle. After removing the nut, I simply hammered the side of the knuckle until the joint fell out the bottom. With the Taurus, the nut is on the bottom, so I presume the joint must come out the topside of the knuckle?


#5

Caddyman,

What am I supposed to do about these rubber dust covers? Do I just replace the cover, shooting some grease inside beforehand? Is this possible? They’re very small, squashed, rubber boots. Not sure how you’d replace them without pulling the joint apart first.


#6

I think your car is probably made like the Lincoln LS models. The lower ball joint is actually pressed into the steering knuckle itself.
This means the entire steering knuckle needs to come off and it will probably require a hydraulic press to get them out.

As to the rubber boots, diassembly with a pickle fork usually means destroying the boots. If you don’t mind a bit of potential aggravation you can try loosening the ball joint or tie rod end nut about halfway, apply pressure with a pry bar to the nut, and whack the knuckle at that spot with a hammer. Sometimes they will come loose this way; sometimes not.

If you ruin the boots then these boots are available now at most car parts stores, but new ball joints should come with new ones.
Since one ball joint is bad, I always recommend doing the other as there is usually not that much difference in condition. Since the steering knuckle will be off the car this is also a good time to check those tie rod ends by hand and replace those if necessary.

Non-serviceability is a joy, huh? :frowning:


#7

I think that the knuckle might be called the ball joint at the parts place, and it isn’t that expensive anyway. So check further.


#8

ok,

I think you’re right! The manuals show the joint being separated from the lower control arm, but not from the knuckle! I removed a ball joint from my Colt a few years back but in that case the nut was on the top of the knuckle. After separating the control arm using the horrendous pickle fork, I simply hammered the knuckle all around the ball joint until it finally fell out the bottom. It was a bowling pin-shaped joint. In this case, I think the joint drops in from the top (because the nut is on the bottom). So I will probably need to push it up and out to separated it from the knuckle. Why couldn’t this be done with, say, a C-clamp? And what could be so special about the ball joint seal that would make Ford say you have to throw the whole thing away and get another knuckly/joint combo from the factory? Am I not going to be able to push the new joint into the knuckle without this special “press” that you speak of?


#9

I don’t think so. The knuckle doesn’t appear to be available through the auto parts stores. I’d have to go to the dealer for that!

If I DO end up separating all the individual components to get at this joint, I might as well replace everything. All the parts are original. Where can I get new, unwarped brake discs/rotors? Can I trust AutoZone? The other parts will probably be dealer only (I’m guessing). This car has developed a lot of carriage-like squeaks/creaks over the years. Replacing all these parts might solve that “problem”.


#10

A large C-clamp is definitely a possibility if you can get the clearance around the anvil of the clamp.
It may take some real muscle strength to get it loose anyway.

I mentioned removal of the knuckle since it would be comparatively easy to block the knuckle up in a press and simply shove it out. I do realize this involves disassembling a lot of junk.

The new ball joints will come with new boots. If you do decide to disconnect the tie rod ends and remove the knuckle you can save the tie rod end boots. Simply loosen the nut halfway and apply some pressure (C-clamp, etc.)and rap the knuckle sharply where the tie rod end stud goes through. They will usually pop loose then. If you have to use a pickle fork then those boots should be available.

I agree that’s it’s a pain that car makers (not just Ford) make things as an assembly now. Can’t buy the boot so you have to buy the entire knuckle. Ran into this with one of my daughter’s cars recently; a Mitsubishi. Both rear knuckle upper control arm bushings were beat out and no one on earth makes a replacement bushing. It’s 250 bucks apiece for new dealer-only knuckles instead of a 10 dollar bushing. A few hours on the lathe one evening and I made some aluminum bushings with grease zerks. (About 4 dollars worth of aluminum involved.)

About 2 years ago a small plastic grommet broke on my Lincoln’s brake booster. This grommet holds the ABS brake switch in place. No big deal I figured since the grommet had a Ford part no. embossed on it.
Nope, the Ford dealer can’t order it; have to buy the entire brake booster for 350 bucks. It’s not the Ford dealer’s fault; FOMOCO won’t give them the part with that no. on it.

Since I’m thrifty (wife says cheap) I spent about 4-5 hours on the lathe one evening and made an aluminum grommet with O-rings to solve the problem. It still works and the only thing it cost me was 2 O-rings.


#11

Colt Hero:
The lower ball joint on your Taurus was not designed to be replaced. It can be done though. Because the ball joint is pressed into the spindle the spindle needs to be removed from the vehicle. Once the spindle is removed the easiest thing to do is take it to someone with a press and have the old joint pressed out and the new one pressed in.
Optional instruction for removal are here:
http://www.v8sho.com/SHO/Lowe%20BallJointRemovalHELLLP!.htm
~Michael


#12

ok,

Turns out the dealer DOES stock the ball joint separately - even though the Ford Manual says it’s a knuckle/joint assembly that must be replaced as one unit. The ball joint is $45.06 (wholesale), whereas the knuckle/joint combo runs $313.82 (wholesale). New rotors are $90.62 each. A tie rod runs $27.10. Not sure how far I’ll go with this. Usually I only fix what’s broken, but in this case, because I might have to take everything apart anyway, and because all these parts ARE original with 147k miles on them, I might have to replace everything! Man, that’s $180 per side if I buy from the dealer!

One other thing: the Ford manual also says to replace any removed nuts. Is this necessary? Do mechanics really do this?


#13

Thanks Dartman. I’ll print that out. Looks interesting (and pretty funny).


#14

Oops! Stupid question - just saw that the replacement joint comes with a new nut…