Hi. I was wondering whats the best way to check balljoints on a 1995 mercury grandmarquis . Car seems to wander on the highway. I replaced pitmanarm and tierods still wanders then took the car to a shop they said I need balljoints but could not do the work for 2weeks went to another shop they checked out the car they said noting wrong with balljoints. i have a bad steering column. WHO DO I BELIEVE ? car has 217000 highway miles thanks for any help


Forgot to mention tires are wearing normal. What I mean when i say wandering cars seems to be all over the road when at higwayspeeds I find it diffuct to drive a straight line … .NO i am not driving drunk!


Both can cause the car to wander.

To check balljoints, jack up that corner of the car and set it on a stand. Turn the wheel all the way in the direction you want to check. Grab the tire and try to steer it farther than it goes with the steering wheel. With a bad balljoint, youll see movement between the steering knuckle and the control arms (where the balljoints are).

Wherever you take it to, Id ask them to show you on the car why the parts they think are bad are really bad. If they wont show you, then Id go somewhere else.


No! No! No! That’s not how you check for a worn balljoint!

Place a floor jack under the control arm of the balljoint in question, and jack up the vehicle so the tire is 3-4 inches off the floor. Doing this unloads the balljoint. Now take a 4-5 foot long bar or 2X4 and place an end under the tire. Now pry up on the tire while watching the balljoint. If it’s worn, you’ll see the balljoint move up and down in its socket.



Hmm, maybe Im not understanding it correctly? Id think if I put the jack under the control arm, Id be compressing the balljoint with the vehicle weight on it, not unloading it.

When I jack up the corner of the car and put a stand under the frame with the tire off the ground, to me that would unload the balljoint. I could then try prying the tire up and down, but what works for me is to just grab the tire and try to steer it past the steering stop. With that, any further possible motion is seen as side play in the balljoint.

At least thats whats worked for me for the last 10 years.


No! The method you described was for checking for worn tie rod ends. Not worn balljoints.



Tester is correct…On a Grand Marq, the spring is resting on the lower control arm. If you lift the car from the frame, the spring keeps tremendous pressure on the “loaded” joint and they can’t be moved even if badly worn. By lifting the wheel by the control arm, you compress the spring and unload the joint. You still need the 2x4 to lift the heavy tire, wheel, brake and hub.

On McPherson strut cars, you lift from the frame as the spring does NOT load the lower control arm…

If the ball joints pass inspection, next step is an alignment. Just a LITTLE toe out will make the steering jumpy but not wear the tires. On Panthers, the control arm bushings usually fail before the ball joints. They usually will make a lot of noise when you drive over a bump at low speed…


At 217k miles and after replacing the tie rods, where is the alignment in all of this? Has the car ever seen an alignment rack?

Either the toe being off or the camber (Caddyman’s reference to control arm bushings will affect this) can cause the car to wander on the road.


When I can pull the wheel sharper and watch the side play at the balljoint, it means it is bad. This way works for tie rods too, if I am keeping my eyes on the tie rod end while moving the wheel. I do have MacPherson strut vehicles though. So I unload the spring differently. But after that, once unloaded, I would believe that a bad Marquis balljoint would still have side play, which would cause road wander, and could be seen by pulling the wheel sideways while watching the unloaded joint.

But Im done here now. I dont know what I ever said in here to deserve getting screamed at twice.


Who’s screaming? I don’t see any all caps posts.

Look! People come here to get advice on their vehicles. And if the advice given is misinformation, this is far worse than no information at all!

In this case, we’re talking about checking the balljoints on a Grand Marquis. And using your method you wouldn’t be able to tell if the balljoint is bad or not because the balljoint wasn’t unloaded. So now the person checks the balljoints using your method, and they appear to be fine. But what happens if they drive the vehicle down the road and the balljoint seperates and they wreck the vehicle or worse? Are you willing to take the responsibilty for giving this misinformation, and pay for the damages they incur from this misinformation? I don’t think so!

So, you better thicken up that skin a little more. Because if you give misinformation on this board, we’ll call you on it. We want this to be a quality board for people to come to for their car problems. Because if it isn’t, what the hell good is it?



Thanks for all the info. We checked it both ways and found the ball joints are bad but can only get the ball joints to show up as being defective the way Tester said to check them.
Thanks to wagonman 76 for his input too.
Can this be a do-it-yourself project or do I need a professional? I have some knowledge and practice on cars, but I’ve never done this before.
Thanks again


It takes a bit of physical effort but it’s not that bad. You will need a couple of specialty tools though.
One is a pickle fork and the other is the ball joint press tool to remove and install the ball joints. These tools can usually be rented from auto parts stores such as AutoZone, O’Reillys, etc. Put up a deposit on the tool and they will refund it in its entirety when you bring the tool back.

Just a side note here about ball joints. About a year ago I think it was I ran across a Ford with a suspected bad ball joint. The car wandered on the road but both ball joints had been replaced about 20k miles previously so the ball joints were not suspect at first.

The wear indicators showed good and prying on the bottom of the tires revealed nothing. I finally decided that there had to be a problem with the RF joint since a visual showed the wheel might have had a very slight negative camber to it and the tires were starting to scuff a bit.
Once separated it was determined the ball stud had a good 3/16" of slop in the ball socket.
It was amazing to me that it could be this worn out and yet the wheel assembly remain so tight.
This really was throwing me for a loop at first, but replaced the joint and problem solved.
No, I can’t explain it.