Ball Joint Failure

Hello all! I have a quick question. My passenger side lower ball joint failed going 60 mph down the highway. Thankfully I was able to slow the car and get it towed home. After the incident I noticed the lower control arm was on the ground. I assume it drug on the ground from 60 mph all the way til I could stop the car. I inspected it, and it ‘seems’ fine. Cheaper to just replace all the upper and lower ball joints and quicker, but should I err on the side of caution and bite the bullet and get a whole lower control arm with ball joints? Ever heard of Mevotech? I know nobody can actually see it, this is an internet forum, just wondering. My gut feeling says to get a new one but replacing it is not gonna be fun (coil spring, strut, etc etc). Thanks!

1996 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, 77K on the clock

It would help to know what vehicle we are discussing and the miles on it.

I have replaced many lower control arm where no special tools were needed.


my bad, I thought the vehicle was showing up. I need to fix that. 1996 Grand Marquis LS, 77K miles.

good to hear that no special tools needed. someone told me not even a spring compressor is needed. not sure on that one! those things make me nervous after seeing a compressor fail and the spring go flying across the shop!

Don’t worry about the lower control arm. These cars are built like tanks You may not need to replace the uppers, as they are much less loaded than the lowers. Be sure and check both sides upper and lower. This is a pretty low mile failure, if these joints have grease fittings, sounds like they weren’t greased all that often.

thanks for the reply. true they are built like tanks. the drivers side upper and lower ball joints are shot as well as the passenger side upper ball joint. no grease fittings, they are the ‘lubed for life’ ones lol. cmon Ford you can do better than that! but in any case, the new Moog ones I am looking at obviously have the grease fittings. if only the originals from Ford had them, they probably wouldnt have failed this soon

“Lubed for life” unfortunately means their rather short life, not the car’s life! I hate 'em! GM did LFL joints on their trucks for a while but switched back because of customer complaints and early wear-outs.

I hate em too. They are a terrible design. Glad gm listened to the customers and switched back. Hopefully that lca is in good shape. I just have no way of telling. It’s not cracked or even bent somehow (amazing since it dragged the pavement at 60mph for about a minute). The uppers are so easy! It’s those dang lowers…

Looks like replacing the arm is pretty common:

Is the lower joint just pressed into the arm (if done separately)?

My suggestion is to replace all of the control arms. If one ball joint broke it can be reasonably assumed the others have a certain degree of wear on them and ball joints are the one suspension item that can kill you very quickly.
In most cases, including yours, the car will slide to a stop. Cars have been known to roll and kill the occupants at times due to a failed ball joint.

The vehicle mileage is not very high for a catastrophic ball joint failure so the possibility of environmental conditions (high water, road salt), many miles on rough roads, or even the possibility of failed or weak shocks should be taken into consideration.

The roads around here are horrid and I’ve had to replace ball joints, tie rods, and tie rod ends multiple times on the same vehicles; MOOG or no MOOG.

The last MOOG tie rod ends on my daughter’s Mustang made it 25k miles. Just got done replacing the MOOG lower ball joints on her car (again) after 40k miles.

In the near future I will be replacing the MOOG lower ball joints on my Lincoln as they’re borderline already at 30 something thousand miles. sigh :frowning:

@Mustangman; I almost forgot what a grease fitting looked like.

I had to go to three parts stores to find a U-joint with a zerk for my Dakota.

Remember when every car had about 10 fittings and ball joints lasted forever if you greased them once a year. I even remember those little flapper things on electric motors that you dribbled a little oil into to lube the bushings. Then there were those caps that you filled with grease and gave them a turn once in awhile to push a little grease into a bushing.


Back in the day when grease Zerks were common we use to grease the chassis as part of an oil change job. I can remember when gas stations and so on used to charge 2 to 5 bucks (as time progressed) for a chassis lube.

Regarding the suspension on these cars, my personal feeling is that the upper ball joints on them are a bit small for such a large vehicle.

awesome, thanks for all the replies and help on this. this is my first suspension job. I never worked on it before, so I have a pro coming over to watch so I can have some hands on. the original motorcraft ball joints pressed into the lower control arm. no zerk fittings whatsoever.

I just purchased a kit, to do the entire front end. upper control arms w/ball joints & zerks, lower control arms w/ball joints & zerks, inner and outer tie rod ends w/zerks, tie rod end adjusting sleeve, stabilizer bar link w/zerks, wheel hub and bearing, brake pads, fuel filter, oil, and oil filter. threw in Ujoints cause the driveshaft is a little loose. New tires, THEN alignment. TON of work to do when the parts arrive.

I will never know why Ford didnt use zerk fittings. was it cause up north where they are made there is salt and grime that could get into the zerks? Im thinking Ford was trying to save money at the cost of ball joint failure (damn the customers right) later. anyway, not pleased with Ford at all. but the new stuff has zerks everywhere, and I cant wait to get this thing back on the road finally.

thanks again for the tips and advice!

Get the moog stuff with zerks. If you get just the ball joint itself then you might need to rent a ball joint press (just a big C clamp with different sized pieces of pipe). Also possibly a pickle fork, and a BFH.

If you can get the control arm with the ball joint already pressed in it is a lot easier of a job.

Just make sure to jack your car under the spring to load/compress the spring.

It’s not just Ford. It seems like the extra expense of adding a drilled hole and a zerk fitting…at about 25 cents each is cutting into their profits too much.


Ford is not the only one guilty of using Zerkless fittings. It’s the norm for most and has been for a long time.

No doubt some bean counters have gotten a nice Xmas bonus in the past by suggesting grease Zerks be done away with and shaving the cost of building a car by a buck.

There is more to the lube for life fittings than just removing the zerk fittings. The lube type used to use grease as the lubricant between the ball and the socket. The lube for life type use a crosslink polyethylene insert as the lubricant.

On the lube for life fittings, the rubber boot is sealed at the socket end to keep water, mud, grit and dust out of the joint. The lube type cannot be sealed as the old grease has to be able to be pushed out of the way by fresh grease.

Now that you have switched to the lube type, you need to add fresh grease every three months or so, typically at each oil change. If you don’t, they will wear out much faster than the lube for life type.

The Achilles heal of the lube for life joints is the rubber boot. They often use a natural rubber that will crack and split after a few years. Once that happens, then the bad stuff gets in and accelerated wear starts that ultimately leads to failure.

There are some lube type today that use the polyethylene insert and still accept grease. In theory, if properly maintained, they should last the longest, combining the best of both types. They use a sealed boot, but the boot has a little hole in it that acts as a one way valve to let old grease out. You have to be careful not to overfill one of these too quickly to the point that you rupture the boot.

When I worked in a gas station in the 50s a grease job was just part of an oil change like using white grease on the door hinges and oiling the hood latch.
I remember a grease chart on the wall with rotating wheels to show where the grease fittings on all the cars. I remember the 37 pontiac well because it had 37 places to grease, the most of any car on the chart. Foreign cars? What Foreign cars?

Used to grease wheel bearings periodically too. And they lasted forever. I remember doing my '64 Fairlane in the barracks parking lot. Now the wheel bearings aren’t even tapered rollers anymore, they’re double-row ball bearings.

I’m unaware of any modern passenger car that comes with any zerk fittings. Or with lubricatable wheel bearings. Anybody know of one?

When I pulled the front wheel off my lawn tractor, I couldn’t believe there were zerk fittings for the wheel (plain bronze) bearings and steering king pins (and this on the cheapest Sears model I could get 8 years ago).

I don’t understand the complaints about lube for life joints. There are so many examples where they work well, providing long life. In the cases where they fail prematurely, why not be critical of the manufacturer?