Ball Joint Failure

I might add that premature failure may not necessarily be due to shoddy manufacturing. It could be the result of environmental conditions including dust, extreme heat and cold, water, road salt, etc.

It would be interesting to know the full history of cars that suffered premature failure to see what kind of trends are involved.

I replaced some “lube for life” ball joints on a truck a few weeks ago

Upper and lower, both sides. The kind that are riveted, so it was quite a bit of work

Anyways, the truck is 13 years old, and it had well over 100K

I’d say they got pretty good usage out of the original ball joints. I wouldn’t call that premature failure, in any case. The ball joints didn’t break. I just noticed excessive play, during a routine service

And the next time they’re due . . . if the truck is still around that long . . . it’ll be easier to replace them, because the replacement ball joints are bolted in

Joe, I’ve never had a problem with lube-for-life joints, but I do have a problem with the new practice of using ball bearings for wheel bearings rather than roller bearings. I’d rather have rollers than to have bearings that really don’t stand up as well against potholes. According to the Toyota design specs, which I used to have access to, they’re used instead of roller bearings for their lower rolling resistance, and I don’t appreciate that compromise… although I’m sure it’s motivated by CAFE requirements.

I have had less trouble out of ball bearing type wheel bearings that the tapered roller type. I had a problem accepting them at first, but they have proven to be reliable.

All the parts are in. Work beginning this weekend. Thanks for all the insight everyone about this. I can understand why Ford or other manufacturers use the ‘lube for life’ parts. Up north they have salt and sand that could get into the zerk fitting I assume. And one of my mechanic friends mentioned ‘lubed for life’, the ‘life’ is the warranty period! So, what, 30K miles brand new? Anyway, the new parts are ready to go in. Gonna be a PIA I am sure. But, it should drive like a brand new car considering all the work going into it, to include new tires!

The environmental conditions you mentioned. Here in Georgia its basically a huge swimming pool outside. The air is so thick you could easily cut it with a knife at times. I think the humidity in combination with some dirt and sand (when it does snow here they overdo the sand) got in there. I also noticed when I inherited the car from my late grandfather, the ball joint boots were already rotting. I knew it was just a matter of time. When they started making the classic grinding noise I knew they were bad, but never expected them to fail in a week after the first noises appeared. My fault for driving on them. Live and learn, as long as you survive!

Hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20. I probably could have saved some money and tapped the original ball joints for zerk fittings BEFORE they started squeaking. Installed new boots. But ahh well!