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Ball joints on a Ford


I just got new tires on my Ford Explorer 2004 only because I live in snow country. I am planning on getting rid of the car in the next 18 to 24 months. I just was told that all the ball joints need to be replaced. the Est. is $1355.00 from the shop. I can do the work myself for less, but i wanted to know if it is worth the repair or just wait until i trade the truck in?


Second opinion would be a good idea. If they are bad enough to fail 18 to 24 months is a long time.

The price is about right to replace all the ball joints.

It requires Special Service Tools, and a lot of disassembly of the front suspension/steering components.


Agree with Volvo V70 on this one. I have had a local tire chain tell me my 92 Voyager needed ball joints at 80,000 miles. When I asked the tech to show me the play, he was using a long pry bar and all his strength, ( he was much larger than my 6’ 3", 270 lb. ). I could not see any movement so I cancelled the alignment I had gone in for and went somewhere else.

I needed an alignment because I had just replaced the struts and shocks. That car went to the Junkyard because of rust, six years and 90,000 miles later with the original ball joints and no signs of unusual tire wear.

Get some opinions. One thing you do want to have happen is for a ball joint to snap suddenly. When one decides to let go there is no warning.
If you’re lucky you would slide to a stop with no one harmed. The not so lucky side of it is a rollover or incident with another vehicle.

The parts cost isn’t that much. If you do the job yourself, I think you should go for it. It will likely make the car worth considerably more $$$ than the parts will cost you, when you sell it. Think of this as an an opportunity for you to earn some tax free income.


You do realize that if the OP doesn’t have the SST’s to do this repair, it’ll cost more than $600.00 for those tools?

And then use them only once?


I’m not aware of the OP’s tool chest contents, that’s true. When I’ve not a got an expensive tool I only need once, I usually don’t buy it. I borrow or rent it.

If the OP has the proper chest contents, they wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place.

Now would they?


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I’ll defer on that, best to let the OP address your question Tester.


Is there a ball joint press in your chest with the truck adapters to replace the ball joints?

If not, the tools to get that point will cost another $600.00?


You will have to measure the ball joint play yourself if the measurements are not noted on the repair order. Some mechanics want to replace ball joints when they are still within the service limits.

If the ball joints are worn you can buy 4 complete control arms for $400 wholesale, if you are capable of replacing them yourself. This will have little or no effect on trade in value.

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I’m told I can’t have an empty post

Is your standard “If you can’t see ball joint movement with the naked eye, they don’t need to be replaced” . . . ?!

What if you can shake the wheel at 12 and 6, clearly feel the ball joints are wasted, yet your eyes do NOT perceive a mile of movement . . . ?

I’m not sure exactly what kind of suspension setup that Voyager had. My above comment is based on a typical vehicle with upper and lower control arms, a-arms, if you will

Now let’s cut to the chase

On that Voyager you mentioned . . . did you decline the ball joint replacement, because you doubted the ball joints were worn, and the mechanic was either testing them the wrong way, or was lying?

Or did you decline, because you felt they weren’t yet worn enough to justify replacement?

For me, the distinction is relatively important, FWIW

Let me rephrase . . .

“This guy’s smoking dope. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these ball joints.”

or . . .

“Yeah, there’s some play, but in my opinion it isn’t worth replacing them at this time.”


I’ve replaced many ball joints that were TOAST, you could feel the slop, and you could see the slop, yet the tires were wearing evenly. In my opinion, whether the tires are wearing evenly doesn’t much influence my decision whether a ball joint is bad. If it’s toast, but the tires are wearing evenly, it’s still getting replaced.

Mind you, I’m fleet, as you know. So the customer isn’t going to decline the repair. Because I say what needs to be done, and that’s the end of it. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, BTW. I get a truck in for a scheduled service. I do my thing, then I fill out a parts requisition form, and my boss signs off on it, without questioning me, because he trusts my judgement. He does raise questions with some other guys, so it’s not that my boss is just blindly agreeing to everything.

I don’t mean this to seem like an attack

I very much respect your expertise

But in this instance, we don’t quite see eye to eye

Special tools . . yes.
IF you need them ? . . you decide.
ALL 4 ? . . you decide.
Ford O.E. is a whole upper arm assembly and lower ball joints.
Aftermarket appears to have upper ball joints available,
to do it yourself . . .
You’ll need a press.
you’ll need a strut compressor.
you’ll need to fully diagnose the need . .or not.

db4690- He could demonstrate no movement that I could see, I could feel no play. Because I was going on an around the country trip and I am not a professional mechanic, I tool it to the mechanic I use when I don’t want to do it myself. He has been in business for 30 years and has the busiest shop in town because he is honest and competent and his prices are fair. I told him what the tire tech had said. He inspected the ball joints, pronounced them like new and refused to charge me anything. He also told me what I thought was a wheel bearing noise was a slightly warped front rotor ticking the pads every revolution and I should replace it before I go.

By the way, I would not be upset about you attacking my expertise because I don’t have much. No DIY can possibly approach the level of a good full time mechanic.

By the way, the van had grease fittings on the ball joints and I greased them every other oil change.

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Thanks for that added information . . .

Had you mentioned it in the first place, I probably wouldn’t even have made my comments :smile_cat:

As far as the vehicles in our fleet go, which often tend to be on the larger side, there seems to be a direct correlation between the existence . . . or not . . . of zerks and the longevity of ball joints, tie rod ends, etc.

Once you get a definitive diagnosis that one or more is bad, replace it/them. As noted, this is a safety issue. If you want to go the DIY route, the tools are available at some auto parts stores as loaners. I would recommend just replacing the entire control arms involved, but a vehicle that old in the snow zone will likely have major rust to contend with to get the control arms off. If you aren’t absolutely sure you can do the job safely, have a shop do it.

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