CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Lower ball joint replacement

I have a 1996 Ford Contour that needed new brakes on all four corners and new lower ball joints to pass inspection. Having limited funds, and knowing how to replace the brakes, I decided to take this project on myself. Unfortunately, I also have limited knowledge about everything other than brakes as well. After 2 hours of pushing, pulling, hammering, sawing, and drilling, I finally got the old ball joint off. Now when I go to put the new one on, I find that I can’t align the holes in the lower control arm with the new ball joint…they’re about an inch off. Looking things over, the only possible scenario I can come up with is that I might have disengaged the axle from whatever it’s attached to at the engine side. Is this possible? If it’s likely I did, how do I re-engage? It’s surrounded by what looks to me to be a deformed rubber boot, but I can’t say I remember what it looks like before I started pushing, pulling, hammering, sawing, and drilling.

Any help would be appreciated!!!

Thanks :slight_smile:

Not sure if this Utube will help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLl4g380VLc

What if you move the steering wheel? Would this help allign it?

This job may turn out to be cheaper, in the end, by having the car towed to a front-end shop and the repair done by people who know what they are doing…The safety implications here do not lend themselves to guesswork. Ball-joint failure at 70 mph is not a pretty thing…

Aside from what I should have done 3 hours ago, does anyone have any advice about what I should do NOW? So my questions:

  1. Is it POSSIBLE the axle slipped out of the engine? I cannot turn the hub freely, maybe about 1/16 turn in either direction and it locks up. To me that means it didn’t slip out of the engine, but the whole assembly sure looks like it’s leaning away from the car at the bottom.

  2. Is it possible that the strut is now fully extended and it no longer fits because of that? If so, how do I compress the strut back to where it belongs?

The shop wanted over $1000 to replace the lower ball joints, front calipers. front discs, rear cylinders, rear lining, and rear brake hoses. About 2/3 of that price is labor. And since I know how to do the brakes, I thought I’d try the joints as well. Since I’m not really a quitter, I’d appreciate whatever advice I can get.

Thanks

The axle is splined and it CAN slip out 2-3 inches before it disengages completely. They are usually held in place by a spring clip and they “pop” in and out…Most auto-parts chain stores will loan you a coil spring compressor to compress the strut if that will make it easier to fit the new parts…

Have you disconnected the sway bar link? The inner CV joint can pull out of the transmission and also, the inner CV joint can pull apart inside the boot. The tripod can pull out of the tulip and hang on the top.

Got it. The axle pulled out. Hammered it back in and everything went together, almost like was designed to! Thanks for everyone’s help!!